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The Heroine


Once upon a time there was a heroine. She was clever, brave, resourceful. She could save a life with a flower. She could charm a heart with her beautiful face. Having fallen out of her life into a dark and wild place, she became embroiled in battles not her own that soon became all about her, because she of course was the heroine. Despite these travails, she survived to rise up another day with a witticism in her mouth and the world (certainly most of the men in it) at her feet.

There are some things they don't tell you about her, though. Such as the fact she can't easily get to sleep without reading first, even just half a page. Her jaw aches when she's stressed. Inevitably she will become weak and unwell trying to survive on a bit of bread and a few scraps of flame-cooked hare which someone snatches away from her before she's finished eating. She'd never ridden a horse prior to her adventure, and so gets saddle sores. Often when she's staring solemnly into the middle distance it is because she loves the smell of wet grass, or misses her friends left behind, or has grown mute, heavy-hearted, from fear and weariness. She looks at that beautiful face of hers through a lens of insecurities, regardless of how many people love her. Oh, and the dark forest scares her, sleeping beneath the stars is cold and uncomfortable, and all she really wants is clean underwear.

They also don't tell you that, after experiencing assault, kidnapping, ripped bodices, betrayal, and the loss of all she holds dear, she develops skills to cope, even as tender parts of her spirit stiffen or break away. But she finds it harder every day to face the light. Her beautiful face becomes drawn from tiredness, hurt, and hunger. She feels homesick. 

And yet, she watches the sun rise, looking for hope in it. She holds herself tight, wanting comfort. And she goes on with incredible courage until the world slowly, carefully, becomes steady again beneath her feet.

Once upon a time there was a heroine who was a real woman, but you probably won't hear that any time soon.

My response to having watched and read certain stories lately.
With apologies for being the kind of wet-blanket humourless feminist who believes 
women should be portrayed with more than one dimension. 
Illustration by Frank Cheyne


  1. “She looks at that beautiful face of hers through a lens of insecurities, regardless of how many people love her.”

    This rings so familiar, and seems to affect all kinds of women.

  2. This. I would love to see this printed on fine paper, framed and displayed above my desk. Your stories are so...heartening is the word. x

  3. Indeed and they should be portrayed as having many dimensions and all sorts of possible responses...but somehow those complexities rarely make it into the kinds of narratives/imagery that we get these days. I like this version you’ve given above.

    Also...I do so love those old illustrations!

  4. No apologies! Not a wet blanket! This is wonderful Sarah :-)

  5. Something there warmed my heart, and made me smile within. I guess a lot of women can relate, which is sad, but which is truth.
    We forge on, and we prevail. We have so much to give.
    If you ever have a moment.. the yellow rose on my sideboard is my journey. ♥


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