Today I want to write about the female fictional characters who inspired me as a child and therefore are partly responsible for who I am as an adult. So you can put the blame on them, ok?
No but seriously
I'm doing a '30 day drawing challenge', it's exactly what it sounds like you draw one thing every day for 30 days. Just for fun. The challenge has a numbered list of what to draw each day and number 8 was favourite character from a book. I actually drew Hagrid because I mean, what a guy. But it did make me think a bit about other favourite characters and I've got it down to a few, female characters that I could cite as heroines should I ever be called upon to do so. These characters are favourites of young readers everywhere especially girls I think, and there's a reason that they are so popular and enduring.
1) Anne Shirley
The imaginative, catastrophe-prone, romantically inclined, fiery tempered redhead and also maybe the original Manic Pixie Dream Girl? I don't know. I do know that as a young girl I had an Anne-grade imagination and lived in many vividly detailed worlds with various imaginary friends (I can still name them all today, not all of them were human). I also was grateful for a heroine who was very smart and an academic achiever who was a star pupil in English, literacy, reading, writing etc but had no head for maths. ME TOO! I also remember being a child who really hated to be laughed at if I was trying to make a real point (because most real points sound funny when it's a kid making them, this I know well) and Anne was very clear on that point too, she believed in being taken seriously as a child and she lived by it as an adult, as do I.
She was an often dishevelled, eccentric, hot-tempered, quite high-strung and bright child and teenager and those are also things we have in common.
The poster girl for all bookworms
Luckily I didn't grow up like Matilda amongst ignorance and discouragement, I devoured books and was never deprived of the privilege. I couldn't identify perfectly with Matilda but I could empathise because the idea of someone not letting me read or tearing up a book or not appreciating that I was quite clever was very sad to me. I really do remember the sad feeling it gave me. Matilda of course also embodies values I hold dear like individuality, integrity, intelligence and inner strength. And some other stuff beginning with in, probably.
The Sophie books by Dick King-Smith are some of my favourites of all time ever. They are amazing, they have a lot of heart and they're funny and real and they're actually about kids for kids, not about weird teen-kid hybrids who are into relationships and clothes and being famous (genuine contents of some of today's children's literature).
Of course they appealed to me strongly being a country kid like Sophie and her family. Her garden in my head is very definitely the garden of the house I was born in, her wellies were always my wellies and her rabbits were our rabbits. I first learned to ride a horse around the same time as Sophie. I didn't have pet woodlice but it's probably because of Sophie that I wasn't afraid of them.
Sophie is also a paragon of doing whatever you like. She never let anyone squash her dream of becoming a lady farmer. She also took no shit from her twin older brothers and best of all had no time for prissy little wimps. Sophie vs Dawn = Tessa vs A lot of people. 'She was small, but very determined'.
4) Laura from Wreck of the Zanzibar
Laura doesn't feature quite as strongly on this list as the others simply because you can only meet her in one book and her story isn't entirely hers, but told through her eyes. She is a young lady from the Michael Morpurgo canon. He is another favourite and all children should read his beautiful, interesting and profound books. Laura lives on one of the remote Scilly Isles and during this book her people weather many disasters and life is brutal. I always thought Laura was the toughest in her family, she's incredibly compassionate and her dream is to row in a crew with the men and her twin brother. She's a girl so they won't
let her but during a shipwreck rescue she's the only option, she gets to row in the tempest-tossed Atlantic and proves herself to be one bad ass motherfucker. Another girl who wanted to defy convention and made it happen.
5) Mildred Hubble
Before there was Hogwarts, there was Miss Cackle's Academy. And before Harry there was Mildred. For child me Mildred is first a style icon. Untied laces? Check. Flyaway hair? Check. Untucked shirt? Check. Holes in tights, general scruffiness, mysterious smudges of ink on face/hands. The works. She's a hot damn mess. I'm not known for being neat as a pin. Even when I try really hard something gets scuffed or comes loose so I really understand the curse.
Beyond that Mildred is important for young girls because she is an underachiever, a disaster magnet, and completely absent-minded but she tries and tries and tries. She's always trying. She's totally irrepressible and imaginative enough to never let a bit of trouble with the headmistress prevent her from coming up with a new idea that will most definitely end badly. Even when she tries her hardest to be a model pupil it gets messed up for her (I feel you Mildred) but she maintains a positive outlook and is a stellar friend. She also takes no shit from the school's resident Queen Bitch so she's a disaster but not a pushover. Idol.
So those are my top 5 childhood literary heroines. I'm really glad I wrote all that down. It's been a long and grueling week, I've been tired and frustrated and sore. This has been a replenishing visit to my youth and also some good quality inspiration. I will summon my inner Anne, Sophie, Matilda, Laura and Mildred to get through the equally grueling weekend and next week!
Thank you characters and authors who made them.