Wednesday, April 20, 2011

Favorite Fictional Character --- Signe de Barbentain

I have been having a hard time narrowing my favorite female fantasy characters down to just four.  There are so many outstanding characters that I feel I will be leaving many out that deserve the recognition.  One character I definitely wanted to showcase is Signe de Barbentain from A Song for Arbonne by Guy Gavriel Kay.  This is a book that explores art, culture, gender politics, and the role of religious war in a society very much like Medieval France. 

Signe de Barbentain is the Countess and ruler of Arbonne.  A sun drenched country filled with troubadours, courtly love, and goddess worship.  She is threatened by her northern neighbor and it's high cleric who is bent on destroying "woman ruled" Arbonne.  She is also a widow, thrust into power that she never really wanted but handles with a deft and style all her own.   She has been charged with protecting a country that is not only threatened by outside forces but by internal divisions as well.

Signe had two daughters by her late husband.  One of them Aelis de Miraval, died in childbirth bearing the child of her lover, not her husband.  Her oldest, Beatrice de Barbentain blinded herself and became the head Priestess of the Goddess Raine.  Though Beatrice is a power in her own right, it was Aelis that had the biggest influence on the current events.  It's the ramifications of that betrayal that is threatening to destroy Arbonne at the time of her greatest need. 

The way Signe handles the internal politics and the outside army ready to destroy her, is what makes her such a great character.  Though she doesn't get as much page time as a lot of the other characters, it's Signe that is quietly arranging events and people to protect her country.  She deftly arranges the help of the son of her enemy, handles the relationship with other countries that are currently on the sidelines, and puts into motion the plan that will save them all.  She does it all without compromising herself or her nation.  She is a strong ruler and woman.  She is someone that a few politicians should look towards for inspiration.


Michelle Stockard Miller said...

Another book I have owned for a while and that I really must read...someday. =O) It always the same old thing with me. *L* I'll be paying attention to Signe when I do read it. Great post!

Simcha said...

You know, I've never actually read any of Kay's book although I have been intending to for a long time. This looks like it would be a great book to start with. Signe sounds like a character that I would really enjoy getting to know.