Heroines Who Have Inspired Me
HEART OF A LION centers around the heroine Rayden Valkyrie, a warrior who lives by a strong honor code in a very dangerous world. She has no place to truly call home, and has endures many trials, heartaches, and adversities, but it has not hardened her to indifference.
A heroine inspires, and the ways in which a heroine inspires can come in different forms. There have been many heroines who have inspired me, from history to literature to the screen. First and foremost among them is my mother, who taught by example what strength really is about, a kind of strength that does not involve skill in physical combat. I miss her dearly since she passed away in 2013, but the lessons she taught about strength have grown in my understanding of them the past couple of years.
I thought I would share a few other heroines, from history, screen, and legend, who have inspired me in some way. There is no particular order to this list, and I hope you discover some inspiring figures yourself out of this group:
After her husband, the King of the Iceni died, Boudicca had to endure her homeland being annexed by the Romans, who flogged her and raped her two daughters. Boudicca, the Queen of the Iceni, rose to lead a rebellion against the Romans, winning several victories before falling in a great battle against the forces led by Seutonius.
I always loved the account of Tacitus, the Roman historian, who I suspect had an admiration for the strength and determination of this amazing woman. His account of her before the final battle is very stirring, where she, upon her chariot and flanked by her daughters, exhorts her forces and tells them that she, a woman, is resolved to win or die, and that the men can choose slavery if they want to. The Romans, using superior tactics and channeling in the much larger rebel forces, won the battle, but that does not take anything away from the strength and courage reflected in this incredible lady's story. I felt a very powerful emotion when I stood next to her statue in London on a trip I took to the UK, the statue that shows her with arms upraised and her two daughters at her side.
Aethelflaed, Lady of the Mercians
A daughter of the greast Saxon King Alfred, she lived during the thick of the Viking invasions of England in the beginning of the tenth century. The historical accounts do not have a lot of detail, but it is clear that she led her people in resisting the Vikings, from battle to fortifying towns to building new fortresses, at least ten on record.
The title “Lady of the Mercians” was earned, given to her following a victorious battle over the Vikings. It is a title given to her because of her actions not because of birth. She was reputed to be a great tactician and I suspect, given the style of battle at that time, that she bore weapons at battles. Her own husband did not participate in the campaigns against the Vikings. She showed leadership, courage, wisdom and strength in her life, along with a true care of the Mercian people she was responsible for, all of which has inspired me.
The Valkyries of Norse lore represent a lot to me. They were the choosers of those who would be given the honor of going to Valhalla after falling in battle, and they were also the lovers of heroes. They were unquestionably great warriors, but they also represented courage, loyalty and many other things to me in the various depictions of them throughout history. There is also the presence of the value of family among them, as they are sisters and that wonderful bond of family is something to always hold in the highest regard.
Xena, Warrior Princess
I have to admit having quite the crush on Xena as a younger lad during the heights of the series' popularity on television. The character of Xena, a no-nonsense, yet honorable warrior, resonated strongly with me. She was ferocious in combat, though she never exhibited cruelty and always seemed to be kinder to the downtrodden, stepping in to protect the victims of a predatory ancient world. She also did not compromise herself, in terms of who she was. As much as I found her absolutely gorgeous, it was the other things that really drew me to love the character over time. A powerful, iconic, honorable figure without question.
I feel Mother Teresa is the strongest woman on my list. She was a great warrior, though her battles did not involve physical combat, swords, or guns. Observing the poverty and suffering around her, she set out on a personal mission to do something about it, a path that led to the foundation of the Missionaries of Charity, and organization that is now active in over 130 countries worldwide.
She was a leader, determined, visionary, and dedicated. Though small of stature, and gentle in nature, she led a war against suffering to defend the most vulnerable in society. She made no distinction between world leaders and the poorest of the poor, treating all with the same love and humility. She was the type of leader who led from the front, always engaging those she cared for directly and personally. While some may disagree with some of the things she stood for, she did not ever sell out or compromise her beliefs, no matter what. On so many levels, she demonstrated the essence of heroism, and most certainly is a heroine who has inspired me.
I will close this post on inspiring heroines out with a few of Mother Teresa's words, which contain quite a lesson about what it means to be heroic, if you think about them. Only the last line has a direct religious connotation, and whether you are a person of faith or not, there is much to be gleaned from this particular passage.
Everyone has the capacity to be a hero or heroine, at the end of the day. Become one, and inspire others.
“People are often unreasonable, irrational, and self-centered. Forgive them anyway.
If you are kind, people may accuse you of selfish, ulterior motives. Be kind anyway.
If you are successful, you will win some unfaithful friends and some genuine enemies. Succeed anyway.
If you are honest and sincere people may deceive you. Be honest and sincere anyway.
What you spend years creating, others could destroy overnight. Create anyway.
If you find serenity and happiness, some may be jealous. Be happy anyway.
The good you do today, will often be forgotten. Do good anyway.
Give the best you have, and it will never be enough. Give your best anyway.
In the final analysis, it is between you and God. It was never between you and them anyway.”
About the author: Stephen Zimmer is an award-winning author and filmmaker based in Lexington Kentucky. His work includes the cross-genre Rising Dawn Saga, the epic fantasy Fires in Eden series, the sword and sorcery Dark Sun Sawn Trilogy, featuring Rayden Valkyrie, the Harvey and Solomon Steampunk tales and the Hellscapes and Chronicles of Ave short story collections.
Book Synopsis for Heart of a Lion: Rayden Valkyrie. She walks alone, serving no king, emperor, or master. Forged in the fires of tragedy, she has no place she truly calls home.
A deadly warrior wielding both blade and axe, Rayden is the bane of the wicked and corrupt. To many others, she is the most loyal and dedicated of friends, an ally who is unyielding in the most dangerous of circumstances.
The people of the far southern lands she has just aided claim that she has the heart of a lion. For Rayden, a long journey to the lands of the far northern tribes who adopted her as a child beckons, with an ocean lying in between.
Her path will lead her once more into the center of a maelstrom, one involving a rising empire that is said to be making use of the darkest kinds of sorcery to grow its power. Making new friends and discoveries amid tremendous peril, Rayden makes her way to the north.
Monstrous beasts, supernatural powers, and the bloody specter of war have been a part of her world for a long time and this journey will be no different. Rayden chooses the battles that she will fight, whether she takes up the cause of one individual or an entire people.
Both friends and enemies alike will swiftly learn that the people of the far southern lands spoke truly. Rayden Valkyrie has the heart of a lion.
Heart of a Lion is Book One of the Dark Sun Dawn Trilogy.