A flawed heroine: Aridela

Aridela

Current books and movies seem wont to portray women as flawless, lacking even the perfectly normal “flaw” of not having as much physical strength as males. In Aridela, I wanted to create a protagonist who is strong, yes, but real and believable. I wanted to show her as she acquires her strength, rather than simply shoving her out there already formed, as if by magic.

Daughter to the powerful Queen of Crete, this ten-year-old has never known want or suffering. She has never experienced betrayal, humiliation, subterfuge, physical harm, or fear. She is indulged at every turn. Her upbringing has formed a girl who is over-confident, spoiled, and naive.

Like many of Crete’s citizens, Aridela reveres beauty and beautiful things. She doesn’t realize how shallow she is, because most around her are the same. The reader might be excused for thinking this young royal will grow up to be an insufferable, puerile woman. Naturally, I wanted more for her.

When Aridela meets and crushes on Menoetius, it’s easy to understand why. He’s gorgeous and charming, a seventeen-year-old foreigner with a delightful accent. What ten-year-old girl wouldn’t get starry-eyed over a guy like that? But he goes away, not understanding how his leaving makes her feel abandoned and crushes her immature dreams.

When Aridela is sixteen, warriors from the mainland converge upon Crete, determined to win the Games and become the next bull-king. Chrysaleon, the arrogant prince of Mycenae, introduces her to passion. Again, it’s easy to see what draws her: he’s a prince, he’s handsome, and his personality is breathtaking. It takes her awhile to realize the guard he’s brought with him is none other than her first love, Menoetius, but the passage of six years has profoundly changed the boy she once knew. He is the first challenge Divine Athene sets in her path. How is she to deal with this angry, scarred, deeply wounded man? She has no experience with the kind of pain he’s suffered. Harpalycus, another mainland prince, is Aridela’s first exposure to humiliation, to cruelty, to a sense of her physical weakness. He and the other mainland competitors lay bare the encroaching danger of the world outside her sheltered island paradise.

And so… the Aridela my readers initially meet is not perfect. Not an idealized version of womanhood. Not precocious beyond the reader’s ability to suspend disbelief. She begins the long adventure I have plotted for her as I see a real-life princess of ancient times would likely be.

Throughout the course of the three Bronze Age books, Aridela will face major challenges. They will either destroy her or mature her; make her angry and bitter or incorporate the necessary components needed by all rulers from antiquity to the present: humility, caution, empathy, and compassion. Immortal Athene takes her chosen child into the blackest pit where life no longer holds value. From that place, Aridela will survive and recover, honed and wiser, or she become what her oppressors want: helpless, forgotten, and insignificant.

Either way, she will no longer be the joyous, carefree child who brazenly entered the ring and danced with a wild bull, confident she can and will always overcome any adversity.

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Greta van der Rol

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