Nerd-isms · Self Improvement

The Savage Damsel and the Dwarf

It seems that it’s around this time during the month that not only do I feel obligated to write again, but I feel the words bouncing and tearing around inside me looking to ricochet across a broader space than my mere insides can provide. They want the room to roam and be free, so here I am yet again.

That being said, I come to you today with a literary title rather than a musical one*: The Savage Damsel and the Dwarf by Gerald Morris.

*To be honest, and despite what it may seem with my running title theme, in the war for my affections, it’s often hard to tell if music or literature is winning. There are worse situations to be in. 

“’Brave? Or stupid?’
Roger shrugged. ‘I’ve never been quite sure where brave stopped and stupid began, myself.'”
― Gerald Morris

My love affair with books began slowly, painfully. I was a inexplicably slow learner. But once the process of reading made cognitive sense, a deluge of desire to consume basically everything ever written overtook me. Before, I hated not understanding how to read. For the longest time something just didn’t click. Therefore, I objected to the idea of reading strenuously. Vehemently. But obviously all of that changed. So, while I cannot fully attest to the actual moment in time when everything finally clicked, I can attest to the moment in literature: The Savage Damsel and the Dwarf. A silly title to hinge such a revelation on, no?

This book is one of the oldest in my collection (well, oldest based on how long it has been in my possession, not how long it has existed overall. I do have a fondness for old books) and sits in a place of pride on my “favorites” shelf. Dark green hardback cover worn with age and bent around the edges, dust jacket lost years ago, gold lettering scratched and dulling (much like the armor of the knights within the book’s pages)… The text within has seen much highlighting of my favorite parts, in different, now fading, colors and there are so many dog eared pages they might as well all be bent in some way. This book is an absolute treasure. Monetarily worthless but existentially priceless.

This book is a security blanket that I clutch in times of difficulty. It’s a safe haven because it taught me so many things while also acting as a more permanent space to seek comfort than many of my physical homes have been. This book taught me that there is strength in admitting weakness, and that light sarcasm can be cathartic… But most importantly – and amazingly even before the venerable Tamora Pierce – this book, and even more so, Gerald Morris, taught me the value in acknowledging and celebrating people holistically. The irretrievably dim, the strong and brave, the creatively intelligent, the selfishly conniving, the vapid beauties, and most memorably, the bad ass women; women who I have always striven to be. Morris adapted Sir Thomas Malory’s Le Morte d’Arthur into a celebration of human flaws and strengths. He analyzes and describes a character as an entire being and highlights both the good and bad within them. For a young woman, developing her view of the world, this education was priceless. He taught me the importance of being three dimensional in emotional and mental character as well as in physical form. He taught me the overwhelming value of depth of character, of developing each facet of my being. And, lastly, he taught me the necessity and valor in relying on those who have proven themselves trustworthy.

Overall, Lady Lynet, the savage damsel in question, is my spirit animal and #spoilers I dream of a Gaheris who will match with my idiosyncrasies, silliness, and strengths. But, I digress.

“Lynet, realizing her sister was moving into her damsel-in-distress mode, hurried away.”
― Gerald Morris

As is my common refrain, my soul is in pain (hey, that rhymes). So, like Lynet and, as per usual, I am (I suppose still and always) on a quest to put my life to rights.

Speaking of inspiration, I actually met a real-life heroine of mine this past week, Deborah Harkness, and though I am usually refrained and actively attempting to maintain my “chill” when I meet someone I admire, I did tell her that, even though I am very much an adult, she is who I want to be when I grow up. Her response? “Well, you should be yourself!”

Well damn lady, it’s true, but at least let me dream (in all fairness, she actually liked my Insta post so #blessed and #instafamous, #icandream, but still)!

The long and short of my story is a constant iteration: I am struggling, it has essentially become my human condition. I don’t need to get into details, they are a variation on what you have heard before. You may ask, what the hell else is new? Why do you keep telling us this same thing? Yes, I am singing the same damn refrain but the tune keeps changing. From my point of view, it was not always like this and I am actively working to redeem my situation as always. I have to believe it will get better, that the begrudging slog of progress toward a more hopeful existence has to ultimately resolve into something lovely, otherwise there is no point in trying. And, if there is one thing I don’t believe in, that is giving up. So, that leaves me relying on the life lessons instilled in me by my heroines so that I may believe in brighter days.

As another bad ass babe and warrior said “The hardest thing in this world, is to live in it” and that has never been more true. We shall continue the (about damn time) woman-forward movement into the rest of time as far as I am concerned.

Be your own heroine and emulate the spunk, vigor, and fortitude of the heroines, real and imagined, who have come before you.

“‘I won’t attack you again. Terribly sorry about that. Bad manners to kill ladies, you know.’ The dwarf stood and bowed slowly.”
― Gerald Morris

These life lessons make my new impulse-buy shirt (proudly modeled by the beautiful Brienne of Scarf) all the more poignant.


(Special shout out to my cuz, as I cannot wait to soon match with her.)

I am not a damsel, I am a warrior. Even if it’s just in the context of slaying the over-indulgent drama created by balderdash and vanity. I will ultimately triumph and what I need you to know is… So will you.

No matter what utter nonsense is standing in your way at the moment… It only seems big because of the size you allow it to assume. I believe in your strength to persevere through strife, whether it is emotional or physical. It can only truly defeat you if you allow it to do so. A single battle does not equal the war so don’t take a setback as an utter defeat. Small victories by the opposition are only ideal chances for you to regroup and form a new strategy to ultimately claim victory for you and yours (pardon the extended metaphor allowing my military roots to shine through…).

Be the savage damsel, not the one in distress. Learn, live, thrive, and save yourself in every way you can.

Photo: E. Campbell (2017)
2nd Ave. Book Traders
Philadelphia, PA

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