For a very long time (decades now), I have had a heroine addiction. It is my secret shame (not really, though, since I seem to mention it to a lot of people). For some reason, most of my favorite characters from books, movies, games, and television shows tend to be female.
Maybe I’m not always into the whole macho thing (I’m not a sports fan, except for figure skating, so maybe that’s part of it)…who knows? In order to begin the healing process (which involves addicting other people to one or more heroines), I am going to share eleven of my favorites (in no particular order).
Honor Harrington is the main character of the main series in Honorverse military science fiction series by David Weber. She’s smart and determined, willing to fight those who would bring destruction to her beloved Star Kingdom of Manticore. She has a lot of crap thrown her way, yet she earns the respect of her crews and many friends and enemies across the stars.
Even with being strong and extremely capable, she shows mercy to people others might have destroyed. She has an extremely solid moral character. If you haven’t yet read these books, I highly recommend them. Start with On Basilisk Station.
I loved Telzey Amberdon the moment I met her. She was first introduced to the world by James H. Schmitz in his “Novice” short story, which ran in the June 1962 issue of Analog. In a time when there weren’t nearly so many strong, independent, and smart women in science fiction and fantasy, Schmitz introduced several.
Telzey eventually becomes a secret agent, working with another strong and independent female character, Trigger Argee. Together, these two had many adventures shared through about a dozen short stories. She remains among my favorites of Schmitz’s characters, full of wit and charm. I recommend starting with Telzey Amberdon from Baen Books.
Hayao Miyazaki, one of my favorite animators, created Nausicaä as the heroine of his manga, 風の谷のナウシカ (Nausicaä of the Valley of the Wind). It was serialized beginning in 1982 in Animage in Japan, then made into a film of the same name in 1984. My favorites of her traits are Nausicaä’s compassion and kindness. She loves the Earth, she loves all the animals (including those that are extremely dangerous to humans), and she loves all the people, even those she disagrees with.
It’s really hard to encapsulate all of her qualities in couple short paragraphs. If more people were like her, the current world would be a much more amazing and wonderful place. You can learn more about the film here.
Kiki, the protagonist from another Miyazaki animated film—魔女の宅急便, or Kiki’s Delivery Service—is a bright and cheerful young witch out to make her way in the world. She has to live for a year on her own, with only her wits and her meager magical skills to pull her through. This changes when she learns that she doesn’t have to always do everything herself.
She starts off with so many great qualities: cheerfulness, enthusiasm, friendliness, and a strong determination to not fail. She then gains additional excellent qualities to have as a kid or as an adult. Learning to rely on others is a hard skill to learn sometimes. I know I fail at it frequently, wanting to make everything perfect the first time. I strongly recommend the film.
The Safehold series, by David Weber, is one of my favorites. While racing to hide from the xenophobic and genocidal alien Gbaba, Nimue Alban has her personality downloaded into an android body. She is then put on standby for about 900 years. When she wakes, Nimue accepts a seemingly impossible task to push the remnants of humanity toward the technology they need to defeat the Gbaba.
I really love her acceptance of how she is the only one who knows enough to help people. She doesn’t let that make her into an arrogant overseer or dictator, however. Her android body is practically indestructible, so she can do amazing things, but she doesn’t let that go to her head, either (much, anyway). I find that humility a very redeeming quality in people, and Nimue exudes that. I recommend starting at the very beginning.
Introduced in The Force Awakens, Rey is a smart, resourceful woman. She knows how to take care of herself, and she doesn’t put up with any garbage. At the beginning of the film, however, she was very distrustful of other people. Not too surprising, since her parents (whoever they may be) basically abandoned her.
By the end of the film, she has several good and strong friends and is willing to fight to protect them. I loved seeing this transformation from distrustful loner to trusting friend. Rey really exhibits a solid character, and I hope to see more of that in the next two films in the series.
Miri begins Princess Academy feeling like an outsider in her small mountain community. Her father refuses to let her work at the quarry like everyone else in town, which frustrates her, because she wants to help support the town. When she is sent to the Princess Academy—along with all the other 12-18 year old girls in town—she eventually becomes a leader.
I liked how author Shannon Hale showed Miri’s struggles as she worked to overcome prejudices—her own as well as those of others. Miri also showed the ability to work with people with whom she didn’t necessarily agree by finding their common ground. This is a very admirable trait, and one of my favorite parts of the book.
In Brandon Sanderson’s Mistborn series, Vin is the primary protagonist in the first trilogy. She starts the series living on the street before being accepted into a group of thieves. Kelsier, the leader of the group, recognizes that she is a Mistborn (a person having the ability to use all allomantic powers), and takes it upon himself to train her (since he is also Mistborn). She thrives in this new group and eventually masters her abilities.
Vin has a tenacious spirit. She learns to work through issues, even when they seem far too difficult at first glance. She learns to make hard decisions, too, and to accept responsibility for them. Vin also learns to admit that she can’t do everything, and that it’s okay. All of these together make her a very strong woman and someone to be admired. She is introduced in Mistborn: The Final Empire.
In Tomorrowland, Casey Newton is a go-getter from the start. Perhaps breaking into NASA facilities and vandalizing equipment isn’t such a good way to be a role model, but she gets better. She is a goal setter, and has great focus. Throughout the film, she she exhibits the “Never give up! Never surrender!” attitude so important to the Thermians (different story, but appropriate here).
I found her drive to be very refreshing. Casey knows what she wants, and she works really hard to achieve it. She also shows a great deal of compassion for those around her. Once she finds out what needs to be done, she’s on-board 100% throughout the entire process in order to get things done.
Anna, sister of Elsa in Frozen, is an eternal optimist. Despite the several difficult things that happen throughout her life, she continues to have faith in her sister. Instead of complaining about the cold when she’s little, she wants to build snowmen with her sister. Even though her sister ignores her through much of the film, Anna remains interested in and loves her.
She even has the gumption (isn’t that a wonderful word?) to head out into the blizzard created by Elsa in order to try to find her and bring her home. No matter what happened, right up to the end of the film, Anna believed in her sister. While some people find this enthusiasm and trust annoying, I find it to be very admirable and something to work toward achieving.
Merida, is certainly Brave. She’s spunky, carefree, and learns from her mistakes. She adores her younger brothers, despite how much they tease and annoy her. When she makes her big mistake, she owns up to it and works to correct it.
As a bonny Scottish lass, she doesn’t put up with anything hinky, either. I admired her willingness to not just settle for a particular suitor. Instead, she insisted that things be done on her own terms, and that she wasn’t just some pretty thing to be won in a meaningless contest. Women should definitely have minds of their own, and Merida has enough and to spare.
These are just a few of the many heroines I have encountered in my reading and watching. I recommend all of these as excellent works to enjoy. Perhaps you, too, will become a heroine addict like me.