Here’s a little something about me: I do love a good archer in my fiction. Yes, those dazzling sword fights are very nice and all, and gunfights or laser blasters do the job quite prettily, but my heart sings at the twang of a bowstring and the zip-hiss of an arrow in flight. I’ll even take the ker-thunk of a crossbow if I have to.
I know exactly what began my love of storybook archers. When I was around seven, I was given a couple of Ladybird books about Robin Hood. And I was instantly smitten by Robin and his brave Merry Men, especially by dashing Will Scarlet (but not by Marion, who I considered to be a bit of a let down for the female side). The Ladybird books were followed by other versions of the tale, including one where Robin died at the end and I always ended up in tears.
Afterwards, when I discovered the Narnia series, I was quite cross to see that my favorite (Lucy of course) got stuck with the lame knife and the healer’s cure while silly Susan got the bow. But then Jill – another archer – more than made up for Susan in The Last Battle. I always loved the bit where Tirian says to her, “If you must weep, sweetheart, turn your face aside and wet not your bowstring.” And she grits her teeth and follows his advice, game face all the way!
Feisty Jill would probably have got along well with Katniss – they could both field dress a rabbit and do a decent bit of shooting. Of course, by the time the Hunger Games came along I was a grown woman, but not too old inside to enjoy her post apocalyptic flair for doing all the right things to mess with all the wrong people.
But nice as it is seeing girls with bows (Merida, you rock!), Robin and Will (*sigh*) were my first real crushes. Which is probably why I like CW’s Arrow so much: Archer? Check. Dressed in green? Check. Shades of grey vigilantism? Check.
The Robin Hood stories were exciting for many reasons; the hunted becoming the hunters, the guerilla warfare, the daring feats. But the archery was what ultimately remained long after I’d lost the books to the passing years.
Why bows and arrows? A sword wielder (at least in fiction) is all passion and instinct; he or she trains incessantly so the movements come without thinking in the heat of battle. But ultimately they’re the thugs in stories, the ones who get up close and personal and aren’t afraid to get a little messy, or even a lot. At the end of the day, it’s all about sticking a big old chunk of metal in someone else.
Archers now, they represent cold logic under fire. However skilled they may be, they still have to pause and factor in the distance, the wind, and take aim. That’s a lot of quick thinking, especially in a fast-moving brawl. They may be toting the long-range weapons, and have the luxury of standing back on a battlefield, but try making all those calculations with the pressure of enemies closing in and your friends (the sword folk) getting slaughtered out there.
So, at the end of the day, you can keep your Longclaws, your Andurils, your Excaliburs. I’ll take the unnamed trusty lengths of seasoned yew, the feather-fletched shafts, the quivers and bracers. I’ll go for brains over brawn, for sharp intelligence and a keen eyesight. Robin, sign me up for your Merry Band, and away to the green depths of Sherwood. Because that arrow launched so many years ago?
Straight through the heart.