One of my favorite literary heroes of all time is Aerin-sol of Damar, also known as the Dragonkiller. She’s the main character of Robin McKinley’s fantasy novel, The Hero and the Crown. The book tells the story of how Aerin goes from an awkward princess who would rather be ignored by the Royal Court, due the dubious heritage of her late mother, to a warrior who wields a magical sword and saves her entire kingdom from the invasion of a demon army.
There are many things that I love about Aerin. She does many brave things, sometimes foolhardy, but often they are backed up by careful thought. She learns how to fight dragons effectively from studying an ancient history text in the library while she is recovering from an illness. Then she tests her methods with scientific precision until she perfects them. Any warrior who uses her brains as much as her strength is inspiring.
Aerin also develops a thick skin and a wry sense of humor as a defense to the constant bullying of her older cousins. Instead of seeking revenge against the people who hurt her, she works hard to gain success on her own terms (becoming a respected warrior instead of merely being content to marry the king’s heir) and prove them wrong.
Aerin is kind to both people and animals who help her, from her childhood nurse and the master of the groom, to a crippled old war horse and a host of wild cats and dogs. Despite the widespread bias against her, she wins loyal friends through her acts of kindness and earnest honesty.
Although she does gain a legendary magical sword as her ally, it’s Aerin’s courage and heart that help her win in the end, along with a stubborn determination not to give up. She gains her fighting abilities through long work and training, and then uses them to protect what matters most to her. She’s a lady and a warrior, and her legend is worth remembering by her people for hundreds of years later.