IN PRAISE OF BARDS:
MISSED OPPORTUNITIES AND THE XENA SCROLLS
Special to WHOOSH
By Kate Maynard (firstname.lastname@example.org)
Copyright © 1997 held by author
It's Greek to me!
 Since the airing of the XENA: WARRIOR PRINCESS episode, THE XENA SCROLLS (#34), I have had the pleasure of discussing the authorship of the revered documents with a number of folks on the Xenaverse mailing list. Many of these fans have expressed deep disappointment with the fact that Gabrielle was not revealed as the author of the documents; some speculate that this may have been a mere oversight, while others believe this glaring omission to be a setup for a sequel involving the future adventures of Janice Covington and Melinda Pappas. In either case, the consensus seems to be that a prime opportunity to proffer respect for the character of Gabrielle was missed. I would like to add my voice to that sentiment, and I would also like to present a few reasons WHY I think it was important for Gabrielle's authorship to be revealed.
 If indeed it is the intent this season to put Gabrielle on more of an equal footing with the Warrior Princess, by what methods could this be achieved? Certainly, she has acquired some fine skills with the staff, but I have little doubt that the bard would ever be the equal of Xena in battle, nor would she want to be, nor does she apparently aspire to be.
Mild-mannered ancient linguist, Mel Pappas
 I would like to think of Xena and Gabrielle as a true team, each offering complimentary skills and talents which make theirs a partnership to be reckoned with. I found DREAMWORKER (#03) particularly effective in showcasing the skills of both women, and unlike some others, found THE TITANS (#07) to be successful in this regard as well. Xena, herself, is a force of nature, a supermortal, a mythic warrior-hero. Who other than Hercules would not feel inadequate by comparison? Little wonder Gabrielle exhibits all the classic symptoms of a person with major self-esteem problems.
 The bard's insecurities are poignantly expressed in THE XENA SCROLLS, when Janice Covington admits her profound disappointment in discovering she's the descendant of "the useless tag-along, Gabrielle." Obviously, this is not only a statement of how Dr. Covington perceives the bard, but how our Gabrielle sees herself. What I found somewhat disappointing was Xena's reassurance, couched only in terms of Gabrielle's giving nature. Xena tells Covington that "her" Gabrielle cared more for others than herself and was the best friend one could hope to have. High compliments, indeed, but again this frames Gabrielle in that role of the "Perfect Woman": ever nurturing, ever sacrificing her needs to those of others, and never taking credit for her own accomplishments.
 The failure of Gabrielle to achieve self-actualization will continue to keep her from attaining a true partnership with Xena. Gabrielle has no power in this relationship, or at least no power she is willing to use, or perhaps none that she recognizes. But she does possess talents which she herself holds of little value, including a keen mind.
A broken chakram in the sand
 To reveal Gabrielle as author of the Xena scrolls would have gone a long way towards elevating the status of Gabrielle as bard. Storytellers have always held positions of honor throughout our histories; without them we have no heroes to claim - just as without our Xenastaff bards, we would have no Xena and Gabrielle. Storytellers are the keepers of our trust, those who define us as societies and individuals. Certainly, a bard in ancient Greece would not have been met with the scoffing dismissals too-often given Gabrielle on XENA: WARRIOR PRINCESS. The great bards of Greece were held in esteem equal to that of their warriors.
 I think these dismissals of the bard's skills are not particularly the kind of image that young viewers in particular need to see. I would like to think that youngsters (and their parents) could be inspired by the fact that one can achieve greatness via the exercise of the imagination; that creativity, reading and writing are skills just as important as the proper way to deliver a roundhouse kick or wield a sword. I found Dr. Covington's speech during the teaser - the one in which she extols the historical significance of the scrolls - to have been quite moving.
 So to me, whether or not Gabrielle becomes adept with a sword or sexually experienced will not be the measure of her maturity, though these life experiences must be part of her journey. Maturity will come with self- realization, a recognition of her own power and respect for the skills she already possesses within.
 I was heartened to hear those closing lines at the end of here she HERE SHE COMES...MISS AMPHIPOLIS (#35), wherein Xena asks whether or not Gabrielle will record the story of their adventure. The fact that Xena even acknowledged her partner as storyteller is a nod to the fact that Xena values these skills in Gabrielle. And so should we.
Wild and woolly archaeologist, Janice Covington