Seven Remarkable Women

Each book in the Queen of the Orcs trilogy is dedicated to three women: One is a historic figure. One is a fictional character. The third is always my best friend, lover, and spouse. Here’s why I chose them:

Lúthien Tinúviel, King’s Property

J.R.R. Tolkien’s Lord of the Rings fired my imagination when I first read it, and I still consider it a masterpiece. Tolkien didn’t have many woman characters. Although Éowyn has the most extensive part, the legend of Lúthien Tinúviel inspires his characters throughout the trilogy. Her tale is recounted in full in The Silmarillion, and it’s one of great courage and devotion.

Beryl Markham, King’s Property

Beryl Markham was the first person to fly solo across the Atlantic from west to east, a feat more difficult than Charles Lindbergh’s because it requires flying against headwinds. However, her life is far more interesting than that single feat. Abandoned by her mother at the age of four, she grew up on her father’s farm in Kenya, where she was virtually raised by Africans. Their culture molded her and gave her a strength that set her apart from other European women of her era. Her book, West with the Night, is an enchanting account of an adventurous life. Be warned: it omits a great deal, such as her first marriage at sixteen. Beryl was far wilder than she lets on. The Lives of Beryl Markham by Errol Trzebinski tells the full story.

Tenar, Clan Daughter

Tenar is the central character in The Tombs of Atuan, part of Ursula K. Le Guin’s masterful Earth Sea Trilogy. Chosen as a child for a suffocating life as a priestess in an ancient and isolated temple complex, she rebels against her “destiny” and the Dark Gods of the tombs.

Mary Jemison, Clan Daughter

Captured as a young teenager in an Indian raid in 1758, Mary was adopted in the Seneca Tribe of the Iroquois Nation. She willingly chose to spend the rest of her life with them and her descendants remain members of the tribe. Her story is famous, but not unique. Other woman captives refused to return to “civilized” society where they had few rights and were considered inferior to men.

Yanan, Royal Destiny

Elizabeth Marshall Thomas is an anthropologist who mostly writes nonfiction, but her Reindeer Moon is a superb novel. Her main character is Yanan, a young woman who lives, dies, and endures as a spirit in the last ice age. Seldom does an imagined life in a distant time seem so real and immediate.

Jeanne d’Arc, Royal Destiny

Jeanne was a peasant girl who had a vision that drove her to lead an army and change the course of French history. She seems like a character from a fantasy novel, yet there is no question that she was an historic person. Those who believe that God guided her must come to terms with the fact that her divine path led to the stake.

Carol Hubbell, King’s Property, Clan Daughter, and Royal Destiny

Carol, my multitalented spouse, spent most of her career teaching dance at Rochester’s School of the Arts. Working in an inner-city school requires toughness and resilience, but it never dimmed her dedication to her students or her passion for her art. Her example reminds me that the lives of “everyday women” are often heroic.