As a red-head myself ever since I started reading I have been on the lookout for my literary sisters; with their fiery locks and a temper to match they run wild in children's and YA fiction, especially fantasy. Here's my list of ranga heroines, roughly in the order I met them:
1. Ms. Frizzle, with a red mane that matches her name and a fashion sense that I still adore, she is the perfect eccentric teacher. With a pet lizard and a magic school bus her red hair was another thing that marked her as different. (The Magic Schoolbus)
2. Lily Quench (we even have the same name!!!) from the series of the same name by Natalie Jane Prior. I've just learned she's actually blonde but can say with absolute certainty that on the cover of the 2003 Hodder edition Lily boasts a head of coppery curls and this is the reason I chose the book, and this adventurous, fiery heroine was, for a while, young me's favourite character. (Note: at the same time I was watching the TV series Jane and The Dragon another red head whose best friend was a dragon, what a surprise.)
3. Molly Weasley, from the Harry Potter series. Remember what I said about fiery temper? "Step away from my daughter you BITCH!"
4. Nancy Drew from the classic Carolyn Keene series. She's not a fantasy heroine but she's definitely reckless: "Nancy, her titian hair still wet from a swim" (The Secret of the Wooden Lady)
5. Anne from L. M. Montgomery's Anne of Green Gables series. Who could possibly have a red-haired heroine list and not include the original carrot-topped, freckly, presumptuous teenager, even if she wasn't happy with being in the rarest gene pool in the world? "Red hair is my life-long sorrow."
6. Every Elizabeth I YA book I've read. As one of the rare teenagers who actually has a favorite British monarch I have read a lot of novels about Tudor England and Elizabeth herself (so many that I can't remember them all) such as Just a Girl by Jane Caro and Traitor's Kiss by Pauline Francis. My fondness for the Virgin Queen may have something to do with her hair... I do love Lady Grace Cavendish, despite her mousy brown hair but I came to these books via her fiery-haired mistress Queen Elizabeth the First: "the Queen is frightening. She has red hair and snapping dark eyes and a lovely pale complexion" (The Lady Grace Mysteries: Assassin)
7. Rapunzel in Shannon Hale's amazing graphic novels Rapunzel's Revenge and the sequel, Calamity Jack. Now that is a girl with a temper! Also, she uses her hair as a weapon, so automatic brownie points.
8. Clary Fray from Cassandra Clare's urban fantasy series The Mortal Instruments boasts, along with a temper and skill with pencil and sword, a cascade of coppery curls: "her hair a splash of red color against the black metal all around them" (City of Ashes)
9. Cassidy in Robyn Shneider's Severed Heads, Broken Hearts (also called The Beginning of Everything) is the reckless, unique, slightly nerdy romantic interest of the protagonist Ezra. This girl oozes difference, special-ness, originality and her red hair is one of her defining qualities: "her hair fiercely red in the sunlight"
10. Eleanor in Rainbow Rowell's flawless contemporary YA romance Eleanor & Park, "Eleanor is the new girl in town and her wild red hair and patchwork outfits are not helping her blend in". I also love this book because when the hero makes a declaration of love to Eleanor he lists her red hair as a reason “I like you... I think it’s got as much to do with your hair being red ”
I'm being strict with myself and keeping to books but i reall wish i could have movie and television characters on this list. Characters like the adorkable Willow Rosenberg in Buffy the Vampire Slayer, little orphan Annie in Annie, Molly Ringwald's unique, fashion conscience Andy in Pretty in Pink, Jane from Jane and the Dragon. I'll have to stop there because this blog is already pretty long and if I kept on going it would only get longer. But, in conclusion, fiction has pretty much redefined the redhead as unique, quirky, reckless and, of course, fiery.