When I see a blog or article on ‘strong female characters’, the tone is commonly a negative one. I can understand this. A “strong” female character done poorly is highly annoying, and yet there seems to be no shortage of them. Therefore, I would like to highlight a few fictional girls who truly are strong, and praise the authors who got it right.
Sara Cobbler—Wingfeather Saga by Andrew Peterson
Throughout the Wingfeather Saga, Sara’s eyes are described as being like ‘star’s or ‘diamonds’, which puts some credence to the idea of eyes being the window to the soul. Others are drawn to her and come to depend on her, as Sara’s character becomes a guiding light and a precious solidity in a time when such qualities are needed more than ever. Sara’s gentle boldness frees a factory of children forced into slave-labour, and after their rescue she continues to care for the displaced children in a sort of make-shift orphanage. “Queen Sara”, her orphans call her, but Sara never puts herself above them. Her true power—her right to rule, so to speak—comes from lifting the other children up. In the grungy factory she shows the children that they are living souls, not mere tools; and in the orphanage she shows them that they are loved, not abandoned.
The Overseer wanted them to forget, she said. That was how he controlled them. If they remembered, they were strong, Sara told them.
Imraldera/ Starflower—Tales of Goldstone Wood by Anne Elisabeth Stengl
Imraldera may have the longevity of her immortal neighbours, but she also has something many faeries seem to lack: grace, and a heart for those deemed as lesser (be they mortal or immortal). She cares for the downcast as one who knows the suffering—which she does. Known as Starflower in those days, she began her story as a voiceless outcast. But rather than grow bitter, Starflower remembered the love she had been shown, and the power within it. With justice to season her mercy, Imraldera can draw a sword if need be, and as revered librarian she also wields a skillful pen. But her main strength is her ability to care for others, whether gently and motherly, through sensible tough-love, or by patience centuries old.
Marta Bessarion— The Lady of Kingdoms by Suzannah Rowntree
Sure, Marta may wield an ancient lance that grants the owner super strength… but even without her lance, Marta is a powerful character. She stands for truth and justice, not just because these are nice things to uphold, but because God has ordained them. Others may tell her that such high standards are impossible, but the lady-knight has seen the damage that a little compromise can do. Even when others ignore her encouragement and she must fight alone, she will work tirelessly to do what she can to prevent or undo further damage. Knowing she stands with One who cannot truly lose, Marta throws herself into challenges with seemingly unnatural confidence.
Amy—Spaceboy by Stephen McCranie
There is an endearing childishness to Amy’s character. She takes wild and open delight in every change of the season, and adores fluffy chicks. But there is also a rare maturity and honesty that makes her strong even in her vulnerable moments. When her friends are experiencing hard times, Amy gives them the tools to deal with the problem by reminding them of simple truths. Part of Amy’s ability to see the good in others comes from her child-like innocence. But as a growing young woman, she has to learn some hard life-lessons—and from these lessons she also learns how to give grace, to herself as well as to others.
Anne Shirley/Blythe—The Anne Series by L.M. Montgomery
It’s interesting how Anne’s strengths and joys seem to come out of her apparent weaknesses and tragedies. She hearkens back to her days as an abandoned orphan to show care to the young and/or lonely. She retains enough of her childhood whimsy, not just to take delight in everyday things, but also to better understand her own children. One of the charms of the Anne series is watching her grow from young girl to mother (and, in a way, grandmother), and the way she remains connected to her past—learning from it—as she matures.
Anne listened with her usual serious face, praying that she be not betrayed into a stifled shriek of laughter. She remembered the child she had been at Green Gables
These amazing (fictional) women have a certain special maturity that encourages and strengthens the people in their lives. Ultimately, the strongest woman isn’t really one who ‘don’t need no man’. She doesn’t live in isolation, but as a gift to the community.