If lexicographers ran for congress . . .

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Aladdin Saluted Her with Joy, illustration by Virginia Frances Sterrett from Arabian Nights (1928).

Aladdin Saluted Her with Joy, illustration by Virginia Frances Sterrett from Arabian Nights (1928).

“Well, that surprises me!” Simplia said as she clicked back and forth between two different pages on her laptop.

“What?” Sagacia asked.

“Well, The Oxford Online Dictionary defines ‘hero’ and ‘heroine’ using exactly the same adjectives for each gender. Listen! It says:

hero:  A person, typically a man, who is admired or idealized for courage, outstanding achievements, or noble qualities;

and,

heroine: a woman admired or idealized for her courage, outstanding achievements, or noble qualities.”

“Well, I’ll be a monkey’s uncle!” Sagacia exclaimed. “Or ‘aunt.’”

“And the second definitions are the same, too,” Simplia exclaimed. “The chief—uh, male or female—character in a book, play, or movie, who is typically identified with good qualities, and with whom the reader is expected to sympathize.”

“Wow!” Sagacia sighed. “Two equal definitions in a row!”

“Ooh, ooh!” said Simplia. “Make that three! Listen: ‘(In mythology and folklore) a person of superhuman qualities and often semidivine origin, in particular one of those whose exploits and dealings with the gods were the subject of ancient Greek myths and legends.’ Actually, it does say ‘woman’ instead of ‘person’ in the heroine definition, but still, I’m impressed.”

“I am, too,” Sagacia said, walking around the table to read for herself. “The dictionary is keeping up to date on things, ahead of most of the world, in fact!”

“Yeah. So, why can’t some lexicographers run for congress?” Simplia asked.

Sagacia snickered. “Can’t afford to,” she said.

“I guess not!” Simplia agreed. “By the way, how are we coming on that roster of people’s favorite heroes for the Library Summer Reading Program theme. What was it, again?”

“‘Every Hero Has a Story,” Sagacia said, pulling out her phone.  “We just got some new ones from Charles Kiernan, Megan Hicks, Mary Grace Ketner and Csenge Zalka. I put them in alphabetical order with the ones we already had from Sue Kuentz and Csenge and Barra the Bard and Fiona Birchall.”

“Alphabetical order! How like you!” Simplia noted. “I mean that in a good way, of course!” she hastened to add.

“Thanks!” Sagacia replied, still scrolling. “They mentioned some real life and legendary heroes, too, but I put only the fairy tale ones on this list,” she explained, poking her phone and scrolling down.

“How like you!” Simplia repeated smiling.

“Here they are,” Sagacia said, and she read and scrolled and read and scrolled with occasional parenthetical commentary.

Aladdin
Clever Manka
Fa-Mulan
Fool of the World
Jack
Janet from Tam Lin
Little Prince from The Giant named Fear
Lute Player Queen
Maude Applegate (She was mentioned three times)
Morgiana, Ali Baba’s slave
Pretty Maid Ibronka
Rose-White
Savitri
Scheherazade (mentioned twice)
Vasilisa (also mentioned twice)
Youngest of three brothers (So that’s the same as Jack or the Fool of the World.)
Zaynab and Dalila

“A lot of agreement!” Simplia noted.

“And three of them plus Scheherazede herself are from The 1001 Arabian Nights!” Sagacia added. “Not that the list is final!”

“Of course not!” Simplia replied, slapping her laptop lid closed. “We haven’t been over to the Fairy Tale Lobby all week! There could be storytellers there at this very moment discussing other names.”

“Let’s go!” said Sagacai, pocketing her phone and gesturing to the door.

Simplia stepped out, and Sagacia did, too, locking the door behind them.

“I’ve also been thinking about something else our magical friends said,” Simplia commented thoughtfully a few steps down the lane.

“What?” Sagacia asked.

“About heroes and protagonists,” Simplia replied.  “Megan mentioned True Thomas (the Rhymer) as being adorable but not particularly brave, and his wisdom came about as a result of a gift he would have rejected had he been given the choice.”

“Hmmm…” said Sagacia.

“And Charles said that the youngest of three brothers never appears to have much going for him, and in some cases is not afraid to sit down and have a good cry.”

“That sounds like me, sometimes. Kind of like that third definition, about the hero being the one with whom the reader is expected to sympathize,” Sagacia said.

“And Mary Grace called the Fool of the World ‘generous, welcoming, and open to whatever happens next.’ None of those qualities is stated in the Oxford Dictionary definition.”

“And some traits mentioned by Barra and Csenge and Sue and Fiona are not the same is those stated by the lexicographers, either,” Sagacia pondered.

“Yep” Simplia agreed. “Storytellers said things like overcoming one’s own fears, persistence, patience, courtesy, kindness and generosity, keeping your word, perseverance, resourcefulness, empathy, knowledge that failure is an important step towards succeeding. Those are all great qualities to have! Are those what the dictionary meant by ‘noble qualities’?”

“Yeah! That’s kind of what I’m wondering,” Sagacia nodded.

“And courage,” Simplia continued. “That was one our magical friends named that was in the dictionary, too.

“Yeah,” Sagacia agreed. “Some of those are heroic qualities, but some are, maybe, more protagonist qualities than hero qualities. The dictionary should have been more specific! What did they mean by ‘noble qualities’ anyway! I’ll give the lexicographer points for gender equality and the storytellers points for clarity!”

“Step it up!” said Simplia, picking up her pace. “I bet there are some magical friends at the Fairy Tale Lobby right now who will have something to say about that! And maybe some more names for us, too.”