Female Weaponry in Fantasy: Why Emmy Uses a Bo

It’s very common in science fiction/fantasy for women to use the bow and arrow. This can be seen in Artemis (Greek Mythology), Susan (The Chronicles of Narnia), Katniss Everdeen (The Hunger Games), Seraphina (The Golden Compass), Merida (Brave), Mulan (Mulan), Kagome (“Inuyasha”), and Ygritte (Game of Thrones). Archers, archers everywhere you turn. If a woman is a “badass” in fiction, chances are she’s an archer.

Now, I have nothing against female archers. A bow and arrow is an effective weapon. However, it’s also a ranged weapon, and I feel like it perpetuates a stereotype that women cannot fight close up. It says, since women are weaker, they must not fight directly or up close so as not to put their delicate constitutions at risk.

When creating Emmy, I didn’t want to continue in this tradition. I wanted a fighter who could do more than aim and shoot, and a bow and arrow simply didn’t fit Emmy’s personality. Emmy is small and quiet, yes, but she’s never afraid to stand up for herself. She isn’t afraid of facing her opponent. And, historically, being an archer was considered cowardly. This meant that she could not be an archer.

For this same reason, I couldn’t make her dual wielding like a rogue. She wasn’t necessarily stealthy and wouldn’t use rogue weapons. And though I’m loath to appear inconsistent, I didn’t feel that wielding a sword on a regular basis was feasible for her. Most women who carry a sword in fiction (I can only think of two: Xena, warrior princess, and Brienne of Tarth) are considered unfeminine. It’s ridiculous, but I kept it in mind. Cassius the Wingless is a much stronger opponent, and she would be unable to match him for speed if she wielded a sword.

That’s when I found the bo. It was perfect. Emmy needed something that added power to her speed and finesse. It allowed her direct contact with the benefit of extended reach, and it translated her greater speed into power. In addition to being a great offensive weapon, it was also a great for defense, something that Emmy would need since she was not as powerful.

Finally, it had one other great benefit. Although this is only hinted at in the novel, I imagined Emmy as being from a Proto-Celtic sort of tribe. The Celts believed that circles were sacred. Stonehenge, woodhenge, and seahenge were all circles. Their homes were circular. Their burial mounds were circular.

Thus, the bo, which utilizes circles, was perfect.

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