13 Hours:The HEROINE'S Journey - Chapter 1

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13 Hours:The HEROINE'S Journey

by OokamiKasumi

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There is a ton of information on the Heroic Cycle, or Hero's Journey, but what about the Heroine's? Being a female that prefers to write stories with a female lead, I decided to do a bit of my own research into the myths and fairy tales that feature Heroines rather than heroes. What I found was a little...startling.

13 Hours:The HEROINE'S Journey
13 Hours
The Fairy Tale Heroine's Journey

Ookami Kasumi

There is a ton of information on the Heroic Cycle, or Hero's Journey, but what about the Heroine's? Being a female that prefers to write stories with a female lead, I decided to do a bit of my own research into the myths and fairy tales that feature Heroines rather than heroes. What I found was a little...startling. While many things in the Hero's Journey still apply, Her journey is not quite the same as His because the path the Heroine takes through the labyrinth is guided by her Heart not her head--or her sword.

There are Thirteen stages in the Fairy Tale Heroine's Journey. Thirteen hours in her clock of adventure--one for each full moon in a year.

Fair Warning: The fairy tale examples used here are my opinionated interpretations of the oldest and Grimmest versions I know.

1. Upon a time ~ Secret Betrayal
Too pretty, too smart, too loyal, too friendly, too obedient, too good at housekeeping, or sewing, or spinning, or making the flowers grow--someone is always out to get the Fairy Tale Heroine. Though it's usually a jealous (aging,) female relative that betrays her, male relatives do too--by trading her skills for cold hard cash.
  • * Snow White, Cinderella, Psyche, and Vasilisa were so pretty they inspired jealousy in the other women they lived with.
  • * Beauty's father steals a flower and the cost is Beauty.
  • * The father of Rumpelstiltskin's maiden bragged ridiculously about her until he was finally told to prove it or die.
  • * The princess in the Goose Girl was too rich and too obedient for her maid to resist bullying.
  • * Rapunzel's mother couldn't get enough parsley.
  • * Bluebeard's wife, on the other hand, was out to get him.

2. The Herald ~ Bearer of Bad News
This is the Catalyst--a friend, family member, enemy, or object that reveals the deed, promise, or debt for which she is being held accountable, or the deadly danger she's being sent into.
  • * The Huntsman tells Snow White that her stepmother wants her heart, among other internal body parts--to eat.
  • * Cinderella's stepsisters brag that all the chores she's been given are specifically to keep her too busy to make a ball gown for herself.
  • * Beauty's father finally reveals that he has been asked to trade her life for his--and blames her request for a flower.
  • * In Rumpelstiltskin, the maiden's father sends her to the castle knowing full well that she cannot do as he bragged.
  • * A witch offers to buy Rapunzel for a sheaf of parsley.
  • * In the Goose Girl, the talking horse Falada tells the princess that her maid intends to betray them both.
  • * Vasilisa's stepsister brags that she won't be coming back with a live coal to light their fire because the witch Baba Yaga will eat her.
  • * A letter from her sister tells Bluebeard's future wife that the man killed her--and why.

3. Refusal of the Call ~ Obedience to the Call
Unlike her male counterpart the Hero, the fairy tale Heroine either doesn't want to refuse the call to adventure, or isn't allowed to. She may argue, fight, weep bitterly, or bolt outright, but someone's life or honour is usually if not always on the line--frequently her own. Ruled by her heart rather than her head, she has no choice but to answer it.

On a side note, when these stories were originally told back before the Dark Ages, women were taught from early childhood to be obedient in all things. Only men were allowed a Choice.
  • * Cinderella knew exactly what she wanted and went right after it--a prince and escape from her step-mother's home. However, her stepmother and stepsisters didn't have any problem refusing for her--by ripping up the gown she'd painstakingly sewed.
  • * Against her father's will, Beauty sneaks out of the house and takes off for the Beast's lair.
  • * Rapunzel's father refused quite a bit, but her mother was thoroughly addicted to the witch's parsley. (Makes one wonder if it was actually parsley, no?)
  • * The princess who became the Goose Girl couldn't do anything about her maid's bullying--royal etiquette wouldn't allow for it.
  • * Vasilisa considered refusing, but her magic doll advised her that going to see Baba Yaga was the right choice.
  • * In Bluebeard, the maiden deliberately sought him out because she wanted revenge for her sister's murder.
  • - o - In another version, he refused her because of her youth. She actually had to drop her clothes to prove she (had pubic hair) was old enough to marry.

4. Mentors, Tricksters & Costly Gifts
A mentor/trickster comes offering gifts. The Mentor is one who actually cares for the Heroine and wants her happy. Tricksters however, are out for themselves. They want whatever they can get out of the Heroine. If what they grant makes her happy, that's nice, but not necessary. Occasionally, a Trickster such as Baba Yaga can become a Mentor, but that normally takes a lot of pretty impressive work on the Heroine's part.

The gift could be:
  • * A gown, slippers, and transportation to a ball.
  • * The favour such as weaving straw into gold.
  • * The answer to a riddle that hasn't been asked yet.
  • * Magically long hair.
  • * A curse of sleep instead of death.
  • * A spell to call the breeze and make a dead animal's head talk.
  • * A family heirloom doll that talks.
  • * A glowing skull.
  • * A golden key to a deadly room.
In all cases, there is a life-altering price on such gifts. Sometimes the payment is a trinket such as a necklace or ring, but more often it's a promise to be delivered later, or a first kiss--meaning her virginity. Occasionally it's a body part such as her hands, her voice, her hair, her finger, or her firstborn child--the medieval euphemism for her virginity and continued sexual favours until pregnant. In other words, a common law marriage.

5. Enter the Labyrinth
She gives in to temptation and takes the offered gift, crossing the threshold to the labyrinth and committing herself to a path where there is no turning back.

This scene can be played out as a rescue which usually includes the demand of a reward such as a kiss--the symbol for outright seduction.
  • * Snow White is rescued by the Huntsman when she escapes into the forest. The price for his silence is a kiss.
  • * Psyche is saved from a fall off the cliffs by an invisible Eros and becomes his lover--but not his wife.
  • * Rumpelstiltskin's skills at spinning save his maiden from certain death on the sword of the greedy prince, but also put her continued survival firmly into his own hands.

This scene can also be played straight.
  • * From her mother's grave, Cinderella gains a gown, slippers, and a magical clay horse. (The earliest Cinderella is Chinese.)
  • - o - In another version, the gifts include a coach and come from a fairy godmother.
  • * Beauty walks boldly into Beast's castle to pay for her father's life with her own.
  • * Red Riding Hood takes the basket her mother offers and trots off into the woods toward grandmother's house.
  • * Lonely Rapunzel happily accepts small gifts and conversation from a prince who visits her tower.
  • * Accompanied by her talking nesting doll, the ever obedient Vasilisa marches off into the snowy forest to find Baba Yaga's chicken-legged hut so she can ask for a few live coals to light her hearth.

Or in Reverse.
  • * The princess in the Goose Girl is forced by etiquette to submit to her maid's bullying--and loses her mother's gifts.
  • * The vengeful younger sister arrives at Bluebeard's castle bringing gifts--her dowry, her virginity, and a pair of specially trained messenger birds.

6. Secret Allies, Secret Enemies, Deadly Gifts & Scary Promises
Entry to the labyrinth has been gained, but there's another, even more dangerous task or temptation to deal with. Another gift is offered with an even higher price-tag, a more chilling promise. She has every intention of fulfilling her bargain, but she has secret enemies.
  • * Snow White has survived the forest and arrived at the home of the seven dwarves. All they ask is that she be wary of strangers.
  • * Cinderella arrives at the ball to seduce her prince, but has promised to leave by midnight.
  • * Beast finally allows Beauty a visit home, but she must return by a certain day.
  • * Psyche survives the flight into the clouds, but has promised not to look at her new lover.
  • * In the third and final room of straw. Rumpelstiltskin's maiden promises her first born child--a common law marriage--to the dwarf that's helping her.
  • * Red Riding Hood has promised not to talk to strangers.
  • * Rapunzel promises not to let anyone, but the witch climb up her hair.
  • * The princess exchanges clothes with her maid and swears to never reveal the switch to another living thing. She becomes the Goose Girl.
  • * Vasilisa is told not to snoop in Baba Yaga's house or ask questions.
  • * Bluebeard gives his new wife a golden key on the promise that she will not open a certain door.

7. Treachery ~ Broken Vows
Through trickery, lies, theft, temptation, ignorance, or outright wilfulness, her promise is broken.
  • * Even after needing to be rescued from a poisoned comb and a poisoned corset, Snow White bites into an apple offered by the same stranger.
  • * While the clock is striking twelve, Cinderella finally notices the time.
  • * Beauty's sisters jealously steal her magic ring delaying her to return to the Beast.
  • * Psyche's lover is revealed by candle light to be beautiful beyond compare.
  • * Rumpelstiltskin's maiden marries the prince--instead leaving with the dwarf.
  • * Red Riding Hood talks to a wolf.
  • * Rapunzel lets her prince climb up into her tower--more than once.
  • * Her horse killed for his ability to speak, the Goose Girl offers gold to the local knacker to nail Falada's head under a certain bridge. She then proceeds to speak to him daily--right in front of the goose boy.
  • * Bluebeard's door is opened to reveal hideous contents.

Or not.
  • * Despite several dangerous tasks, one of which is cleaning the interior of Baba Yaga's house--plus make dinner, Vasilisa doesn't pry or ask questions. Because her doll does all the dangerous tasks while she cooks, she sees nothing she isn't supposed to.

8. CRASH Point ~ Center of the Labyrinth
Aware that she must pay the price for her broken vow, she bravely goes forth to--find a way to dodge the consequences.
  • * Snow White's dwarves dodge her death by putting her in a clear crystal casket.
  • * Beauty has a hair-pulling fight with her sisters to get her ring back.
  • * Cinderella bolts for her clay horse knowing full well that it won't make it all the way home.
  • * Psyche throws herself at Aphrodite's feet and swears she'll do anything to get her lover Eros back.
  • * Rumpelstiltskin's maiden bargains for her freedom--his name. She then sends huntsmen all over the kingdom to discover the dwarf's name--before he can get her pregnant.
  • * Red Riding Hood eats the meat the wolf gives her, takes off her clothes, and climbs into bed with him.
  • * Rather than admit that she's pregnant, Rapunzel tells the witch that she ate too much.
  • * Before the king, the Goose Girl reveals that she is being held by a vow of silence--which makes her look even more suspicious. A peasant wouldn't bother to keep such a vow, only a princess would.
  • * Because of her dead sister's warning, Bluebeard's wife saves the key from being bloodied, but not her slippers.
  • * Vasilisa's ability to accomplish miracles and keep her mouth shut surprises Baba Yaga. Suspicious, the old woman offers to answer a question--but warns that some answers are deadly to know. Vasilisa asks about the three horsemen she saw. The answer is harmless: Black Night, Red Sun, and White Morning Star.

9. Ordeal ~ The Darkest Hour
She faces her greatest fear and death. Unfortunately, she doesn't have any actual weapons at her disposal but her wits. Back then, women weren't allowed to touch things like swords or knives. Fighting wasn't feminine.
  • * Snow White is locked in a coma--and a crystal casket.
  • * About the same time that the prince announces that he is looking for a woman that fits a certain sized slipper, Cinderella's growing waistline is noticed and she is locked in the chateau's attic tower.
  • * Beauty returns to the Beast, but he seems dead.
  • * To gain Aphrodite's approval, Psyche goes to the kingdom of the dead to fetch something from Persephone, the Queen of Death.
  • * Rumpelstiltskin's maiden goes through name after name with the dwarf trying to keep him too busy to impregnate her.
  • * Red Riding Hood starts questioning the wolf.
  • * To get around her oath to never speak of her situation to another living thing, the Goose Girl is encouraged by the king to speak to a fireplace--while he waits at the chimney.
  • * Bluebeard's wife's runs all over the castle dodging her furious husband while waiting for her brothers to arrive.
  • * Knowing exactly how dangerously impossible her tasks were, a puzzled Baba Yaga asks how Vasilisa accomplished them. Knowing that one cannot lie to Baba Yaga and live, yet sworn to secrecy about her doll, Vasilisa dodges with "My mother's blessing."

10. Rewards & Punishments
If she survives the Ordeal, she is rewarded with release from the heart of the labyrinth--or punished by expulsion. Either way, she is permanently marked by her experience.
  • * Snow White's crystal casket is discovered and carried off by a necrophiliac prince. On the journey to his home, the apple stuck in her throat is jarred loose, allowing her to awaken.
  • * Cinderella finally gets the chance to reveal her other slipper--and her growing belly to her prince.
  • * Beast awakens and turns into a handsome young man.
  • * Aphrodite tells Psyche to "go home."
  • * Rumpelstiltskin's maiden finally hears back from one of her huntsmen.
  • * Red Riding hood gets eaten for being too stupid to know that she's in danger.
  • * Rapunzel is shorn of her hair and thrown from the tower for preferring a man. Shortly afterward, the witch catches the prince, blinds him, and throws him out of the tower too.
  • * The king has his wife's women clean up the Goose Girl and dress her as befitting her station.
  • * Vasilisa's diligent work and obedience is rewarded by a kiss of protection on her brow. She is then given permission to take one of the skulls for fire, but she must not touch it, or look directly into its eyes.
  • - o - In another version, Baba Yaga asks a question of her own: Why go back? Vasilisa's reply: I want them to love me. Baba Yaga responds by grabbing her and dunking her into a vat of gold. Not only has her dress turned to gold, she comes out blonde and milky-skinned. Most remarkably, when she speaks, gold coins and jewels fall from her lips. She is then advised to face the crowing rooster at the gate.
  • * Bluebeard's wife's brothers finally arrive.

11. Release from the Labyrinth
She heads back to the Ordinary World with a mission to accomplish. At the last threshold, she replays her very first act of commitment, a keepsake gift, a vow, or a kiss.
  • * Snow White kisses her astonished (and possibly disappointed) prince.
  • * Cinderella leaves with her prince.
  • * Beast and his castle finally rejoin the mortal world.
  • * Psyche goes home to find Eros on the cliff where she first met him. Unable to live without him, she jumps off the cliff. He rescues her again.
  • * Rumpelstiltskin's maiden finally says thank you and uses his name.
  • * Free at last from the tower, though bald and saddled with twins, Rapunzel goes looking for her blinded prince.
  • * Awakened by her twins suckling for milk, Briar Rose, the Sleeping Beauty rises from her long sleep to go looking for the man that knocked her up while she was unconscious.
  • * The Goose Girl turned Princess once more, attends the local King's wedding feast for his son--who was supposed to be her bridegroom.
  • * Vasilisa uses a tree branch to take one of the flaming skulls mounted on Baba Yaga's gate and goes home to face the stepmother who cast her out into the snow.
  • - o - In another version, she merely stops at the skull-lined gate to face the crowing rooster and is granted a star on her brow.
  • * At the gate where she arrived, Bluebeard's wife meets her brothers and leads them straight to the bloody chamber.

12. Confrontation & Rebirth ~ Parties & Payback
She returns to face her original betrayer. She needs them to acknowledge what they have done to her. This scene is often played out as a visit to her home in her bridal finery and a huge feast. However, this is also when the wicked are punished.
  • * Snow White's mother dances to death in molten iron shoes.
  • * Cinderella's stepmother and stepsisters lose their eyes to Cinderella's friends the birds.
  • * Beauty invites her family to the castle to meet her new and extremely handsome husband.
  • * Psyche's rumour-mongering sisters are transformed into birds.
  • * Rumpelstiltskin rips himself in half.
  • - o - In another version Rumpelstiltskin literally throws himself into her body (a poorly euphemistic rape,) right in front of the whole court. He's ripped out of her--and in half--by her angry Prince husband.
  • * In the Goose Girl, the false princess is set in a barrel of nails and driven around the castle walls 'til she dies.
  • * Under the direct gaze of the magic skull, Vasilisa's nasty stepmother and stepsister are burned to ash. She then buries the skull to keep it from harming anyone else.
  • - o - In the other version, Vasilisa's stepsister is so envious of Vasilisa's golden appearance--and the jewels she literally coughs up, she marches off to spend time with Baba Yaga herself, only she ends up in a vat of pitch. She comes out black-haired, dark-skinned, and spewing slugs and toads when she speaks. At the gate, when she looks away from the rooster she faces an ass and gains a donkey's tail on her brow.
  • * Bluebeard is hacked to pieces.

13. The Last Promise and Ever After
After all her final goodbyes are said, she returns to the Labyrinth to take her place there and receives one last gift, normally a crown or wealth, and makes one final promise. Sometimes it's merely a wedding vow, sometimes it's not.
  • * Snow White, Cinderella, Beauty, the Goose Girl, Rapunzel, the Sleeping Beauty, and Rumpelstiltskin's maiden all become queens who vow to rule wisely.
  • * Psyche accompanies her husband Eros to Olympus and becomes a demi-goddess who vows to stay by his side forever.
  • * Vasilisa's cleverness is noticed and she becomes advisor to the Tsar. She vows to always tell the truth.
  • - o - In another version, she merely makes her family rich enough to move into town where she ends up meeting a rich merchant's son. After yet another spiteful trick from her step-family, she marries him.
  • * Bluebeard's widow uses his gold to give every woman in the bloody chamber a proper burial and takes over his castle, but vows never to marry again.

So how does one use something like this for Writing?

Consider this a Plot Arc, a map of the major turning points in a story.
-- You can use it to plot the major turning points in any sort of heroine based adventure story, but it's far more effective as Relationship Journey for navigating Love, not life -- and not necessarily a purely female one. Simply fill in the blanks.

Act One
1. Upon a time ~ Secret Betrayal

Their own body betrays them by wanting sex -- and love.

2. Herald ~ Bearer of Bad News

"That person Likes you!"

3. Obedience to the Call

"Let's go see them!"

4. Mentors, Tricksters & Costly Gifts


First impressions

Act Two
5. Enter the Labyrinth

First personal Encounter

6. Secret Allies, Secret Enemies, Deadly Gifts & Scary Promises

The dating game.

7. Treachery ~ Broken Vows

"They haven't told you everything."

Act Three
8. CRASH Point ~ Center of the Labyrinth

Spying, Prying, and Stalking--oh my!

9. Ordeal ~ The Darkest Hour

They know that You know that They know...

10. Rewards & Punishments

To Trust and go on, or Not to trust and dump them?

Act Four
11. Release from the Labyrinth

Truth & Consequences

12. Confrontation & Rebirth ~ Parties & Payback

Showing off the new Lover (spouse); usually in front of the Old lover (spouse).

13. The Last Promise and Ever After

Marriage or...?

Wait, FOUR Acts, not Three?
Correct. The Fourth Act is the main character's resurrection from their Ordeal, their rebirth and exit from the labyrinth. Only Tragedies, like Red Riding Hood  finish at the end of a Third Act because the main character (or the relationship) does not survive the Ordeal.


DISCLAIMER: As with all advice, take what you can use and throw out the rest. If this advice does not suit your creative style, by all means, IGNORE IT.
Ookami Kasumi


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