Thursday, April 7, 2016

F is for Female Friendships

Welcome to the A to Z Challenge! My theme this year is Representation and Diversity in Traditional Stories. I am looking for rare and interesting motifs in folktales, fairy tales, and legends that add variety to the well-known canon.

We all know stories about a hero and his friends setting out to seek their fortunes together - but where are the strong female friendships? Where are women helping and supporting each other, not because they are sisters or mothers and daughters, but simply because they like one another? Compared to the number of evil stepsisters, sibling rivalries, and fake brides, the number of strong female friendships in tradition is depressingly low.

Here are some of the exceptions:

Wild Goose Lake
A Bai legend from China about a girl who befriends a dragon's daughter. The two girls figure and carry out a plan to end a drought; the dragon daughter is exiled by her father for helping the humans, and the two girls end up living happily together.
(Read the story in South of the Clouds)

The wicked girl
This Turkish folktale features friendship between a Turkish girl and her Arab slave. They are locked in together while the adults of the house are away, but the Arab girl figures out a way to sneak out and bring home whatever they need. She repeatedly tricks a restaurant owner until he decides to take revenge - but all is well in the end.
(Read the story here)

Gold-tree and Silver-tree
A strange, enchanting, polyamorous Snow White story for Scotland, in which a king's second wife saves the life of the almost-dead first wife, not once, but twice, and they all live happily together.
(Read it here)

Snow White and Rose Red
Okay, so they are sisters, but at least they like each other (it is even stated in the text) despite their personalities being different, and they go through adventures together. One of the less often quoted Grimm fairy tales, but a really good one. I hear Disney is about to get their hands on it.
(Read it here)

Katie Crackernuts
Again, step-siblings, but at least they like each other? One saves the other, and both end up happy.
(Read it here)

I already talked about Camilla earlier, but she fits this theme as well, since she is the leader of a group of female warriors who are all very attached to her, and take revenge for her death.
(Read about her here)

There are also teams of girls that act together... but I'll talk more about them tomorrow!

Are there any other female friendship tales I should include on this list? Let me know in the comments!


  1. The only example that comes to mind right now is the friendship between Queen Kaikeyi and Manthara, her attendant, in the Ramayana. Strong friendship, but used for dubious ends. The Queen portrayed as the stereotypical evil stepmother, plotting for her son's place on the throne instead of the rightful heir.

    I am pleasantly surprised to know there are so many examples.


  2. Yay! I've actually read one of these--Snow White and Rose Red. I'm surprised it's taken Disney this long, honestly.

  3. I remember we had a book of Snow White and Rose Red when we were small. I can't for the life of me remember what happens - I shall have to go refresh my memory :).
    Tasha's Thinkings | Wittegen Press | FB3X (AC)

  4. I've always loved Snow White and Rose Red, but like Tasha, I can't remember it clearly, because it's not in my current Grimm's fairytale book. I will have to find it and read it again, though. Ilike the sound of the one of the dragon and human working together and the Scottish polyamorous story :)
    Sophie's Thoughts & Fumbles | Wittegen Press | FB3X

  5. I found this really interesting! It's made me think about my own writing. I may need to find my MC a female friend.

    [@LMayhewWriter] from
    Lauren Mayhew Author

  6. The Hasidic Truth and Story
    The Tipingee story

  7. The Hasidic Truth and Story
    The Tipingee story

  8. I love strong female friendships in fiction (and in real life obviously) but I hadn't really thought about how they were often missing from fairy and folktales. I might check some of these stories out :)

    My theme for the A-Z Challenge is my favourite fictional characters at ElenaSquareEyes.

  9. My sister and I used to read Snow White, Rose Red, and try to figure out which one of us was Snow White and which one of us was Rose Red.

    Great blog!


  10. Great stories all fo them. I only knew a couple :-)

    The Old Shelter - Jazz Age Jazz

  11. I've heard that the upcoming Disney version is going to make Rose Red the sister of the Snow White who lives with the Seven Dwarfs.

    1. Yeah, that's what I heard too... They are going for a "Fables" imitation, probably.

    2. Ooh, yuk! But typically Disney. :-(

  12. You have such great choices! I wish I wasn't so busy trying to keep up my A-Z posts so I could go read some of them now. I read Snow White and Rose Red, but don't remember the story. Wonder if it is in my Grimm's.

    Finding Eliza

  13. Now you've made me want to write a story with two female companions who save the day.

    Patricia Wrede wrote a fabulous retelling of Snow White and Rose Red.

  14. Another great topic. I think strong female friendships are not as prominent in these tales because the tellers know that women would take over the world if we figured it out and became best friends!

    @dSavannahCreate from
    #AtoZChallenge2016 theme: dSavannah Defects

  15. These were all interesting, but I loved the one about The Wicked Girl.

  16. I know Snow White and Rose red. The others sound amazing. I will have to check them out.

  17. Good point! Now I am trying to think of my stories that would fit well with strenthening the feminine dynamic. Looking forward to checking out some of these tales ~VanillaBean at Travelling Spoons

  18. There's the Russian fairytale of Baba Yaga's daughter, who befriends and protects a Cinderella type heroine who comes knocking at the door.