between daemons: literary lions & lambs

Between Daemons is a discussion post series dealing in bookish and filmish topics. Inspired by the spiritual companions from the His Dark Materials series by Philip Pullman, I chose that specific title to encourage comments and conversations grounded in the personal thoughts, feelings, and opinions you may not have the chance to share very often. While disagreement is welcome, disrespect is not. As always, please be polite to your fellow commenters!

This month I have to start off with a massive Thank you! to Nicole @ FeedYourFictionAddiction: without her amazing list of discussion post ideas, I don't know if I would have found the inspiration for a March post! If you ever find yourself in a similar case of blogger's block, be sure to stop by and look over all the topics she's compiled. Whether you want a seasonal or month-specific prompt, or just something more general, you're bound to find a little inspiration!

Her themed topic for March captured my attention as soon as I read it, so I see no reason to tinker with an already-great idea. Inspired by the notion that March "comes in like a lion and goes out like a lamb", I'm going to list some of my favorite lions and lambs in the books that I've read. This isn't a literal challenge, though—you won't find Aslan anywhere on my list! Instead, "lions" are strong characters with big, bold personalities while "lambs" are those who stand out for their calm, peaceful demeanor. There's a lot to love at both ends of the spectrum, so let's get started!

LION: Lisbeth Salander (Millennium trilogy by Steig Larsson)
A protector of the weak and defenseless, particularly those targeted by powerful men operating beyond the law's reach, Lisbeth functions as total wish fulfillment in some ways. She satisfies a primal urge for vengeance that most readers can recognize, even if they never indulge it themselves. But a past filled with other powerful and unscrupulous men drives Lisbeth, forging her into the vigilante advocate she never had. What I love about her is that Larsson, an outspoken critic of violence against women, doesn't allow his fierce protagonist to escape all consequences. Her rage, justified or not, complicates her legal status, her mental health, and the friendships of those who care about her most. Rather than a wishful proxy, Lisbeth becomes a symbol of the satisfaction vengeance brings...and a cautionary tale of the price you pay for exacting it.

LAMB: Luna Lovegood (Harry Potter series by J.K. Rowling)
Luna is a confirmed badass. She was an original member of Dumbledore's Army, survived for months as a captive at Malfoy Manor, and fought in the Battle of Hogwarts—including helping Harry locate one of the final horcruxes! Her classification as a lamb doesn't mean she's passive; Luna simply shows her strength in a quieter way. She's a character that draws attention to the strengths of independent thought, self-confidence, and introspection. While she might not demonstrate Ginny Weasley's characteristic fire, she's a worthy hero to the millions of girls who read Harry Potter every year.

LION: Amy Dunne (Gone Girl by Gillian Flynn)
One of the most iconic literary anti-heroes of the 2010's, the presumed-murdered wife of Nick Dunne surged into the national (and international) conscience with her "cool girl" diatribe. Amy is a disdainful meta-character that reflects years of pent-up anger and frustration over societal double standards. Does her punishment—a possible death sentence for her innocent husband—fit the crime (in this case, apathy and infidelity)? Most readers would realistically say no...although more than a few are willing to admit she came up with an awfully satisfying scheme. Amy never apologizes for her plans or how they've impacted the lives of those around her; it may not always make her out as the most sympathetic of characters, but it does cement her as a strong-willed and independent woman sick of taking crap from others.

LAMB: Cassandra Mortmain (I Capture the Castle by Dodie Smith)
Like Luna, Cassandra is no less strong for her quieter personality. Sheltered and shy, she must navigate an already unconventional adolescence with the added complication of two handsome and eligible new neighbors. Her sister Rose's exuberant personality only magnifies her own natural reticence, oftentimes giving the impression of a girl who isn't merely shy, but awkward. She's quite sensitive to the feelings and needs of others and fiercely protective of her family; when her father faces a crisis, Cassandra takes charge of the tenuous situation to great success. As a young teenager I identified with Cassandra a great deal. In her I saw many of my opinions of myself reflected: pretty but not eye-catching, quiet around strangers, cautious and circumspect when faced with change. All of these qualities help Cassandra rather than impede her, which makes her another lovely role model.

LION: Judge Holden (Blood Meridian by Cormac McCarthy)
While my other two leonine selections occupy a moral grey area, Judge Holden is unequivocally evil. And he also has the boldest personality of the bunch, if you take "bold" to mean megalomaniacal. Holden wishes to become "suzerain"—think indisputable overlord—over all living things, which he claims exist without his permission if he hasn't yet encountered and cataloged them. His presence is god-like, although it's the terrible and wrathful god from the Old Testament rather than the benevolent deity of the New. Holden allows no exception and extends no mercy to those who interfere with his ideas of supreme sovereignty, sweeping through the narrative like an unnatural force of nature. He's a character both powerful and chilling, impossible to fully comprehend with just one reading, and one of the most exquisite villains in modern American literature.

LAMB: Sansa Stark (A Song of Ice and Fire series by George R.R. Martin)
Do not get me started on a Sansa Stark tangent. Piled on by book and TV fans alike, her courtly methods of survival in King's Landing and the world beyond apparently invite more than their share of disdain. And I'm not here for it. One of my all-time favorite fantasy characters, Sansa faces down threats of assault, rape, and death with more poise at 11 years old (!!!) than most of us could conjure up at any age. Over the course of five books her skins has turned "to porcelain, to ivory, to steel", forged by tragedy and tempered with a grace beyond her septa's lessons. She deserves so much more love than the fandom—outside a few dedicated pockets—has shown her, and I believe that she's ultimately the strongest character on this list.

Who are some of your favorite "lions" and "lambs"? Do you prefer one personality type to the other? And which one do you think you are?

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