In the past two weeks, I shared a list of awesome Disney princesses and how they can be great role models for girls. But what about the heroines who aren’t official royalty? Outside of its famous princess franchise, Disney has turned out some awesome female characters who are just as worthy of recognition and a noble title as their royal peers. They may not be official princesses, but they’re still amazing role models!
So to complement the previous list, here are five of my favorite non-princess Disney heroines who girls can still look up to as potential role models. Enjoy, and for the final week of March, Happy Women’s History Month!
1) Jane Porter (Tarzan)
He seemed confused at first, as if he’s never seen another human before. And his eyes were intense and focused, and… I’ve never seen such eyes. – Jane describing Tarzan to her father, Professor Archimedes Q. Porter
Being an environmentalist for as long as I can remember, I’ve always admired Jane Porter from Tarzan as one of my favorite non-princess Disney heroines. Set on understanding and protecting gorillas, Jane jumped at the chance to go on a research expedition with her father to study the animals in Africa, which was a pretty big deal for an English woman living in the Victorian age. She’s intelligent and naturally inquisitive, evidenced by her fascination with Tarzan and her eagerness to teach him everything she can about humans and civilization. Though primarily a zoologist, she is also artistic, being clearly talented with a pencil and paper, and she shows extraordinary courage during the climactic fight to save Tarzan’s family from Clayton’s henchmen. On top of everything, Jane is extremely adaptable, quickly making the transition from being well out of her element in the jungle to feeling right at home with Tarzan and the wildlife that so captivates her. Overall, Jane is eccentric, adorable, and a nature enthusiast who any girl interested in environmentalism and conservation efforts can look up to. Long live the Queen of the Jungle!
2) Nani Pelekai (Lilo and Stitch)
Sometimes you try your hardest, but things don’t work out the way you want them to. Sometimes things have to change, and maybe sometimes they’re for the better. – Nani to Lilo
Nani Pelekai, Lilo’s older sister and guardian in Lilo and Stitch, may well be the most underrated heroine Disney has ever created. After the tragic loss of their parents in a car accident, this young Hawaiian surfer girl was forced to grow up faster than expected and take on the responsibilities of a parent to her little sister at the age of nineteen. She naturally struggles through the process, still technically being a teenager, but where it counts, she always does everything in her power to put Lilo’s needs first. From indulging her quirks to letting her adopt an alien dog just so she’ll have a friend, Nani keeps on going the extra mile to give her sister the happy life she deserves, even when it means forgoing a romance with David (who, by the way, is also awesome) or having to be brave for Lilo while her own heart is breaking. Nani is strong, loving, and completely real, making her an amazing heroine and a wonderful model of sisterly love and the true meaning of Ohana!
Also, for your consideration: ever notice the dust-covered surfboard and trophies in her room, or wonder how she rides those waves so well in the “Hawaiian Roller Coaster Ride” sequence? There are various clues throughout the film that suggest Nani was actually on her way to become a professional surfer before she had to give up her dream to take care of Lilo. Now that’s truly putting family first!
3) Esmeralda (The Hunchback of Notre Dame)
You mistreat this poor boy the same way you mistreat my people. You speak of justice, yet you are cruel to those most in need of your help! – Esmeralda to Frollo
A far cry from being a royal, Esmeralda from The Hunchback of Notre Dame is a poor gypsy girl living in the streets of medieval Paris, but don’t mistake her low social status for helplessness. Not only can she hold her own in a fight and evade a dozen guards with incredible ease, she’s so enchanting that she gets three men to fall for her—an impressive feat even by princess standards. But feistiness isn’t even the main quality going for her; only too familiar with the feeling of being an outcast, this gypsy woman is easily one of Disney’s most empathetic characters, showing kindness to those who are otherwise shunned by society. For much of the film, she is the only person in Paris brave enough to openly defy Judge Frollo’s cruelty, criticizing his treatment of the gypsy people and standing up for Quasimodo when he’s humiliated by the entire Feast of Fools crowd. The ideal mix of a kind heart with a fiery spirit, Esmeralda is an admirable character and a symbol of justice for courageous girls who are always willing to stand up for those who can’t defend themselves!
4) Megara (Hercules)
Megara. My friends call me Meg. At least they would if I had any friends. – Megara to Hercules
Can you say sassy? The love interest to the heroic title character of Hercules, Megara is just about one of the sassiest characters in the Disney canon. Established as independent and snarky from her first appearance on screen, this Greek beauty is not your ordinary damsel in distress, but in fact a multilayered character with a quick wit and a free spirit. Well, as free as she can be under her circumstances, anyway. Meg doesn’t exactly have the most romantic backstory, having been scorned by men enough times to make her skeptical and dismissive of love before she meets her god-turned-mortal soulmate. Her determination to hide her past and guard her heart behind a mask of cynicism, far from portraying her as cold and bitter, makes her real and relatable. What woman doesn’t know the pain of having her heart broken, right? Still, Meg proves that she hasn’t yet given up on love entirely when she bravely sacrifices herself to save Hercules, which in a way may be the most heroic act in the film, as it allows him to save Olympus from Hades and ultimately have his godhood restored. A soft heart hidden beneath a tough shell, Meg is as strong in spirit as she is sassy in wit and is another great character among Disney’s non-princess heroines!
5) Nala (The Lion King)
He’s holding back, he’s hiding. But what, I can’t decide. Why won’t he be the king I know he is, the king I see inside? – Nala about Simba in “Can You Feel The Love Tonight?“
Who says awesome female characters have to be human? Nala from The Lion King would certainly disagree! Strong and clever since she was a cub, this lovely lioness is mature, persistent, and highly responsible, never passing up the chance to encourage her best friend’s qualities while defending her own. She acts as Simba’s closest confidante in their childhood and as his moral compass after their reunion as adults; when he’s long given up on his past life, Nala is the one who finds him and urges him to return to Pride Rock to assume his rightful place as king. And yes, Rafiki may have been the one to knock that final bit of sense into him, but would Simba ever have considered going home in the first place without the support of his childhood friend? Probably not! With a spirit as fierce as her roar, Nala is among the bravest of Pride Rock’s lionesses and a venerable addition to Disney’s unofficial royals thanks to her position as Queen of the Pride Lands!
Who are your favorite non-princess Disney heroines? Any other of Disney’s awesome female characters you would add to this list?
Source: Oxford Dictionaries
Oh yes, I still like to watch Seinfeld reruns from time to time! A few weeks ago, I made a note to write about a word I heard in the parking space episode, when Elaine criticizes George’s pausing to brag about his parking skills as the reason he’s now stuck in a deadlock with Kramer’s friend Mike. She definitely has a point; his inclination to “pontificate” certainly didn’t help him in this situation at all!
To “pontificate” is to express opinions in an irritatingly dogmatic and pompous way. The word arose in late Middle English as a noun, while the verb dates back to the early 19th century. This word comes from the Latin noun pontificatus “the office of pontiff”, which in turn stems from the noun pontifex “high priest”. This noun comprises two roots: the noun pons “bridge” and the verb facere “to make”.
Relating to the Roman Catholic Church, a alternative definition for this verb is to “officiate as bishop”, and the word can also be used as a noun in the sense “the office or period of office of a pope or bishop”. As a verb, “pontificate” likely originated in the sense “to act like a pontiff”, that is, “to express one’s opinions pompously and dogmatically as if they were absolutely correct”. If your characters tend to go on and on about their opinions in the most overbearing and arrogant way possible, “pontificate” may be the next great word you can add to your stories!
What are your thoughts on this word? Any suggestions for future “Word of the Week” featured words?
She had never believed she was good enough to shine.
Until the day she learned to see beneath skin.
Her face was “plain”, but her heart pure.
Friends praised her kindness, intelligence, and love.
And she knew she was valuable.
She smiled at the mirror.
The mirror smiled back.
You believe now?
This piece is based on What If? Exercise 93: “Ten to One”. The exercise is to write a 55-word story in which the first sentence has ten words, the second has nine, etc., until the last sentence has only one word. The objective is to show that precision and thrift in writing can produce surprisingly powerful results. I hope you enjoy what I’ve written. Thanks for reading!
Remember the list I shared last week about my favorite Disney princesses and their potential status as positive role models for girls? If not, be sure to check it out before you continue reading. If you’re all caught up, here’s the second part of that list, featuring five more awesome princesses I admire as great role models! Enjoy, and again, Happy Women’s History Month!
6) Belle (Beauty and the Beast)
I want adventure in the great wide somewhere! I want it more than I can tell! – Belle
With a live action remake out in theaters now (and starring Emma Watson, no less!), it seems unfair to leave this beloved princess out of the list. Not that I planned to anyway. For a long time, Belle from Beauty and the Beast was my favorite Disney princess because I identified more with her than with any of the others. Her love of books and her status as an outcast taught me to appreciate being different for enjoying reading more than socializing, which was a valuable lesson to a shy girl who spent many of her school recesses alone in the library. The way she handles Gaston is another quality worthy of praise: while every other single woman in town would kill for a shot with him, Belle sees through his burly exterior to the dimwitted misogynist within and promptly dismisses his advances. Though many have questioned why this bookish princess falls in love with the Beast, it’s worth noting that she never takes his abusive behavior sitting down and only becomes friends with him after he learns how to treat her as an equal. Intelligent, empathetic, and independent, Belle is an excellent role model for every girl who loves to read and who refuses to let any man push her around!
7) Pocahontas (Pocahontas)
My daughter speaks with a wisdom beyond her years. We have all come here with anger in our hearts, but she comes with courage and understanding. From this day forward, if there is to be more killing, it will not start with me. – Chief Powhatan after Pocahontas stops John Smith’s execution
As a little girl who always loved nature, Pocahontas was another favorite princess of mine from childhood. The daughter of a Native American chief, she notably became the first Disney princess based on a real person (however loosely) when her film came out in 1995. Though much of the appeal of her character comes from her connection to animals and the natural world (Colors of the Wind was easily one of my favorite Disney songs growing up!), to me her most admirable trait is her strong advocacy of peace. Even when consequences are dire and war seems inevitable, Pocahontas continues to fight against the hatred around her until she can finally reconcile the Native Americans and the English settlers into a mutual understanding. Another notable quality that sets her apart from other princesses is her decision to forgo romance in favor of responsibility, choosing to let John Smith return to England alone while she stays behind to take her rightful place among her people. Wise in mind, strong in spirit, and empathetic in heart, Pocahontas is another great example of a truly brave princess and the peaceful-minded role model that many girls should look up to today!
8) Rapunzel (Tangled)
Find your humanity! Haven’t any of you ever had a dream? – Rapunzel to the Snuggly Duckling thugs
The release of Tangled in 2010 introduced a spunky new princess to the Disney Royal Court. Famous for her long magical hair, Rapunzel is much more than a simple damsel in distress waiting for a handsome prince to rescue her from her tower. In fact, she has no romantic aspirations at all before Flynn shows up, and even for a long time after that. Instead, this adventurous princess finds a way to save herself from her prison, cleverly (and at one point literally) roping a thief into escorting her across the land and through various adventures all so she can see the pretty lights that have fascinated her since childhood. She even continually proves herself more competent than her escort, saving him more often than he saves her. Though inexperienced and naïve about the world, Rapunzel is brave, kind, smart, and optimistic as they come. With her charming, sunny demeanor that can melt even the coldest heart, Rapunzel is a great role model for any positive-minded girl who aspires to make her dreams come true no matter what!
9) Jasmine (Aladdin)
How dare you? All of you! Standing around deciding my future? I am not a prize to be won! – Jasmine to Aladdin, the Sultan, and Jafar
Aladdin was another Disney classic that I loved as a child. Though the movie does focus more on the title character than the princess he falls in love with, Jasmine still stands out from the beginning of the story by challenging an old-fashioned marriage law in favor of love and happiness. Resentful of her obligation to become Sultana of Agrabah, she turns away stuck-up suitor after stuck-up suitor, refusing to be treated by the men in her life as nothing more than a prize to be conquered. Even when Aladdin comes to her disguised as a prince, she dismisses his shallow advances and only falls for him after he drops his arrogant facade to reveal the good heart underneath. Free-spirited and confident, Jasmine is yet another strong princess in Disney’s Royal Court and a great role model for romantic girls who aren’t afraid to speak their minds!
10) Princess Leia Organa (Star Wars)
Why, you stuck-up, half-witted, scruffy-looking Nerf herder! – Princess Leia to Han Solo
And finally, here to cap off this list is science fiction’s favorite princess: the iconic Princess Leia of the Star Wars franchise! Yes, I know she’s not an official Disney princess, but ever since Disney bought Lucasfilm, she’s technically been part of the Royals in my book! Well before the Disney Renaissance, Leia Organa was already kicking butt as a leader of the Rebel Alliance, fighting off her enemies and courageously standing up against the villains of the Empire. She’s never afraid to resist or say what she’s really thinking, even when she’s been captured and imprisoned by her enemies. Handy with a blaster and always ready to jump into the fray, this beloved space princess fearlessly proves time and again throughout the classic trilogy that a just cause, however daunting, is always worth fighting for. So here’s to the late Princess Leia and the legacy of strong heroines she helped usher in for future generations! Rest in peace, Carrie Fisher. You will always be greatly missed!
Who are your favorite Disney princesses? What other Disney leading ladies would you add to this list?
Source: Oxford Dictionaries
Here’s another new word I picked up from a Dictionary.com Word of the Day entry. As we continue through National Women’s History Month, it’s worth writing about a word that accurately describes the amazing people we celebrate in March. For all their value and hard work over generations, the efforts of women are indeed “meritorious”!
To be “meritorious” is to deserve praise or reward. The word arose in late Middle English and comes from the Latin adjective meritorius, meaning “hired”. This adjective stems from the adjective meritus “deserved”, which in turn derives from the verb merere “to earn”.
Although I haven’t yet used it myself, I assume the word “meritorious” can be used to describe people as much as actions, though the latter seems to be more common. Naturally, an easy way to remember its definition is by the root word “merit”, which means “the quality of being particularly good or worthy”. In North American English, this adjective can also be used in Law to describe an action or claim, in the sense “likely to succeed on the merits of the case”. If you write characters who are worthy of reward and praise for their efforts, “meritorious” may be a good word to keep on your vocabulary list!
What are your thoughts on this word? Any suggestions for future “Word of the Week” featured words?