Favorite Female Fantasy Characters: Childhood Edition
I’m a giant nerd.
I don’t think I could keep that a secret, even if I tried. I have been obsessed with fantasy since… forever. But, as a fantasy-loving kiddo growing up in the 90’s, there was one thing that was in kind of short supply for me in those early years - female main characters. Until somewhat recently, the fantasy genre (along with many others) has been pretty male dominated. White, cishet, male dominated, if we want to get real specific, both in terms of authors and characters.
BUT that’s not to say I didn’t find some awesome lady characters to love during my formative years! So I thought I’d take this opportunity to talk about a few of them.
There are actually quite a few female characters in the Redwall series, and quite a few Redwall books that feature not only strong female supporting characters, but books that are led by female characters! That’s why this one goes first. Tansy from Pearls of Lutra and Trisscar Swordmaid from Triss are two that come to mind immediately. Both of these characters are strong in their own ways. Tansy is fair-minded, responsible, and intelligent, using mostly her brains and her heart to win the day in her story. Trisscar is a more typical fantasy lead, in that she is a badass warrior who comes from a rough background. Fun fact, she’s also the first female character to wield the Sword of Martin the Warrior, which is the most famous weapon in all of Redwall lore. All-in-all, the Redwall series has a lot of great options for a young reader seeking female characters to look up to… even if they’re woodland critters instead of humans.
CHRONICLES OF CHRESTOMANCI:
So, I only had Volume 1 back in the day. I have heard that Volume 2 actually had some stories led by female characters, so I should probably check that out! Both stories in Volume 1 centered on male characters, but that’s not to say there weren’t some fascinating ladies on the scene as well! First off, let’s talk about Gwendolyn Chant. She’s the sister of the main character of Charmed Life. Her character arc is… complicated. But she does have some interesting traits that we don’t see in too many women in those older fantasy novels. She is incredibly feminine, as well as cunning and bold. And yeah, she ends up being kind of an asshole in the end, but she is complex and multi-layered, which is a good start! The other character I’ll talk about is Millie/The Living Asheth from The Lives of Christopher Chant. Millie starts out living in a parallel universe to the main universe of the story, and she is a child hailed as the living embodiment of a goddess of that land. When she finds out that the church is going to kill her to make way for another child goddess, she escapes literally all on her own and magicks her way to the main character’s universe to live out the rest of her days under the name Millie. Odd choice for a name? Sure. But still. Truly an icon.
THE LORD OF THE RINGS:
Okay, I know Tolkien has some… issues. Like, a lot of them. But I grew up on The Hobbit and the Lord of the Rings films, and then The Lord of the Rings books and The Silmarillion when I got a bit older. So I literally cannot talk about my formative years in fantasy without discussing Tolkien. Tolkien’s kind of infamous for having a dearth of female characters in his stories. For instance, in The Hobbit, there’s… what, one? Lobelia Sackville-Baggins? I honestly don’t even think Galadriel is mentioned. So, obviously, I’m not going to talk about The Hobbit, I’ll talk about Lord of the Rings, and specifically, Eowyn. In both the books and the films, Eowyn is a pretty badass lady. She’s a warrior, and she ends up with the least problematic man in fiction, Faramir. The movies honestly did Eowyn a little dirty in a few ways, in my opinion. She moons after Aragorn a hell of a lot more in the films than I remember her doing in the books, and in the books she’s a bit colder and more stoic than she’s played in the movies. That being said, I do still like Miranda Otto’s portrayal. BUT I DIGRESS.
Lastly I’ll talk about the Eragon books. Of course, the main character is the titular Eragon, a man. But there are quite a few different important female characters that appear. I could talk about Arya the elf warrior, but instead I’m going to focus on Nasuada and Angela the Herbalist. Nasuada is a politician, she’s trying to rule a rebellion and a nation, and facing challenges from every angle since she’s a woman, she’s young, and she’s not particularly powerful in terms of wielding a sword or anything. But Nasuada is smart, she is calculating, and we see that she does possess mental fortitude as well, when she does the Challenge of the Long Knives to win over a neighboring people - and their soldiers - to the rebellion’s cause. The other character I’ll mention, Angela the Herbalist, is I guess sort of a stereotypical female character archetype in fantasy in that she’s the older woman who is a spiritual and emotional guide for the hero on his journey. She’s still an interesting character, though. She’s quick-witted, and she fights well both with a melee weapon and with magic. Also, she seems to have her own agenda, rather than solely being around to help Eragon realize his Full Manly Potential. So. Points for that as well.
All told, there were quite a few compelling female fantasy characters I got the chance to read as a child! That being said, I’m so envious of today’s kiddos, who have a way broader pool of badass characters of all genders and backgrounds to look up to.
Which of your favorite female fantasy characters should I check out? Leave me recommendations for awesome female-led middle grade and YA fantasy here, or on Twitter, Instagram, or TikTok @mjkuhnbooks!