Thursday, January 9, 2014

"Where Your Destiny Awaits" by Annie Leibovitz

And here she is: Jessica Chastain as Merida for the Disney Dream Portraits series for Disney Parks, photographed by Annie Leibovitz.

I did a quick search to track down what movie-Merida looked like doing mounted archery and found these reference images:
Then I discovered there's already a real life Merida who does the real thing. She's a professional stunt woman and archery coordinator who specializes in recurve, compound, longbow, crossbow, barebow, horsebow and mounted archery. (Phew!) Her name is Virginia Hankins, she looks like this (yes, that's her own hair). and she's had no shortage of work since Brave.
She's also a free diver and does movie stunt work as a mermaid (see below). The woman is like a walking fairy tale heroine! (Can I be her when I grow up??)

But I digress..

As per usual, I got to wondering about stories with mounted archers and wondered where in the world they might make a regular appearance. Turns out Russian hunters used mounted archery a lot, Iranian peoples specialized (still do), Native Americans (both Northern and Southern), Mongols and Turks but it became a particularly honored tradition among the Samurai (called Yabusame). While it's on the rise again in European countries, including Britain, the Scots weren't listed among the world's fiercest in horse archery warfare in history as Japan and Iran were. Though they did use this technique, as the majority of ancient hunters with regular access to horses did, it doesn't seem they practiced specialized training as much.

Here's a photo of a modern female mounted archer from Oregon, Katie Stearns, with her horse, Magic, painted to match her own costume. I kind of love that she studied anthropology before going into her horse training full time.
Katie Stearns aka Morwen or The Flying Dutchess
While I haven't had time to do any serious research, there are quite a few fairy tales in which archery features, though not usually as the main feature. Robin Hood's legend grew up around his skill, of course, but the Firebird centers on 'the king's archer' who comes across a fiery feather, and there are some Japanese tales that feature archers as well.
Behind-the-scenes of "Where Your Destiny Awaits" shoot
But back to the reason for the post: what do you think of the official new Merida?

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