Posts Tagged ‘Heroes and Heroines’

Yesterday’s blog post was, quite literally, sugar sweet, so today seems like a good day as any to spice the dish with something rather more sinister.

When I was still in primary school, I occasionally went to the secondary school in which they worked, where, to my delight, there was a school library, run by one of my earliest real life childhood heroes, Mrs MacKay. I spent a lot of time in there, and while I had already read The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe, I was, at age 7, yet to encounter the rest of the Chronicles of Narnia. Mrs MacKay lent me the rest, and, when there was a fire in the school – don’t panic: the library survived intact, and replaced the small amount of smoke-damaged stock. For me, despite the initial horror, there was a silver lining to this dark cloud of smoke, as she sent home with my parents a full set of the Chronicles which smelt only slightly smoky. They were wrapped in strong plastic covers, and still have the typed library cards inside them. They are some of my most treasured possessions.  The Magician’s Nephew and The Silver Chair are my two favourites, and to my mind definitely the strangest.  As a lifelong medievalist (albeit unconsciously, at first), I suspect that part of the attraction are the mysterious women to be found loitering in woods and by lakes; for an authentic medieval example of such a woman, may I direct you to my post about Marie de France’s Lanval, also part of this Christmas Feast blog sequence? Given that C. S. Lewis was a real medieval scholar, not a dabbler like me, I’m pretty sure that such stories were, at least partly, his inspiration for Jadis and the Lady of the Green Kirtle, but that’s a discussion for another day. Now on to the feast! (more…)


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"Sir Terry Pratchett 1948 - 2015. The End." by Pate-keetongu. Image via the Lego Discworld Flickr group.

“Sir Terry Pratchett 1948 – 2015. The End.” by Pate-keetongu. Image via the Lego Discworld Flickr group.


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One of my earliest memories is receiving from First Sibling a beautifully illustrated copy of Disney’s retelling of Sleeping Beauty, which, of course, featured many of the highly detailed images from the 1959 film. I’ve watched this film repeatedly over the years, every time I see that it’s to be on television, and am always struck by the medieval beauty of the illustration style, full of patterns and rich colours, like the pages of an illuminated manuscript. The cartoon does in fact open as an illuminated manuscript telling Aurora’s story:

Disney's "Sleeping Beauty" as an illuminated manuscript (Image via A Book Hunter's Holiday blog).

Disney’s “Sleeping Beauty” as an illuminated manuscript (Image via A Book Hunter’s Holiday blog).

The pages above remind me of the Chroniques d’Angleterre, specifically of the miniature below:

F.16 of the Chroniques d'Angleterre,, depicting the marriage of Diodicias (British Library, Royal 15 E IV ). Image via British Library Catalogue of Illuminated Manuscripts.

F.16 of the Chroniques d’Angleterre,, depicting the marriage of Diodicias (British Library, Royal 15 E IV ). Image via British Library Catalogue of Illuminated Manuscripts.


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Ada Lovelace, 1815-1852 (St James Square blue plaque)

Ada Lovelace, 1815-1852 (St James Square blue plaque)

Happy Ada Lovelace Day 2014! Do you have any plans for the day? I walked past her blue plaque (in the photo to the left) at least twice a week most weeks when I lived in London, going to and from the London Library on my lunch hour, as a result of which I began reading a lot about her, and she has become one of my heroines. (more…)

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Tonight I watched the first episode of She-Wolves: England’s Early Queens, an excellent documentary series written and presented by historian Dr Helen Castor, currently being repeated on BBC4.

The first episode was about mother-in-law and daughter-in-law Matilda and Eleanor. I’ve known of the latter, whose more complete name is Eleanor of Aquitaine for as long as I can remember; I can’t remember the circumstances of our meeting, be it the compulsive reading, over and over, of the Ladybird Adventures from History series, or if it was through travelling in France on holidays, where we stayed for a week or so near Poitiers (part of Eleanor’s family’s territories) every year. I grew up fascinated by the idea of the fabled court of love, which led to my reading courtly literature, and thus, in part, to my career as a medievalist. So at least one thing in my museum has to be about her.

Effigy of Eleanor of Aquitaine from her tomb,  early 13th century, Fontevraud Abbey, Anjou, France (image via Wikimedia Commons)

Effigy of Eleanor of Aquitaine from her tomb, early 13th century, Fontevraud Abbey, Anjou, France (image via Wikimedia Commons)


I’ve never been to Fontevraud Abbey, although I plan to do so, but I have seen the 19th century plaster cast of the effigy above in the Victoria and Albert Museum. I think that the reason that this caught my eye is, unsurprisingly, because she is reading. It’s a decidedly unusual tomb, for an equally unusual woman.

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Which door do I open next? (image from Fiction Fixers: Adventures in Wonderland)

When I realised that I would not be able to complete 23 Things for Professional Development by the original deadline in October, I decided that I would take some of the pressure off myself, by resolving to finish all 23 things by the end of 2012. Because I go away for a few days tomorrow, I want to write my last CPD23 post this evening to keep my resolution. I would like to thank the Evil Geniuses behind CPD23; I hope that they realise what a great thing they do for the rest of us. (more…)

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Princess (Source:  Battleoftheplanets.net)

Princess (Source: Battleoftheplanets.net)

1980s pop music has a lot to answer for; fortunately, I know that there is no possible way that I will be the only person of my acquaintance who can still sing/”sing” Bonnie Tyler’s Holding Out for a Hero all the way through. This is in no small part owing to my years spent as a faithful worshipper in the Church of Cheesy Pop (when I was an undergraduate), where such songs were the hymns, but my favourite part of the song is the Greek Chorus of ladies in white. The gender politics are annoying, and were annoying, even when I was eight years old, as Bonnie Tyler’s character didn’t quite fit with my other heroines – She-Ra, Wonderwoman, Princess in G-Force, Annie, Anne Shirley, Jo March and Joey Bettany – at the time. Yet still the song was something of a classic, and it does suit today’s Reverb12 prompt: (more…)

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