Brave is a Virgin

July 2, 2012 at 3:47 pm 6 comments

Brave is the story of a Scottish princess, Merida, whose family is determined to have her conform to societal norms and marry for political alliance.  Merida defies her parents in favor of choosing her own path. 

Some suggest it is the coming-out story of a lesbian princess, and it could be.  But ultimately this is a Virgin story.  It is the journey to look inside and know yourself and be yourself despite the wishes of your kingdom.  Sometimes that is through spiritual awakening, or creative awakening, or sexual awakening.  These are all ways in which we become attached to our authentic way of being in the world.  Brave includes aspects of all of these ways of growing to know you are of value for being yourself.

That is the journey Merida is on.  It is the story of a girl learning what her gift is and consciously connecting to her own sense of self.  It is a universal story.

One aspect of the story I really liked was the messages around power.  Merida lived in a world of masculine power which by the Weber definition is the ability to assert your will even against the will of others.  This is the power Merida subscribed to when she used magic to change her mother. By everything she saw around her this was how power worked.  Her mother had neglected to teach her about feminine power.

Feminine power is the ability to be all you are capable of being.  It is rooted in love.  This is what Merida comes to understand as she blocks her father from killing mother-bear.  She just wants her mother back.  She no longer wants to assert her will over her.  Merida learns she can shine and take responsibility for her own journey to be authentic rather than waiting for permission from her mother.

Brave is a really enjoyable story because it has many nuances and subplots within it on the theme of following the feminine journey of the Virgin.  If I could change one thing it would be the title.  Bravery is about facing your fear of death.  Courage is the ability to follow your heart even when you don’t know where it will take you.

Incidentally, for all those people who are aware of the beats of the Virgin’s journey, Brave has solid Virgin story structure.  Here’s my breakdown of the beats as best I can remember from one viewing.  Spoiler Warning.

1. Dependent World -a princess is groomed to conform to traditional values around behavior and marriage alliances designed to keep young girls under control for the transference of power.

2. Price of Conformity – In order to be a part of her family Merida is busy 6 days a week doing things that are not important to her, wearing clothes that don’t express who she is, behaving in ways that are unnatural to her.

4. Dresses the Part – Merida is given a bow and arrows and

5. Secret World – secretly grows in her passion for marksmanship and freedom with her horse.  When fetching her arrow she meets her first Willow Wisp and awakens to her spiritual nature.

3. Opportunity to Shine – A contest for her hand in marriage which she wins giving her the right to choose not to marry whcih

9. Kingdom in Chaos – sets the kingdom into chaos.  War is imminent without a marriage alliance (Reminder – the beats don’t have to be in a particular order.)

6. No Longer Fits Her World – The Willow Wisps lead Merida to a Crone who she asks for a potion that will change her mother in order to change her fate.  When her mother is turned into a bear, her father’s arch enemy, Merida begins to doubt the whole idea of rocking the family boat.

10. Wanders in the Wilderness – Merida tries to stall the men.  Seeing the devastation she has caused she considers conforming in order to re-establish order in the kingdom.

12. Rescue – mother-bear signals Merida to be true to her heart, even if it means she will be a bear forever.  Mother-bear has grown to recognize Merida is most valuable when shining as her true self.  Maybe being a bear brought her closer to her own natural way of being.

8. Gives Up What Kept Her Stuck – Merida stops whining to her mother and

11. Chooses Her Light – speaks directly to the power brokers, openly expressing what is in her heart.

13.  The Kingdom is Brighter – they all recognize finding love is a stronger way to bond the community.

7. Worlds Collide (I call it Caught Shining in the book but am beginning to think this original name for the beat is better) –  Her mother the bear is in the castle with her father the bear hunter.

9. Kingdom in Chaos – They all chase mother-bear to the stone circle trying to kill her, the brothers are now bears, and no one knows how to convert them all back.  The old bear that ate the king’s leg is proof they may never change, except through death.

12. The Rescue – Merida stands up for her mother, recognizing that she loves her and would die for her.  Mother has to be her true self as much as Merida has to be herself.

13. The Kingdom is Brighter – love binds the kingdom, feminine power has a place beside masculine power.


Entry filed under: Film Summaries. Tags: , , , , .

Does fear drive us? Passion is a different story

6 Comments Add your own

  • 1. KatieP  |  July 2, 2012 at 4:46 pm

    I love these virgin movies. Are there any novels that follow this archetypal story?

    • 2. thevirginspromise  |  July 3, 2012 at 7:22 am

      There are lots. It is such a universal theme. I have a household of teenagers so I have been reading ones they recommend such as the Tamara Pierce Lioness series with Allana who pretends to be a boy to be more free. The Twilight series also has the secret world and is the quest be true to yourself separate from what your kingdom wants you to do. The Help is a good adult example. I’m going to have to read more fiction!! Anyone out there know a novel that is a virgin story?

    • 3. somewhatclueless  |  December 1, 2012 at 12:49 pm

      Amazingly, in romances it seems a fairly common find, with minor use of metaphors, some of which are in this comment. All these books mentioned are just fabulous reads, by the way.

      First noticed it in Sarah Mayberry’s “Within Reach,” with all 13 beats, practically in sequence.

      Nora Roberts’ “Untamed,” can be seen to have Virgin structure as well, especially if you consider the following —

      In many such stories, it helped to see “Love” as the abstract Virgin protagonist, with more than one agent of progress for Love to realize itself. Think of “Kingdom” as the ‘relationship,’ or if you are really a romantic, ‘the world’ that will be brighter 🙂

      These stories show an innate, if somewhat abstract, V plot.

      E.g., “Fulfillment” and “Through My Eyes” by Barbara Delinsky, seem to contain it in a totally linear plot.

      That’s not all … there are stories that seem to contain a V story, contained in a few higher level Virgin beats.

      This is deeper than the concept of subplot, and emotions may be better understood this way.

      E.g., see “The Marriage Solution” by Megan Kelly, in which an entire V plot is mostly contained in an envelope of Virgin beats 4, 5, 6, and 7.

      The delightful “Whale Island” by Cathy Lamb, has a three layers. One main story successively contained within a couple of trios of V beats. (Look for Debbie Macomber headlined “Almost Home.” Cathy’s book is one of three in it.)

      Somebody know if Chaucer’s framed narrative has got anything to top this?

      Some of the dynamics can be seen in other non-virgin dependent worlds, where, e.g., the DW is caused by duty or status and norms create the limiting adopted beliefs. E.g., Nora Roberts’ “The Royals of Cordina, Bennett and Camilla” where, e.g., an overlapping structure of first three beats of the V paradigm lead to more insights than thinking in linear plot terms.

      There are others where some of these dynamics can be seen, e.g., Robyn Carr’s “Hidden Summit,” or Barbara White Daille’s “Family Matters.”

      Looking hard, you’d see some of it in a book totally unlike these above, i.e., one with a dominantly linear plot. E.g., “Bring him Home” by Karina Bliss, in which love is practically on a quest, and in some measure, in Diana Palmer’s “True Blue.” Although that exercise might also show how Kim’s concepts may help visualize, understand, and communicate, to touch something fundamental for the emotional plot.


      • 4. thevirginspromise  |  December 5, 2012 at 11:10 am

        Thank you for these wonderfully insightful comments. I am going to look for these books!


  • 5. Lorne  |  July 3, 2012 at 8:47 am

    Kim: First of all, re good Virgin novels, I think the classic fiction of Jane Austen fits the bill. Not up on contemporary books too much, but suspect a lot of the so-called chicklit are classic Virgin stories.
    Second, and speaking of prototype Virgin tales, your take on Brave is bang on. (It slghtly irked me when film reviews labelled Merida as as a “heroine”, and no doubt you’re used to that misinterpretation of the virgin archetype in film and fiction).
    The various media articles suggesting that Merida the protagonist is gay (see link to two examples here –, and are interesting, and indeed, I think Merida is intentionally drawn as androgynous, the ambivalence diverting our attention more towards her actions than her sexual orientation. As you point out so well, complete with the beats of her journey, Merida is ultimately living up to her promise as a self-directed, individuated person, in short a classic Virgin.
    Thanks for another great blog.

    • 6. thevirginspromise  |  July 5, 2012 at 10:03 am

      You’re right, the ambivalence does make it interesting. Thanks for the links to the media articles. Great comments.


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