Snow, Fire, Sword is an epic fantasy novel written by Sophie Masson. It tells about the quest of the main characters of the story, Dewi and Adi, for Snow, Fire, Sword which is the only thing that can save Jayangan from the terror of the Hantumu. While other novels of the same genre rarely portray the importance of women, this novel, on the contrary, shows the great value of women’s contribution to the success in the quest journey. The passivity, weakness, and little contribution of the male characters in the story (especially the main male character Adi), compared to the activeness, power, and great contribution of the female characters, make the main female character Dewi appear to be the hero.
Epic fantasy novels, such as Stone of Tears, The Lord of The Ring, and Harry Potter are often dominated by male heroes. Campbell (2006) states that epic fantasy novels often portray male heroes as “unflinching warriors, righteous defenders of nations, virtuous and wise wielders of justice, revered conquerors, and rightful kings”. Female characters are often marginalized. Although there are also some main female characters in the story, however the actions of the female characters, often times, only contribute to the adventure of the male protagonist. Like in the case of Hermione Granger in the Harry Potter series. Hermione is portrayed as an intelligent girl. Although her knowledge is important, but it “only contributes to Harry’s adventures and not hers” (Heilman, as cited in Mikulan, 2009).
One of the reasons for the lack of female heroes in epic fantasy novels is perhaps because epic fantasy requires its characters to get involved in a quest journey. The quest journey is often associated with masculine heroic activity. Therefore, male characters as seen from the perspective of gender stereotype are considered fit for the story. Gender stereotype itself is “beliefs about the psychological traits and characteristics of, as well as the activities appropriate to, men or women” (Brannon, 2011). People tend to associate adventurous things with men instead of women because men have been traditionally socialized to be strong, active, and aggressive. On the contrary, female characters may not be suitable for the story since females have been long “socialized to be beautiful rather than strong, passive rather than active, and patiently waiting rather than aggressively seeking” (Lieberman, Rowe, Aisenberg, & Partridge, as cited in Maness, 1995). These sorts of portrayals of the female characters can be seen in popular fairy tales, such as Sleeping Beauty, Cinderella, and Snow White.
By employing the feminist criticism framework, how the male and female characters are portrayed in Snow, Fire, and Sword can be explored. From the first chapter it is learned that Adi, one of the main characters, sees his master, Empu Wesiagi, being attacked by the hantumu. Bound and gagged by his master, Adi can only watch the scene without being able to help his master. Empu...