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The Young Warriors anthology, thumb edited by Tamora Pierce and Josepha Sherman, more has quite a few short stories by authors who are on my favorite list. One of them I’m more used to seeing as an editor; I’ve been reading Esther Friesner’s ‘Amazon Comedy’ anthology series (Chicks in Chainmail, ampoule et al) for years. Her short story in the Young Warriors anthology is about Helen of Troy, and her kidnapping by Theseus. Nobody’s Princess is not an expansion of this short story: it’s an entire prequel.
In the Afterword, Friesner says that the writer’s question is usually What Happens Next, but in Helen’s story, we know what happens next (the Trojan war, ten years, kidnappings, running around the town a few times, etc.). So the question must be, What Happened First? Helen’s childhood is largely unknown, and her time predated Classical Greece by a few centuries. So Friesner, armed with questions and recent historical theories, created her story.
Helen of Sparta, prior to being the Face that Launched a Thousand Ships, was the Child who Annoyed Her Parents So. She learns very early on that she has power over people, and as she says in the Prologue, that is a horrible thing for a child to learn. Rather than the power corruption, her besetting sin is wilfulness and a refusal to let her life be dictated to her. She insists on training in weapons with her brothers; while she learns women’s skills such as spinning and weaving, she isn’t very good at them. This is a bit unfortunate, as she is to be the future queen of Sparta. When she and her twin sister Clytemnestra are fourteen, she accompanies her sister to Mykenae for her wedding. On a subsequent detour on the way home, Helen meets Atalanta (of the golden apples) who inspires her (even more) to seize her own destiny. Continue reading Nobody’s Princess, by Esther Friesner