Thursday, 5 August 2010

Formidable Female Protagonists #2 - Alanna the Lioness

Here is the second in my series of Formidable Female Protagonists in fantasy fiction, and is as a result of a suggestion by Simcha after I tackled Polgara the Sorceress in my first feature. I am going to talk about Alanna the Lioness.

Alanna first featured in a quartet of books by Tamora Pierce called The Song of the Lioness, detailing how Alanna disguised herself as a boy called Alan in order to become a knight (at a time when girls were not allowed to become knights). She is a secondary character in the second Tortall quartet The Immortals; she supports new lady Knight Keladry in the Protector of the Small quartet; and finally pops up in the Trickster duology about her daughter Aly.

Here is the list of books in full:

The Song of the Lioness

1. Alanna: The First Adventure
2. In the Hand of the Goddess
3. The Woman Who Rides Like a Man
4. Lioness Rampant

The Immortals

1. Wild Magic
2. Wolf-Speaker
3. Emperor Mage
4. The Realms of the Gods

Protector of the Small

1. First Test
2. Page
3. Squire
4. Lady Knight


1. Trickster's Choice
2. Trickster's Queen

Tamora Pierce is known for writing strong, capable heroines - girls who stand up for themselves and don't need (often don't want!) men. They represent excellent role models for young girls - and Alanna the Lioness is no exception, for the following reasons:

1. Alanna doesn't tattle tales

This might seem an odd reason for thinking her formidable, but I include it because in the first tale about Alanna, when she is trying to pass as a lad, she is bullied for a long period. She refuses to tattle tales on the bully, even though it is widely known that the bullying is occurring. She refuses to let anyone else fight her own battles. Instead, she trains and trains and eventually takes on the bully and defeats him, showing her strength and independence.

I wouldn't advocate staying silent if you are being bullied - it is always better to let others know about it, and solve the issue with help - but, in this case, it really showcases Alanna's strong, tenacious character.

"I fell down, you Grace," she said, her face straight.
"Mithros, boy- can't you think of a better excuse?"
She scuffed a foot. "This one works so well, sir. It- it has tradition behind it."
Alanna was opening the door when he added, "I wish you would thrash him. He deserves it."
She looked back at him. "I will one day, sir. I'm getting tired of falling down."

2. Alanna has an amusing turn of phrase

She is sarcastic, biting, compassionate - but, however she is talking, Alanna has enormous spirit and sass.

Myles: “You didn't kill him. He would have killed you, but you didn't kill him.”
Alanna: “So? He was stupid. If I killed everyone who was stupid I wouldn't have time to sleep.”

3. Alanna is proud

Alanna is extremely proud, sometimes to the point of being too proud. She hates showing weakness, and finds it hard to let anyone become truly intimate with her. She always works to the very best of her abilities and is constantly striving to achieve more. She is proud of her achievements and tries not to show a soft, girly side.

Alanna: "You must think I'm an awful sissy."
Jon: I threw up after my first skirmish."
Alanna: "You never."
Jon: "I did. And I didn't have anyone to hold my head for me. Don't tell the men, will you?"
Alanna: "I won't tell if you won't."
Jon: "Done. It wouldn't do for them to think we're sissies, would it?"

4. Alanna is compassionate and loyal to her friends

When this lady makes friends, she will defend them to the death. She is compassionate towards them and shows real fear when they are in trouble or danger. Alanna is definitely one you'd want on your team!

Alanna: "Don't die on me. It's only a little shoulder wound. Goddess, George- don't die on me."
George: "I didn't know you cared. And why insult me? I won't die for a wee nick like this; I've had worse in my day."
Alanna: "Of course I care, you unprincipled pickpocket! Of course I care."

5. Alanna is ahead of her time

In a time when maidens were pampered and treated like ladies, Alanna is determined to achieve equal opportunities. When she comes out as a woman who has managed to survive knighthood training, it is realised that women can be the equal of men. After her campaigning, the chance to become a knight is opened to anyone who wishes to try for it - leading to Lady Keladry taking her own opportunity.

Ali Mukhtab:
"You frighten them. You are too new; you are too different. Will they have to behave differently, now that you are of the tribe? Better that you die and become a legend. Legends force no one to change."

If you haven't already picked up a Tamora Pierce book, I would urge you to do so. They are filled with humour and excitement, dealing with real life issues such as love, contraception, bullying, and setting out to achieve your dreams. Alanna is a vibrant and lovable character - stubborn, funny and courageous. I first read these books as a teenager and loved them, but I still find much to enjoy even now that I am in my thirties.

Alanna is most definitely a Formidable Female Protagonist!

(That beautiful artwork at the top was found at and is under the copyright of Bunni of Fu)


  1. I remember picking up the first in this series and considering it the day I bought George RR Martin's Game of Thrones. I could only afford one, and I never went back to pick it up. A grave error. You've convinced me to do so!

    Great idea, this Formidable Female Protagonist list - can't wait to see the others!

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  3. Alanna sounds great :) Guess I've got another author I need to check out!

  4. Sounds like a series of books I'll be adding to the tbr list. I've always meant to read more Tamora Pierce, I think I read one of hers a long time ago, don't even remember what it was called. Or maybe it is simply that I've read interesting reviews of her books and have been meaning to get around to them :)

  5. I LOVE these books! They are some of my all time favourites. Definately a comfort read these days. I remember reading them when they first came out, and having to wait for the next book to be published. They have always stuck with me, I can't recommend them enough!
    I look forward to seeing who else you post in this Formidable Female Protagonist list!

  6. Thanks for all your comments!

    Seriously, all you guys who haven't read Tamora Pierce - go out IMMEDIATELY and buy Alanna: The First Adventure. You won't regret it at all :-)

  7. I read the Song of the Lioness books just recently, and I love Alanna. :D One of the best female characters ever. I find her a bit too stubborn at times, but she's still lovable. :D

  8. I liked Alanna when I read part of The Immortals series, and I finished Song of the Lioness last month and loved it as well. Great post!