Though Obi-Wan Kenobi claims a lightsaber is an elegant weapon for a more civilized age, the real-life weapon that probably holds this distinction is the bow and arrow. Not only does it take strength, dexterity, and accuracy to excel at archery, but also there’s something inherently romantic about the image of the archer. With Katniss fever in full effect, we decided to set our sights on fictional archers from the original arrow-slingers to some of the newer cool kids. Adjust your quiver and read on.
1.) Hawkeye (The Avengers)
In terms of chronological comic appearances, Hawkeye could be considered the faux-Green Arrow insofar as he first showed up in the 60s, whereas Green Arrow popped up first in 1941. Though his archery might not seem all that practical in the world of The Avengers, (what are you going to shoot the huge flying snake with, Hawkeye?) there’s still something slick as hell about Clint Francis Barton. With his current incarnation making his first appearance in the Thor last summer, it’s exciting to know Hawkeye will be on the big screen very, very soon. With him and Katniss, that’s two archers hitting our screens this summer in big blockbusters.
2.) Princess Merida (Brave)
Make that three archers in big summer blockbusters! We haven’t seen Brave yet, but by all accounts Princess Merida is poised to be a great and memorable character worthy of the high quality of the Pixar family. The trailers are exciting as hell and the notion of a Pixar film focusing on a female protagonist archery badass, is well, brave. (Though we’re starting to wonder if Hawkeye, Katniss and Medira are going to have their own spin-off movie called Hot Arrows.)
3.) May Welland (The Age of Innocence)
Oh yeah, oh yeah, it’s Edith Wharton time! In this classic novel, one of the more memorable scenes occurs when May Welland wins an archery tournament in Newport. If that doesn’t seem crazy enough, she’s hanging out in Newport, with her husband Newland Archer. The word games in this novel are almost as awesome as the dialogue, but May’s archery is a nice symbol of her character’s subtle complexities as well as serving up some pretty harsh commentary of the upper class of in New York in the 1870s. Further, May’s archery pin in the Martin Scorsese film adaptation is oddly reminiscent of the Katniss mockingjay pin. Coincidence?
4.) Legolas (The Lord of the Rings)
This is a no-brainer. Legolas is such a badass with a bow and arrow, it’s not even funny. Sure, there are a lot of archers in the whole Lord of the Rings world, but Legolas is by far the most impressive and physics-defying. It might be a little unfair insofar as he’s an elf, but that doesn’t mean he’s not one of the best shots on this list. It just means he has a leg up on everyone else, although he pushes even that to the extreme.
5.) Green Arrow (DC Comics)
Oliver Queen may come across ridiculous on the surface, but Green Arrow has depths his comic book company rival Hawkeye can only dream of. In the 1970s DC comics did their best to make the series hardcore by having Green Arrow show Green Lantern just how terrible things had gotten in lower-class neighborhoods of America. Riding around in a pickup truck, the two discover all sorts of injustices from poverty, to racism, to corny dialogue. Still, despite some of its heavy-handedness, this was about Green Arrow was all about: keeping it real. Which is a personality trait that stands to this day.
6.) Odysseus & Telemachus (The Odyssey)
When the cleverest Greek of them all returns to Ithaca, he shows up in disguise in order to suss out just how how messy his house has become since suitors have overrun it in his absence. Odysseus ’s loyal wife Penelope has set up a system by which each suitor must prove his worth by stringing the famous bow of her husband. Naturally, the bow is so serious, no one can do it; much less perform perfect target practice with it. But Odysseus strings his own bow just fine, and has brought along his son Telemachus, who is also awesome with a bow and arrow. The ensuing bloodbath is brutal, and one has to wonder if Odysseus killed more people in his own house than he ever did during the Trojan War.
7.) Artemis (Greek myth)
Given to her by the Kyklopes, this goddess wielded golden arrows that caused sudden death in women. She was a naturally a crack shot with these things, and another famous archer Orion was, at one point, her suitor. (Archers got to stick together?) Artemis is interesting insofar as there are connections between her and ancient bear cults, and also because she had the magical ability to change the gender of people. When the young boy Sipriotes crossed her, she turned him into a girl. And you thought her death arrows were serious!
8.) Robin Hood (Everywhere)
Robbing from the rich and giving to the poor requires skill, panache, and sometimes a hat, but also a long-range weapon. More than any other fictional archer, Robin Hood might be more responsible for the current cultural love affair with the bow and arrow. Whether it’s Errol Flynn, Kevin Costner, Russell Crowe, Cary Elwes, or Patrick Stewart, the man in green’s arrows are perhaps the most virtuous of them all. (Though the personal Tor.com staff favorite version of Robin Hood is easily the fox from the Disney version. Oo-de-lally, Oo-de-lally golly, what a day, suckas.)
9.) Cupid (Roman myth)
Though falling in love can happen a variety of different ways like: getting stranded on a spaceship together, being betrothed by your Vulcan parents, or the internet, the good old fashion way is easily Cupid’s dart. Unlike most of the other arrows presented here, Cupid’s arrows cause people to fall in love. (No wonder we have a romanticized feeling about the bow and arrow, it literally makes us swoon.) Though when you stop to think about it, there is something creepy about the notion that one must be pierced in order to enable love....
10.) Katniss Everdeen (The Hunger Games)
The current darling of YA literature, and soon-to-be big-screen badass, Katniss’s skills with a bow and arrow are tops. This isn’t just some random talent Katniss possesses, but rather one she developed out of necessity. She managed to feed her family with her archery skills, and we don’t feel like she’s quite complete until she gets her hand on that bow and arrow in the games. (Though the way she obtains it through the course of the games is a little grisly.) Anyway you look at it, Katniss is a worthy successor to a long tradition of heroic archers.
Stubby the Rocket is the voice and mascot of Tor.com and in another life was known as Stubby the Arrow.