Top Ten Tuesday – favorite “Kick-Ass” Heroines

Top Ten Tuesday is a weekly meme sponsored by the creative bloggers over at The Broke and the Bookish. This week should be a fun one. I decided that “kick ass” heroines need not be physically kick ass (although it doesn’t hurt). Here’s my stab at a top ten list, ranked in order.

10. Meg Merrilies – from Sir Walter Scott’s “Guy Mannering”

OK, more of a minor character than a true heroine, but this matriarch of the Gypsies put fear into the hearts of all the men of Galloway. (below: Merrilies heaping curses)


9. Ellen – from Ken Follett’s “Pillars of the Earth”

De facto wife of Tom Builder and protective mother of Jack, she is both fearless and fearsome.

8. Electra – from Sophocles’s “Electra” and Aeschylus’s “Electra”

She was so badass two of the big three tragedians wrote plays about her.

7. Eowyn – from J.R.R. Tolkein’s “Lord of the Rings” trilogy

Admittedly, I’m swayed by the winsome Miranda Otto’s portrayal in the movie adaptation (who wouldn’t be??) but there’s no heroine better if you find yourself in a sword fight.

6. Hermione Granger – from J.K. Rowling’s Harry Potter series.

Sure, she’s just a kid, but you don’t want to mess with her if her wand is handy. She just might treat you like you’re in the house of Slytherin.


5. Elizabeth Bennett – from Jane Austen’s “Pride and Prejudice”

Anyone who can face down the withering condescension of Lady Catherine de Bourgh and not blink makes my list. SHE is the one not to be trifled with, Lady C! (below: Judi Densch as Lady Catherine. Still no match for Miss Bennett)


4. Katniss Everdeen – from Suzanne Collins’ “Hunger Games” series.

For her work with the bow (even Legolas would be impressed) AND with a nest of angry tracker jackers! (or whatever those wasp-thingys were called)


3. Scarlett O’Hara – from Margaret Mitchell’s “Gone With the Wind”

Yeah, I may not have liked her, but she knew how to get what she wanted, sometimes with great ruthlessness. She’ll never go hungry again.

2. Eustacia Vye – from Thomas Hardy’s “Return of the Native”

No man on Egdon Heath was immune from being under her spell. Catherine Zeta-Jones’ bewitching portrayal in the Hallmark Movie may be influencing me. Yes, that’s possibly true. Yeah, definitely. 🙂  (below: Eustacia and her chosen man, Clym Yeobright)


1. Lisbeth Salander – from Stieg Larsson’s “Girl with the Dragon Tattoo” series.

It was a close decision between my final three or four, but – when in doubt – I go to my trusty tie-breaker. Does she have a tattoo?


Well, that’s it for me. What about you? Do you know any kick-ass heroines you’d like to introduce me to…?

Thoughts on Guy Mannering by Sir Walter Scott

A bit of a reading lethargy has befallen me since I finished the novel, Guy Mannering.  I think part of the reason is I miss the book and its having transported me to 18th Century Scotland and the territory of Galloway.  Almost from the beginning when we found the title character ‘losing his way’ in the night and stopping at a hovel, whose mistress – upon the promise of payment in return for being guided – rouses her young son to conduct ‘our hero’ to the estate of Ellangowan, I was pretty much hooked.

I will miss the characters that Scott created: the wonderful Meg Merrelies – a gypsy ‘witch’ almost literally larger than life at six feet tall, the unfailingly loyal and impossibly awkward Dominie Sampson, the steady and loyal Colonel Mannering himself, his daughter Julia – ready to spread her wings and follow the first promising suitor who comes her way, piping on his flageolet beneath her window.  The same suitor is also Harry Bertram, the heir to the estate of Ellangowan.  And Harry’s robust friend, farmer Dandie Dinmont, whose character gives the name to the Dandie Dinmont Terrier (pictured here).  All great characters, and let’s not forget the evil Captain Dirk Hatteraick, a successful smuggler and murderer.

I’ve read many better “stories” than this, but it was Scott’s language and great characters that made this perhaps my favorite book of 2010 thus far.

SPOILER ALERT! – following is my summary of the book’s plot; read no further if you’d like to read this for yourself!

The sub- or alternate title of this book is “The Astrologer.” This comes from the opening passages of the novel, where Guy Mannering arrives at Ellangowan, just as the Laird’s wife has given birth to their son and heir.  The gypsy, Meg Merrelies, is also present and has come to tell the fortune of the future laird.  Mannering, being an Oxford scholar and being – naturally of his era –  quite versed in the art of astrology is prevailed upon to cast the young lad’s horoscope.  Asking to be conducted to somewhere with suitable viewing of sky, he ends up standing on the ‘rampart’ of the ‘castle-like home (the next morning he also takes a stroll along the walls, surveying the surrounding era in another powerful descriptive passage by Scott).  As part of the horoscope, he divines that the heir will face critical times in his life at the time he turns five and also 21 years old.

Later, the current Laird of Ellangowan (Harry’s father, Godfrey Bertram) lets his status ‘go to his head’ and begins to abuse his powers as a judge and local authority, even leading him to dispossess the band of gypsies (that includes Meg Merrelies) from their traditional haunt on his property, Derncleugh.  This leads naturally to a certain ill will toward the laird, especially from Merrelies, who curses him as she and her troop are pulling up stakes.  Sampson later remarks “If ever the devil spoke through the mouth of a woman, he did it that night through Meg Merrelies…”

below: gypsies & smugglers at Derncleugh (I assume that’s Meg in the background…)

Mannering’s predictions turn out to be quite true, as on his fifth birthday, he is kidnapped by Hatteraick and his ‘pirates’ after witnessing their murder of a government agent.  On this same night, Bertram’s mother dies while giving birth to his younger sister, Lucy.

The novel leaps ahead almost 16 years, where Godfrey Bertram, due to mismanagement and incompetence, has fallen upon hard times and ill-health.  Mannering, who has in the interim risen to the rank of colonel in the army, and spent many years in India, returns to the same location that bewitched him (or maybe it was Merrelies who bewitched him) so many years ago to see how things have turned out for the young laird whose future he foretold.

He cannot stay in the area, but learns that the estate is to be sold and leaves instructions for a local attorney to send word when he should return, for he has long dreamed of living at Ellangowan.  Due to a bumbling messenger, however, he does not receive word in time, and the estate instead falls into the hands of an unscrupulous neighbor, Glossin, who has also long coveted it.

Godfrey Bertram dies and Colonel Mannering, feeling some paternal sympathy towards the young Lucy Bertram, rents a nearby house and offers for her and her tutor, Dominie Sampson, to live with him and his daughter Julia, who he is trying to keep away from a mysterious suitor.

Naturally, the suitor turns out to be the long-lost heir, Harry Bertram, traveling under the only name he has known, VanBeest Brown (it seems the smugglers left him in Holland).  Harry journeys north in search of his true love, meets and befriends the farmer Dandie Dinmont after saving him from bandits on the road, and eventually finds his way back (unknowingly) to his place of birth.  Clearly, Glossin and Hatteraick prefer that the events of 16 years ago are not revisited and do what they can to prevent the reinstatement of the young laird (now perfectly suitable as a match for Julia Mannering), but good prevails and we have a happy ending all around.

Behind the scenes through all this is Meg Merrelies,  who though having cursed Godfrey Bertram had always been fond of little Harry, for whom she was an occasional companion and guardian, and who also has never been fond of Glossin, works to make sure Ellangowan’s rightful heir is restored.
Oh well, I didn’t intend to write an entire ‘cliff notes version’ of the story, but that’s the gist of it.

It was NOT easy to read because the language is not what readers of our era are used to, but I would heartily recommend it nonetheless.

The book has also served to increase my interest in Sir Walter Scott and in the history of Scotland in general.  I think I will search for a good biography of the author and put that in my TBR pile for this year.

Next up of the Waverley Novels (taken chronologically) would be The Antiquary, which I have already downloaded to my FreeBooks app on my iPhone and to my nook® reader as well.

What about you?  Have you read any Sir Walter Scott?  Poetry? Novels?  Anything to recommend?

Betrayed by my e-Reader!

There I was, cruising through my copy of Sir Walter Scott’s Guy Mannering that I had downloaded to my nook®, thinking “Wow, I’m about 3/4 of the way through this book at last!” only to discover later – while looking at the copy I have on my Free Books app on my iPhone, that it is over twice as long and that my nook® copy is only of “Volume one”.  Son of a…   (And yes, I admit, I was wondering how SWS was going to “wrap this up” in 50 more pages…)

Oh well, the good news is that I have finally “gotten into” this book, and am making real progress,  AND I’m loving it.  Scott is a tremendous writer and is a pleasure to read.  Of course, all the dialogue portrayed in the Scottish ‘brogue’ (is that usage correct, or should it be used only with “Irish”?) is sometimes difficult for me to get through, but that’s a small price to pay to be able to enjoy the rest.

And Meg Merrilies – what a great character.  More on her later…  Coincidental Note: Was reading some financial news today on and learned that the current President of Brazil’s Central Bank is named Henrique Meirelles… hopefully he will not curse their monetary policy!

But What About Sir Walter Scott?

Yes, I know. I have neglected my reading of Guy Mannering, which I started in early February.  Part of the problem was that – at that time – I didn’t have a hard copy of the book and was relying on my FreeBooks app on my iPhone to read.  Then, when I bought my nook a few weeks ago, I downloaded a free copy of the book to that device as well.  The copy is not very good, however, as it is a ‘scanned’ one and has many words that are misspelled as a result of that process.  Very disappointing.  Maybe I can download a better copy, or maybe I will just get a hard copy of this one.

All that aside, however, I also struggle with the language, which is very different from modern English and makes the going quite slow, which is discouraging.  I am putting this book on the shelf for awhile.  But wait, I just remembered I have next Thursday and Friday off and was going to skip town to a quiet place ‘in the country’ (the name and location of which I care not to divulge).  Maybe the seclusion will allow me to get through it. Stay tuned…

A Strange Coincidence

We are all, I’m sure, familiar with the phenomenon of – upon learning a new word – “suddenly” seeing that word in print the next day or soon thereafter.  Perhaps the same may be said of learning of or reading new books.  As I have posted about earlier, I have been reading some Sir Walter Scott lately, having completed the novel, Waverley and having started the novel, Guy Mannering.  Well, lo and behold, as I’m reading Company Aytch last night, I come upon a sketch about one soldier, a certain Sergeant A.S. Horsley, whose knapsack is inspected by General Bragg’s inspector general, General Owleydousky.  The contents?  It included Ivanhoe, Guy Mannering(!), Rob Roy (all by Scott) and various other books.  It seems he ‘carried the literature for the regiment’.  I speculated earlier about my potentially being the ‘only person on the planet’ currently reading Guy Mannering.  And yet here in reading this book, looking back nearly 150 years, a poor soldier is tromping through the Civil War in Tennessee carrying this very same book.  Very cool.

Guy Mannering

I have decided to try to read the second of Sir Walter Scott’s “Waverley Novels”. This book is one of the free ones available on my iPhone “Free Books” app. (well, the books are free, but the app is $1.99).

I am really finding the ‘ornate’ language of Scott’s books interesting. I’m also enjoying ‘knowing’ that I may likely be the “only person in the world” who is currently reading this book. I did a little research on the internet, and it’s always listed among his books, but there isn’t much ‘information’ out there.

“Forgotten” books like this kind of remind me of being on an “old road” or walking down an old lane that – though once a main thoroughfare – is rarely used anymore. One gets an odd feeling when walking or traveling along such byways (I’m remembering some around where my Granddad lived in West Virginia) that I find pretty cool…