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Off The Bookshelf: Sense and Sensibility

Back in January, I finally returned to my Off The Bookshelf segment with a review of Jane Austen’s Pride and Prejudice. So today, I’d like to continue my reviews by writing about the other Austen novel I read last year. Since I’ve definitely been enjoying reading her literature, there was really only one novel could I review next: Sense and Sensibility!

Sense and Sensibility, by Jane Austen

Summary

Sense and Sensibility was Austen’s debut novel, first published in London in 1811. The story follows sisters Elinor and Marianne Dashwood as they adjust to their new life with their widowed mother and younger sister, who have all been left impoverished after Mr. Dashwood’s death. Over the course of the narrative, the sisters experience love, romance, and heartbreak, and eventually come to realize that they must learn to master the delicate balance between sense and sensibility in order to achieve happiness.

Review

Though I wouldn’t say I liked it as much as Pride and Prejudice, I enjoyed Sense and Sensibility for Austen’s realistic take on romance and manners, seasoned with all her classic humor and wit. Much like in the author’s more popular novel, the main characters of this story are faced with the challenge of finding love in a world where their low income and social status put them at a severe disadvantage. What really sets this novel apart from its successor, however, is the comparison it draws between the tempers of Elinor and Marianne, who each occupy one extreme of the romance-realism spectrum.

Movie poster for Sense and Sensibility (1995)

As the title suggests, the most prominent theme in Sense and Sensibility is the contrast between good sense and overt sensitivity (known as sensibility back then). As the eldest Dashwood sister, Elinor has the best judgment in her family and is highly skilled at exercising good sense and composure. Her younger sister Marianne, on the other hand, has no control over her emotions and no desire to keep her overly sensitive demeanor in check, favoring romantic idealism over etiquette. This contrast between their personalities makes for several interesting situations throughout the story, but in the end both sisters learn the same valuable lesson: too much sense or sensibility only leads to unhappiness. Only after Elinor learns to open her heart to sensibility and Marianne learns to temper her spontaneity with sense do they both achieve their happy endings.

Another major theme in the book is the role of money and social standing in romance. Though her novels all have happy endings, Jane Austen was never one to tell an idealistic love story; in her view, even the truest love isn’t immune to the real-world obstacle of low income. In the most notable example, Marianne and Willoughby seem like a perfect match: they’re both romantic and outspoken about their opinions on art and love, and spend so much time together that everyone assumes they’re engaged before they even say a word. Unfortunately, being one of the author’s well-known “hero caricatures”, the charming Willoughby couldn’t be anything less than a scoundrel, and sure enough, his expensive tastes coupled with Marianne’s poverty lead him to jilt her for a wealthy young lady he doesn’t love. Funnily enough, the same obstacle of wealth turns out to be a saving grace for Edward Ferrars, who for most of the story finds himself honor-bound to a loveless engagement only to be saved at the end from said commitment by his disinheritance from his mother, leaving him free to give his heart to Elinor after his conniving fiancé abandons him. From beginning to end, wherever there are love and romance, the shadow of money looms in the background.

Overall, Sense and Sensibility is an enjoyable read that shows less-than-idealistic romance in a humorous light, as well as an interesting dynamic of character development between two polar opposite sisters. Just as Marianne learns from Elinor that excessive emotion can destroy one’s life, Elinor learns from Marianne that excessive repression of emotion leads to intense suffering and risk of abandonment. Still, in true Austen fashion, both sisters achieve their happy endings by the story’s conclusion, finding comfortable lives with gentlemen who can provide them with all the security and emotional fulfillment they desire. In this way, from her very first novel, the author reveals that despite all the realistic obstacles in its way, romance can still thrive in a world plagued with social barriers, a hope not yet forgotten in the modern age.

Inspiration

Much like Pride and Prejudice, Sense and Sensibility offers a glimpse into the romantic and realistic elements of past life that have survived into the present. The novel also teaches a valuable lesson on the importance of both practicing good sense and being willingly sensitive, albeit a somewhat imbalanced one that favors sense. We shouldn’t give our emotions total control over our happiness, but we also shouldn’t be afraid to feel vulnerable in the pursuit of love. There are plenty of opportunities in life to be both sensible and sensitive; it’s all a matter of exercising the right judgment.

Though her novels often highlight the limitations placed on women in the society of her day, Jane Austen clearly had a way of demonstrating the strength that women have always had to succeed within their means. Because of that, I know I can always turn to one of her novels for inspiration on writing heroines with real personalities, issues, and aspirations. Whether you seek inspiration for historical fiction, realistic characters, or contrasting themes in human behavior, Sense and Sensibility is an excellent novel that warrants a place beside Pride and Prejudice on any Austen fan’s bookshelf.

14 More Redundant Phrases You Should Edit in Your Writing

Remember that list of redundant phrases I shared on my blog a few weeks ago? Well, here are some more examples of phrases collected from the Elevate – Brain Training app that should be edited for brevity. Sometimes it seems like we never run out of these common redundancies, doesn’t it? One of the many reasons editing will always be a necessity for writers!

So for your reference, here are 14 more redundant phrases you should simplify during your editing phase. Enjoy!

Edit to: “If you buy one shirt, you’ll get another free.”

1) Absolutely crucial: Crucial already implies that something is absolutely important. Simplify “absolutely crucial” to “crucial”.

2) Added bonus: Bonus indicates something extra, making the word “added” unnecessary. Simplify “added bonus” to “bonus”.

3) ATM machine: ATM stands for “automated teller machine”, so the word “machine” is redundant. Simplify “ATM machine” to “ATM”.

4) Circle around: To circle already means to move all the way around something. Simplify “circle around” to “circle”.

5) Close proximity: Proximity already means the state of being close. Simplify “close proximity” to “proximity”.

6) First introduced: Introduced already indicates something that was seen or shown for the first time. Simplify “first introduced” to “introduced”.

7) For free: Free by itself means no charge, so the preposition “for” is unnecessary. Simplify “for free” to “free”.

8) Honest truth: Both the words “honest” and “truth” indicate an adherence to facts and reality. Simplify “honest truth” to “truth”.

9) Necessary prerequisite: A prerequisite, by definition, is a requirement, so the word “necessary” is redundant. Simplify “necessary prerequisite” to “prerequisite”.

10) New discovery: Discovery already implies that a finding is new. Simplify “new discovery” to “discovery”.

11) Temper tantrum: A tantrum is an outburst of anger, so the word “temper” (in the sense “an angry state of mind”) is redundant. Simplify “temper tantrum” to “tantrum”.

12) Temporary reprieve: A reprieve is short-term relief from something unpleasant, so the word “temporary” is unnecessary. Simplify “temporary reprieve” to “reprieve”.

13) Various differences: Differences are ways in which things vary, making the word “various” redundant. Simplify “various differences” to “differences”.

14) Visible to the eye: Visible already means able to be seen with the eyes. Simplify “visible to the eye” to “visible”.

Do you use any of these redundant phrases in your writing? What others would you add to this list?

My 5 Favorite Fictional Mothers

Mother’s Day is this Sunday, and to mark the occasion, I thought it would be fun to share a list of some favorite moms in fiction! Mothers are undeniably among the most important figures in family dynamics, so it’s no surprise that fictional mothers also play a highly influential role in the lives of other characters in a story. There are so many famous mothers in literature, television, and film that it was hard to narrow this list down, but at last I managed to put together a post on the memorable moms in my favorite stories. They each have different strengths and weaknesses, but in the end, they’re all loving and dedicated parents!

So to celebrate the upcoming holiday, here is a list of my five favorite mothers in fiction. Enjoy, and Happy Mother’s Day!

1) Molly Weasley (The Harry Potter series)

NOT MY DAUGHTER, YOU BITCH! – Molly Weasley to Bellatrix Lestrange, whose Killing Curse had just narrowly missed Ginny

Molly Weasley, Ron’s mother in the Harry Potter series, may well be one of my favorite moms in all of literature. Not only has she raised seven children (and done a fine job of it too), but her maternal instincts are so strong that she extends her nurturing love to her youngest son’s best friends. Molly makes perfectly clear to Harry and Hermione that they’re always welcome in her home, and within moments of their first meeting, she quickly becomes to Harry the mother figure he never had growing up. Mrs. Weasley is proof that whether a witch or a Muggle, a mother will do anything for her children: while she runs a tight household and never hesitates to keep her mischievous sons in check, she is so fiercely protective of her children that she willingly steps between them and Death itself (namely Death Eater Bellatrix Lestrange) to keep them safe. The ideal mix of loving parent and badass witch, Molly Weasley is truly everyone’s favorite magical mom!

2) Margaret “Marmee” March (Little Women)

Don’t you feel that it is pleasanter to help one another, to have daily duties which make leisure sweet when it comes, and to bear and forbear, that home may be comfortable and lovely to us all? – Mrs. March to her daughters after their week-long “experiment” in being idle

While Little Women centers on the various stories of four sisters growing up in 19th-century New England, it’s made clear in the beginning of the book that they all share a common aspiration: to live up to the example of their mother. Among women in classic literature, Mrs. March (known as “Marmee” by her daughters) is often held up as the image of the perfect mother: patient, compassionate, and highly principled. She works hard to support her family while her husband is at war, she cheerfully contributes to charity and the war effort, and she always has time to console her daughters no matter how busy she is. Yet Marmee does even more for her children by raising them all to be the best people they can possibly be, ensuring they’re all well educated and independent thinkers, encouraging them to marry for love instead of money, and always being there to offer them advice while still allowing them to learn from their own mistakes. With such a strong and loving mother to guide them, it’s no wonder the March sisters aspire to be such fine “little women”!

3) Queen Elinor of DunBroch (Brave)

Oh, my brave wee lass, I’m here. I’ll always be right here. – Elinor to a frightened young Merida

I’ve mentioned before that I often watch Brave and see my own relationship with my mother in Princess Merida’s relationship with hers. From the beginning of the film, Queen Elinor is determined to teach her daughter every possible lesson on proper princess behavior, from etiquette to diplomacy to compassion. Though at first it seems that her words never stick due to Merida’s strong will and stubbornness, it becomes clear toward the end of the story that no matter how many times they’ve butted heads over the years, Elinor’s wisdom did make an impression on her daughter after all. Merida mostly takes after her father on the outside, but it’s her mother’s lessons that help her calm the other royal families and ultimately get her through her trial. Elinor in turn also learns much about Merida throughout their adventure, enough to eventually shed her uptight persona and allow her daughter the freedom she’s always wanted to live her own life. A mother and daughter may not always see eye to eye, but the love between them is still one of the strongest bonds in the world!

4) Lady Cora Crawley (Downton Abbey)

You are being tested. And you know what they say, my darling: being tested only makes you stronger. – Cora to Edith after the latter was left at the altar

The Dowager Countess may be one of my favorite characters overall in Julian Fellowes’ popular period drama, but as far as mothers go, Lady Grantham probably sets the best example in Downton Abbey. Cora Crawley is the mother of three daughters, each with her own personality and aspirations, yet she always seems to know how best to handle each one—a difficult task given how the two elder sisters are always at each other’s throats. Generally sweet and willing to believe the best of anyone, Her Ladyship also proves to be a strong and highly capable woman: during World War I, she agrees to make Downton a convalescent home for recovering soldiers and works full-time to assist in running it, an experience that prepares her for her eventual position as President of Downton Hospital at the end of the series. She is quicker to embrace change than the rest of her family and is kind even to her servants, earning her immense respect among the staff of Downton. Overall, Cora is a loving motherly figure and, even as an American heiress and aristocrat in early 20th-century England, sets an exceptional example of a modern woman for her daughters!

5) Mrs. Bennet (Pride and Prejudice)

When you have five daughters, Lizzie, tell me what else will occupy your thoughts, and then perhaps you will understand. – Mrs. Bennet to Elizabeth on why she thinks of nothing but marrying off her daughters

Yes, I know she’s not the best mother, or even a good mother on many counts, but given all the times she made me laugh, there was no way I could leave Mrs. Bennet off this list. Throughout Pride and Prejudice, Elizabeth’s father and younger sisters are embarrassing enough, but her mother proves by far the most humiliating of all. Foolish, noisy, and downright vulgar, Mrs. Bennet’s actions are solely driven by her desperation to marry her five daughters off to fine gentlemen, which often has the adverse effect of driving away the very suitors she tries to attract. Still, this simple woman provides much of the comedy in Jane Austen’s beloved novel, and for all the grief she gives her eldest daughters, she still manages to get what she wants in the end, gaining two wealthy sons-in-law and happy marriages for the most deserving of her children. She may go about it the wrong way, but readers can’t deny that her intentions, however misguided, are always good, even if just for a few laughs!

Who are your favorite fictional mothers? What other mothers in fiction would you add to this list?

Dedicated to my mom and all the other amazing mothers out there! Thank you for all your love, patience, and support! Happy Mother’s Day!

Love and Friendship: 5 Types of “Friends First” Romance

This week marks a special occasion for two of the most important people in my life, the couple who taught me everything I know about love, especially the value of romance born from friendship. Thinking about their love has inspired me to write about the different levels of “friends first” romance and my favorite fictional couples who started as friends. There are many types of romance I admire, but love based on friendship is by far my favorite!

So to celebrate the occasion, here is a list of five types of romance based on friendship, with my favorite examples of fictional couples for each. Enjoy!

1) Coming-of-Age Romance – Hermione Granger and Ron Weasley (Harry Potter)

Being an avid fan of the Harry Potter books, Hermione and Ron are one of my favorite examples of a Childhood Friend Romance couple. Though they don’t like each other very much when they first meet, they quickly become close friends as the series progresses, and even more than that by the time they reach young adulthood. Through all their arguments and disagreements, Ron and Hermione clearly harbor some complicated romantic feelings for each other in the second half of the saga, so when they finally get together in the last book, it’s nothing short of epic. A magical love story indeed!

2) Reunited Childhood Friends – Simba and Nala (The Lion King)

If you grew up with Disney movies like I did, you no doubt have fond memories of watching (and probably singing along to) The Lion King. Though the central theme of the story is Simba’s coming of age, his romance with Nala deserves special mention as a classic example of how best friends can turn out to be soulmates as well. After being separated as children, these two lions are reunited in adulthood by chance and, in true Disney fashion, quickly fall in love by rekindling the affection they’ve always had for one another. Nala does whatever she can to push Simba in the right direction, while Simba is ready to defend Nala and the rest of their pride after gaining the sense to return home. From their adventures as cubs to the final battle for Pride Rock, these best friends prove they’ll always have each other’s back, so after they reclaim their home at the end of the story, you know the Pride Lands will be ruled by the best king and queen ever!

3) Lifelong Love – Carl and Ellie Fredricksen (Up)

On the other hand, sometimes childhood friends end up staying together their whole lives, and the best of these friendships turn into a romance for the ages. Such is the case of Carl and Ellie Fredricksen from Pixar’s 2009 film Up, who’s four-minute montage of their marriage tells one of the greatest love stories ever seen in a Disney movie. From exploring old abandoned houses as children to sharing a loving home into old age, these two adventurers at heart were clearly meant to be together for life. Seriously, just try to watch the beginning of this film without tearing up! Sweetest romance ever!

4) Crossing Paths – Forrest Gump and Jenny Curran (Forrest Gump)

The childhood friends of the famous 1994 film, Forrest Gump and Jenny Curran are a classic example of a pair of soulmates whom fate continuously throws into and out of each other’s lives. After growing up together in 1950s Alabama, they end up going their separate ways after college, from which point Forrest’s story mentions several reunions between them up to the present day. Despite living so far apart from her for much of his life, it’s made abundantly clear by the end of the story that Forrest never stopped loving Jenny since they were kids, and that deep down she always knew he was the right man for her. It may not be the happiest of romances, but Forrest and Jenny had a beautiful love story nonetheless!

5) On Again, Off Again – Ross Geller and Rachel Green (Friends)

Every fan of Friends remembers the on-again-off-again rollercoaster that was Ross and Rachel’s relationship. Having grown up on the same street, these two friends have known each other since childhood, though at the time they were really friends by extension through Monica. After their reunion as adults in the first season, it becomes apparent that the crush Ross developed on Rachel in high school never burned out, which leads to ten years of one of the most complicated friendships ever. Although they suffered many breakups and makeups throughout the series (“We were on a break!”), Ross and Rachel’s unwavering love would inevitably lead them back to each other in the end, solidifying their status as one of television’s favorite couples. Best friends for life!

Who are your favorite “friends first” couples? What other examples of “friends first” romance would you add to this list?

Dedicated to my parents, the happiest couple I know. Thank you for teaching me everything I know about true love! Happy Anniversary, Mom and Dad! I love you!

16 Redundant Phrases You Should Simplify in Your Writing

A couple of weeks ago, I shared a list taken from the Elevate – Brain Training app of common phrases that are unnecessarily wordy and should be edited out of most writers’ first drafts. Continuing on that theme, today I’d like to share another list of phrases from a similar Elevate game, Brevity, this time of redundant phrases that should be simplified for conciseness. Redundancy is another common plague of first drafts, so you can never know too many tips for making your writing as clear and concise as possible!

So for your reference, here are 16 redundant phrases you should simplify while editing your writing. Enjoy!

1) Empty space: Space, by definition, is an unoccupied area, so the word “empty” is redundant. Simplify “empty space” to “space”.

2) Evil fiend/villain: The word “fiend” or “villain” already implies said person is evil. Simplify “evil fiend” to “fiend” or “evil villain” to “villain”.

3) First and foremost: An unnecessarily long phrase to indicate something that is most important. Simplify “first and foremost” to “first”.

4) Follow after: To follow already means to go or come after someone or something. Simplify “follow after” to “follow”.

5) HIV virus: HIV stands for “human immunodeficiency virus”, so the word “virus” is redundant. Simplify “HIV virus” to “HIV”.

6) In order to: A longer and less direct way of saying “to”. Simplify “in order to” to “to”.

7) Join together: To join means to connect two things to each other, making the word “together” redundant. Simplify “join together” to “join”.

8) None at all: None, by definition, means not any, so the phrase “at all” is unnecessary. Simplify “none at all” to “none”.

9) LCD display: LCD stands for “liquid crystal display”, so the word “display” is redundant. Simplify “LCD display” to “LCD”.

10) Might possibly: Both “might” and “possibly” indicate uncertainty of an event taking place. Simplify “might possibly” to “might”.

11) Past experience: Experience already indicates knowledge gained in the past. Simplify “past experience” to “experience”.

12) Please RSVP: RSVP stands for the French expression “répondez s’il vous plaît”, or “please reply” in English, making the word “please” redundant. Simplify “please RSVP” to “RSVP”.

13) PIN number: PIN stands for “personal identification number”, so the word “number” is redundant. Simplify “PIN number” to “PIN”.

14) Terrible disaster: A disaster is an event that causes great damage, making the adjective “terrible” unnecessary. Simplify “terrible disaster” to “disaster”.

15) Totally destroyed: To be destroyed is to be completely ruined, so the adverb “totally” is unneeded. Simplify “totally destroyed” to “destroyed”.

16) Unsolved mystery: A mystery is already an unexplained or unsolved event. Simplify “unsolved mystery” to “mystery”.

Are you guilty of using any of these phrases in your writing? What other redundant phrases would you add to this list?

What If? Writing Prompts: Nature V

Earth Day is this Saturday, and that means it’s time for some new “What If?” Writing Prompts! This week’s post features yet another batch of prompts in the theme of nature and environmentalism. See what stories you can spin from these ideas, and feel free to add more of your own! Enjoy!

What if… there were only one way to save the environment from total destruction… and it came at the price of half the global human population?

What if… human beings were the only animals in the world?

What if… all the trees in the world disappeared?

What if… every food source on the planet became sustainable?

What if… all major sources of carbon emission on Earth suddenly stopped?

Good luck writing more environmentalist stories!

If you have any “What If?” writing prompt suggestions (for any theme), please feel free to share them in the comments below. Ideas I like may be featured in future “What If?” posts, with full credit and a link to your blog (if you have one)! Also, if you’ve written a piece based on an idea you’ve found here, be sure to link back to the respective “What If?” post. I would love to see what you’ve done with the prompt! Thank you!

14 Wordy Phrases You Should Edit Out of Your Writing

If you’ve been writing for most of your life, you’ll probably agree that editing is the hardest part of the craft. For those of us who take our art seriously, the joy of creation is always followed by the challenge of polishing, which can be especially difficult for those of us who deal with the many rules of English. One of the most common mistakes inexperienced writers make is using unnecessarily wordy phrases in their first drafts, which is why the Elevate – Brain Training app includes a game called Clarity, an exercise that teaches players how to simplify said phrases to improve the flow of their writing. I’ve learned quite a few editing tips from this game, and I think you might find them useful too!

So for your reference, here are 14 wordy phrases you should eliminate from your writing during the editing phase. Enjoy!

1) As long as: a common phrase used to indicate that something will happen under a certain condition. Simplify “as long as” with “if”.

2) At the end of: indicates something that is last or that follows something else. “Simplify “at the end of” with “after”.

3) Draw attention to: refers to someone or something that deserves notice. Simplify “draw attention to” with “highlight”.

4) Give an indication of: implies a hint or a glimpse of something. Simplify “give an indication of” with “indicate” or “reveal”.

5) Have an effect on: the passive form of the verb “affect”. Simplify “have an effect on” with “affect” or “influence”.

6) Hold a conference: passive phrase meaning to gather people to talk. Simplify “hold a conference” with “confer”.

7) In conjunction: indicates two events that are connected. Simplify “in conjunction” with “along”.

8) Not the same: negative phrase indicating something that differs from a given subject. Simplify “not the same” with “different”.

9) Notwithstanding the fact: redundant when the fact is explained in the sentence. Simplify “notwithstanding the fact” with “although”.

10) Owing to the fact: also redundant when the fact is already explained. Simplify “owing to the fact” with “because”.

11) Relating to: indicates something related to a given subject. Simplify “relating to” with “about”.

12) Spell out: informal phrase meaning to describe something in detail. Simplify “spell out” with “explain”.

13) Take action: the passive form of the verb “act”. Simplify “take action” with “act”.

14) There is a chance it will: lengthy phrase used to indicate that something might happen. Simplify “there is a chance it will” with “it may”.

Are you guilty of using any of these phrases? What other wordy phrases would you add to this list?

What If? Writing Prompts: Humor V

Welcome to April! I hope you survived the pranks of April Fools’ Day, or maybe you pulled some off yourself! Either way, in the spirit of this humorous month, why not have some more fun with a few new “What If?” Writing Prompts? This week’s batch features prompts in the theme of humor. See what fun stories you can create from these ideas! Enjoy!

What if… every time you thought about a certain food, it magically appeared before you?

What if… you were hypnotized to sing every time someone said a specific word?

What if… for one day, you could understand animals, but not people?

What if… you woke up one day to find yourself in a cartoon?

What if… you were cursed to speak only in the form of bad jokes?

Good luck spinning more silly tales!

If you have any “What If?” writing prompt suggestions (for any theme), please feel free to share them in the comments below. Ideas I like may be featured in future “What If?” posts, with full credit and a link to your blog (if you have one)! Also, if you’ve written a piece based on an idea you’ve found here, be sure to link back to the respective “What If?” post. I would love to see what you’ve done with the prompt! Thank you!

5 Disney Heroines Who Aren’t Princesses (But Are Still Awesome)

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?

Disney Princesses as Positive Role Models for Girls (Part 2)

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?

About J.C. Wolfe

J.C. Wolfe is a fiction writer, biologist, and aspiring novelist of science fantasy and romance. A natural-born American and graduate in Marine Ecology from a university in Brazil, J.C. now writes for a living in California while spending free time blogging and penning stories and poetry.

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