Another big trope that has been loathed by many is the ‘Tower Princess’.
While not always involving a tower, this is a female character who has been locked up. She is the prize for the male hero after he finishes his quest. Various changes have been made such as a prince being locked up or the ‘Tower Princess’ escaping from bonds under her own power. Both methods have been done so much that one could say they’ve become tropes. This results in people simply avoiding having any female character who is helpless and in need of aide, especially from a man.
First, let’s be honest. There are men and women out there who are helpless unless they get help from a stronger individual. So, the ‘Tower Princess’ concept does have real-life examples even if we like to pretend they don’t exist. This still doesn’t make it a great idea to have a woman as a prize. Not unless you want to get a lot of backlash for both sexism and unoriginality. So, is there any way to have a ‘Tower Princess’ shown in a positive light while still having a male hero?
It’s a tough challenge because you’re going to have people hating the concept as soon as they see it. They won’t give it a chance and go in with a closed mind. After all, the differences will be more subtle than a gender bend or removal of a male hero. Yet, there are some ways to demonstrate that this woman isn’t really helpless. There are a few things she can do even if she can’t escape. It simply requires that you show what she is up to from time to time instead of staying solely with the male hero.
- Strength– This is easier to demonstrate than one would think. I’m not talking about physical strength, but mental and emotional. A ‘Tower Princess’ can hold onto hope and sanity in the face of abuse and isolation. Being unable to free herself, she can fight to hold out until rescue or finding an opening to do it herself. Defiant behaviors in the face of trauma doesn’t have to be solely for the adventuring hero. I’d say a story of captivity is where one would need to see such endurance demonstrated. This makes the ‘Tower Princess’ more than a prize since they now have some influence over their own fate.
- Smarts/Cunning– A ‘Tower Princess’ doesn’t have to sit around doing nothing beyond sleeping, eating, and bathing. They may take some action to make a rescue or escape more likely. I’m not talking about Rapunzel and her hair, but things that will help the approaching hero. For example, throwing spoiled food into the moat to make the monster sick or making it so that the drawbridge cannot be lifted. Leaving a back door unlocked at all times can help too. Much of it depends on how they’re contained and the distance they can travel around the tower. Show that they’re creative and somewhat proactive even if they still need to be rescued.
- Sharp Tongue– This only works if the ‘Tower Princess’ has to constantly interact with her abductors. It doesn’t even help in her escape or rescue, but it goes back to the strength concept. A sharp tongue is what many people see as a sign of an unbroken will.
As you can see, these are more general categories. The specifics are up to the author because they can change depending on the scenario. A solitary tower with a dragon guarding it will have less to work with than a citadel guarded by a warlord and his semi-loyal soldiers. The point is to not always toss out a trope because it’s typically shown with little change and in a negative light. There’s always a way to change it up without flipping it entirely on its head.