Lecture Series~ Building Narrative with Oliver 101: Golden Maidens

The orphan boy looked into her eyes, swimming, depthless pools of blue. "I see your heart, foundling," said the maiden. "Your destiny lies far beyond this forest, far beyond even your dreams." "I am but a boy," said the orphan," and alone in this world." "I cannot tell you how to get there, but only that you will go. I cannot tell you who will take you, but only that you will be taken. I cannot tell you your destiny, boy, only that it is far, far from here, and greater than any other man ever born." The maiden kissed his forehead. The orphan boy dropped into a deep, dreamless sleep. When he awoke, he was alone.

Today’s post  (or lecture, whichever you prefer) is going to do what the intention of this blog has been from the start: Not just telling, but also SHOWING how narrative functions and works, and how you can become a better storyteller through understanding the concepts that bring it all together.

As an aside, Danika quickly put together the caption for that image up above, off the top of her head. This is particularly funny, because it proves the point of our subject today. Almost ALL characters in a narrative, can be identified, classified, and quantified. And if you can do that, you can see the parts that build the formula of a story. You can AVOID pitfalls and traps and writer’s block, when you’re simply aware of what you’re working with and how it all fits together. As a bonus with today’s lecture, we’re going to have a chockful of visual aids! Yay!

Our subject for the day is the gorgeous lady we see up top (as most of you know as Galadriel from Lord of the Rings), the GOLDEN MAIDEN.  But what, exactly, is a GOLDEN MAIDEN, you might ask?

GOLDEN MAIDENS tend to appear in many stories (they are NOT unique to fantasy!), and tend to either be of good alignment, or at the bare minimum, neutral. A GOLDEN MAIDEN will NEVER be aligned of her OWN WILL to the forces of  evil or to the antagonist (we’ll be talking about her evil aligned counter-part in a bit).

Generally, the GOLDEN MAIDEN has the following attributes:

  • Tends to be beautiful beyond compare, especially in regards to others in her peer group (i.e. Women of a similar age or status).
  • Tends to smarter than her peers (be it raw education, or is very knowledgeable about worldly affairs).
  • Tends to be a pillar of her community in some way, shape, or form (often times a member of a priestesshood or other altruistic group, or abstract organization).
  • Tends to be a target of male sexual or romantic pursuit for various reasons, and is generally immune to such relationships.

GOLDEN MAIDENS are usually built specifically around and interact almost exclusively with male characters. This doesn’t mean that they don’t speak with and interact with other women in a narrative, but the tendency leans towards a story gaining momentum and moving forward after a male protagonist interacts with her.

Ask yourself this: When was the last time you saw a female primary protagonist receive guidance, counseling, wisdom and comfort from a beautiful, youthful,  knowledgeable and wise woman? You’d be hard pressed to find it. This doesn’t necessarily mean it DOESN’T happen, but it is uncommon. Remember, these rules are very general, but they tend to stick in most stories.

As a rule, to maintain her status as a GOLDEN MAIDEN, she must perform the following functions:

  • Provide practical, carefully crafted and worded advice for the protagonist and his/her entourage.
  • Must be still considered “youthful” (In a physical sense).
  • Must not engage in direct violence towards another character (unless pushed to the ABSOLUTE line, and then only to defend herself; She will rarely kill even in this regard, and another protagonist will often do this for her instead).
  • Must not accompany the protagonist or the protagonist’s entourage on their journey, unless under dire circumstances.
Now, an IMPORTANT NOTE! One thing I have to make absolutely clear, is that the GOLDEN MAIDEN and THE ORACLE are NOT THE SAME CHARACTER! They fulfill very different roles!
The following things make the GOLDEN MAIDEN and THE ORACLE different enough to be separated into different archetypes:
  • ORACLES may be male or female.
  • ORACLES tend not to be locked into a particular age range.
  • ORACLES tend to have a knowledge of any particular subject that extends beyond the adept intelligence, sometimes teetering into the realm of eccentricity or even insanity.
  • ORACLES almost never speak of practical answers or solutions; They speak in riddles, rhymes, and utilize misdirection in order to get the protagonist to discover the answer  HIS OR HERSELF.
Of interesting note, although the GOLDEN MAIDEN is aligned with the forces of Good OR a Neutral party, she still has to deal with internal factional conflicts. And more often than not, she will engage in a cold war with the WAR MAIDEN.
WAR MAIDENS tend to be members of the protagonist’s entourage. Often times, the hostility comes from several factors and the following behaviors can and will occur:

  • The GOLDEN MAIDEN and the WAR MAIDEN will make passive-aggressive, but easily observable jabs towards one another if in the same space.
  • The WAR MAIDEN, IF she bears romantic inclinations towards the protagonist, will regard the GOLDEN MAIDEN as a “personal” enemy.
  • The WAR MAIDEN will vie for as much of the protagonist’s attention as she can get should all three be in the same location.
  • The WAR MAIDEN will tend to feel inferior and less sexually desirable than the GOLDEN MAIDEN, even though the GOLDEN MAIDEN has no interest in such things.
  • The WAR MAIDEN will make it a point to overtly display her own femininity as much as possible in order to counter-balance the attention that the GOLDEN MAIDEN has received from members of the opposite sex to an uncomfortable degree, or will even go to such lengths as attempting to illogically discredit any information the GOLDEN MAIDEN may deliver.
  • Often times, the WAR MAIDEN and the GOLDEN MAIDEN will reconcile their relationship after they realize that they are not in any direct conflict with each other and the WAR MAIDEN will become comfortable with herself, who she is, and what she stands for.
Now, there tends not to be a force without an equal and opposite reaction, and the GOLDEN MAIDEN is no different. Enter the BLACK MAIDEN.
The BLACK MAIDEN fulfills the same roles as the GOLDEN MAIDEN does, but does so for the forces of darkness, or the antagonists. She tends to act in direct opposition to the GOLDEN MAIDEN. Strangely enough, they are RARELY IN THE SAME LOCATION AT THE SAME TIME, yet they have a very distinct hatred for each other! Some BLACK MAIDEN behaviors include:

  • Utilizes her sexuality to further her goals.
  • Frequently taunts and harasses the protagonists on behalf of the antagonist.
  • Often gives very IMPRACTICAL advice.
  • Generally intelligent, but not incredible levels of it.
  • Can, without warning, engage in wanton acts of violence, should her mood serve it.
  • Will quickly turn on her own side if she feels that her own personal safety is in danger, or if there is significant gain for doing so.
  • Frequently is the source of problems that can arise for the protagonist and entourage (such as traps, or forcing them to engage in tasks that will deter them from their main goal).
Now, before you start thinking that this is stereotyping of women, you should also note that the GOLDEN MAIDEN has a MALE EQUIVALENT. For the most part, the rules are the same, except for a few tweaks based on gender. We refer to this gentleman as THE COUNSELOR.
The following changes are what separate the GOLDEN MAIDEN from THE COUNSELOR:
  • COUNSELORS will interact with both male and female characters.
  • COUNSELORS can/will engage in violence, but will hesitate to and can/will express EXTREME REMORSE for doing so.
  • COUNSELORS may, should the situation absolutely warrant it, accompany the protagonist and entourage on their journey. But, as a rule, they tend not to be able to complete said journey, often times becoming disabled or death by misadventure.
However, the life of the GOLDEN MAIDEN and THE COUNSELOR is not necessarily an easy one. They tend to carry a quiet burden, or a personal one that they are hesitant to speak of. Should they live for any significant amount of time, they actually METAMORPH into a new character type: THE WISE OLD SAGE.
There are some benefits, and some HUGE setbacks that tend to befall this evolution of the GOLDEN MAIDEN and COUNSELOR.
  • Their general knowledge and wisdom increases by amazing amounts, without compromising sanity or their ability to connect with and guide the protagonist and their entourage.
  • Are no longer bound to not engaging in combat, and if they should do so, they tend to be ferocious but become exhausted from such a display.
  • Still offers very practical advice, particularly towards youth.
  • They can, and often will accompany the protagonist and entourage on their journey.
Unfortunately, the drawbacks are very, VERY bad.
  • They tend to have little to no experience with the opposite sex in regards to sexuality and relationships, due to their lifelong commitments.
  • They are known to have flaring tempers in their older age.
  • Will frequently die by misadventure during their journey, but often times still have wisdom and guidance to impart from beyond the grave be it through spirit, note, or prepared items for the protagonist and entourage.

And that, class, was today’s lecture! And don’t forget, none of these are HARD, FAST RULES. They are flexible, bendable, and often times in many cases, flat out broken. But as you can see, especially from the examples above, there IS a formula. You just have to be able to see behind the veil, and all will become apparent!

Now, discuss won’t you? And if this post goes over well…. I might consider teaching more narrative lectures like this.

-Dr. Oliver, PHD of Exactly Nothing


  1. Once you learn to spot the maiden, you’ll see her everywhere. Princess Leia is a golden maiden (for a while), when she is detained and sends R2 ahead with her message.

    In the new Clash of the Titans remake, Io is a textbook golden maiden, always offering questions and hinting at her knowledge without ever really telling the protagonist anything really helpful.

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