Wicked and Lovely

This is for you, my sisters.

First, a video of Seanan McGuire’s “Wicked Girls Saving Ourselves”:

Second, some of the lyrics from the song. (Here are all of the lyrics in Seanan’s songbook: “Wicked Girls.”)

This is how it starts:

“Wendy played fair, and she played by the rules that they gave her;
They say she grew up and grew old – Peter Pan couldn’t save her.
They say she went home, and she never looked back,
Got her feet on the ground, got her life on its track.
She’s the patron saint priestess of all the lost girls who got found.
And she once had her head in the clouds, but she died on the ground.”

And here is my favorite stanza:

“Susan and Lucy were queens, and they ruled well and proudly.
They honored their land and their lord, rang the bells long and loudly.
They never once asked to return to their lives
To be children and chattel and mothers and wives,
But the land cast them out in a lesson that only one learned;
And one queen said ‘I am not a toy’, and she never returned.”

I particularly like this one because it gives me a completely different version of Susan, not the Susan of the Narnia books, not even the Susan of Neil Gaiman’s “The Problem of Susan.” This Susan is proud, more like the proud Jadis who ruined Charn with the Deplorable Word. Whom C.S. Lewis cast as a villainess, of course. (I’ve always wanted to write the story of the White Witch from her own perspective.)

And this is the chorus:

“Dorothy, Alice and Wendy and Jane,
Susan and Lucy, we’re calling your names,
All the Lost Girls who came out of the rain
And chose to go back on the shelf.
Tinker Bell says, and I find I agree
You have to break rules if you want to break free.
So do as you like – we’re determined to be
Wicked girls saving ourselves.”

You know who those are, right? Dorothy from The Wizard of Oz, Alice from Alice in Wonderland, Wendy from Peter Pan, Jane from Mary Poppins, and Susan and Lucy from the Narnia books.

I find that I agree with Tinker Bell too. She’s certainly one of the wicked girls, as you’ll know if you’ve ever read Peter Pan. Considerably more wicked than the Disney version. Even her name, Tinker Bell, makes her sound disreputable (a tinker is an itinerant mender of pots), although of course she’s lovely as well.

You have to break rules if you want to break free.

There are so many rules, so many things society tells you to do, and if you want to break free, you have to decide what you want to do – and be. Particularly how you want to be a girl. Because society tells you how to be one, but you can’t listen to that, not if you want to save yourself. Not if you don’t want to end up in some gray Kansas.

And this is a stanza about girls who are not in any books, doing their own things, being wicked in their own ways:

“Mandy’s a pirate, and Mia weaves silk shrouds for faeries,
And Deborah will pour you red wine pressed from sweet poisoned berries.
Kate poses riddles and Mary plays tricks,
While Kaia builds towers from brambles and sticks,
And the rules that we live by are simple and clear:
Be wicked and lovely and don’t live in fear –”

The last two lines are a sort of anthem, aren’t they? I think I should write them out and put them over my desk. I think I should recite them any time I am afraid.

And this is the last stanza:

“For we will be wicked and we will be fair
And they’ll call us such names, and we really won’t care,
So go, tell your Wendys, your Susans, your Janes,
There’s a place they can go if they’re tired of chains,
And our roads may be golden, or broken, or lost,
But we’ll walk on them willingly, knowing the cost –
We won’t take our place on the shelves.
It’s better to fly and it’s better to die
Say the wicked girls saving ourselves.”

Our roads may be golden, or broken, or lost, but they’ll be our roads. The singers in that video are artists, walking their own roads. And they probably pay a price – we all do. We are less secure, we are more tired, we are criticized. But if you’re a certain kind of person, there’s really no alternative. There’s your road, and no other road will do. And even when it’s broken or lost, at least it’s yours, you know? You can’t live another person’s destiny.

It’s better to fly and it’s better to die free. (Unless you take the risk, I’m not sure you get to fly.)

I’m tired today, and I’m not entirely sure where my road is. But this song reminds me that I’d rather be wicked and lovely and free than just about anything else. And that I’m responsible for saving myself.

My friend Emily Gilman has written a post about this song called “Wicked Girls Saving Ourselves.” Go read it if you’d like another perspective. And maybe we should form a club, wear rings with WG engraved on them or something. Honestly, I think this should be our theme song!

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6 Responses to Wicked and Lovely

  1. Emily Gilman says:

    I enjoy the Wendy and Dorothy verses, but the Alice and Susan verses are what really get me every time I listen. They do break free, in their own ways, but there is a (different) price for each of them, and they feel especially real to me because of it.

    As for rings, I have already ordered one of these rings with WICKED GIRL in the medieval font. I have a similar thumb ring that says Blessed Be, so I know I will like how it looks with my other rings and I will have Options. But I would love if other people had similar rings (not identical, for we are each our own wicked selves, are we not? but clearly of the same general family) and we could all wear them and be awesome together. While marching around singing this song, accompanied by various instruments. I can volunteer guitar, at least.

    And yay! I’m so glad you liked that entry. 🙂

  2. Keith Glaeske says:

    It’s not a coincidence that WG stands for Wicked Girl and Writer Girl, is it?

  3. Hecate says:

    You’re familiar w/ S. J. Tucker, right?

    Loving McGuire!

  4. I am familiar with and dearly love S.J. Tucker! I’ve seen her perform a couple of times with Cat Valente.

    I never thought about Wicked Girl and Writer Girl! But that is an wonderful coincidence.

    Emily, this post has gotten so many hits, and I can see that a lot of people have gone over, from your comment, to the Etsy site. So maybe there will be a whole group of people with WG rings . . . 🙂

  5. Emily Gilman says:

    So maybe there will be a whole group of people with WG rings . . .

    I can’t wait! Especially if they’re all hand-stamped, and different sizes, and different fonts–it would be interesting to see what people pick! But I wonder, if people do end up getting rings, what the woman who makes them will think. 🙂

  6. Emily Gilman says:

    Ring has arrived, and is lovely! Posted not-very-good camera-phone pictures to my Twitter @emilygilman. In case anyone besides Dora was wondering about the final result.

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