Forty Maidens (Kyrk kyz) is a Karakalpak epic from Central Asia. It was recorded in the early 20th century, and refers back to historical events in the late middle ages. The Karakalpak are a Turkic ethnic group that lives in modern day Uzbekistan and Kazakhstan. Their epic takes places in turbulent times when the Kalmyks invaded their land.
Gulaim (Rose Moon), daughter of the ruler of Sarkop and the main hero of the epic, is a maiden who refuses to marry at the age of fifteen, and moves into a citadel instead with a group of like-minded girls to train as warriors. They don't only become a force to reckon with, but also transform the island their fortress is built on into a small paradise. When their homeland is invaded and men (including Gulaim's father and brothers) are killed, the forty maidens take it on themselves to revenge the murders and restore the honor and freedom of their people. Gulaim leads them into battle and ends up defeating the enemy's leader in single combat.
Girl heroes, all the way. That's really all there is to it. That, and pretty epic fighting, with lots of archery.
Girl Power, Guy Power
It almost feels like a cliche to call this one a feminist epic. It is obviously a story with strong and independent female characters that prove their power in battle against men multiple times. Also, on the parallel storyline, Gulaim successfully gets out of several forced marriage attempts, even against her father's will. But the part that I personally like the most is that she does not end up alone - she finds herself a worthy partner in the exiled hero of Khorezm, Aryslan. Aryslan has a sister who is also a warrior maiden, and they defend their people together against the enemy, until Aryslan's exile through intrigue. The hero ends up joining Gulaim's troops and helping her to victory - in exchange, she accompanies him back to his homeland, and they free Khorezm together.
Talk about a power couple.