|Top Ten Tuesdays are created and hosted by the Broke and the Bookish.|
It's that time of the year where you are constantly surrounded by red hearts and cutesy teddy-bears (and if you're really lucky, a display table of pink stationery at Staples!) as the shops cash in on coupledom even more than usual. Romantic love is a fine thing (she says, grudgingly) but, despite the media assuming that everybody is (heterosexually) paired up, it is not a part of every person's life - and nor is the single person's life incomplete without their "other half." So in this week's Valentine-themed Top Ten Tuesday I've chosen to celebrate literature's single heroes and heroines.
- Bilbo Baggins: The Hobbit and The Lord of the Rings by J. R. R. Tolkien. Perhaps because The Hobbit has literally no female characters (unless, as I still like to believe, some of Thorin's band are lady dwarves but Bilbo is too unobservant to notice) but it is one of the few stories out there without a single romantic subplot. In decades following his adventures, Bilbo lives a happy and comfortable bachelor's life at Bag Eng, the eccentric of Hobbiton. His nephew, Frodo, hero of Lord of the Rings also never marries or even considers it as a possibility. He is rather more damaged by his adventures, and opens his home to his good friend Sam and his family before crossing the sea to find healing in "the West."
- Sherlock Holmes in the stories by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle has no time for romantic distractions; his work is too important to him to even consider courtship or marriage. Almost certainly asexual and aromantic.*
- Esmerelda "Granny" Weatherwax: Discworld by Sir Terry Pratchett. Granny Weatherwax is the leader that witches don't have: stubborn, prickly and judgemental, Granny nonetheless has a strong moral compass and a huge heap of resentment for it - she'd rather have been the wicked witch of the family. Her brand of witchcraft is mostly plain common sense, with just a little bit of magic when necessary. One of Sir Pterry's most enduring characters.
- Mark Watney: The Martian by Andy Weir. We don't know a lot about Watney's personal life on earth, but for the duration of the novel he is the only person on a planet for over a year. That's pretty much as single as they come. Watney's resourcefulness, resilience and a quirky sense of humour help him to survive an impossible situation.
- Matthew Cuthbert: Anne of Green Gables by L. M. Montgomery. I could have equally selected Matthew's sister Marilla here, but Matthew seems more at peace with his bachelor existence - after all, if he were to court a woman, he'd have to talk to her, and Matthew is the shyest man imaginable. He lives a quiet life as a hard-working farmer, but his world is turned upside down by the arrival of a little red-headed chatterbox one spring morning.
- Professor Minerva McGonagall: Harry Potter by J. K. Rowling. Rowling later revealed that Professor McGonagall was widowed, but as this happened a long time before the start of the series, I'll let that stand. She is the head of Gryffindor House at Hogwarts, and deputy head of the school, rather prim and stern on first meeting, but gradually revealed to have a softer side and fiercely protective of her students.
- The Hempstock women: The Ocean at the End of the Lane - Neil Gaiman. I'm including all three here, as they are inseparable, three generations of women (one a little girl who has been a little girl for a very long time.) There have been men, perhaps,once, but the Hempstocks are a self-sufficient matriarchy on a cosy farm, seem very ordinary on the outside, but beneath that homely surface runs a deep, strong power.
- The Marquis de Carabas: Neverwhere - Neil Gaiman. I'm not sure de Carabas really counts as I'm quite certain he has dozens of lovers off the page. But, at the same time, he is an imposing, tricky, solitary figure, like the cat from the fairy tale from which he has taken his name and built his reputation.
- Snufkin: The Moomins by Tove Jansson. Snufkin is a solitary wanderer, quietly self-confident, and although he has good friends among the Moomin clan, he always stands a little by himself, happily playing his harmonica and thinking wise and philosophical thoughts.
- Miss Jenny Honey: Matilda by Roald Dahl. Despite - or perhaps because of - her abusive upbringing at the hands of her monstrous aunt (and now employer) Miss Trunchbull, Miss Honey is a gentle, kind-hearted primary school teacher, beloved by the children in her class, and who takes particular care for child prodigy Matilda. Jenny is the sort of teacher who makes a child want to come to school in the morning, makes learning fun, sweet but determined that a child gets every opportunity possible, a quiet protector even while still living in terror of her aunt. She is a survivor; her home is a tiny, shabby cottage, her food is plain, and yet it is her sanctuary. But little as she has, she does not hesitate to share it with Matilda to save her from the miserable, neglected childhood she herself experienced.
A note: This was a really tricky list to come up with. I was very strict with what constituted "single" - someone who goes on dates does not qualify, nor do child characters or a lady who spends most of the book single before finding her prince charming just in time for the end of the book. Women in particular were very difficult to find; in centuries of novels, most ladies seem to be there to support their men or to eventually find a man to support them - or be the slightly sad or ridiculous maiden aunt whose life has passed her by. What does it say that three of my four female entries are either old witches or witch-ish?
There must be more stories about single ladies living their lives where "happily ever after" doesn't mean married with kids. (And I recognise that I too need to write these stories.)
One of my Twitter friends, @thepagelady suggested a couple of titles I hadn't come across before: Julie of the Wolves by Jean Craighead George and Island of the Blue Dolphins by Scott O'Dell, both of whose protagonists are girls or women who are "single by circumstances." Definitely books I plan to look out for.
Can you suggest any more examples?
*There's an extra "n" in it. I have no idea how he smells. Probably like pipe tobacco.