Original Research

Cosmogynesis: The female hero in Tanith Lee’s The winter players

Eileen Donaldson
Literator | Vol 38, No 1 | a1413 | DOI: https://doi.org/10.4102/lit.v38i1.1413 | © 2017 Eileen Donaldson | This work is licensed under CC Attribution 4.0
Submitted: 04 May 2017 | Published: 28 November 2017

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Eileen Donaldson, Department of English Studies, University of South Africa, South Africa


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Abstract

The mass appearance of female heroes in popular culture in recent decades may encourage the opinion that the female hero has achieved the same credibility as her male counterpart. This article demonstrates, however, that she continues to generate ambivalence and that the primary reservation of most scholars is that a female hero either cannot or should not perform the masculinity of the archetype. Scholarly arguments tend towards two positions: that a female hero is an oxymoron; or that she should be limited to battles on behalf of women in which she champions feminine characteristics and challenges the belief that femininity is not heroic. Neither of these positions take archetypal heroism into account. Advocating a return to Jungian archetypal theory, I argue that the masculinity of the archetype may be as successfully performed by a female hero as by a male hero. Once this premise is accepted, the female hero should be expected to undergo the same trials and perform the same function as a male hero, in short, she should navigate the heroic monomyth outlined by Joseph Campbell. I illustrate this point through a literary analysis of Tanith Lee’s 1976 fantasy novella The winter players.

Keywords

female hero; archetypal hero; Tanith Lee; feminist fantasy; Joseph Campbell; monomyth

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