Monday, April 23, 2007
Friesner, Esther. 2007. Nobody's Princess.
Do you like heroines who are strong, independent, and self-sufficient? You may want to meet Helen. She's not your average princess. Sure, her mother and father are king and queen of Sparta. And sure, she may grow up to be "Helen of Troy." But Helen is a young firecracker of a character. She is not going to stand around learning how to do needlework while her two brothers, Castor and Polydeuces, get to have all the fun of learning to ride and hunt. She's not going to miss out on all the fun of learning how to use spears and swords. Disguising herself as a boy, she fools everyone but her brothers and their teacher, Glaucus. Fortunately for Helen, he bought into her theory of how the future queen of the country needs to be able to defend herself. Now, being an adventurer and hunter like her brothers isn't all fun and games. Helen is learning it takes hard work, sacrifice, and a strong mind. Some may call her pretty. But Helen pays them no attention. She wants one thing in life: freedom to live HOW she chooses. Beauty can be just as much of a hindrance as a help in that regards. NOBODY'S PRINCESS is an exciting book full of adventures. Friesner takes a well-known figure in mythology and creates an adventurous, one-of-a-kind childhood for this heroine mostly known for her beauty and sexuality.
There were many things I enjoyed about Nobody's Princess. Helen is strong. She is resourceful. She doesn't take no for an answer. She knows what she wants and she works hard to get it. Very admirable traits in a heroine.
So there we are again. I could claim a kingdom, cause a scene at a shrine, refuse to sacrifice to a goddess, and get away with it all. My life would always be easy and pleasant because no matter what I did, everything would be forgiven, forgotten, laughed away because I was pretty. No, I was better than pretty. I was beautiful. (26)
I wasn't a slave, but as much as I hated carding and spinning and weaving wool, Ione and Mother forced me to spend day after day learning how to do it. What they said was: "This is what all women do, even queens," but what I heard was: This is all that women can do, and even queens have no choice about it. Was that being free? Clytemnestra wasn't a slave, but when she was old enough she'd be married off and sent away to live with her husband. Would she get to choose him, or would she simply be told, "This is the man you're going to marry," the same way that Ione told us, "This is the dress you're going to wear today." Was that being free? I sat up. I knew what I wanted. "I just want to say yes or no about my own life," I said. "Always." (33)