From Girl to Goddess

Reviews and Endorsements

While the male in literature and mythology has his journey, so the female has hers. Valerie Estelle Frankel’s book of folklore and myth explores this journey and guides the reader through the complex twists and turns of the female experience. It’s a surprisingly comprehensive and readable excursion into the feminine aspect of myth and legend. The male has one journey and while the female journey may sometimes mirror the male, it is, in the end, her own battle and voyage.

Frankel is an amazingly systematic storyteller. Where some authors turn vague or verbose, or both, on certain explanations in regard to myth, Frankel never talks down to her audience, or fails to keep them tracking along with her on a path sometimes fraught with confusing, contradictory, or complex information. From Girl to Goddess is written in a wheel pattern that mirrors the feminine journey, taking the heroines and the reader from girl to woman to goddess and beyond. Frankel has a seamless way of weaving the story so the reader feels as though they travel along with her through these deep valleys and dark woods, even if they are only hypothetical places. She also doesn’t neglect less well-known myths. She includes not only the classics from Greece, Rome, Scandinavia, and Britain, but rare ones from the Zuni, Navaho, Blackfoot, Aztec, and Samoan people, as well as stories from China, Vietnam, Vancouver Island, the Sudan, and other places.

Once you read this, you’ll never see the female journey the same way again. This book is a fascinating and engaging explanation into the feminine journey and a real treasure of storytelling. It’s at once academic in scope and yet accessible to the layman reader. It contains masterful storytelling and retelling of the myths that are used to support the thesis of the feminine journey. Overall, the book is empowering to all females, and lets the see themselves as the everyday heroines they are.

Amazon Star Rating: 5 out of 5

Axie Barclay, July 2011, Sacramento Book Review | San Francisco Book Review

Frankel has been working on this book for a long, long time, and I’ve been waiting for it for a long time! She sifts through the world’s myths and legends and their variants, all featuring female heroes. This is a world analysis, with as much attention paid to Asian, African, aboriginal, and peoples of the oceans as is paid to western tales. Frankel points out how many stories were used to teach young women their role in relation to men, mothers, families, their children, and villages far more than they were taught what was considered a more masculine kind of heroics. The analysis is witty and Frankel’s respect for the great female archetypes is obvious, as is her respect for the cultures from which the stories come. For anyone who wants to read these stories and their background, and for anyone who wants to read more than just the typical western stories of female trials and magic, this book is the perfect place to start. It is scholarly but readable, and it will give the person who’s truly interested a stepping-off place to explore this great, lesser-known, area of storytelling and myth.

—Tamora Pierce, Bestselling fantasy author

I recommend From Girl to Goddess highly. Frankel’s truly global choice of tales and her analysis of them is outstanding. It is a book to turn to for deepening one’s understanding of myths and stories about women and their underlying structures, or more personally to better understand one’s own journey or the journeys of the women in one’s life. The extensive bibliography is a great service to readers interested in this topic in itself; I greeted old friends with delight while highlighting item after item to track down later. I look forward to more from Frankel; this book could have been twice as long and still not exhausted its subject or the reader’s desire for more, more, more stories.

—Janet Brennan Croft, Mythlore Fall/Winter 2011

Frankel’s book stands well along-side Campbell‖s as an intelligent and insightful consideration of fantastic literature and legend which invites the reader constantly to rethink past readings. That invitation leaves the reader asking for more, hoping for further opportunities to consider and re-consider heroines from myth and legend…Valerie Frankel’s From Girl to Goddess is filled with the same sort of excitement, as she finds, rediscovers, and traces such archetypes throughout a myriad of texts. As her introduction reveals, these patterns may be found in many works beyond myth and legend, and her gift to readers is to leave those patterns to be discovered with further readings.

—Hugh H. Davis, Mythprint, July 2011

From her extensive study of myths, Frankel developed the epic girl plot, the heroine’s journey. But what is the best-selling epic girl plot, and how does it differ from that for guys? With guys, a mysterious wizard knocks on the door and tells the boy he is the chosen one; he has the force; he journeys and has a scary conflict with the shadow in himself, the Luke-I-am-your-father. The girl story is similar, but some steps are opposite, enough to have inspired Frankel to write her book.

—David Strom, Writer’s Talk, Monthly Newsletter of the South Bay Writers Club, Oct 2011

Frankel, a storyteller, essayist, and novelist, seeks to throw off the oppression of our culture’s obsession with hero myths as she reveals the heroine…as an embodiment of one of the goddess archetypes.
Reference & Research Book News, Inc.

Ever since I used Christopher Vogler’s The Hero’s Journey to plot my first novel, I have wanted this book. I sensed that my heroine’s journey didn’t quite fit the outline, and now Valerie Frankel shows why. In the Introduction, Ms. Frankel says, “The heroine’s true role is to be neither hero nor his prize.” Rather than conquering through war and battle, the heroine wins through patience, fortitude, and wit. Her goal is not to rescue the princess but–of interest to Romance writers – to re(gain) family.

Using myths and folklore from many cultures, Ms. Frankel portrays the heroine’s journey to overcome innocence, betrayal, misleading mentors, unconsciousness, allies and enemies, lovers, confront the father, abuse and healing, descent into darkness, the deadly mother, find the elixir, flight and return, goddesshood and wholeness.

One section is devoted to archetypes: Maiden, Warrior Woman, Warrior Lover, Lesbian, or Seductress. The Mother may be Thwarted, Wife, Triumphant, the Great Goddess, or Terrible. The Crone may be a Destroyer, Wisewoman, Trickster. The Spirit Guardian as Protector, and Rebirth.

There is an extensive appendix of folklore types, reference notes, and bibliography. I only wish it also included some of the gorgeous artwork on the website www.vefrankel.com

—Christie Maurer, Editor, Monterey Bay Romance Writers of America Monarch e-News.


California Writer’s Club (South Bay) Writer’s Talk


Valerie Estelle Frankel

Literary Itinerary: ‘Heroine’s Journey’ guideposts appear in most good tales

by Colin Seymour

If your novel has a protagonist–it does, doesn’t it?–you ought to be aware of the concept of the hero’s journey. That’s pretty much where Valerie Estelle Frankel, our September 13 dinner speaker, will be taking us, and it just might change our conceptions about character arc.

The hero, after all, is the ultimate literary archetype, as these definitions from Webster’s dictionary indicate:

HERO: A mythological or legendary figure often of divine descent endowed with great strength or ability . . . an illustrious warrior . . . a man admired for his achievements and qualities . . . one that shows great courage . . . the principal male character in a literary or dramatic work . . . the central

            figure in an event or period.

“Many are familiar with Joseph Campbell’s theory of the hero’s journey,” Frankel said by way of pitching her workshops, “the idea that every man through myth and literature grows to adulthood while battling his dark alter-ego. This is the Star Wars or Harry Potter plot, a staple for fantasy, coming-of-age, and other genres.”

Frankel has altered that definition in her new book, From Girl to Goddess: The Heroine’s

Journey in Myth and Legend, which, she says, “explores the classic heroine’s journey step-by-step in ancient myths and modern fantasy, revealing the other epic journey.

“In tales as old as 1001 Nights and Cupid and Psyche, heroines battle seductresses

and witches to ascend to the role of mother-goddess.” Frankel, 31, a mythologist who has lectured in several college classrooms, including those at San Jose State, knew she was onto something when “I was sitting down trying to plot the perfect fantasy novel and what they all had in common, and there emerged the classic hero’s journey . . . the magic sword passed down from the father, and the traitor, . . . and nobody had written about the women.”

So she wove her book around the hero’s journey, and in her version these are the milestones we should consider for our own heroes’ journeys:

Call to Adventure; Refusal of the Call; Mentor and Talisman; Crossing the Threshold Sidekicks, Trials, Adversaries; Wedding the Animus; Confronting the Powerless Father; Defeating the Shadow; The Nadir of the World; Atonement with the Mother; Reward: Winning the Family; The Magic Flight Return; Power Over Life and Death; Ascension of the New Mother.

You may feel resistant to the hero or heroine angle. Those terms have been attached to athletes

and other performers so much in recent years that they have become more caricature than character. Toons abound. There’s even a documentary about urban do-gooders and vigilantes that bills them as “Superheroes.” But Frankel doesn’t dwell on the simpleminded stuff. “The modern hero has moved beyond that,” she says, with Odysseus making way for, say, Joyce’s Stephen Dedalus, “more about thinking and introspection, not just the big , brawling Hercules sort.” Maybe you’ve been scoping the hero’s journey trailheads more than you know.

“J.K. Rowling (the Harry Potter author) has never said she was deliberately following the

Campbell model,” Frankel notes, “but inadvertently she has put her characters through a hero’s journey.” Frankel is also likely to discuss where works such as Coraline, The Chronicles of Narnia, and The

Wizard of Oz” apply.

But it is not fantasy-specific.

“Every culture has the heroine’s journey,” Frankel says. “I found a Rapunzel story in Tahiti. I was finding the same stories all over.”

Some of these are old enough that they were not contaminated by European culture, she says. Nevertheless, “the most popular story in the world is Cinderella, if we define Cinderella as Poor Picked-on Kid Becomes the Best of Them All. It’s not just because others have heard the story. The main reason is, everyone wants to hear that story.

“And of course that’s Harry Potter. Poor kid forced to sleep in a closet becomes the wizard. He’s the chosen one.”

Indeed. Chosen by millions.

–South Bay California Writers Club’s Writer’s Talk, p. 1, 8