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Here Are 5 Book Characters Who Rocked My Childhood

It's National Book Lovers Day!

Belle Beauty and the Beast

Today is National Book Lovers Day, and man is there so much to love. Books have always been a safe place for me, but have also given me some heroes (and villains) that have stuck with me throughout my adult life. When I think of the characters who really influenced my tastes before I was a teenager, these are the five who left their mark on the world and my head.

1) Sara Crewe (A Little Princess):

A Little Princess has always been one of my favorite books of all time and its protagonist, Sara Crewe, is probably the character I’ve most modeled myself after in terms of temperament and inner strength. In the novel, Sara begins the story as a rich and intelligent heiress who has been given every pleasure but is unspoiled and kind, despite having a bit of a temper. When her father dies and she is left penniless at the dower Miss Minchen School for Girls, she is forced to become a servant at the boarding school.

All throughout the story, Sara tries to be kind and gracious in the face of her adversity. Even when she is starving, she realizes that she has the comfort of a home when others don’t. There are a lot of imperialist and royalist issues with this book (and a lot of Burnett’s books for children), but I always admired Sara for being strong, kind, brave, and unwilling to allow the darkness of the world to turn her into a bad person. She is in many ways the proto-Sansa for me.

If you’ve seen the 1995 Alfonso Cuarón movie it is, of course, excellent, despite the adaption changes (something Cuarón is great at) but if you want to see the best adaptation of A Little Princess that is the 80s television series which has the most perfect casting. It is finally on DVD, but there are great YouTube ripped videos of it.

2) Anne Shirley (Anne of Green Gables):

I would fight for Anne Shirley. I remember reading the first book in the series over and over again in bed when it was late. I fell deeply in love with Anne Shirley. Her imagination, her passion, her intellect, and her desire to do the right thing. Anne Shirley is the heroine of the Anne of Green Gables series. Orphaned at a young age she was passed around to various abusive families before being adopted by the Marilla and Matthew Cuthbert despite them originally wanting a boy. Her trials of growing up and learning to thrive in Anvolea engrossed me as a child and while the sequels are not as epic as the first in terms of the scope of Anne’s life, I think what makes that first book so special was that Anne was kind of a brat.

At the time, I’d been used to reading books that had protagonists that were always so good and so kind, but I loved Anne because there was a kick to her. She was angry and proud, a little silly and vain, and that allowed her to have someone to grow up into it. She wasn’t perfect like Sara, she was so human and I got to be her friend and watch her grow up and every time I’ve read the book or watched one of the television series it has been that same delightful experience.

There are a lot of great adaptations of the series, but funny enough the anime is one of my favorites. The series is very popular in Japan.

3) Veralidaine “Daine” Sarrasri (Tortall Series):

Tamora Pierce is probably one of the biggest inspirations for me as a writer. I loved her stories, her worldbuilding, and the way she knew how to craft so many dynamic personalities in the books. She knew how to write powerful women that were also people and my favorite of the bunch is Veralidaine Sarrasri or Daine as she’s called in the books, from The Immortals quartet of the Tortall universe.

Before there was Jon Snow, Daine was the super special bastard child protagonist I was familiar with. Born to Sarra Beneksri, and a then-unknown father, Daine grew up peacefully with her mother and grandmother until bandits came and killed almost everyone. Daine only survived because she wasn’t there at the time. She’d always had a “knack” with animals, but after the trauma of losing her mother and grandmother, her wild magic really sparked and she went wild, living with the wolves and getting revenge on the bandits. Wild magic enables her to communicate with all vertebrate animals, and speak mentally with those immortals who do not have voices of their own. She can also heal, control, and later on, resurrect animals. She’s Eliza Thornberry, if Eliza was a demi-god.

Daine was just so cool for me as a kid. She was this powerful young magician with a great destiny and purpose that we got to watch unfold. I loved her bravery and I’ll never forget reading the scene in Emperor Mage where she reanimates dinosaurs in a fit of rage. The fact that we don’t have any adaptations of this series is a grave injustice.

4) Edmund Dantès (The Count of Monte Cristo):

I read Alexander Dumas’ tome of a novel when I was way too young to understand all the nuances of it. But after watching the (highly inaccurate) 2002 film, I simply had to read this book! Naturally, being only ten at the time, there was a lot of things I missed until I reread it again more than a decade later, but there was one thing that always stuck with me: how much I wanted Edmund Dantès to get justice.

The Count of Monte Cristo is about a man named Edmund Dantès, who is betrayed and framed by men jealous of him and finds himself sent to jail for life despite being innocent. He meets Abbe Faria, who is also in jail for life. They plan an escape over a decade and during that time Faria educates Edmund in a variety of subjects and helps him come to terms with who wrong him. Knowing death is near for him, Faria tells Edmund about a huge secret fortune that is hidden on the island of Monte Cristo. Edmund sneaks out in Faria’s body bag, gets the money and decides to get revenge on all those who wronged him.

As a kid, I could only see the surface tragedy of a man who did nothing wrong, but as an adult I could see the larger tragedy of how revenge doesn’t just have one target. Hurting one person, can often mean hurting many others in the process. Edmund was the first anti-hero I ever rooted for and I think is the reason I have always been partial to revenge stories in the first place. He wins in the end, but at what cost to the person he was before? It’s a beautiful tragedy that I love revisiting.

5) Artemis Fowl:

Pre-teen criminal mastermind who tricks magical creatures into giving him all of their cash? Sign me up. I actually read Artemis Fowl before I read the Harry Potter books just because I liked the cover for Fowl more. That gold dusk jacket with the symbols on it just seemed so interesting. The series has been a little clunky at times,  but I really remember falling in love with Artemis Fowl (pretty sure I had a crush on him as a kid, but whatever I’m sure that nothing was internalized about that at all).

Artemis Fowl II is a teenaged genius who captures Holly Short, a Fairy and a captain of the Lower Elements Police Recon (LEPrecon). He holds her for a ransom of gold in order to exploit the magical Fairy People and restore his family’s fortune, which was wrecked when his father went missing. In the first book Artemis is purely a villain protagonist, but as the series progresses he becomes more of an antihero. One of the most fascinating things about the story was Artemis being clever and using his wits in a magical environment.

The movie was originally supposed to come out today, but it has been pushed back for May 2020. Will it translate the big screen? (Look at the cast list)

Ehhhh…

Who are some of the most influential book characters from your childhood?

(image: Disney)

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Princess (she/her-bisexual) is a Brooklyn born Megan Fox truther, who loves Sailor Moon, mythology, and diversity within sci-fi/fantasy. Still lives in Brooklyn with her over 500 Pokémon that she has Eevee trained into a mighty army. Team Zutara forever.