The warrior maiden differs from other heroines in that she travels on the masculine hero’s journey. She has a male mentor and male antagonist. She finds a magic sword. Most importantly, she is one of the boys, fighting beside them on and off the battlefield. Still, she is most often the “strong woman” readers visualize. She is the woman who dresses as a boy and rides to war, the one who says, “If a man can do this task, I can do it, too.” Yet, even while cutting herself off from many aspects of femininity and wielding a man’s weapons, she still follows the same journey as her quieter sisters. One possible mate for the warrior woman is a partner and equal, though this match often ends in tragedy: Eowyn and Aragorn, Artemis and Orion, Alanna and Prince Jonathan: all these matches fall apart. The pair of warriors are too similar. The better choice for mate is the sensitive man, the one who is the woman’s true animus. By accepting the gentle suitor, the warrior woman grows into a strong, balanced person who defends her young with a wildcat’s tenacity, accepting dual roles as champion and mother. The Lioness Quartet and other Tamora Pierce books are a superior example of this, but there are others as well: this warrior woman appears on TV shows like Xena, Buffy, Dark Angel, and Torchwood, and hundreds of fantasy novels such as By the Sword, One Good Knight, or Oathbound by Mercedes Lackey, The Blue Sword by Robin McKinley, Till We Have Faces by C.S. Lewis, Men at Arms or Monstrous Regiment by Terry Pratchett, and, of course, Lord of the Rings.
On the heroine's Journey, the young woman risks her life to become a preserver of her people. Frequently armed only with wit and creativity, she wins the day through a deeper, less physical form of strength.
The Tale of Scheherazade
At length the vizier, overcome by his daughter's firmness, yielded to her entreaties; and although he was very sorry at not being able to conquer her resolution, he immediately went to Schah-riar, and announced to him that Scheherazade herself would be his bride on the following night.
The sultan was much astonished at the sacrifice of the grand vizier. "Is it possible," said he, "that you can give up your own child?"
"Sire," replied the vizier, "she has herself made the offer. The dreadful fate that hangs over her does not alarm her; and she resigns her life for the honor of being the consort of your majesty, though it be but for one night."
"Vizier," said the sultan, "do not deceive yourself with any hopes; for be assured that, in delivering Scheherazade into your charge to-morrow, it will be with an order for her death; and if you disobey, your own head will be the forfeit."
"Although," answered the vizier, "I am her father, I will answer for the fidelity of this arm in fulfilling your commands."
When the grand vizier returned to Scheherazade, she thanked her father; and observing him to be much afflicted, consoled him by saying that she hoped he would be so far from repenting her marriage with the sultan that it would become a subject of joy to him for the remainder of his life.
Before Scheherazade went to the palace, she called her sister, Dinarzade, aside, and said, "As soon as I shall have presented myself before the sultan, I shall entreat him to suffer you to sleep in the bridal chamber, that I may enjoy for the last time your company. If I obtain this favor, as I expect, remember to awaken me to-morrow morning an hour before daybreak, and say, 'If you are not asleep, my sister, I beg of you, till the morning appears, to recount to me one of those delightful stories you know.' I will immediately begin to tell one; and I flatter myself that by these means I shall free the kingdom from the consternation in which it is."
Dinarzade promised to do with pleasure what she required.
Within a short time Scheherazade was conducted by her father to the palace, and was admitted to the presence of the sultan. They were no sooner alone than the sultan ordered her to take off her veil. He was charmed with her beauty; but perceiving her tears, he demanded the cause of them.
"Sire," answered Scheherazade, "I have a sister whom I tenderly love—I earnestly wish that she might be permitted to pass the night in this apartment, that we may again see each other, and once more take a tender farewell. Will you allow me the consolation of giving her this last proof of my affection?"
Schah-riar having agreed to it, they sent for Dinarzade, who came directly. The sultan passed the night with Scheherazade on an elevated couch, as was the custom among the eastern monarchs, and Dinarzade slept at the foot of it on a mattress prepared for the purpose.
Dinarzade, having awakened about an hour before day, did what her sister had ordered her. "My dear sister," she said, "if you are not asleep, I entreat you, as it will soon be light, to relate to me one of those delightful tales you know. It will, alas, be the last time I shall receive that pleasure."
Instead of returning any answer to her sister, Scheherazade addressed these words to the sultan: "Will your majesty permit me to indulge my sister in her request?"
"Freely," replied he.
Scheherazade then desired her sister to attend, and, addressing herself to the sultan, began as follows:
From Arabian Nights.
And so, Scheherazade told her thousand tales, converting the cruel sultan into a kinder, gentler ruler, and preserving the lives of all the women of her country.