With the Queen on most people’s minds, the Huffington Post recently published a list of favourite queens from literature. They included three queens from Alice in Wonderland, Tatiana from A Midsummer Night’s Dream, Guinevere from the many stories of King Arthur, Lady Macbeth from Macbeth, the White Witch from the Narnia series, the Faerie Queen from Edmund Spenser’s poem, and several others with which I am not familiar.
The characters of queens portrayed in literature appear to fall into two camps: wicked, power-hungry and cruel, like Lady Macbeth, the Narnia witch and the beauty-obsessed queen of the Snow White fairytale; or they are so virtuous and good and beautiful that they transcend normal humanity and become ethereal and magical. How difficult to be a queen, then, who is simply a normal person, doing her best in her role but making mistakes as would anyone.
This article sparked my imagination, so I decided to do some research online and look for other queens portrayed in literature. Google misinterpreted my search query and led me straight to the website of the University of Indiana, to a library page on children’s games of the past. There I read about a deck of playing cards created in New York in 1886 called ‘Queens of Literature’. It is amazing in that people respected and admired female writers sufficiently to dub them queens. The cards feature eight authors, of whom Louisa May Alcott, George Eliot, Charlotte Bronte and Harriet Beecher Stowe are the most familiar to us today.
Whom would you include if you were to settle on eight ‘queens of literature’? Jane Austen, Virginia Woolf, Mary Wollstonecraft, Elizabeth Barrett Browning, Emily Dickinson, Margaret Atwood, Alice Walker, Toni Morrison, Zora Neale Hurston, JK Rowling, LM Montgomery… isn’t it wonderful that there are so, so many possibilities!