Welcome to The One Hundred Nights of Hero: a forbidden love story between two women living in a patriarchal society. Isabel Greenberg’s unique illustrating style combined with witty and insightful writing brings to life the trials and tribulations of women storytellers around the world of Early Earth.
The One Hundred Nights of Hero is the companion graphic novel to The Encyclopedia of Early Earth. Early Earth introduces us to the author’s world, to the mythology and storytelling, and to the entwined lives of humans and gods. It’s a good introduction and I do recommend it, but I chose to write my review on The One Hundred Nights of Hero because of its stronger plot and themes.
15/15 on the Scale:
Not offensive to women 1/1
Features a woman as a main character 2/2
Passes the Bechdel-Wallace Test: 3/3
Artistic and/or Entertaining: 4/4
Where Early Earth focuses on the quest of a gods-blessed solo male storyteller, The One Hundred Nights of Hero grounds us in an all-too-familiar predicament. Lovers Cherry and Hero must hide their forbidden relationship in a world where women have so little power, they are not even allowed to learn to read.
Cherry and Hero bide their time as they come up with a plan to escape the city and their restrictive society. Unfortunately, they are foiled by the arrival of a man bent on taking Cherry’s “virtue.”
To evade this man, Hero comes up with a plan. Each night, like Scheherazade, she tells part of a story. The man is so engaged by Hero’s storytelling, he is too distracted to harm Cherry.
We get to follow along with these stories too, as the graphic novel cuts away from the main tale to illustrate Hero’s tales of women around Early Earth. Hero has a stronger arc and theme than Early Earth, and the way the stories tie together is powerful. More on that in the next section…
Above and Beyond the General Media: 5/5
The One Hundred Nights of Hero is not a happy story. Even the stories-within-the-story are riddled with sadness: mothers who give up their daughters, lovers separated, fathers who make choices they live to regret. Through it all, women must make sacrifices, must hide their skills, all to survive in a brutal patriarchal world.
The theme, then, is of persistence. How one story can travel between people, creating more storytellers. How stories of perseverance inspire others. There is a bit of hope at the end, letting us believe that the sacrifices all these women made were not in vain. Makes you think the ones we’re making in our own world might be worth it, too.
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