Literature / Jirel of Joiry

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Cover art of a recent omnibus edition, by Arnold Tsang
Jirel of Joiry is the heroine of a series of Sword & Sorcery short stories by CL Moore, running from 1934 to 1939 in Weird Tales. Notable for being the first female Fantasy hero. The stories are:

  • "Black God's Kiss"
  • "Black God's Shadow"
  • "Jirel Meets Magic"
  • "The Dark Land"
  • "Hellsgarde"
  • "Quest of the Starstone" - A Crossover story with her other famous character Northwest Smith, co-written with her husband Henry Kuttner.

Modern readers may have been introduced to Jirel through the popular Filk Song "Jirel Of Joiry" written by a young lyricist who later went on to become a noted Feminist Fantasy author herself, Mercedes Lackey.

Tropes found in these stories:

  • Action Girl: Jirel. Badass enough to give Xena a run for her money. The Ur-Example in fantasy literature.
  • Badass Normal: Oh yes. No matter if it's demons, elder gods, beings from alternate dimensions, wizards from the future, or just plain foreign invaders, she'll fight tooth and nail to protect her people.
  • Chainmail Bikini: Averted, no matter what the cover art of the Planet Stories edition would have you believe.
  • Crossover: With Moore's SF character Northwest Smith. This is not as mad as it sounds - both characters often end up in strange realms facing powerful, mysterious creatures and the word "magic" even pops up a few times in the Northwest Smith stories.
  • Dark Fantasy: You can say that again. As with the the Northwest Smith stories, a Lovecraft influence is obvious with the evocative Purple Prose, Alien Geometries, and strange and otherworldly forces man cannot comprehend.
  • Dating Catwoman: Jirel hates Guillaume the Conqueror who conquered her castle and humiliated her, and is determined to kill him - which she succeeds to do after undergoing many dangers and perils. Only when seeing him dead does she realize she had been passionately in love with him. It's implied that this is the price she pays for the curse she used to kill him.
  • Eldritch Abomination: The Black God. Pav might also qualify.
  • Eldritch Location: Moore loved this trope. Part of the fun of the stories is finding out what creatively weird and fantastical landscapes the author could come up with next.
  • Escaped from Hell: Jirel, the first pulp fantasy heroine, fought her way out of Hell. Repeatedly, in several variations.
  • Feminist Fantasy: one of the earliest on record
  • Fiery Redhead: Jirel.
  • Heroic Fantasy: Notable for introducing the first female protagonist in the genre.
  • Narrative Profanity Filter
  • No Ontological Inertia: Jarisme's tower returns to its original location after her death.
  • Purple Prose: Like the better authors at the time writing for Weird Tales, Moore could actually pull off lush and haunting description especially pertaining to emotions and fantastic landscapes surprisingly well.
  • Religion Is Magic: Wearing a crucifix will protect one against the Black God's realm.
  • Samus Is a Girl: Jirel's introduction.
  • Save the Villain: Jirel's second adventure sees her return to Hell to free Guillaume's soul, though she's not bringing him back to life, just releasing him from his torment.

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