Whoosh! Issue 32 - May 1999


IAXS project #684
By rax@eclipse.net
Content copyright © 1999 held by author
Edition copyright © 1999 held by Whoosh!
1778 words

Author's Note: This article was written and submitted before the February 4, 1999 appearance of Steven Sears on DWO AoL Chat. In that chat (quoted in the episode guide for A GOOD DAY), he confirmed my conclusion.

Introduction (01)
The Evolution Of Gabrielle
     Gabrielle, the Naive (02-04)
     Gabrielle, the Principled (05-07)
     Gabrielle, the Conflicted (08)
Gabrielle And Sharp Pointy Things (09-11)
The Point: Mixing Conflict And Sharp Pointy Things (12-16)

Gabrielle and Non-Staff Techniques
(Or Why Gabrielle Should Not Fight With Sharp Objects)

This was so much easier with a staff that has no pointy end

Gabrielle has to make some tough decisions in A GOOD DAY.


[1] There has been, and continues to be, much discussion on the topic of why Gabrielle was unsuccessful in her attempt to stop the death of a friend in A GOOD DAY (73/405). When viewed as part of a larger picture, it is possible to see how Gabrielle's state of mind and choice of weapon lead to tragic results. A friend died, another lost his blood innocence, and Gabrielle has more guilt and conflict than ever before.

The Evolution Of Gabrielle

Gabrielle, the Naive

[2] When we first meet Gabrielle, all she knows is that she needs to leave Poteidaia. She sees Xena and thinks she is the answer. To the naive Gabrielle, Xena's warrior life is adventurous and glamorous. In SINS OF THE PAST (01/101), Gabrielle tells her sister Lila, "I'm going to be a warrior, like [Xena]". Then in CHARIOTS OF WAR (02/102), she tells Xena, "I'm not waiting around while you have all the fun". At this point in time, Gabrielle has idealized the warrior life. She does not see the hard truths of what being a warrior means.

[3] By the time we see her in DREAMWORKER (03/103), Gabrielle shows us that while she still does not fully understand the term "warrior", she has no desire to kill: "I don't want to learn to kill. I want to learn to survive". From here she begins to see that a warrior's life has a hard reality and that there are many things that you cannot take lightly. A few episodes later, when learning staff combat in HOOVES AND HARLOTS (10/110), she actually grasps the idea that fighting is not about fun and glamour.

[4] During this time, Xena begins to see Gabrielle as a model for being "good". Xena works hard to help Gabrielle see how much can be done without killing and how significant killing is. As she tells Gabrielle in DREAMWORKER (03/103), once you have killed, "Everything changes, everything". Gabrielle feels the truth of that statement when given the duty of killing Phantes in HOOVES AND HARLOTS (10/110). Luckily, Xena saves her from the peer pressure, and Gabrielle has a chance to grasp the gravity of killing without doing it. Gabrielle, the Principled has evolved.

Gabrielle, the Principled

"There's only one way to end this cycle of hatred, and it's through love and forgiveness".
   --Gabrielle to Xena in CALLISTO (22/122)

[5] At this point, Gabrielle's principles are relatively black and white. She will not kill. She uses a staff to defend herself. While fighting with a staff, she is not a target, and she does not kill in self-defense or in combat. Whenever possible, she confronts violence with non-violence. In IS THERE A DOCTOR IN THE HOUSE (24/124), she uses a story to teach a warrior about war. In THE PRICE (44/220), she uses compassion when facing the Horde. We see her principles tested in RETURN OF CALLISTO (29/205) when she wants to avenge Perdicas' death, but she is unable to do so. Later we see her principles nearly destroyed in THE DELIVERER (50/304) when she actually kills. Yet, in GABRIELLE'S HOPE (51/305), she still wants to stop hatred and create a better world through love and forgiveness. Gabrielle has lost her "blood innocence" and acknowledges "killing changes everything", yet she is determined to get back on her principled path.

[6] Gabrielle believes her principles should apply to everyone. In the warrior's world she lives in, Gabrielle accepts that some people, like Xena, kill in self-defense or in combat when fighting for the greater good. She will do whatever she can, however, to stop Xena from outright murder and executions [THE DEBT (52-53/306-307); FORGET ME NOT (63/317)].

[7] But Gabrielle's principles, fragile from her experiences in Britannia, start to waiver in MATERNAL INSTINCTS (57/311) [and again, later, in SACRIFICE II (68/322)] when she must kill Hope for the greater good and to save Xena. In WHEN IN ROME... (62/316), she also yields to her feelings regarding the evil of Crassus' past, and she allows his execution. Gabrielle, the Conflicted has evolved.

Gabrielle, the Conflicted

Dead Men Don't Wear Plaid

Gabrielle contemplates a life lost on the battlefield.

[8] The days of a defined black and white are over. A warrior must accept that killing and death are potential occurrences in her life. Gabrielle is now trying to come to terms with her idealized principles and the reality of the warrior's life. We see these conflicts most strongly in A GOOD DAY (73/405) and CRUSADER (76/408). She does not want to kill, and she does not want to lead men to their deaths, yet she wants to work for the greater good, and, of course, she wants to be with Xena.

Gabrielle And Sharp Pointy Things

[9] Gabrielle's relationship to weapons and tools has always been well defined. Sharp tools are no problem. Knives can be used to pick locks and cut rope, while chakrams can be used to prepare a meal. As weapons, however, sharp things are trouble. In DREAMWORKER (03/103), she becomes a target by picking up a sword, and she learns the definitive purpose of a sword is to kill. In THE GREATER GOOD (21/121), she tries to use a sword to save Xena's body from mutilation, but it turns into a distraction against her. When she kills Meridian with a knife in THE DELIVERER (50/304), the sharp weapon severs her principles.

[10] On the other hand, we see that, for Gabrielle, blunt weapons can be effective without killing. Her abilities with her staff and her body are seen regularly. Her ability to throw objects for distraction is demonstrated in THE GREATER GOOD (21/121) and THE DIRTY HALF DOZEN (49/303). Sometimes, she will make a sharp weapon do the work of a blunt weapon, as in DREAMWORKER (03/103) when she breaks the point off a spear making it a staff, or uses the pommel of a sword on her would-be killer.

[11] Common tools also make good blunt weapons. In TIES THAT BIND (06/106), a rake is good for knocking sense into an Ares-deluded Xena. In LOCKED UP AND TIED DOWN (75/407), she teaches a couple of prison guards about brooms. Gabrielle has also proved to us that a staff can be a throwing weapon. In THE GREATER GOOD (21/121), she throws her staff to knock the sword from Talmadeus' hands, saving Xena.

The Point - Mixing Conflict And Sharp Pointy Things

C'mon, Gabrielle, it's not like you just tried to blow smoke in
their faces or something goofy like that

Xena comforts Gabrielle in a moment of distress.

[12] Gabrielle's life with Xena places her in a warrior's world, in the fight for the greater good. As much as possible, she fights by protecting the innocent and healing the wounded. Only when circumstances demand does she, with her staff, go forth into battle.

[13] In A GOOD DAY (73/405), the conflicted Gabrielle sees that a battle must be fought. When Xena requests she command the battle forces, Gabrielle refuses. She will take her natural place caring for the wounded. She does not want to lead men to their deaths. Xena's request accentuates Gabrielle's conflicting emotions. She trusts and respects Xena's opinion. She values Xena's approval. She knows Xena's goal is the greater good. She accepts that her life with Xena is a warrior's life. Yet, Gabrielle must also follow her principles. This conflict increases Gabrielle's doubt about going against Xena's request.

[14] When Phlanagus bows to her command, she feels she must now lead the men into battle. She starts by carrying a sword, but then changes to her staff. In previous situations, she would not have had the sword at all. Is this situation different because: (1) it is major warfare; (2) she thinks the men need to follow a sword; or (3), is Gabrielle changing as a result of her conflict? As the battle rages on, a crucial moment occurs. Phlanagus is about to be killed by a soldier, and the conflicted Gabrielle picks up a spear and throws it in an effort to save her friend's life.

[15] The conflicted Gabrielle chooses to throw a sharp, pointy weapon that she has never used before. She misses. IF she had thrown her staff (or broken the point off the spear), I believe, she would have been successful in preventing the death of Phlanagus. This was exactly what she did in THE GREATER GOOD (21/121). Gabrielle can accurately throw a weapon she is comfortable with. Her conflict causes her to choose the wrong weapon. The results of this action increase her conflict.

The Amphipolis Weenie Roasting Festival

Gabrielle and Xena mourn the dead.

[16] Gabrielle's life with Xena will continue to affect this conflict. Although they are fighting for the greater good and the principles that Gabrielle believes in, it is still a warrior's life. This life is a hard one to live, especially under such principles. A warrior's life involves violence, death, and acceptance of killing. As Gabrielle grows and takes on a more active part in this life she will continue to run into these conflicts. Since Gabrielle cannot fully envision a life separate from Xena, let us hope that she can at least remember to use blunt weapons.


rax@eclipse.net rax@eclipse.net
Candi has BFA in Theater Arts and MA in Dramatic Arts, both specializing in Costume Design. Unfortunately she has found no need for wardrobe tarts where she lives. In the meantime she uses her research skills as research consultant for a law firm and any obsession she dives into.
Favorite episode: THE GREATER GOOD (21/121), ONE AGAINST AN ARMY (59/313), LOCKED UP AND TIED DOWN (75/407)
Favorite line: Thalassa: "What would you know about loss?" Gabrielle: "A few things". LOCKED UP AND TIED DOWN (75/407); Gabrielle: "Xena, I don't believe in your vision. I can't afford to. Now either I prove you wrong, and we go on from here, or I prove you right, and we die. Either way, I will not continue like this". PAST IMPERFECT (77/409)
First episode seen: CRADLE OF HOPE (04/104)
Least favorite episode: BEWARE GREEKS BEARING GIFTS (12/112), GABRIELLE'S HOPE (51/305)

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