McKinley, Robin. The Hero and the Crown. New York: Firebird, 1984.
Here is a tall tale of a young hero. It is a coming of age story of Aerin Firehair, daughter of King Arlbeth of Damar. She feels she has many strikes against her. She is a daughter, not a son. Her mother, the king’s second wife, was a foreign and was rumored to be a witch. For these reasons and perhaps others, she is not her father’s heir. Her people treat her with cautious respect, but also with suspicion.
As the story opens, Damar, a relatively peaceful country, has become embroiled in border skirmishes and threats of secession from one of its nobles. To add to Damar’s woes, dragons have re-appeared in the countryside to harry and harass the citizenry. These difficulties are whispered to be caused by the loss of the Hero’s Crown. The crown was reported to have warded the county against mischief. It has been gone so long, that no one remembers why the crown is an important defense of the country.
But mischief is lurking in and round Damar. King Arlbeth must ride to “treat” with his unruly noble and fight errant dragons, where they are found. Aerin, wishing to be of service, asks permission to ride with him. After a gentle but, painful refusal from her father, she is humiliated by a snarky courtier. He provides public, scornful commentary on her upbringing. He suggests she needs some slaps for her scandalous behavior. I think perhaps he goes a step too far. This courtier is nearly called out by the Tor, the king’s heir and friend to Aerin. King Arlberg steps in and asks the offensive courtier to apologize. The courtier hurls an angry apology at her as he leaves the room. He does manage to get in one last nasty, jibe, “Go slay a dragon, lady! Lady Aerin, Dragon-Killer!”
These taunting words, send Aerin down her path, one she was destined to follow in some way. How to slay a dragon becomes consuming work for her. Dragons are pesky, dangerous and hard to kill. Many a dragon slayer does not return or returns badly charred. Before venturing forth to slay dragons, she seeks an advantage. Does she find one?
Aerin is hopeful, persistent, stubborn and courageous, all the qualities we love in our heroes. Read this book to find out how she uses all these strengths in her quest to slay dragons, find the Crown and save her people. It is a terrific story for readers of all ages.
Reading her biography on her website, she reminds me of my daughters, it appears she likes to name objects. She has a Steinway named Rhodanthe¹. I wonder if she names her cars. Actually, it appears she does. I just read one of her blog postings². It possibly may be named “Wolfgang.” With that name, I imagine a grand, old German car. You never can tell about people and names. Our Ford 500 wound up with the name “Teapot.” The girl who came up with name, never had an explanation other than “I don’t know, I just call it Teapot.”
Robin’s father was in the Navy and they were stationed in different places. Robin charted her life by where she read a book for the first time. For example, she read The Chronicles of Narnia in New York and The Once and Future King in Maine³. I like the fact that it was for the first time, which implies that perhaps she went back and re-read her favorites a time or two. I love to re-read books. It to me is like visiting an old friend.
She is talented and fortunate. Her book Beauty was accepted on its first submission to a publisher. She like to write about strong, heroines.
She has been a teacher, an editor, and book store employee. She has lived on a horse farm. Currently she is living in England in a cottage with a garden full of roses. To learn more about this author, visit her webpage, Facebook page, and blog.
Other Robin McKinley interviews that may interest you.