You are currently browsing the category archive for the ‘Honorable Mentions’ category.

51u68zdhqQL._SL160_At the Devil’s Door is a fairly mediocre horror movie but with an honorable-mention level GU plot. You might think that the first character you meet, a teenage girl, is the Girl Underground, but it’s a bit more complicated. This girl is tricked into letting the devil take over her body, but the adversary hardly stops there.

Fast forward a couple decades, and there’s a real estate agent showing a house, when she sees the first girl in the hallway, and thinks it’s the missing daughter of the house’s owners. After finding out that the girl she’s seen is actually the first girl, the one who supposedly committed suicide in the house in the 80’s, the real estate agent confronts the devil-possessed girl and is killed. Another potential Girl bites the dust.

The real Girl Underground here is the agent’s sister Vera, who begins to uncover the story behind these events. She finds out that Hannah (the first girl) was pregnant when she died, although a virgin. Apparently the devil has been trying to bring forth a supernatural child to inhabit. Vera confronts the devil but is thrown out a window and goes into a coma for eight months, after which she discovers she is about to give birth to a baby. Vera is understandably freaked out, and gives the baby up for adoption.

Six years later, Vera decides to find her daughter, presumably possessed by the devil, and kill her. She confronts the little girl, who technically doesn’t confirm anything but acts creepy enough that you know she’s right. But Vera cannot bring herself to kill her, and so she takes the girl with her instead. This suggests another “girl loses” version of the archetype, which seems to mostly be present in the horror genre.

51nVwl5yBWL._SL160_Raven Speak by Diane Lee Wilson is set in ancient Norway, during a winter with no end. Asa’s clan is dying of disease and starvation. Her father, the chieftain, has sailed off in search of food, and her mother is almost dead, so it is up to her to save her people. But she is opposed by the evil clan skald, Jorgen, who seeks power for himself.

When Jorgen attacks Asa and her beloved horse, they flee along the fjords until they meet an old wisewoman. Asa cannot tell if Wenda is ultimately her friend or another foe, for the one-eyed woman is strange and moody, and she speaks to two ravens as if they were people. But eventually, she decides to leave Wenda’s cave and return to her clan to face her adversary. They have a violent altercation, but Asa’s triumph is not the end of her troubles, for a much worse ordeal lays ahead, and a sacrifice she must make for the well-being of her clan.

Not perhaps a true GU story, as she doesn’t journey far, the adversary is almost a tangential plotline, and her non-talking horse is her only companion, but a gripping book with a strong heroine that is worth reading.

41QC-u7HTUL._SL160_I just watched Mr. Frost for the first time – somehow I missed this 1990 gem with Jeff Goldblum, who I love, and had to track it down on Youtube. Partway through it occurred to me that it was probably a GU story (which it is, although I’m only considering it an Honorable Mention since it’s missing a lot of the finer details).

Mr. Frost is clearly the adversary, a man who may or may not be the devil himself. He volunteers a confession to some brutal murders but then immediately falls silent, and is eventually put in a mental asylum, where he meets Dr. Sarah Day. Frost will only speak to Day, and tells her that he plans to goad her into killing him. She treats him like a mental patient, obviously, even though the detective who arrested him (her companion in this sense) keeps warning her that Frost is truly evil.

After several displays of his power, Day is gradually convinced that Frost is indeed the devil and that she must murder him to save others. But when she does, it appears to open the door in turn for her to become possessed by the devil. While she “wins” in the sense of defeating the adversary, she ultimately loses – like some other thriller/horror GU stories, such as The DarkIn Dreams and Don’t Be Afraid of the Dark.


“Believing in yourself and your magic is half the battle.”

I picked up The Courage of Cat Campbell by Natasha Lowe figuring it might be a GU book because of the genre (intermediate fantasy) combined with the girl’s name in the title, and I was right. This is pretty light fare, with an adversary that is rather easily defeated – it’s mostly about learning to believe in yourself, which while somewhat cliché, is definitely a common GU theme.

Cat, who I think is 11 or 12, lives in a world where some people are natural witches, and the lucky ones go to train at a special witch school. Cat has always wanted this destiny, but did not appear to have inherited the gift from her witchy mother (who due to past events hates all magic). One day she discovers that she is a Late Bloomer and has powers after all, but she cannot control them well. Rejected by the school, and told by her mother to forget about becoming a witch, Cat sets out to prove herself in a dangerous way. A notoriously evil witch has escaped prison and Cat decides to capture her, with a little help from her companion Peter (who briefly gets turned into a guinea pig for his troubles).

SPOILERS Amazingly, it works, and Cat discovers that the evil witch was just sad all along, forced to be a witch when she wanted to be a singer, which created so much rage she hurt people. The “adversary” is willingly taken back to jail, but happy now, Cat’s mother comes around to her daughter’s new destiny, and Cat gets into the school and makes a life for herself as a witch, happily ever after.

“Don’t let fear stand in your way.”

51Af5Rr2VbL._SL160_I just watched the movie Housebound, and while it wasn’t quite a full GU story, it was at least worth an Honorable Mention here.

For one thing, it all takes place in a house (like so many of my favorite GU examples), and that’s actually a main plot point, because the protagonist is under house arrest and cannot leave the grounds. And because it’s her childhood home she’s confined to, there’s the whole “return home” aspect – even though in this case it begins the tale rather than being an interlude in the middle.

Upon arriving, Kylie’s mother tells her the house is haunted, but Kylie dismisses this – until strange things begin happening. Kylie’s parole officer ends up being a companion, as he is an amateur ghost-hunter. There are two feints as to the identity of the adversary (and one of the initial suspects becomes essentially a companion, helping Kylie here and there). The main hauntings occur in the basement, which is of course underground (and in the walls of the house, which was rather creepy). In the end, there is no real ‘final confrontation’ with the adversary, but it still has many of the elements in the right places. Not to mention, a wonderfully original combination of horror and comedy.

bfdd53926f969f5222951e6fa7311d1aThis is another example of “If the Story Were About Her“. If you watch the first season of the television show American Horror Story from the perspective of the daughter, Violet, it appears to be a Girls Underground story. Warning: SPOILERS ahead, I can’t talk about this without them.

First of all, the entire show takes place in a house, as many GU stories do – an extremely haunted house. In fact, Violet can’t even leave the house by the end, once she has died there (returning to her life as if everything is still normal after that transition mimics the “returning home in the middle of the adventure” trope common to GU stories). She certainly has the classic distant and distracted parents – so much so that they don’t even realize she is dead! When she is dead, her body is literally underground, in the crawlspace below the house.

Violet’s relationship with Tate is the most interesting part. He is both adversary and companion. As a companion, he watches out for her and tries to save her life, and helps her cope once she is a ghost. But as her adversary, he lies to her, tries to control her, and ultimately she must face off against him and banish him (“Go away, Tate!”).

Not quite a full GU example, but worth mentioning.

61g5izigvVL._SL160_The Riverman by Aaron Starmer isn’t a GU book, but it deserves a mention here – and not just because it was so unique and riveting that I was literally unable to put it down, and read it all in a single sitting last night. It isn’t a GU story – but it’s the story of a GU companion, essentially, and provides an interesting perspective on that role.

Alistair, 12, gets a visit one day from a childhood friend, Fiona, who tells him an unbelievable story. Since the age of four, she has been visiting a magical otherworld called Aquavania, where everything is created by the imagination. But there is a sinister threat – a figure called the Riverman has been invading children’s self-created worlds there and sucking out their souls. Fiona fears she will be next.

Alistair never journeys with Fiona, and for most of the book he is doubtful that any of her story is real – assuming instead that it is a cover for a more mundane but still awful trauma. But as things escalate, the horrible truth of the Riverman is revealed, and Fiona disappears, leaving Alistair to figure it all out. I can’t really say  more here without spoiling it, and this is a book that hinges on the mystery, so I will leave it at that.

But what fascinated me along with the plot was to read a first-person narrative by a Girl Underground’s companion, to see him as a protagonist in his own story, with the Girl’s adventures being only related second-hand, and taking a secondary role. And there is no doubt that Fiona is a Girl Underground – the author’s website even gives this description, linking her with several other GUs:

“Fiona Loomis is Alice, back from Wonderland. She is Lucy, returned from Narnia. She is Coraline, home from the Other World. She is the girl we read about in storybooks, but here’s the difference: She is real.”

While I felt that this book stood on its own even with a somewhat unresolved ending (not everything, after all, needs to be neatly tied up in reality), it turns out there are two more books planned, and I will have to give them a shot despite my skepticism about series, since this one was so engaging.


“But this was the way the world was. It was deeper and stranger and scarier than she’d ever imagined, but it was real. To forget, to give up now, would just be giving in to her fear. And Alice’s father hadn’t raised her to give up.”

The Forbidden Library by Django Wexler is a good illustration of how certain plot elements are essential to a Girls Underground story – without them, it’s not just a matter of the story not “qualifying” by my standards, but it often falls flat when it has all the other ingredients but is missing something essential. This “honorable mention” is missing a strong adversary and final confrontation, and it made the ending quite disappointing for me. (Not surprisingly, I see there is a sequel which drags out the main mystery some more, and maybe will solidify an adversary… but I prefer books that can stand on their own.)

Alice, 12, spies her father talking to a fairy one night, and her entire world is turned upside-down. Not only is reality not what she supposed it to be, but the conversation spurs her father on a trip from which he never returns. Alice is sent to live with an uncle, who is not really her uncle, in a strange house with an even stranger library. She meets a talking cat, and a mysterious boy living secretly in the library, who become companions of sorts, though neither of them very helpful. After being transported into a book and having to fight her way out, Alice is informed by her “uncle” that the world has magic in it, and she has great potential to be a powerful magician.

Alice tries to find out what really happened to her father, but the issue is never resolved. There are several potential adversaries, but in the end it seems no one can be trusted, and it’s unclear who – if anyone – is her primary foe. Therefore, while the book was entertaining enough, in the end it was not particularly satisfying.

51Kba192q2L._SL160_This one is really just an Honorable Mention, but I’m featuring it because of how influential this series was to me when I was younger – I rediscovered it at the library recently, and realized it was, generally speaking, a Girls Underground story too!

Witch’s Sister is the first of three witch books by Phyllis Reynolds Naylor, written in the 70’s. Lynn believes her sister Judith is being turned into a witch by their mysterious old neighbor Mrs. Tuggle. She and her friend Mouse spy on Judith and see all manner of strange happenings, and Mouse begins reading an old book on witchcraft, and matching up the legends with Judith’s actions. It appears that the witches are specifically after Lynn’s baby brother, so like a typical GU she must rescue him. The climax of this particular book happens during a stormy night when Lynn’s parents have gone away, and she is left with the witches to defend her brother. She confronts them alone, and manages to foil their plans. But, things are obviously not over, and the story continues in the following books.

This book features the creepy little cantrip that I loved so much I memorized it, and still use it to this day:

From the shadows of the pool,
Black as midnight, thick as gruel,
Come, my nymphs, and you shall be
Silent images of me.

Suck the honey from my lips,
Dance upon my fingertips,
When the darkness tolls the hour,
I shall have you in my power.

Fast upon us, spirits all,
Listen for our whispered call.
Whistling kettle, tinkling bell,
Weave your web and spin your spell.


“‘I don’t want to be in a new world,’ Lillian said. ‘Maybe so,’ the crow said, ‘but you don’t want to go back to the old one just yet, because over there you’re a dead little snakebit girl.'”

The Cats of Tanglewood Forest – written by one of my favorite authors, Charles DeLint, and illustrated by one of my favorite artists, Charles Vess – is an expansion of their previous picture book, A Circle of Cats. It is perhaps just an Honorable Mention as far as GU plot goes (no overall adversary), but it’s a lovely book worth mentioning.

Lillian is an orphan who lives with her aunt on a farm far from anything else. One day while in the forest, she is bitten by a snake. As she lays dying, the wild cats of the woods gather around her and use their magic to transform her into a kitten – something that won’t be dying. With a fox as her companion and helped by other animals along the way, she visits the possum witch to regain her human shape. The witch undoes the events of the day, but with a warning that other things may also be changed – and when Lillian returns, she finds that her aunt has been snakebitten instead, and has died.

After weeks adjusting to her hard new life, Lillian decides to try to fix what she has inadvertently done, although by this time she believes it to all have been a dream. She seeks the counsel of a native elder, who sends her to the frightening bear people, where she serves the elder in hopes she will help her. (There is a man there who is somewhat of an adversary, but she never really confronts him and he’s not the final barrier to her goal.) But when she finds a potion that enables her to talk to animals, they (including her previous fox companion) help her figure out the truth, and she escapes the bear people to return to the possum witch again.

Once more a kitten, and her aunt alive, Lillian must find one more ally to help her return to her human life with everything intact.

An exploration of story…

In which I describe examples of the Girls Underground archetype that I have discovered in literature and film. For more information regarding the concept, including its earlier incarnations in fairytales and mythology, visit the pages linked above. Here is a list of all the examples I have covered thus far.

The Oracle

THE GIRLS UNDERGROUND STORY ORACLE - tapping into the Power of Story for guidance and insight. Learn more here.

Alice Days

Celebrate one of the primary inspirations for Girls Underground - Alice in Wonderland - with a holiday down the rabbit hole and through the looking glass! Check out the Alice Days page for party ideas, movie recommendations, and more.


  • 75,377 journeys underground

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