Female Archers in Fiction
You don’t have to look far to find female archers in fiction. Though male archers obviously do exist too, this is often part of their specific characterisation (Arrow and Hawkeye are the most obvious here).
In contrast, female archers in fiction frequently use the bow and arrow as their weapon of choice as a warrior: nothing more, nothing less. In fact, female archer warriors use the bow and arrow so often, it’s become a trope of its own.
Tropes are those recurrent ideas or motifs we see in novels, movies or TV. Whilst many internet commentators believe tropes are automatically a bad thing, this is not true. All stories need tropes … It’s when tropes are overused, clichéd or offensive they become stale, generic or even toxic.
There’s nothing wrong with female archers, plus audiences don’t seem bored with them yet!
The archetype goes all the way back to myth and legend: Artemis, the Greek goddess of the hunt, comes to mind … As does her Nordic equivalent Skadi.
There’s also the Amazon warriors who were also archers, made popular by DC comics’ Wonder Woman.
I also wonder if it’s something to do with the US idiom ‘straight arrow’, meaning ‘an honest, morally upright person’, especially when so many of these female archers are protagonists (aka heroes / heroines). Conscious or unconscious, it seems likely!
Top 10 Female Archers
So, with all this in mind, I thought I’d do a rundown of B2W’s top 10 female archers in movies and TV. Ready? Let’s go …
1) Neytiri, Avatar (2009)
With the long-awaited Avatar: The Way of Water out before Christmas, obviously we must include Neytiri!
Love or hate Avatar, Neytiri is still the stand-out character for me in the original. Played by Zoe Saldana, Neytiri teaches Jake how to use a bow and arrow after saving him from a pack of viperwolves. Though she is a fearless warrior, she won’t kill unless absolutely necessary.
2) Katniss Everdeen, The Hunger Games (2012)
Another MUST-HAVE for our list, Katniss Everdeen (Jennifer Lawrence) must enter the gladiatorial arena in place of her younger sister, Primrose. She takes on first the other tributes, then the evil President Snow (Donald Sutherland) in the rest of the franchise. Her skill as an archer gets her through all the horrific trials and the rebellion that follows.
3) Kate Bishop, Hawkeye (2021)
I always find it super-interesting how many young female characters have male mentor figures. Just like Katniss has Haymitch in The Hunger Games, in Disney+’s Hawkeye Kate Bishop (Hailee Steinfeld) is mentored by Avenger Clint Barton (Jeremy Renner).
In true Hawkeye fashion then, Clint is reluctant to help his protégé because he wants to get back to his family for Christmas … but then he and Kate get wrapped up in a conspiracy.
4) Abigail Whistler, Blade: Trinity (2004)
Okay, So Blade Trinity was a bad movie. That said, Abigail Whistler (played to perfection by Jessica Biel) was the very epitome of the Kickass Hottie. She even baits them by pretending to be a vulnerable young mum, then SUPRISE: whips their butts!
5) Charlie Matheson, Revolution (2013-2014)
Revolution was a post-apocalyptic TV series from the same team that brought us the iconic Lost and later, Amazon Prime’s The Boys. In the story, all electricity – even things powered by batteries – has been shut down and society has fallen apart. People are starving, militias have taken over America and all seems lost.
Charlie (Tracy Spiradakos) was just a little girl when the ‘blackout’ happened. Fifteen years on, her brother is abducted by the militia and her father is murdered. This forces her out on the road to find her uncle Miles (Billy Burke) to help get her brother back … and on the way, she gets in touch with her inner fighter. Using everything at her disposal, Charlie’s weapon of choice is a crossbow. I loved to see her arc move from a helpless teen to a pragmatic soldier who will do whatever it takes.
6) Merida, Brave (2012)
Who said princesses have to wait around to be rescued? Not Merida, who uses her superior archery skills to thwart an attempt by her parents’ attempt to arrange a marriage for her.
She wins ‘her own hand’ when she beats ALL the would-be suitors. That’s more like it.
7) Susan Pevensie, The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe (2005)
Susan (played by Anna Popplewell) is the elder sister and second eldest Pevensie child. As well as being a great leader and highly intelligent, she is also a talented archer. Susan’s bow and arrows, along with her horn, were her most prized possessions when she reigned in Narnia as Queen Susan the Gentle.
8) Guinevere, King Arthur (2004)
In this version of the legend, Guinevere (played by Keira Knightley) is Merlin’s daughter. Unlike him, she does not wield magic, but a bow and arrow. Outside of the movie, Knightley said she ‘felt let down’ that the US movie posters gave her ‘strange, droopy breasts’.
9) Mulan, Mulan (1998 and 2020)
Young Mulan (voiced by Ming-Na and played by Yifei Liu in the 2020 live action remake) learns that her ailing father must join the army to fight off in invaders.
She comes up with a cunning plan: she disguises herself as a man and joins the army in his place. To do so, she must learn archery and even how to retrieve an arrow from a high post while weighed down.
10) Haniwa, See (2019-2022)
This AppleTV series is set five hundred years in the future where nearly all humans are blind. Humans have adapted, so they can do most things sighted people take for granted, included fighting and war.
In this feudal society, sighted twins are born: Haniwa and Kofun. Because of their ‘difference’, they are hunted as witches and face being burned at the stake.
Unlike her brother Kofun who believes being sighted is a curse, Haniwa believes her sight is a gift. So it makes sense she would pick the bow and arrow as a weapon … but she must hang back because otherwise she will be killed easily by the blind warriors. MORE: 8 Powerful Reminders For Writers From SEE On AppleTV
Who is your favourite female archer on this list? Share in the comments!
Did you know … B2W’s book, Writing & Selling Thriller Screenplays will be TEN YEARS OLD in 2023!
To commemorate this occasion, I have revisited book and updated it for its anniversary.
I’ve added a whopping extra 100 pages!! This includes new case studies, plus information on television pilots as well as movie screenplays. Here’s the blurb:
Writing and Selling Thriller Screenplays has the lowdown on how to get your thriller feature script on to the page, and how to get it in front of producers and investors.
“First published in 2013, this new edition offers an all-new resources section and a host of new case studies that map the considerable changes of the past decade.
With marketplace disruptors such as Netflix and the first phases of The Marvel Cinematic Universe leaving their mark, new opportunities have been created for screenwriters and filmmakers who are keen to get their stories in front of industry professionals.
This time around, Lucy V Hay doesn’t just guide you through the writing of movies, but spec TV pilots too. Putting iconic, mixed-genre projects under the microscope – such as Stranger Things (horror thriller), Brooklyn 99 (comedy thriller) and Lost (sci fi thriller) – she considers what writers can learn from these shows.
She also argues that the lone protagonist in a thriller has had its day and looks at how the genre is moving into a space beyond ‘The Hero’s Journey’. Case studies to support this include The Hunger Games, Captain Marvel, Iron Man and many more.
Finally, the book considers how the screenplay might be sold to investors, exploring high concept ideas, pitching, packaging and the realities of film finance – all updated for the 2020s – and lays out alternative routes to sales and production, including transmedia such as novels and adaptation, and immersive storytelling online.” BUY IT HERE.