…by which I mean, I had a meeting with my thesis supervisor today and it got me thinking. About a lot of things.
Perhaps I should start at the beginning.
My research focus is, broadly speaking, women in Anglo-Saxon & Old Norse texts. And since I’m only just beginning this venture, I was feeling very. Overwhelmed. By. Everything. That. Has. Already. Been. Written.
And I’m supposed to think of something NEW to say?
Thankfully, my supervisor made me feel a whole lot better and I came away with a renewed sense of enthusiasm for why I’m researching this topic in the first place. And not just because I’m huge nerd (which I am. In case that wasn’t obvious).
It’s because the women in these tales are freakin’ awesome.
My fascination with all this grew out of my love for Tolkien. He writes beautifully for women (Melian, Luthien, Galadriel, Arwen, Eowyn, to name a few), giving them depth and presence, and so I wondered at his source material. The ancient tales that inspired him.
And that’s how I discovered Wealhtheow in Beowulf. In the midst of this very masculine heroic world, there walks in a queen. And not just a pretty face, but one with grace, intelligence, and authority; her speeches are written in the imperative, signifying that she is not just a pretty face. She is telling them what to do.
Moving on, there are such Norse figures as Brynhilde, Unn the Deep Minded, Yrsa, and the list just goes on. And yes. There are some who are vicious, jealous figures. But my point is that they have a very distinct presence in the sagas and the elegiac poetry. Some wield swords, some wield magic, some wield words. And they are a force to be reckoned with, even within the constraints of their time.
And they are amazing.
And that, in turn, makes me think of the women I write. They look so different from the characters I used to write. They’ve grown (I hope!!) in presence and strength and power. Some of them will use swords and be bad ass in that way. Some of them use words. Some of them use magic. And I might not agree with all of their choices. But they are based on the things that inspire me from these bright, beautiful, ancient tales. They are based on the awesome women I am privileged to know. And they are all rooted in the fact that being a woman is a beautiful thing. Not without its difficulties, but still a good and beautiful thing.