Friday, January 1, 2010

Sword Woman - Leigh Brackett

An introduction to the Robert E. Howard collection:

"It is also interesting to speculate on whether or not Dark Agnes was inspired by the Lady of Joiry. Certainly Howard was aware of Jirel. He had read Black God's Shadow and liked it, and said so, and he had sent a copy of Sword Woman lo C.L. Moore to read, (She loved it, and hoped there would be more.) But at this late date it is impossible to say which character was first conceived, or whether indeed there was any connection between them at all. (Jirel, of course, appeared in Weird Tales
before Sword Woman was written.) It is reasonable to assume that Howard and Moore both got the inspiration for their martial ladies from the same sources ... the historical accounts of those women to whom Howard dedicated his chronicle of Dark Agnes, from the ballad about Mary Ambree, and quite likely from that famous saint-inarmor, Joan of Arc, though saintliness is not, fortunately, a quality possessed by either heroine. In any case, the resemblance between Agnes and Jirel is purely superficial. They both had red hair. They both wore armor and wielded swords with deadly effect. But Jirel was fire and ice, she was silken and subtle, and she dwelt in the Neverlands of fantasy, in a different continuum from Howard's historical France. Jirel was concerned with dark gods and sorcerers, with love and magic.
We never really know why or how she came to be a sword woman. She is simply the Lady of Joiry, mailed and proud and beautiful.
Agnes, on the other hand, is a total pragmatist. Howard's talents were multi-faceted, but subtle he was not, nor silken, and his heroine isn't either. Agnes lived in a hard cruel time when women were somewhat less valuable and less well-treated than the family beast of burden, which would cost money to replace. (If there was no beast of burden, she was it.) Agnes was peasant-born, to a brutal
father, in a pigsty village, and she grew up tough because if she had not been tough she would nothave grown up at all."

4.5 out of 5

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