Muhammad Ali once said “No struggle can ever succeed without women participating side by side with men,” so today we’re going to shed some light on some of our favorite literary heroines that have shaped our lives. Throughout literature, women can be found doing all manner of extraordinary things. In books, female characters are only limited by the imagination of the author, and in the precious stories where an author truly lets his or her mind wander, there’s no limit to what these amazing literary characters can achieve.
With the exception of the Throne of Glass section, nothing below classifies as “spoilers” per say, but if you have an aversion to hearing the backstory behind some of your favorite characters, or reading some of their memorable quotes, then perhaps you should read at your own discretion.
Those That Fight With Swords
Though the beloved Song of Fire and Ice series by George R.R. Martin has yet to be completed, we can still claim favorites in this incomplete mythical world. Arya Stark showed an aptitude for swordsmanship in her younger years, and she never let that flame die, despite truly horrendous things happening to the ones she loves and herself (no spoilers!). Those who watch the popular HBO show Game of Thrones will recognize this favorite quote from season seven episode six in which Arya delivers perhaps one of the most fitting quotes; “I knew what I was doing was against the rules, but he was smiling, so I knew it wasn’t wrong, the rules were wrong. I was doing what I was meant to be doing and he knew it.”
In this quote, Arya is talking about a time when she was younger and she was able to steal some time to spend target practicing with her brother’s bow in a seemingly deserted courtyard. She fired arrow after arrow and did not give up until she finally hit the bullseye. With the strike of her arrow her father, who had been watching the entire time, began clapping and it was then that Arya understood that sometimes, to be what you are destined to become you have to break the rules of those who have come before you.
Whether you read the books or watch the show or both, we can all agree that Arya Stark might have her flaws, some might call them fatal flaws in fact, but her determination to make her way in a man’s world is to be applauded and perhaps emulated.
Those That Fight With Words
Claire Fraser, like the other strong female characters on this list, is a character that you could arguably put in multiple categories. But we’ve decided, after some heated back and forth, that Claire perhaps shines a bit brighter as a character who fights with words. Claire Fraser is a character from the very popular Outlander series. As well as being an experienced time traveler and amazing mother, Claire is also a highly educated nurse, then a midwife, then doctor in a time where a woman being such a thing was an oddity. But Claire’s education started long before nursing school. As a child, after the death of her parents, Claire lived with her uncle, Quentin Lambert Beauchamp. Uncle Lambert was a well-respected archaeologist and historian; and after briefly trying to send Claire off to boarding school, took Claire with him on all of his adventures across the globe.
Claire's command of words can be seen as she navigates two different times without being burned at the stake for being a witch for the things she knows. Claire masterfully manipulates the events around herself with veiled messages and conversations. As someone who knows how history will play out, she uses her words to try to make a positive impact on the lives of many. Whether she’s talking her way out of a confrontation with a highland warrior, directing a room full of healers to perform techniques far beyond their understanding, or fooling royals with science, this literary character is one that teaches us all that to do the right thing is never easy, but is always the right choice with time.
Bonus points are also awarded for being unafraid to slip the occasional “bloody hell” into conversation when merited.
Those That Fight With Knowledge
As far as “bookworms” go, Hermione Granger is one for the history books. But as she says, “Books! And cleverness! There are more important things.” Hermione’s knowledge goes far beyond what she learns in her books and in the classroom. There are many times when those around her point out the fact that she really is the cleverest girl her age, but it’s her knowledge of people, relationships, and right and wrong that truly take this heroine from the “bookworm” level to the hero level. In both the books and films, Hermione is never afraid to shy away from pointing out something that’s not right. In the books, she leads a campaign to free house elves from their slave-like existence, and in the films, she rightfully calls out the wrongness of keeping dragons chained and in pain below ground to guard some treasure. Hermione continuously combines her academic skill with her natural intuition to save the lives of her friends. Always willing to lend a helping hand to those who show the willingness to learn, Hermione can often be found assisting other students, mostly Ron, with their school work and emotional problems.
Coming from a non-magical family, Hermione surpassed every judgment put in her way to become one of the greatest wizards the wizarding world has ever seen. Hermione teaches us to question tradition, think critically, and stand up for what is right.
Those That Fight With Power
Celaena Sardothien/Aelin Galathynius
Could we have chosen a character that we could talk about without spoiling an entire series? Yes. Are we going to choose such a character? No. Celaena Sardothien/Aelin Galathynius is a character from one of the best series you’ve probably never read. Celaena Sardothien/Aelin Galathynius is a character from the Throne of Glass series by Sarah J. Maas. Although with some rather steamy scenes, one could hardly call this collection of books a YA series. Celaena Sardothien starts off as one of the world’s best assassins and eventually turns into Aelin Galathynius, one of the world’s most powerful magic wielder, and the Queen Who Was Promised. Not only does Celaena/Aelin fight with literal power, but she also works with what those around her often refer to as “insufferable swagger.” This literary powerhouse fights with every weapon in the arsenal and is always assured of her self-worth. In a world of female characters that shy away from compliments and don’t view themselves as anything special, it’s invigorating to get a character who is fully aware of how awesome her skills are. Celaena/Aelin teaches us all to work with what we’ve been given, and that if you find yourself lacking in some area, you should go out and work to be better.
Celebrate Your Favorite Literary Heroines
We want to hear about your favorite literary heroines. Share some of your favorite books with strong female characters with us. Did you know Tom (our designer) has a tattoo inspired by Coraline? At Frostbeard we’re all about celebrating remarkable characters and the worlds they live in, that’s why we’ve dedicated our entire shop to book inspired candles and merch. We hope you’ll stop by and see us in our Minneapolis showroom sometime soon. Till then, happy reading!