The Female Warrior Archetype

CC image by Andreas Overland

The warrior woman archetype—confident, tenacious, courageous, and persuasive—is a feminine icon in today’s society. Xena, the warrior princess, Buffy, the vampire slayer, Mulan, Lara Croft, Sydney Bristow, Sarah Connor, and Trinity are all modern examples of this powerful archetype. Being a warrior is traditionally a man’s role, the protector and the fighter, but legends of female warriors stretch back in time to include the Amazons of Greek mythology, the Valkyries of Norse
mythology, and Joan of Arc in 1400s France.

The Amazons are some of the most well-known female warriors. The term Amazon is now nearly synonymous with female warrior. While men did traditionally hold sway in the fighting realm, women still had to defend their towns and homes, especially if the men were fighting somewhere else.

It is still unclear if the Amazons were a mythical race. Burial grounds have been found in Russia near Kazakhstan, Mongolia, and China that suggest there is some truth to the stories, women buried with weapons, killed by obvious war-like injuries, and also bow-legged from riding. While the legends have obviously grown over time, evidence like this hints at a possible origin and thread of truth to the stories.

According to legends, the Amazons were matriarchal. No men were allowed except for the occasional purpose of producing children, and male children were not kept. Well-known Amazons include Hippolyta, featured in A Midsummer Night’s Dream, Penthesilea, and Antiope.

The most famous Amazon is Wonder Woman. Her full name is Princess Diana of Themyscira, also known as Diana Prince. Wonder Woman has superhuman abilities, not included in the early Amazon stories, but handy as she fights evil in the comic books and on TV. She leaves the Amazons’ home to return a stranded man to his world, staying to fight the Nazis.

The Valkyries and Joan of Arc are two more classic examples. In Norse mythology, Valkyries were women who decided who lived and died in battle and then carried the men into the afterlife. Joan of Arc fought for French independence from the English in the 1400s after receiving visions and became one of the most iconic female warriors.

Looking at modern day renditions, there are many to choose from. The story of Mulan stretches back to Hua Mulan in the 3rd century, and is a popular concept. There are numerous tales of women dressing up as men to fight for their homes. Buffy from Buffy the Vampire Slayer was chosen as a warrior to defend the world against demons and vampires and gifted with superhuman abilities. Sydney Bristow Alias fights to take down the corrupt as a spy. The list goes on with Ellen Ripley in Alien, Selene from Underworld, and Alice in Resident Evil.

Women are attracted to this archetype because it opens up a realm that is not traditionally female. These women kick ass, and what woman hasn’t wanted to do that? They see what needs to be done and do everything in their power to make it happen. Everyone wants to be able to protect themselves, their families, and these women show that we do in fact have what it takes.

By Melissa Blakely