I found this lovely image --most likely of the great warrior Queen, Matilda of Tuscany and thought how familiar she looks, banded together with her sisters-in-arms, swords and longbows, arrows and beautiful dresses. Though Matilda was certainly far more powerful and effective as a warrior queen, this image seemed like a perfect illustration for a band of querulous brides that appear in Zizola's novel.
More than awhile ago, I wrote about the peculiar figure of the "banished bride" in folktales and ballads --- the bride who unwittingly stands in for the heroine until she can extricate herself from whatever impediment has kept her temporarily from her intended groom. The poor dear is then banished at the altar -- sent home, and even though financially compensated, her honor and reputation dimmed. Here's what I wrote in that post:
"So what happens to those banished brides -- not the deceitful and disguised brides, they always meet with bad ends -- but those brides like poor Anne of Cleves determined too ugly (and "too swarthy") by Henry the Eighth and sent home as unsuitable. Since we never get their side of the story, or the what-ever-happened-to-that-young-woman?, the writer in me couldn't resist wondering what those women might do to reclaim themselves if given a chance in a novel. A young writer I know suggested they went home with a huge sigh of relief -- imagining that such weddings to total strangers would have been scary enough to contemplate.
But from a narrative point of view, that's no fun -- especially after reading the Lost Sicilian Folk and Fairy Tales of Laura Gonzenbach, I know that the Italians -- or at least the Sicilians-- are firm believers in spectacular revenge. So I couldn't help but think of a sisterhood of Banished Brides coming together and taking their fury on the road to extract some form of punishing compensation. A band of marauding almost-brides offering to my young heroine roadside companionship and rancorous cautionary tales about men in general. (Although I suspect the trickster traveling with her would not be able to resist the temptation of meddling with those dangerous women.) Well...there's a few chapters to meditate on and then to write."
Queen Matilda was certainly no banished bride -- though she did have an awful marriage to a stepbrother -- but she seems to have compensated for all the short comings of an unhappy marriage by becoming a highly effective military commander and fighter. All in the 12th century, which is pretty remarkable.