Good Hair

Quick aside on the fantasy genre’s treatment of hair. I’m sure that everyone has read a fantasy set in “mock-Europe” in which the heroine has a rare hair color to set her apart–red, for example, or silver blonde (which I’m not sure even exists, even after the discovery of hair bleach among the white peoples). It’s something of a cliche by this point. In addition, the heroine often has dramatically long hair, which looks beautiful even when she sleeps in the dirt and and never gets in the way when she has to do some awesome fighty stuff or cast fire from her amulet or dragons or whatever. Anyone who has dealt with long hair knows this is the true magic.

I mention this because I’ve just started Mary Gentle’s Ash, in which the heroine manages to be a fully armored medieval mercenary captain while sporting a full yard of attractive ash blonde hair. There’s a certain amount of trust that I lose in an author when she pulls a stunt like this–really, everyone is pissing, shitting, puking, and bleeding left and right, and the heroine has hair down to her dirty ass? But just as I was about to despair, Gentle earned back some of my trust by mentioning how Ash’s hair catches in her armor. She puts up with it because it looks so good, and she’s a bit vain about her image as a woman warrior. I’m still not certain whether this works or not as a realistic depiction of hair or as a character trait (Gentle’s characterization has always been a bit slapdash for me), but at least this isn’t total hair high fantasy. Hair grimdark, maybe?

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