A Girl, a Sword and a Symbol of Empowerment

How a childish fantasy world led me to my love for the blade



The writer stands at home with her sword collection.


When I was a little girl, my dad and I would sit around the kitchen table where he taught me how to read. I was always excited, especially on Sundays when he picked up the Sunday Daily News, The New York Times and the Long Island Press. After church, we would come home, and Dad would open the paper to the comics that would become my favorite comic book heroes. 

My favorite stories included Superman, who I loved for his powers and bravery; Batman, who was mysterious in black (and even at seven years old, I loved black); and Prince Valiant — well, he was just a cute prince who handled his sword so heroically against the bad guys.  

Then there was Wonder Woman. I wanted to be just like her. Her patriotic costume was a symbol of power and force to me, and when she was Diana Prince, out of her Wonder Woman armor, she was just like me. I wanted the costume, the jewelry and, most of all, to wield her sword. I even remember asking my dad if I could have a sword like Wonder Woman’s for my birthday. When I didn’t get it, I was so disappointed. My dad consoled me by saying that Wonder Woman felt that I had to be older, taller and learn to be more responsible to own and wield a sword. Just the idea that my dad spoke to Wonder Woman was enough to make him a hero and for me to want to be just like her. 

To me, Excalibur, just like Wonder Woman’s sword, the Sword of Athena, was my Amazonian symbol of freedom.

I guess you can say that at seven years old in 1963, I was already one of the second-wave feminists even before I knew what it meant. My mother was a traditionalist. Little girls grow up, go to school — not to college but to secretarial training school — get a job working for an executive, get married, have children and become plain old housewives and moms. That’s it! My dad felt that getting a degree was a waste of his time and money. I would get married and my husband would care for me. 

I did not fit my mom’s mold. I got my first job at 13 delivering newspapers before school for the Long Island Press. I got up at five in the morning, put on my jeans and a sweater, hopped on my Blue Schwinn bike with the basket in front of it and picked up thirty papers to deliver to my neighbors. It was actually my little brother’s route, but he went to camp for the summer, came home and did not want it anymore. I took it over and became the only news girl on the route. 

I have been working ever since, except when my children were born and I took maternity leave. Working is in my genes. But then again, I am a working force. Work was always an escape for me from the abuse I endured as a young girl. 

In high school, I was introduced to a new subject, medieval history, and the stories of King Arthur and his amazing Round Table. His sword Excalibur became the symbol of my Holy Grail. I wanted to own Excalibur, strap on armor and take that beautiful blade and spar with the knights. To me, Excalibur, just like Wonder Woman’s sword, the Sword of Athena, was my Amazonian symbol of freedom. It was considered the “God Killer.” I didn’t want to kill God literally, but I wanted the Sword of Athena to be my sword of vengeance, to kill my abusers and take away all my pain. As for Excalibur, I wanted to fight with her so that I could fight for justice and for those who were abused like me. My Holy Grail was to help others stop the same pain that I was in every day. 

Life has a strange way of working. As a young woman, I never learned how to use a sword. I started college but had to leave shortly to help my family. Working, getting married and raising a family became my endeavors, particularly taking care of a son and husband with special needs. During that time, while I spent hours in one doctor’s office or countless days in hospitals with my husband while the good doctors tried to find out what was killing him, I began to read about my comic book heroes again. 

For my birthday, my dad gave me the book “Le Morte d’Arthur” by Thomas Malory. Written inside the book cover were the words “Hic iacet Arthurus, rex quondam rexque futurus,” or “Here lies Arthur, the once and future king.” My heart and soul soared — I was home again with Excalibur and Arthur’s Knights of the Round Table. After I read that book, I began to voraciously read many more titles on King Arthur. I read the book “Merlin” by Jean Markael, which ends with Merlin telling the beautiful Nimue, “There, there is no more magic.” I could not live with that. 

The day he put a foil in my hands and I began to spar with the blade, the pain of abuse I felt in my soul for years seemed to disappear.

That book inspired me to learn how to respectfully use a sword. I joined the Woodside Fencing Club led by the fencing instructor Wiltold Rak. The day he put a foil in my hands and I began to spar with the blade, the pain of abuse I felt in my soul for years seemed to disappear. All my comic book heroes were in the room, and I was finally Wonder Woman. I began to collect swords and joined the Society for Creative Anachronism and learned through my fellow Ostgardrs (the East City-East Castle, or the Clan of the Sea Horse or Horse Realm) how to wield a rapier and use a shield. It was there that I won the beginners tournament. The tournament was held at Fort Tryon Park during the Renaissance Fair. I fought against other novice sword fighters and won. I was given a Gold Rapier for a trophy. It is mounted on red velvet and hangs on my wall.

Later on, I began to write books about King Arthur such as “The Quest for Excalibur,” “Excalibur and the Holy Grail” and “Excalibur Reclaims Her King” under my pen name, Angelica Harris. These are the tales of Arianna Lawrence, my alter ego, who unearths the sword Excalibur here in our time and goes back in time to return the sword to her rightful owner, King Arthur. It is there that through the tutelage of Merlin and the Lady Viviane, Arianna becomes a powerful high priestess, the guardian of Excalibur and the confidant to King Arthur and Galahad. Book four, “Excalibur and the Titulus of Christ,” is currently in production. To find out about Arianna’s legacy, you will have to read for yourself. 

Coming back to school was another form of empowerment for me. My education is so vital to me. Next year I will be a senior. I am an honors student, have been on the Dean’s List twice and I was inducted into the Alpha Sigma Lambda Honors Society. My major is English, and my master’s field of study will be social justice, feminism and poetry. My sword gave me the discipline and drive to excel, and my pen and education are my Holy Grail and my empowerment.