A girl, a sword and a symbol of emancipation

How a childish fantasy world led me to my love for the blade

When I was little, my father and I sat around the kitchen table where he taught me to read. I was always excited, especially on Sundays when he picked up the Sunday Daily News, the New York Times and the Long Island Press. After church we would come home and dad would open the newspaper to the comics that would become my favorite comic book heroes.

My favorite stories included Superman, whom I loved for his powers and bravery; Batman, who was mysterious in black (and even at seven I loved black); and Prince Valiant – well, he was just a cute prince who wielded his sword so heroically against bad guys.

Then there was Wonder Woman. I wanted to be like her. Her patriotic costume was a symbol of power and strength to me, and when she was Diana Prince, out of her Wonder Woman armor, she was just like me. I wanted the costume, the jewels and, above all, to wield his sword. I even remember asking my dad if I could have a sword like Wonder Woman’s for my birthday. When I didn’t get it I was so disappointed. My dad consoled me by saying that Wonder Woman thought I needed to be older, taller, and learn to be more responsible to own and wield a sword. Just the thought of my dad talking to Wonder Woman was enough to make him a hero and make me want to be like her.

For me, Excalibur, like Wonder Woman’s sword, Athena’s sword, was my Amazonian symbol of freedom.

I guess you can say that at age seven in 1963, I was already one of the second-wave feminists before I even knew what that meant. My mother was a traditionalist. The little girls grow up, go to school – not college but secretarial school – get managerial jobs, get married, have children, and become simple old housewives and mothers. That’s it! My dad thought getting a degree was a waste of time and money. I would get married and my husband would take care of me.

I didn’t fit my mother’s mold. I got my first job at 13 as a preschool paperboy for the Long Island Press. I got up at five in the morning, put on my jeans and a sweater, jumped on my Blue Schwinn bike with the basket in front, and picked up thirty papers to deliver to my neighbors. This was actually my little brother’s journey, but he went to camp for the summer, came home and didn’t want it anymore. I took it over and became the only journalist on the road.

I have been working since, except when my children were born and I took maternity leave. Working is in my genes. But there again, I am a work force. Work has always been an escape for me from the abuse I suffered as a young girl.

In high school, I discovered a new subject, medieval history and the stories of King Arthur and his incredible round table. His sword Excalibur has become the symbol of my Holy Grail. I wanted to own Excalibur, strap on armor and take that beautiful blade and spar with the knights. For me, Excalibur, like Wonder Woman’s sword, Athena’s sword, was my Amazonian symbol of freedom. He was considered the “God killer”. I didn’t want to literally kill God, but I wanted Athena’s sword to be my sword of revenge, to kill my attackers and take away all my pain. As for Excalibur, I wanted to fight with her so I could fight for justice and for those who were abused like me. My holy grail was to help others stop the same pain I was experiencing every day.

Life has a strange way of working. As a young woman, I never learned to use a sword. I started university but had to leave for a short time to help my family. Working, getting married and raising a family became my endeavors, especially caring for a son and husband with special needs. Meanwhile, as I spent hours in a doctor’s office or countless days in hospitals with my husband while the good doctors tried to find out what was killing him, I started reading about my heroes again. of comics.

For my birthday, my father gave me the book “The death of Arthur” by Thomas Mallory. Inside the cover of the book were the words “Hic iacet Arthurus, rex quondam rexque futurus” or “Here lies Arthur, the ancient and future king.“My heart and soul soared – I was back home with Excalibur and Arthur’s Knights of the Round Table. After reading this book, I began to voraciously read many other titles about King Arthur. I read the book “Merlin” by Jean Markael, which ends with Merlin saying to the beautiful Nimue, “There, there is no more magic.” I couldn’t live with that.

The day he put a foil in my hands and I started practicing with the blade, the pain of abuse that I had felt in my soul for years seemed to disappear.

This book inspired me to learn how to respectfully use a sword. I joined the Woodside Fencing Club run by fencing instructor Wiltold Rak. The day he put a foil in my hands and I started practicing with the blade, the pain of abuse that I had felt in my soul for years seemed to disappear. All my comic book heroes were in the room and I was finally Wonder Woman. I started collecting swords and joined the Society for Creative Anachronism and learned from my fellow Ostgardrs (the East City-East Castle, or the Clan of the Sea Horse or Horse Realm) to wield a rapier and use a shield. That’s where I won the beginners tournament. The tournament was held at Fort Tryon Park during the Renaissance Fair. I fought against other novice sword fighters and won. I was given a golden rapier for a trophy. It is mounted on red velvet and hung on my wall.

Later I started writing books about King Arthur such as “Excalibur’s Quest,” “Excalibur and the Holy Grail” and “Excalibur gets its king backunder my pseudonym, Angelica Harris. These are the stories of Arianna Lawrence, my alter ego, who unearths the Excalibur sword here in our time and travels back in time to return the sword to its rightful owner, King Arthur. It is there that through the tutelage of Merlin and Lady Viviane, Arianna becomes a powerful high priestess, the guardian of Excalibur and the confidante of King Arthur and Galahad. Book Four, “Excalibur and the Titulus of Christ,” is currently in production. To learn more about Arianna’s legacy, you’ll have to read for yourself.

back to school was another form of empowerment for me. My education is so vital to me. Next year I will be senior. I am an honors student, have been on the Dean’s List twice, and have been inducted into the Alpha Sigma Lambda Honors Society. My major is English and my MA’s area of ​​study will be social justice, feminism, and poetry. My sword gave me discipline and the will to excel, and my pen and my education are my holy grail and my power.

James V. Hayes