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I recently started re-reading Tamora Pierce’s Song of the Lioness books for the second time in less than six months without realizing it. This is unusual for me, as I’m not much of a re-reader, so I set out to study why I keep coming back to the story of a girl who will stop at nothing to become a knight in a country that doesn’t believe it’s something a woman should do. Like most of us, I’m going through a period of change, and Alanna reminds me of the value of perseverance.
Alana is from Tribond and I have a long history. I’m not alone, of course: There is more than one generation of people who were raised in part by Tamora Pierce. My mom bought me Alanna: The First Adventure when I was 11 or 12 because there was a horse on its cover. I was an avid reader but not inclined to imagination, so at first I was skeptical. I felt that the fairy tales I had been exposed to up to that point were without humor. Alana changed my mind. She is fully invested in her story and in Turtal Country. I remember thinking I wanted to write books like these Someday.
Years and years passed, and I discovered all the ways life can distract a person from writing. Prior to March 2020, I had engaged in the routine of getting up early and spending some time writing before I left home for work. There was no point in doing it when I never left the house. I’ll get around it eventually, right? (ERROR) Add a new baby, and my writing life, never what you would call strong, was on life support machines. While listening to Alanna’s story while washing dishes that were forever piling up, I remembered that I would never be all the things I wanted to be without doing the work.
Honestly, what’s more “making things for yourself” than cutting your hair and taking your brother’s place as a page? I’m not a morning person in any imaginable way, but I knew what I had to do. Listening to Alanna and her quest to become a knight as I was washing the things that come into your life when you have a child reminded me that hard work is worth the work. I think of Alanna most days when I pull myself out of bed before sunrise. Hard work is worth it even when no one is watching it. In the past year, Alanna has kept me through everything from long-delayed dental work to endless hours of washing and sanitizing baby items.
I’ve always been the type to like to be good at things and automatically avoid things you’re not good at. In my last reading, I especially noted that Alanna is also Not Good at all Martial Arts. It’s not a natural swordsman, as one would expect an aspiring knight to be. It reminds me that you don’t have to be the best at something right away: this is where hard work comes in, and is most helpful when you feel better about yourself. That was why Alana trained with a sword so heavy on her. That’s why I can’t just sit on the sofa and stare at the wall instead of going to work.
Pierce’s characters are never children, which makes it easier for you to want to become an adult. In addition to some of the other life adjustments I’ve mentioned, I’m also adjusting to returning to working in the office as a working mom. In the subsequent Pierce series, I was able to see Alana as the King’s hero And Mother of three children. I’ve always known I could have both because Tamora Pierce said so. It may not be easy, but if Alanna can do it, so can I.
Alana isn’t my only role model in Tortal. I’ve also reread The Immortals and Protector of the Small several times as an adult. They have all been important to me at different times in my life. I was surprised by how relevant Kiel was to my early working life, even as a woman in a traditionally “female” job (I was an executive assistant). I even tried her logo I am stone At different times in my life but this has rarely worked for me because I’m marshmallows.
Alanna saw me during adolescence and continued to see me through adulthood and, most recently, parenthood. At the age of twelve, she took Alanna’s purple eyes, her animal companions, and her magical gift. As an adult, I found different things to admire: her courage, perseverance, and dedication to her craft. As a character in a later Pierce series, notes when she talks about Alanna, “It’s not just kids who need heroes.”