by Madeline Iva
Go to college, have a career, get married, have children. Is this the modern woman’s destiny? What if you don’t tick one of those boxes? I’m moderating a panel called HEROINES OF DESTINY on Saturday, 10AM at Virginia Festival of the Book, so I’ve been questioning the concept of destiny lately, especially for women who swim against the strong current of societal expectations.
The ancient Greeks thought of destiny as inescapable–your fate would find you no matter what. Struggle as hard as you could against your destiny, the outcome would still be the same. Cassandra is the ultimate heroine of destiny — Her inescapable fate was signed the moment she rejected Apollo’s advances, and that was that. He cursed her with the gift of prophesy; no matter how often or how much she warned people of their fate, she was never believed. Yet she kept trying to over and over to change the outcome, only to watch events play out the way she foretold–even her own death.
Moving forward a thousand years or so, our panelists (including Pintip Dunn, NYTimes bestselling YA author) will discuss how their book’s heroines are fighting a certain destiny — whether it’s to marry and have children, to accept the loss of a lover, or to remain locked up in prison for a crime that hasn’t been committed yet.
I love the idea of a heroine who changes the course of her life because she’s fallen in love. I see these works as feminist because the women go against the grain of their lives according to society’s expectations yet it all works out in the end. Here are some of my fav fantasy examples:
THE LITTLE MERMAID: having fins while your loved one has legs is a pretty big romantic obstacle to overcome. The Little Mermaid was very bold and plucky when it came to pursuing the object of her love–right down to changing her fundamental physical being–even though she had to pay a very large price. Let all those considering plastic surgery and other gendered forms of modern torture beware.
STARTDUST: Yvaine is a star, who’s destiny is to twinkle in the sky and watch the doings of men from afar. Yet she decides to abandon her place, and come down to the world of men to explore their hearts, as well as experience their joys and suffering. I have some serious issues with parts of this novel/movie, but I appreciate the idea of a great and powerful star forging a new destiny for herself–with the man she loves.
Another way to think of HEROINES OF DESTINY is to think of powerful women who shape the lives and change the future of those around them.
THE FORGOTTEN BEASTS OF ELD: Sybel is content with her own solitude and magical menagerie far from the world of men until fate brings her a baby and a flame haired hero. Then she is drawn into the snarled paths of men’s destiny. I love how McKillip shows Sybel, using her various powers to shape and thrust aside the male forces around her rather than become their pawn. Sybel takes her time and sounds her own heart in her decisions about how to forge the future. Though the world of men shakes and angers her, ultimately, she finds a way to shed their petty resentments, fear, and bitterness. She finds her way to true love by the end, yes, but more importantly she discovers the path back to the calm stillness of her heart that makes her serene and content.
And finally — by far and away my favorite:
MALEFICENT: A fairy creature (Maleficent) and a boy become friends–the first way in which Maleficent goes in a different direction from the other creatures in fairy land. At one point Maleficent (now grown) is betrayed and loses her wings–a kind of symbolic fairy tale rape. What happens after that is partly shaped by Maleficent’s determination to avenge herself, and partly shaped by her wounded heart. The movie offers an unexpected twist at one point — wherein Maleficent, now the wise protector and leader of her land in times of crisi, can shed her identity as victim once and for all. I LOVED THIS FILM SO HARD. It really made me want to cheer. Though it is not in a typical m/f love story or romance, it provides that same kind of deep joy and overcoming of obstacles that make us romance peeps so very happy.
In my novel WICKED APPRENTICE, Zephyr averts disaster for the people and the land all around her once she becomes a powerful sorceress. Meanwhile, her desires and magic work upon the hero until he goes from being a tortured, reclusive wizard into a magnificent hero who is the only one that can end a decades long war. She is most definitely a Heroine of Destiny — and if you haven’t read the book yet you should– it’s only .99!
Are you the heroine of your own destiny? What great heroines do you love –and how do they shape the the lives of those around them?
And follow us at Lady Smut–we’re fated to be together.
Madeline Iva writes fantasy and paranormal romance. Her fantasy romance, WICKED APPRENTICE, featuring a magic geek heroine, is available on Amazon, Barnes & Noble, Kobo, and through iTunes. Sign up for Madeline Iva news & give aways.