1) Why is it that the primary villain of the first two books of the Narnia series is a powerful woman? Why is "witch" equated with "evil"?
2) Why is it that the two female protagonists of the Narnia series, Lucy and Susan, are not meant by Aslan (the God figure and a powerful male) to fight in battle alongside their brothers when war descends on the country? Susan is given a bow and arrows, and Lucy a dagger, but together they're deemed unfit to defend the country of which they are to be rulers, even though their brothers are heading up the war effort--why?
3) Why is it that Aslan takes council with the male animals and leaves the she-animals behind?
4) Why is it, in The Lord of the Rings, that the Fellowship of the Ring is made up of nine males? And why is the whole council that gathers before the formation of the fellowship also entirely male? Didn't Arwen, a female elf, save Frodo from the ring-wraiths before that council ever took place? Why does she not lead the battle against evil as her father once did thousands of years ago?
I suppose one answer is that J.R.R. Tolkien and C.S. Lewis were men of their time. Why write an epic prominently featuring female defenders when women in the mid-20th century didn't defend much?
Times have changed, though. Consider the Gulabi Gang in India, a band of many hundreds of thousands of women wielding sticks to deliver grassroots justice to rapists and others who violate women's rights. Consider also the Toronto Newsgirls Boxing League who planned to show up at pro-rape men's rallies (rallies which were, by a twist of irony, subsequently cancelled for fear for the men's safety).
And then consider literary epics that have been told since the time of Lewis and Tolkien: The Mists of Avalon by Marion Zimmer Bradley, The Song of the Lioness Quartet by Tamora Pierce, and the Tiffany Aching series by Terry Pratchett. All three of these epic stories feature female protagonists who are defenders of their lands--they are also wise, powerful women. Aren't powerful wise women nothing more than witches, and aren't witches evil? The Catechism of the Catholic Church condemns witchcraft as "gravely contrary to the virtue of religion" (CCC 2117). But, looking at the bigger picture historically, isn't this condemnation nothing more than a condemnation of the woman's right to stand on her own two feet, to foster her own wisdom, to assert her will, and to embrace and develop her gifts?
I don't understand why, and don't accept that, women are either to be dimunitive/obedient or labeled as sources of evil. And before my time in this life is done, I plan to write an epic of my own, featuring not men, who have already had centuries of attention as leaders, but women: strong, vocal, brave, wise, powerful women, women who in ages past or even in this age might be branded witches--women for whom the labels of others no longer hold any sway. They may be self-proclaimed witches or they may be something else, but in my epic, these women will be self-defined, rather than defined by a man. I can hardly wait to write it.