I semi-recently commented that I could see a blog post of fictional men I would run away with in my future. I still can, but I thought that before I got there I would write the post of Fictional Girls I Wanted To Be When I Was Small And Who Made Me Who I Am Today. So here, in no particular order, except that I saved the most important to last, they are.
(1) Anne Shirley (LM Montgomery). Anne, of Green Gables, Avonlea, the Island, etc etc etc. Anne of the red hair, righteous temper and flaming imagination, who channelled and tamed all of those characteristics without denying them as an important part of her make up, and grew up into an independent woman who could support her family all on her own if necessary. (And seriously, how amazing is that household of Marilla, Rachel Lynde, and Anne, running Green Gables and raising Dora and Davy?). I like that Anne marries Gilbert, and I like that it’s not all roses in the later books, but it’s the early books that gave me the Anne that mattered most: Anne, who taught me never to be ashamed to be found playing Lady of Shalott by cute boys who might tease you, and to never be scare to leave home to get your education - or to keep coming home because it’s HOME.
(2) The girls of the Chalet School (Elinor M Brent-Dyer). As a group. I loved them and aspired to be them. If I could have had a tunic for play school uniform I would have. From them I learnt the art of mischievous rule breaking mingled with determined fair-play. I also learnt about the Second World War. I certainly would have gone to school in Austria or Switzerland. Joey Bettany, Mary-Lou Trelawney and Len Maynard were the star turns,but I always liked the BFFs who keep them tethered vaguely to reality: Frieda Mensch, Vi Lucy, Ted Grantley…
(3) Dido Twite (Joan Aiken). Dido just rocks my world. She’s independent, resourceful, determined, and unfailingly loyal and good humoured. She’s completely unphased by anything the world can throw at her, from great pink whales (Night Birds on Nantucket) to the very long-lived widow of Arthur Pendragon (Stolen Lake). She knows her family are messed up and treasonous, and yet she acknowledges that she can’t help but care about them anyways because family - even if that’s going to get her into a mess. And her friendship with Simon is something to die for (and they both would).
(4) Lucy Pevensie (CS Lewis). Lucy is totally ok with her older siblings looking out for her, because that’s what they’re about, even if she knows she doesn’t need it as much as Peter and Susan thinks she does. Lucy is my eternal role model for belief in the power and truth of stories, and for a faith that trusts but isn’t scared to ask Aslan why? My relationship with Susan Pevensie is complicated (I like her more now than I ever did as a child). My relationship with Lucy never has been, and I value that simplicity.
(6) Laura Ingalls (Laura Ingalls Wilder). You can be spirited, independent, do patchwork, help out on the farm, teach a school, and still like nice clothes that make you look good. Just ask Laura Ingalls as she grows up on the prairie. I’ve read the later books more (because I have a crush on Almanzo Wilder, and I want to go out in a buggy with him), but Laura is even more interesting in the earlier books as she works out who she wants to be, especially when she’s stood next to Mary (pre-blindness) and Nellie Olson. And I really enjoy the way her relationship with Ma develops from being squabbly, to being full of love and respect, even if Laura is maybe not as demure as Ma might have wanted her to be.
(7) Jo March (Louisa May Alcott). Speaking of not demure… Jo March is my favourite hoyden. If we still had open fires I would absolutely have burnt the back out of one of my dresses by now and patched it to wear to a party. I would be friends with Laurie and then be totally baffled when he proposed marriage. I would run away to New York to work and write, and then run back home when I was needed. Like Anne Shirley and Laura Ingalls, we get to see Jo March grow up, succeed and fail, move away and go home, work and get married, and build a place in the world, without compromising her fundamental essence of Jo-ness. (Also, Winona Ryder as Jo March in a top hat: spirit animal).
(8) Titty Walker and Nancy Blackett (Arthur Ransome). These two belong together. All my life, pretty well, I’ve wanted to be Nancy Blackett, sailing the ocean blue, making it to the North Pole, and looking after the crew without babysitting them. As a kid I wore blue shorts and polo shirts, like the Amazons in the film. I had a red knitted hat. I learned semaphore and morse (and write postcards in semaphore, because it is THE COOLEST). I became minorly obsessed with polar exploration for a time. I lopped off bits of our poor little ash tree in a bid to make a bow and arrow that worked. I told my uncles when I thought they were wrong about things. I may or may not have tried to climb trellising, like Nancy did in The Picts and the Martyrs. I have swum to Wild Cat Island. I absolutely climbed the Old Man of Coniston, because it was the Kanchenjunga. And basically, for all of my life, I have been Titty Walker, tiny fantasist (who likes both Latin and Pirates), reader, map-maker, able seaman, honorary Amazon, and girl-who-wants-to-grow-up-to-be-Nancy-Blackett.
And that’s fine.
The Swallows and the Amazons (Titty and Nancy on the left)