The classic hero of myth and legend is defined in masculine terms. How, then, can there be an authentic female hero — a hero who is both authentic as a hero and authentic as a woman?

While the hero’s journey is one of the most ancient and most popular themes of world literature, casting a female protagonist in this classic form is fraught with difficulty. The heroic archetype portrays the hero as the embodiment of the masculine ideal. He is extolled for his physical strength, his prowess in battle, his triumphs over his enemies. In a world where might makes right, how can a woman compete?

But to judge a woman by the strengths and virtues of the typical male hero does her an injustice, because women have strengths and virtues of their own.

Many stories of female heroes resort to role-reversal by simply changing the gender of the hero. She competes with men on their terms, and by the same means. But the hero of When Women Were Warriors is different. Although she faces challenges as difficult and as dangerous as those faced by her male counterparts, she prevails without reaching first for the favorite weapon of the classic male hero — the sword.

The hero of When Women Were Warriors becomes a hero, not by defeating her enemies in battle, although she does that too, but by learning to master herself and to understand the human heart. She becomes, not a powerful person, but a person of power.