This week I again feature nonfiction author, Valerie Estelle Frankel, former professor, currently an author, comic, with great sparkly convention costumes. She’s also author of From Girl to Goddess: The Heroine’s Journey through Myth and Legend, a welcome resource for all us heroine’s journey fans. Her previous guest post for my blog was Buffy and the Warrior Woman’s Classic Quest. This post features her book Katniss the Cattail: An Unauthorized Guide to Names and Symbols in Suzanne Collins’ The Hunger Games.
The classic heroine’s journey appears in many beloved books, like Coraline, Alice in Wonderland, and The Wizard of Oz. It features in works by Tamora Pierce, Jane Yolen, and Juliet Marillier. And it permeates The Hunger Games, casting Katniss as a classic heroine beside classic heroes Percy Jackson and Harry Potter.
The true goal of the heroine’s journey is to become the all-powerful mother. Thus, many heroines set out on rescue missions in order to restore their shattered families:
- Meg Murray of A Wrinkle in Time quests to save her father then her little brother.
- Coraline tries to save her parents,
- Meggie of Inkheart, her mother.
- Alice and Dorothy struggle to return to their families.
- Katniss is protector of the family from her earliest years, as she feeds and cares for not only her little sister but her mother. She extends this protection to Gale’s family, her own district, and finally all the people of Panem, as she provides food and support for her loved ones and protects the innocent.
Katniss, like Artemis or Percy Jackson’s friend Annabeth, shoots a silver bow. Silver is the color of moon magic, perception, and feminine strength, while a bow is the elegant distance weapon of the classic warrior woman. Even Susan in the Narnia series is called “the great archer.”
In many fairytales from Andersen’s “The Little Mermaid” to “The Six Swans,” the heroine’s most dire struggle takes place high in the prince’s castle, far from the magical protection of her forest or ocean home. This, like the Wicked Witch of the West’s castle, is the masculine world of law and tyranny, where the young heroine is truly helpless.
The Hunger Games themselves are a similar fortress of the tyrant’s power, where the Gamemakers can torture Katniss with firestorms and viciously changing rules.
In the final book, Katniss enters the Capitol itself to assassinate Snow on his home ground. She sneaks through the city-sized trap he has created, filled with mutts and deadly “pods” to find him awaiting her in his palatial mansion in the center.
By realizing that the tyrant’s power over her has ended, the heroine finds independence and strength. Just as Dorothy discovers the Wizard is a humbug, or Lucy and Susan see Aslan dead and helpless, Katniss perseveres through Snow’s threats and traps to see him die in the Capitol square.
However, the patriarch is not the real power in the heroine’s tale – he’s little more than a pompous blusterer who melts away when confronted.
For the heroine, the true threat is the evil witch, murderess of the innocent.
She is Mrs. Coulter of The Golden Compass, the Wicked Witch of the West, the White Witch of Narnia who tortures Edmund and keeps the land bound in sterile winter.
Though Katniss realizes it too late, this adversary is rebel president Alma Coin. Coin, like Snow White’s stepmother, resolves to destroy the young heroine through jealousy and to maintain her own rulership. Katniss is a beloved symbol of revolution, Katniss could name another to be president, therefore Katniss must die.
Discovering the dark matriarch’s power, understanding her, confronting her, but not becoming her is the key to adulthood. Katniss destroys Coin’s influence over herself and over Panem, her world, and then retreats into the simplicity of the countryside.
There she becomes, not a warrior woman, but a mature adult, protector of her family and figure of morality. This is the key to the heroine’s journey—traveling toward acceptance, balance, and nurturing love.
More information on the heroine’s journey, from charts to a booklist can be found at http://vefrankel.com
Valerie Estelle Frankel has won a Dream Realm Award, an Indie Excellence Award, and a USA Book News National Best Book Award for her Henry Potty parodies. She is the author of five new and forthcoming books on pop culture: From Girl to Goddess: The Heroine’s Journey in Myth and Legend, Buffy and the Heroine’s Journey, Katniss the Cattail: An Unauthorized Guide to Names and Symbols in The Hunger Games, Teaching with Harry Potter, and the inside look at fandom, Harry Potter: Still Recruiting. She keeps an extensive database of heroine’s journey books and guides at vefrankel.com.
Katniss the Cattail: An Unauthorized Guide to Names and Symbols in The Hunger Games http://www.amazon.com/Katniss-Cattail-Unauthorized-Symbols-Suzanne/dp/146996824X
Comparison of Models
The Steps of the Journey
|Campbell‘s Hero’s Journey||The Heroine’s Journey||Stages|
|The World of Common Day||The World of Common Day||Innocence and Discovery|
|The Call To Adventure||The Call To Adventure||Innocence and Discovery|
|Refusal of the Call||Refusal of the Call||Innocence and Discovery|
|Supernatural Aid||The RuthlessMentorand the Bladeless Talisman||Innocence and Discovery|
|The Crossing of the First ThresholdThe Belly of the Whale||The Crossing of the First ThresholdOpening One’s Senses||Journey through the Unconscious|
|The Road of Trials||Sidekicks, Trials, Adversaries||Journey through the Unconscious|
|The Meeting With the Goddess
Woman as the Temptress
|Wedding the AnimusFacing BluebeardFinding the Sensitive ManConfronting the Powerless Father||Meeting the Other|
|Atonement with the Father
|Descent into DarknessAtonement with the MotherIntegration and Apotheosis||Meeting the Self|
|The Ultimate Boon||Reward: Winning the Family||Meeting the Self|
|Refusal of the Return
The Magic Flight
Rescue From Without
The Crossing of the Return Threshold
|Torn DesiresThe Magic FlightReinstating the FamilyReturn||Meeting the Self|
|Master of the Two Worlds||Power over Life and Death||Goddesshood and Wholeness|
|Freedom To Live||Ascension of the New Mother||Goddesshood and Wholeness|