Tag Archives: heroines

Spotlight: Star Wars’ Forgotten Heroines, Part 2

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Welcome back, readers! Once more we fly into the breach to learn about Star Wars’ forgotten heroines!

I know I am repeating myself here, but the fact that Disney ditched these women still astounds me. After forty years of build-up, the new owners for this beloved franchise cast aside characters they could have used in new stories. Even if they declared everything after Vision of the Future non-canon, there would have been enough leftover material to spawn new books, several dozen movies, and more than enough subject matter for TV shows like Rebels.

Every time I sit down and really think about it, I look sideways at Disney and say, “Why? Why waste all of that good material? You had a gold mine here, and you shut it down because….well, why did you shut it down?”

Several people have theories about why Disney dropped the old EU, but I won’t bore you with a recital, since these posts are supposed to be relatively cheerful. I already alluded to my own opinion in the post about the final season for Star Wars Rebels, which has not changed. I doubt it ever will, sadly. But the fact is that what’s done is done, and there is no point trying to alter it.

Yes, I know there are people petitioning for Disney to redo Episode VIII. While I sympathize with them, since Carrie Fisher is (hopefully) residing in a galaxy far, far away now, there is no method by which that film can be redone while including her. Disney has already signed an agreement stating they will not use CGI to bring Leia back into the franchise, and even if a cast and crew could be found to remake the rest of the movie, working in Fisher’s existing scenes to a new movie would take a lot of work. It might not result in a good film, either.

More to the point, there’s no way in Mustafar that the kingmakers in Hollywood would let a remade Episode VIII into theaters. Most of the “important people” in Tinseltown have hated Star Wars and the majority of its fans since the first film came out, and many will go on hating it and us ‘til the day they die. I’m sorry, but there’s just no way around that or The Last Jedi. The only things which those of us who dislike the new films have got are the original movies, the original EU, and stories by some bright creators who want to do homage to the original movies.

With that in mind, let’s go back to the listing I started yesterday. One of the best ways to keep the original Star Wars alive is for its fans to show the old EU to new readers and prospective fans, which is why I wrote these two posts. So, without further ado, let’s look at some more of the leading ladies from the original SW timeline:

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Jan Ors: Jan Ors was a Rebellion operative/spy who reported directly to Mon Mothma. While in a Rebel asteroid base, she was one of several Rebels captured – but not executed – by Imperial Stormtrooper and future Jedi knight Kyle Katarn. Although on opposite sides in the war, Kyle immediately felt a connection with Jan, as she did with him. This led him to spare her life and the lives of most of her compatriots. It was after this act of mercy that Kyle learned his father, Morgan, had been killed in a “Rebel” strike on their homeworld of Sulon.

At first, this made Kyle extremely hateful toward the Rebellion, including Jan and her friends, whom he met again before he was to enter Imperial service fully. It was during a brief fight with Ors’ companions that Kyle was to have his eyes opened to the truth; during the conflict, Jan name dropped Sulon, catching Kyle’s attention. She was able to prove to him that his father – who was a Rebel sympathizer and supporter – had been killed by the Empire, not the Rebellion.

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Jan Ors and Kyle Katarn

Kyle immediately defected after this, helping Jan and her fellows escape back to the Rebellion. There he became an agent who specifically answered to Mon Mothma, running missions she would trust to no one else. Kyle soon proved to be a one-man wrecking crew, carting up to six or more heavy weapons during his missions. Jan accompanied him on some of his assignments, one of the most famous being his operation to stop the Empire’s Dark Trooper program. In that event, she was his “mission officer.” This basically meant that she sat in front of enemy lines and, after giving Kyle needed info, watched with a bag of popcorn while he cut a swath of carnage through enemy ranks.

From what I have read, we never got to see Jan run her own missions very often. Usually, when she appeared, it was because she was being rescued by Kyle. This wasn’t because she was an incompetent agent and couldn’t handle her own; the reason she needed rescuing so often was because everyone who wanted Kyle Katarn knew the best way to get him angry was to threaten or “kill” Ors. During her own missions, it seems, Jan didn’t have near as much to worry about. She was a good shot and a capable fighter – at least where the average Imperials were concerned.

Throw in Dark Jedi, though, and she was out of her depth. On those occasions she very wisely did the sensible thing, which was to sit down, shut up, and pray Kyle would find her before the bad guys decided she was more trouble than she was worth. Because he was Force-sensitive, Kyle always managed to find her, despite the fact that her friendship with him was what usually got her into these messes.

None of this is what led Jan to turn down Kyle’s repeated offers of marriage, though. No, she turned him down because they were both fighters involved in the myriad wars which afflicted the Star Wars galaxy following Return of the Jedi. Any day could be their last, and Jan didn’t want to have Kyle for a brief space of time only to lose him a day, a week, or an hour later. It is also probable that she knew that, whenever she was captured or appeared to “die,” Kyle skirted dangerously close to the Dark Side in order to rescue/avenge her. If she actually died in combat with an enemy, the last thing Jan wanted was for her death to make him into one of the monsters they fought so hard against. Better they stayed friends; that way, whatever happened wouldn’t hurt as much as if they were man and wife.

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Since Kyle was originally one of the agents who stole pieces of the plans for the first Death Star, there is no compelling reason explaining why he and Jan were not included in the film Rogue One. The writers could have written the story so that Galen Erso was Galen Ors, making Jyn the twin or older/younger sister of Jan Ors. If they had gone that route, the story would have been twice as interesting and complex as it was; remember, in the original EU, Jan worked directly for Mon Mothma. The film writers could have maintained this for the movie; in order to protect Jan from general interest, Mon Mothma could keep the younger woman as her private agent.

It would have added extra tension for Jyn’s story, too. Say the sisters were both “dumped” by Saw Gerrera, but one returned to the Rebellion (Jan) while the other rebelled in her own way (Jyn). Throw Kyle into the mix to play off of the wayward Cassian Andor and Jan, and the writers have got a boiling kettle of emotions to play with. Then, at the end, Jan and Kyle are the only members of the Rogue One team to survive the mission, emailing the plans to Leia moments before hightailing it back to Yavin for their next assignment. Boom, you have material for more fill-in movies starring Jan and Kyle as they deal with the aftermath of the Rogue One mission and Kyle’s Jedi adventures. It’s a win-win all the way around.

But the new guys didn’t do that. Bummer.

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Mallatobuck: Mallatobuck is here because I do not know if she survived the switch to the new timeline. In the original EU, Chewbacca married Mallatobuck several years before A New Hope. Together they had one son, Lumpawarrump (yes, that is really his name, and yes, Lowbacca was a better choice). I do not know too much more about her, having not encountered her anywhere outside my New Essential Guide to Characters. I understand she was in the less-than-appealing Star Wars Christmas Special, but really, that show was not her fault. If, as I suspect, Mallatobuck did not make the new timeline’s cut, we are down yet another interesting character.

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Vima-Da-Boda: Descended from the famous ancient Jedi Nomi Sunrider and her daughter, Vima Sunrider, we first hear about Vima-Da-Boda in Kevin J. Anderson’s Jedi Search. A Jedi from the pre-Clone Wars Order, Vima went mad after her own daughter fell to the Dark Side. She ended up in the spice mines of Kessel, where she met and gave rudimentary training to the future maverick Jedi Knight Kyp Durron. It was apparently enough for the kid to pull off mind tricks on the people running the mines.

Somehow, Luke or one of our other heroes found Vima in time to solicit her help fighting the reborn Emperor Palpatine (that part is complicated). Later on she became an instructor at Luke’s new Jedi Academy, seemingly recovered from the despair-induced madness she suffered when she lost her daughter.

The old EU was initially more flexible about Jedi breaking the ban on marriage before the Purge than the new one is. Corran Horn, as we saw yesterday, was descended from a long line of upstart Corellian Jedi. New Jedi Knight Kam Solusar’s father, Jedi Master Ranik Solusar, caused a real upset in the old Jedi Council when he married and fathered Kam, who was old enough to run off into Wild Space rather than die in the Purge or become a Dark Side follower of Palpatine.

And during the years between the Jedi Purge and the Rebellion, there were surviving Jedi like Kanan Jarrus who just plain ignored the ban because it did not matter any more. All of this makes Vima’s descent from a long line of Jedi women rather unsurprising. It was actually one of the things I really liked about the old EU; by the time of the Purge, Jedi were practically banned from marriage. But when Luke’s new Order came on the scene, they could break with that ban because, like the original Jedi Knights millenia ago, they were starting almost from scratch.

I would have been REALLY happy if the writers had kept this aspect of the original EU for the sequel films. It is still mind-boggling to me that they wiped out Luke’s new Jedi Order prior to TFA. What would be wrong with having new Jedi from the books Force-jumping out of drop ships into the melee on Takodana? The writers could have gotten Kyle Katarn, Corran Horn, Kam Solusar, and lots of other cameos into that film and Episode VIII easily in that manner.

But they didn’t do it. *Sigh.*

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The Dark Woman: This Jedi, who wielded a purple lightsaber like Mace Windu and Jaina Solo, was so devoted to the Force that she renounced her very name in its service. A Jedi Master, the Dark Woman trained Ki-Adi-Mundi to Knighthood but failed to take care of future bounty hunter Aurra Sing. Her inability to train Aurra, while not entirely her fault, made her unpopular with the Jedi Council.

Nevertheless, two years after the Battle of Naboo, the Dark Woman took over the training of A’Sharad Hett, the son of the great Jedi Knight Sharad Hett. A’Sharad had been raised among the Tusken Raiders of Tatooine and was Ki-Adi-Mundi’s apprentice until he accidentally brushed the Dark Side. At that point, the Dark Woman stepped in and took over his training.

I do not know how things ended for A’Sharad – I hope he lived to meet Luke at some point in the old EU – but I know that the Dark Woman died on an Outer Rim world shortly before the Battle of Yavin. Rumor has it Mara Jade was the one who located her, but it was unquestionably Darth Vader who killed her. Aurra Sing must have been disappointed, since she had already accepted a contract on the Jedi Master’s life just before Vader found the Dark Woman. Sing joked she would have killed her former master for free, since she was still smoldering over the woman’s perceived abandonment of her years earlier.

The Dark Woman is here primarily because I do not know if she made it into the new timeline. Apart from the fact that she is interesting on her own, I would really like to know if her last apprentice survived the Purge by going back to live with the Tusken Raiders. There would have been a very interesting story there if he had – not to mention another new candidate for Luke’s Academy.

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Tahiri Veila: Like A’Sharad Hett, Tahiri Veila was raised by Tatooine’s Tusken Raiders. They killed her parents on their homestead but, for some reason, the Sand People decided Tahiri was worth keeping around. Luke eventually discovered her and brought her to Yavin IV, where she and Anakin Solo quickly began a Romance Reel. Captured and brutally abused/brainwashed by the Yuuzhan Vong, Tahiri was eventually rescued by Anakin. The two never got past their first kiss; Anakin died a little later in order to destroy creatures the Yuuzhan Vong had designed specifically to hunt Jedi.

This must have really upset Tahiri, since Jacen was later able to take her as his Dark Side apprentice. Even after being redeemed from the Dark Side, Tahiri never went on to become a full Jedi Knight. Instead she became a bounty hunter, which I think was a total waste of her potential by the writers for those stories. Seriously, why didn’t the writers for the new timeline have Tahiri and Anakin married by The Force Awakens? It would have been nice if they had had a child or several children, too.

I have always thought it was highly unfair that the old EU writers never let Leia and Han have more than one grandchild to carry on the Solo name after losing both their boys. It is one of (several) things I had half-hoped the new timeline would correct. Giving Anakin and Tahiri a child would also have prevented her from falling off of the Light Side bandwagon, something else which has always upset me. Truly, readers, I think the destruction of Star Wars began toward the end of the old EU, as will be demonstrated when we look at the next heroine on our list….

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Tionne Solusar: The near-human wife of Jedi Knight Kam Solusar, Tionne could use her voice and music to amplify her Force powers. In the Young Jedi Knights series, Luke liked to cede the floor to her so she could teach his students Jedi history by singing it. According to the books, her voice was spell-binding; listeners did not quite see visions of the past when she played and sang, but neither could they find the heart to interrupt her or take their minds off of whatever lesson she was teaching.

I do not know much about Tionne. She was an under-used heroine in Star Wars long before the new timeline. Recently, I learned that during Jacen Solo’s Dark Side reign, Tionne was killed and mutilated by his forces. Her husband, Kam, was in the same battle. Though he was left for dead, he didn’t die, but I sure don’t envy those who had to tell him about Tionne. And if he saw what was done to her – blogger winces – Good Lord, that was even worse for the two of them.

If this brutal end for Tionne Solusar does not prove that the Star Wars haters had already gotten their talons into the franchise before Disney bought it, I don’t know what does. There was no reason for the authors to murder Tionne like this – none. It was done out of pure spite to the franchise and its fans. That was my big problem with Star Wars from the Yuuzhan Vong War onward; characters were killed off either for shock “value,” to add “gravitas” to the universe (how can you get more grim than “planet destroying, man-made moon”?), or as a way to demoralize and dishearten new readers and old fans.

Everything people are complaining about in the new film trilogy started with the old EU’s Yuuzhan Vong War. This is why I find the new films even more disappointing than most others do; Disney had a chance to clean up the mess the novel writers were making with the new trilogy. But instead of seizing this opportunity with both hands, they let it pass.

There is no excuse for that, readers. None whatsoever.

Moranda Savich: Moranda Savich is the last heroine on this list that I will discuss in detail. A pickpocket and information courier for Talon Karrde’s organization, Moranda played a big role in Vision of the Future, trying to help Wedge Antilles and Corran Horn find out who wanted to sabotage the Bothawui planetary shield generators.

Spunky and sharp, with a whiplash wit and keen mind, I am pretty sure Moranda bit the dust before the book ended. She was a lot of fun, and I was sad to lose her. So having a young Moranda Savich chasing around the galaxy in Rebels at some point would have been great for me. I get the feeling there were a lot of stories behind the old, grandmotherly woman we meet first in Specter of the Past.

Oh, well, what’s done is done, and there is no undoing it now. *Sigh.*

Well, readers, that was a long post, wasn’t it? I am going to finish this article with a list of heroines I do not know enough about just yet. Others I know a little something of, but because they are in a video game (KOTOR), I will let those who are interested pick the program up and play it to encounter them personally.

Right now, I am off to plan my next torture routine – ah, I mean, post. So here are the Honorable Mentions from Star Wars’ very, very lengthy list of heroines. You can look them up at your leisure, or wait for me to get around to writing about them in the future. That will probably be a long wait, though, so you may want to check ‘em out yourselves:

Gaeriel Captison Thanas, Callista, Siri Tachi, Xaverri, Lorana Jinzler, Teneniel Djo, Anja Gallandro, Releqy A’kla, Tash Arranda, Aril Nunb, Lieda Mothma, Sera Faleur Darklighter, Mirith Sinn, Dr. Qwi Xux, Mission Vao, Nomi Sunrider, Vima Sunrider, Jori Daragon, Bastila Shan, Tendra Risant Calrissian, Jysella Horn, Rianna Saren – and many, many more I cannot yet name, but which I hope to know in the future.

May the Force be with you, readers

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Spotlight – Zoids: Chaotic Century – Fiona Elisi Linnet

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Yep, here is another Spotlight! post about a character from Zoids: Chaotic Century, readers! If I seem to be on a Zoids kick at the moment, the fact is that I want to get as many of my promised character and zoids posts done this year as possible. I’ve been falling behind, so there is some catch up to be done here. That begins today with this post, which focuses on Fiona Elisi Linnet, heroine of Zoids: Chaotic Century and love interest for its hero, Van Flyheight.

Fiona appears at the end of the first episode of Chaotic Century, “The Boy From Planet Zi.” Van finds her in the same room where he discovers Zeke. Thinking her pod contains another zoid, he is somewhat startled to find there is a blonde girl roughly his own age inside instead. Hilarity ensues as he brings her back to his home, the Wind Colony, in his new Shield Liger.

It quickly becomes apparent to both Van and the audience that this girl has amnesia – a very severe case of it. She doesn’t understand several common turns of phrase which Van uses, and she apparently has no idea what a name is, since she appears unable to identify herself every time he asks for her name. It also appears that she thought Van meant her instead of him, since he tells her at one point, “Watch my lips – it’s Van.

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Finally, she blurts out “Fiona” in response to his renewed request for her name, then follows it up with “Van” as she prepares to ask him another question. For a moment, our hero is almost apoplectic: “Look, I know my name is Van –”

Then it dawns on him that she said “Fiona” first, and he asks if that is her name.

“Who’s Fiona?” she asks, and Van states that she said the name first. “Really?” she says, sounding perfectly innocent and curious. “Does that mean I’m called Fiona?”

For the first five episodes, this is how their relationship goes, with Fiona asking questions that have answers which are blatantly obvious to everyone but her. It is funny but also sad – and, as we see later, dangerous. Because Fiona knows so little, her naïveté is extreme. At one point, she goes to free her captive friends, declaring her purpose loudly as she trots past one of the bandits holding them prisoner. Yes, she was that naïve. (Oh, by the way, you are going to love what she does with salt, readers. 😉 )

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Over time, Fiona loses this blithe innocence, though she remains decidedly pure in mind and soul. She also develops an affinity for computers and science (at least, all the sciences relating to the maintenance and well-being of zoids). It becomes apparent early on that she and Zeke share some kind of connection; you may have noticed that Fiona’s eyes are not a normal color. They are the same fuschia as Zeke’s, which is an early implication that she has a special bond with the organoid.

In fact, Fiona is not human, but a member of a near-human species native to Zi that vanished long ago. Known as Ancient Zoidians, Fiona’s people were the ones who developed/built the zoids everyone on the planet uses. But Fiona does not remember this until halfway through the first season of the show. Even then, she doesn’t recall enough of her past to figure this out herself. It is a friend of hers who points out that she seems to fit the descriptions of these early denizens of Zi.

If Van is the main selling point of the series, then Fiona is a close second. While she rarely takes the controls of a zoid and never goes into combat unless she is acting as Van’s copilot, she does have mettle and will fight – albeit in a manner that is “girly” – when she is threatened. To be honest, I would say that fighting was not her greatest strength anyway. Viewers don’t remember Fiona because she kicks butt; we remember her for her generosity, kindness, purity, and goodness.

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When it comes to her relationships in the show, Fiona’s innocence is what has the biggest effect on people. Where Van spurs others to be good with his determination and resolve to do what is right, Fiona brings out the gentleness and kindness in others with her innocence. Like Zeke, she is possessed of an inherent sincerity that makes good people automatically react to her with kindness. Where others might have mistreated her in order to “break her in” to the “real world,” Van and his friends instead work to protect her. And this is despite the fact that her initial simplicity often annoys them or makes their lives more difficult.

Her relationship with Zeke shows that she considers the organoid something of a twin brother, but in a different way than Van regards him. Fiona and Zeke are psychically tied together by a special rapport native to their two species, and so their personalities are very similar. The differences between them are mild, and mostly boil down to the fact that Zeke is more willing to enter combat – solo or otherwise – than Fiona is. When they combine their extrasensory abilities, the two can increase not only their own powers, but Van’s and his zoid’s as well.

The proof that Fiona’s greatest power is her innocence actually shows first in the episode “Memory,” where the two meet the mercenary Irvine. While lost in a sandstorm with Van, she accidently steps into a whirlpool of quicksand that nearly swallows her up. Having appeared out of the storm as if by magic, Irvine acts swiftly to save Fiona from being dragged under the sand. However, this kindness on his part appears to be temporary when he later holds her hostage in the same episode, thinking doing so will convince Van to hand Zeke over to him. Zeke dispels this illusion fairly quickly.

Despite these less than noble actions on his part, it is shown that Irvine is not immune to Fiona’s purity. When she puts him on the spot in the following show – “The Protectors” – Irvine has to admit that not only does he not dislike her and Van, he actually has a soft spot for them.

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I have to say, her friendship with Irvine was one of the best things in the series. It becomes obvious from “The Protectors” onward that she has the cool mercenary wrapped around her little finger. Irvine shows by small gestures and a few words that he really cares about Fiona. While there may be a bit of nostalgia on his end in this relationship (more on that in his post), it is made clear that he would throw himself in harm’s way without a second thought if Fiona were ever put in serious danger. In fact, from something I read about the manga for Chaotic Century, when a female bandit gave a veiled threat to Fiona, Irvine pulled his gun on her and stated she would be dead if she tried it. If that isn’t a sign of intense devotion to another person – and in a non-romantic relationship at that – then I do not know what is.

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Moonbay and Fiona’s friendship is a mixture of mother/daughter closeness and sisterly camaraderie. For the first dozen episodes, Fiona mostly follows Moonbay’s lead, as the savvy woman takes her under her wing. When not copiloting with Van, Fiona can often be seen as Moonbay’s shadow. She trails after her around the colonies and cities they visit, watches her repair the zoids, or helps her make dinner/break camp.

Fiona intervenes in Moonbay’s business dealings even less than Van does; she only shows anger at the older woman’s more mercenary tendencies once that I can recall. And while it may look like Moonbay treats Fiona as a pet or a servant early on, the reality is far different. She genuinely cares for the younger girl and wants to protect her. If anything, this may be the reason why Van and Irvine often leave her in Moonbay’s care; they can protect Fiona from outside threats, but they can’t teach her what it means to be a woman. Moonbay can, and she settles into the role of mother/older sister for Fiona with admirable ease.

It is also likely that her ability to repair/maintain zoids is what fostered Fiona’s own aptitude in these areas. Although she had another mentor in this field later on, following Moonbay around as she saw to the boys’ zoids probably reignited Fiona’s latent capabilities in mending or upgrading the living machines. It is one of the talents Moonbay is most pleased to see Fiona exercising later on in the series.

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Now we come to the most important relationship Fiona has in Chaotic Century. It is evident almost from the beginning of the series that she quickly comes to care for Van as more than a friend. She worries about him when she must stand aside to watch him fight, often murmuring his name during a confrontation or shouting it when she sees him get hurt. Where this would seem to be “softness” in a heroine in other stories, it is befitting of Fiona, who is gentleness itself.

More to the point, despite preferring to stay out of zoid combat when she is alone, Fiona shows no qualms about “flying RIO” with Van in his Ligers. Considering the danger to him in the cockpit, it takes nerve to sit behind him when he is in a battle. This shows that Fiona is not a coward or afraid of conflict; on her own, however, she does not seem to feel she has the ability to bring out the full potential of a zoid in combat. She would rather watch Van’s back during a battle than fight solo in her own zoid.

As stated in the post about Van, he and Fiona develop a psychic tie during the series. Fiona obviously initiated this link, since she is telepathic/empathetic. But it seems likely that, if Van hadn’t been open to such a connection, their bond would never have formed at all.

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This tie between the two is only activated in a noticeable manner when Fiona is specifically calling to Van or searching for him. On his own, Van cannot sense her as she can sense him, or call to her in a directly telepathic manner. In addition, if Van is hurt and lost somewhere far away from Fiona, she cannot pinpoint his location with perfect accuracy. Not until she gets closer to his position, at least. The less distance there is between them, the better her ability to locate him, generally speaking.

Should a film company get their hands on the rights to Zoids: Chaotic Century, I can see them trying to make Fiona more of a kick butt superwoman than a “stand and wait” heroine. I can also see almost any actress cast in her role demanding this change, too. This would be more of a tragedy than any changes made to Van’s personality, readers; Fiona is not strong because she can fight. She is strong in her innocence and the power it gives her to bring forth the goodness in others.

Having seen other female characters in following Zoids series that are more “kick butt” than “stand and wait” heroines, I can say with all honesty that I prefer Fiona to Rei Mii, Danbul, Lena Toros, and even Naomi Fluegel. Naomi was a pretty good combat pilot – not as good as Genesis’ Danbul or Rei Mii – but she wasn’t bad either. In the end, though, Fiona is superior to all of them because of her innate goodness and purity. She wins the argument hands down and is the unchallenged queen of Zoids heroines.

If any filmmakers change Fiona Elisi Linnet to make her more of a Femi Nazi character, I will be livid. You will never get me into a theater to watch a Zoids film (series) which makes Fiona less than the heroine she is in the anime, readers. So if the rights to Chaotic Century are in the hands of Hollywood (or its Japanese equivalent), watch your step, people. There is nothing more worrisome in your line of work than angry fans.

Well, that concludes this character post, readers. If you want to see Fiona Elisi Linnet and Van Flyheight in action, check out Zoids: Chaotic Century either at www.watchcartoonsonline.com (I finally have a free web address to give you!), or order the DVDs on Amazon.

See you on the battlefield!

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Role Models and Heroines – Madeleine de Vercheres

Much is made today of the need for strong female role models for young girls. The academics and critics have succeeded in convincing the public at large that there are not enough heroic women to inspire the next generation of girls. They naturally ignore the mothers of these girls, insisting that there must be other, greater paradigms of feminine glory at every turn which they can aspire to become. When these people turn to history for models for modern girls, they tend to mythologize the heroines of the past. They claim these women “broke with the customs” of their times in order to blaze their own trail in a “man’s world.”

In this way they are the victims of their own desire to eradicate knowledge of true history. They have forgotten that it was not strange in the American West for women to own, use, and know guns as well as men did. Women served in the American War for Independence as well, such as the famous “Molly Pitcher” – Mary Hays McCauley – and Deborah Sampson. One frontier heroine of the Americas, however, was perhaps more daring than even these bold women, in part for the fact that she performed her heroics at a much younger age.

Born on March 3, 1678, Marie Madeleine Jarret de Verchéres grew up in a military seigneury along the St. Lawrence River. A military seigneury was a plot of land granted to officers in the army, as it was known at the time, the army of New France. The French soldiers were persuaded to settle on the land as habitants while the officers, called “seignurs,” remained in command of the fort or stockade.

The stockade Madeleine called home was the property of her father, the Sieur François Jarret de Verchéres. Within the Verchéres fort were the manor house, where Madeleine’s family lived, the blacksmith’s shop, the blockhouse, and the cabins of the habitants. The habitants, men and women, worked in the fields, both for their own food and on behalf of the Verchéres family.

Madeleine was the second oldest child in the family, followed by twelve year old Louis and ten year old Alexandre. The youngest of the six children were a boy, Jean, and two girls, Angélique and Cathèrine. François, the oldest of the Verchéres children, had died at the battle of La Prairie in 1691 as part of a campaign against the belligerent Iroquois Nation. He was greatly missed by the whole family, though they admired his courageous example.

The Iroquois were a confederation of northeastern Native American tribes. The head tribe was that of the Mohawks, from which we get both the name and the distinctive hairstyle. Unlike the Hurons and the Algonquin, the Iroquois were not on good terms with the French. Allied with the British, the Iroquois had adopted their biases and hatreds for the Catholic French settlers. On top of this, the Iroquois were enemies of the Hurons and the Algonquin, Indian tribes which had united with the French. Any friends of those tribes were enemies of the Iroquois.

This animosity led to many battles between the French and the Iroquois. But by 1692, matters seemed to be improving. Governor de Frontenac had returned to New France. To protect his people from Iroquois attacks, he had patrols sent out and fought battles against the hostile Indians. Having dealt with near-famine the year before due to increased Iroquois activity, the French settlers in the St. Lawrence area were pleased with the coming harvest. Reports said that the Iroquois were far away and would not trouble their region.

In October of 1692, Madame de Verchéres had to attend to business in Montreal. With the Sieur de Verchéres away already, in her absence one of the children would have to command the fort as it belonged to the Verchéres family and they must maintain their authority over it. Because she was the oldest of the remaining children, Madeleine was the only choice for this position. This would be unremarkable in the annals of history except for one small detail: Madeleine was fourteen years of age.

While Louis and Alexandre were to be left with Madeleine, the three youngest children would accompany Madame de Verchéres on her journey. The older children saw their mother and younger siblings off before they returned to manage the seignury. For the next two days, all was quiet. But on the morning of October 22, 1692, while overlooking the seignury from the St. Lawrence River, Madeleine and the family’s old manservant spied a number of Iroquois creeping up on the fort. The two ran back and gained the safety of the stockade in time, closing the gates behind them immediately afterward.

Most of the male settlers were not so fortunate. The habitants working in the fields had been left woefully unprotected by the sergeant in command of the fort’s militia. Feeling secure in the lack of Indian activity over the past months, the sergeant had taken six of his men out on a hunting trip. As a result only two soldiers remained in the fields to guard the habitants, while two more were left to guard the stockade. This meant that the men in the fields were easy targets, and many were killed or captured by the Iroquois that morning.

Inside the fort, Madeleine sent Alexandre to one of the bastions – a watchtower on the stockade wall – to monitor the situation and allow any habitants who ran back entry into the fort. Then she, Louis, and the elderly manservant filled a gap that had developed in the palisades. All the while they wondered why the small cannon, kept in the stockade to be used to warn the neighboring seigneuries of an attack, had not yet been fired.

Madeleine learned the reason for the cannon’s silence when she went to the blockhouse to load the muskets she and the others would need for the defense of the fort. The two militiamen on guard in the stockade had retreated to the blockhouse when the attack began. Madeleine found one of the two with a lit match. In his terror, he planned to blow the fort up rather than face torture and death at the hands of the Iroquois, a plan his compatriot agreed was best.

Flabbergasted at their weakness, Madeleine rebuked the soldiers swiftly and fiercely. Sending them to the bastions, she set about her own work. When her brothers and the manservant joined her, Madeleine told them to order the habitant women and children to retreat to the blockhouse, where they would be safest. Meanwhile she, her brothers, the manservant, and the two militiamen would guard the fort.

It was not long after this that, looking out through one of the loopholes in the fort’s walls, Madeleine saw an Indian dragging a boy across the ground. She fired her musket, but was promptly knocked backward by the weapon’s recoil. Experienced with a pistol, she had never used the much larger gun before.

This is one of many details in Madeleine’s story which puts the lie to the academics’ and critics’ claims that women were not expected to fight. Indeed, fighting was considered a man’s profession, and rightly so. But on the frontier, with the threat of attack ever a possibility, the men knew that their women must be able to protect themselves if anything should happen to remove them from the scene. Madeleine’s familiarity with loading muskets and her ability to shoot demonstrates that her family’s status, wealth, and position in New France’s society did not prevent them from teaching her the critical art of self-defense.

Because of the swiftness of the attack, Madeleine did not have time to change out of her simple dress and moccasins. The only thing she had time to do was snatch an old military hat from a peg in the blockhouse after loading the muskets and jam it on top of her neatly tied-up hair.

Many modern filmmakers would be shocked by this. They would be so tied down to the contemporary belief that women were held back by the customs of the times, and therefore expected to be simpering damsels who stayed at their sewing or baking rather than learning how to use a gun or withstand a siege. Were certain directors and scriptwriters to make a film about Madeleine, they would probably show her chafing under her younger brothers, who would be put in command of the fort in her place despite their younger ages simply because they were boys and she a girl.

Yet nothing could be further from the truth. All three children had withstood an Indian attack some two years earlier. During that attack, their father had also been absent. Their mother, however, had commanded the militia and the people in the fort until the siege was lifted. Madeleine had experienced the terror of an Iroquois siege before, and had had a perfect role model for how to withstand one in the future. She was no simpering damsel, nor was she a firebrand who learned to use a pistol in secret while smiling forcedly over her sewing. She was a lady born and bred on the frontier, trained to defend herself and those under her care by her parents.

A battle-tested frontier girl, Madeleine knew that survival in New France depended as much on wits as it did on weapons. She therefore understood that, if the Iroquois decided to directly attack the fort they would easily overwhelm her small band of defenders. So she ordered her group to make it sound and appear as though they had a full garrison of grown men protecting them. Wary of the noise as the guards called “All is well!” and the shots fired intermittently from the loopholes, the Iroquois held off on a direct attack, falling for the ruse.

If this were the extent of her courage, it would be enough, but Madeleine did more. The same day that the siege began, she and the guards watched from the bastions as neighbors of the Verchéres rowed down the St. Lawrence River and into sight of their fort. These were the Sieur Pierre Fontaine, his wife, and three of their children. They had heard the cannon shot Madeleine had ordered, but were unable to row to a better defended fort because of the distance. Pierre Fontaine brought his wife and three children to the Verchéres seignury because it was closer.

At the risk of her own life, Madeleine walked down to the riverfront to collect the family, her only defense a pistol. Boldly she escorted Fontaine and his family back to her fort, despite the threat of Indian attack. The militiamen had been too afraid to do the deed, balking at her order to rescue the Fontaines. And so Madeleine walked out to rescue the family herself.

Madeleine did not sleep during the first two days of the siege. Since the militiamen had proved to be such cowards, she kept them in the blockhouse with Fontaine as their commander at night, unwilling to trust them as sentries in the dark. Thus it was that she stood guard on the bastions with her brothers and an elderly manservant through the nights, rotating shifts with Fontaine and the militiamen during the days. On the sixth night of the siege, a habitant youth managed to escape from the Iroquois camp and return to the fort. He told Madeleine that the Iroquois, tired of waiting for the French to show themselves, planned a large scale attack on the seignury the next morning. With nothing left to do but prepare to fight for their lives, Madeleine and her small garrison prayed and committed themselves to God, knowing they could never withstand such an attack without help.

The attack never came. Another prisoner who had escaped from the Indians managed to secure help from Montreal. The next day, after a week-long siege, Madeleine and her command were overjoyed to receive French reinforcements. When they learned a French force was coming down the river to aid the fort, the Iroquois had quietly and quickly left the seignury. Neither Madeleine nor the others had heard them go.

Madeleine de Verchéres fades from history after this almost superhuman event. It seems that the Verchéres seignury was never seriously threatened by the Iroquois again. For her heroism in directing the defense of the fort, Madeleine was awarded a life pension by the French crown when she became an adult. At the request of a later governor of New France, she related the story of how she had withstood the Iroquois. She married, but the union apparently remained childless. The only following incident we know of in her life before her death is the story that she saved her husband, Pierre Thomas Tarieu de la Pérade, when he was assaulted by an Indian in 1722.

There are no great memorials dedicated to her memory, no films paying tribute to her bravery. Only in a small park in Verchères, Quebec, is there any physical reminder of Madeleine de Verchéres. It is a bronze statue of a young girl wearing a dress, a set of boots, and an officer’s hat. She is holding a musket, which is pointed at the ground.

Madeleine de Verchéres is not held aloft by the academics or critics as the ideal of a courageous woman, but she should be. Much can be learned from this daring young heroine of the New World frontier. It is a sad shame that, when role models for girls are demanded so vociferously, one magnificent heroine remains lost to the general public. It remains to be seen if anyone will ever champion her memory in the future. Let us hope that someone does succeed in raising her back to the public consciousness. She is a heroine who should not be forgotten.