hapaxnym (hapaxnym) wrote,

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Two Months and a Triad

Yes, I know that it's been two months since I posted anything.

There has been Stuff What Happened.

But I don't want to talk about that right now.  So I'll talk about triads instead.

One of my online hangouts had been talking about Female Archetypes, specifically the classic triad of Maiden / Mother / Crone.  There is great power in these archetypes – they wouldn't have survived so long otherwise – and I know many women identify strongly with one or more of these figures.

But, well, some of us women are dreadfully *tired* of having the lesson constantly hammered in that Biology Is Destiny.  And we want to cast ourselves in the form a different triad.  One that doesn't revolve around age, or sexual status.

So all of this has been percolating in my backbrain while I've been reading Bitterblue, the culmination of Kristin Cashore's magnificent fantasy trilogy.  And it occurred to me that the three protagonists of these stories could serve as the basis of a different sort Triad of Female Archetypes:  one that focuses on their agency -- what they do, what they want, how they succeed or fail -- rather than their biology.

(Note:  It isn’t necessary to have read the books to understand this model – although they are marvelous, and what are you waiting for?  Also, the discussion that follows does not include any particular plot spoilers, although there is some reliance on what I consider to be their central themes)

It is important to point out that the women in question are all roughly the same age when their titular stories occur – they are all  adolescents just coming into the full power of adulthood, realizing and claiming their identity.  All are (hetero)sexually active without guilt, shame, or punishment – one marriage, one long-term commitment while rejecting marriage, one romantic commitment-free.  Two explicitly reject the possibility of bearing children, while forming responsible and nurturing relationships with younger girls.

For this proposed, triad, therefore, I came up with archetypes and their related symbolic representations – ones that resonate strongly both within the specific narrative referenced, and also are filled with a rich metaphorical history of their own.  (I confess that I was strongly influenced in these choices by the stunning U.S. covers, but I think that the art work so well in part because of these outside associations.) 

Each archetype comes with its virtues ("graces", perhaps more in the traditional sense than the specific technical meaning of Cashore's world) that support particular outcomes, both for the individual and the society in which she lives.  But each also has a dangerous dark side,  temptations that can draw a specific kind of loss and destruction; these failures are exemplified not only in the villains (or perhaps, more properly, antagonists) of each narrative, but also are ever present in the very nature of the archetype.

UPDATEThe Warrior description has been edited (no surprise, since it's the one I feel least affinity with) thanks to thoughtful criticism from muccamukkand JRL.  Thanks so much for your input!

Here, then, is my proposed Female Triad:


Model: Katsa

Symbol: Sword Dagger

Color: Gold, green

Virtues: Strength, courage

Goal:  Survival, protection

Temptation: Violence, domination  Judgmentalism, black-and-white thinking

Failure: Imposing your will upon others, surviving at their expense


Model:  Fire

Symbol*:  Violin

Colors:  Scarlet, orange

Virtues:  Empathy, creativity

Goals: Reconciliation, peace

Temptation: Martyrdom

Failure:  Sacrificing your own identity to others, loss of agency

*okay, this doesn't fit the cover, but a violin needs a bow as well, and was equally (if not more) metonymous with her character


Model:  Bitterblue

Symbol: Keys

Colors:  Blue, violet

Virtue: Leadership, intelligence

Goals: Stability, growth

Temptation: Dishonesty, arrogance

Failure: Alienation, loneliness

If I were to go by model, I would say that in my younger days I identified primarily as a Queen, both in Her positive and negative aspects. Now in this later stage of my life, I feel more drawn to the role of the Healer, but am too wary of the potential dangers to fully embrace what she has to offer.

Does this Triad speak to anyone else?

Does it matter if you've read the Cashore books or not?

P.S.  I don't have permission to post the covers to the books that partly inspired this post, but you can enjoy them here.  I have been unable to find the designers to give them proper credit.

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