boy goes on an adventure disguised as a girl
January 14, 2014 5:10 PM   Subscribe

Are there adventure stories where a boy feels chafed by his gender roles and must disguise himself as a girl to be able to go on an adventure? like Alanna. I enjoy gender bending fiction but don't remember any books like this.
posted by bleary to Writing & Language (28 answers total) 25 users marked this as a favorite
There's a chapter in Huckleberry Finn, but that's all I can think of! Good question.
posted by blnkfrnk at 5:27 PM on January 14 [3 favorites]

The Good Lord Bird? It's more life-and-death than adventure. (Disclaimer: I haven't read it yet, but keep stumbling across it in different contexts, so I think the Universe intends for it to hit my bookshelf soon.)
posted by BrashTech at 5:36 PM on January 14 [1 favorite]

There's a medieval Japanese novel called Torikaebaya Monogatari where two siblings feel chafed by their gender roles and decide to trade places. More romance and court politics than adventure, though.
posted by Jeanne at 5:40 PM on January 14

posted by capricorn at 5:40 PM on January 14

I'm not sure if you'd specifically like to stick with more sombre/serious works (such as Alanna appears to be) or if you're interested in something more comedic. If so, anime tends to have plenty of gender bending. Here's a couple popular ones:

Rose of Versailles
- Girl posing as a boy to succeed her father.

Mayo Chiki! - Girl posing as a boy for work related purposes.

Ranma 1/2 - Boy turns into a girl off and on. Comedic. Long series. A classic.

Needless Special Episode - Boy poses as a girl to get into an all girls' school. Wiki for this one as it's not very well known. There is a related series called Needless
posted by stubbehtail at 5:44 PM on January 14

I've watched some Ranma 1/2 episodes but did not know of the others.

I would like to get some recommends on the more sombre side if you know of them.
posted by bleary at 5:47 PM on January 14

There are a few mentioned here. You don't get much more somber than Jane Eyre.
posted by The corpse in the library at 5:52 PM on January 14

Sombre is perhaps the wrong word. Alanna is not exactly a sombre series, but it is not slap stick nor does it wink wink nudge nudge at someone dressed in drag.

And I don't mind adult books, but for some reason ya novels keep coming to mind as examples of the female example of the trope: I'm curious what an author's take would be in exploring this from the other direction. I checked tvtropes and found DisguisedInDrag and that is not what I am looking for. It wouldn't be "drag".
posted by bleary at 6:03 PM on January 14

In season 3 of Misfits, one of the characters (Curtis) gains the ability to switch between genders, and does some exploring of gender roles.
posted by His thoughts were red thoughts at 6:13 PM on January 14

Folks, remember bleary is looking for boys disguised as girls. A lot of girls disguised as boys have been given, which is pretty common.

Anyway, off the top of my head, it's a key plot point of Tom Stoppard's play On The Razzle. The character Christopher disguises himself as a girl to get out of -- and right back into -- trouble. It should be noted that "On The Razzle" is based on the very famous Austrian play Einen Jux will er sich machen, which was also the basis for "Hello Dolly" and "The Matchmaker". "Einen Jux will er sich machen" also has the same plot point with the character (called Christopherl in that play), but "Hello Dolly" and "The Matchmaker" do not.

Not quite what you are looking for, but a character (not the central one) of Rachel Hartman's fantasy novel Seraphina turns out to be a man disguised as a woman, although it is difficult to say more without giving away much of the plot.

Boy-disguised-as-girl is a much rarer version of this than the other way around, sadly enough. I'm sure there are others, though, I'll see what I can remember ... Unfortunately, none of the ones I've mentioned thus far have been about escaping gender roles, they're more about accidents or devious plots.
posted by kyrademon at 6:44 PM on January 14 [1 favorite]

I came in to recommend The Good Lord Bird -- and I see BrashTech has beaten me to it.

I finished it a couple of weeks ago - it was brilliant. The gender disguise was accidental, but it is definitely integral to a long wandering adventure tale in the style of Huck Finn and other classics. There is a lot of serious history (it's primarily the story of John Brown of Harper's Ferry Raid infamy) but the "girl disguise" enables the narrator to witness many things he wouldn't have been able to otherwise.
posted by pantarei70 at 7:01 PM on January 14

Georgette Heyer's The Masqueraders probably counts, although the woman disguised as a man is more in focus than the man disguised as a woman. David Levithan's Every Day doesn't quite fit, but it bears mention in any gender-bending fiction thread.
posted by Monsieur Caution at 7:17 PM on January 14 [1 favorite]

The problem is, unless the specific individual is in trouble, being a male is easier. Cite: Literally dozens, if not hundreds of women in Western history alone who posed as men to enjoy careers closed to women.

And then there is Hatshepsut, who simply declared herself Pharoah and used the beard and headdress drag to rule Egypt (until relatives eager for the throne offed her, which is a peril for royalty of any sex.)

You might enjoy Cary Grant in I was a male war bride.

James McBride claims the hero of The Good Lord Bird is not a girl because he didn't think he was good enough to write a "real girl." But he said that while selling a book so...

there's also an excellent documentary about the good Lord bird (ivory billed woodpecker) called The Ghost Bird but sec and gender and passing don't really inform that story so this is quite a digression.
posted by Lesser Shrew at 7:37 PM on January 14 [1 favorite]

Princess Jellyfish might fit the bill.
posted by alexei at 8:02 PM on January 14 [1 favorite]

You might enjoy Cary Grant in I was a male war bride.

This reminds me of The Last of the Blond Bombshells, in which (if I recall correctly) a man disguises himself as a woman to play the drums in an all female band and avoid the draft during World War 2.
posted by His thoughts were red thoughts at 8:17 PM on January 14 [1 favorite]

None of these are really quite what I suspect you want, but just in case --

- Epicene, by Ben Jonson. A man wants to disinherit his nephew by marrying a "silent woman", who turns out to be a man in disguise.
- The Wind in the Willows, by Kenneth Grahame. Toad dresses as a woman to escape prison.
- The Bacchae, by Euripides. Pentheus dresses as a woman to witness the rites of the Maenads.
posted by kyrademon at 8:46 PM on January 14 [1 favorite]

I came here to say "Princess Jellyfish," too. The TV series is available on Netflix, at least with a US IP address; not sure about elsewhere.
posted by ceiba at 9:30 PM on January 14

- The Wind in the Willows, by Kenneth Grahame. Toad dresses as a woman to escape prison.

Actually, Terry Pratchett's Monstrous Regiment has a whole bunch of gender-bending girls as boys, with virtually no-one knowing for sure the real gender of any other character:
"Lieutenant Blouse tells me he is a man, sir," said Clogston. "Since he is an officer and a gentleman, I will take his word for it."
It includes a commanding officer who is actually a man (the aforementioned Blouse), but adopts a female disguise to break into a prison - he appears to quite enjoy himself.
posted by His thoughts were red thoughts at 10:31 PM on January 14 [1 favorite]

This may not necessarily be an adventure in the quest sense, but what about the film Some Like It Hot? Jack Lemmon and Tony Curtis disguise themselves as women to join an all girl band after they inadvertently worked the St Valentine's Day massacre. Hijinks and Marilyn Monroe ensue.
posted by so much modern time at 10:39 PM on January 14 [2 favorites]

Hourou Musuko -- "Shuicihi Nitori appears to be a shy and quiet preteen boy, when he transfers to a new school he quickly makes friends with the tomboyish Yoshino Takatsuki who sits next to him. It soon becomes apparent that both Shucihi and Yoshino are more than simply a sensitive boy and masculine girl, they both are transgendered. Together they decide to take the first steps toward becoming the people they want to be."
posted by Chocolate Pickle at 11:15 PM on January 14 [2 favorites]

Boy posing as girl is easy on the Internet. But this tale I saw today says the boy couldn't take the abuse.
posted by gregoreo at 3:38 AM on January 15

There's an episode in The Manuscript Found in Saragossa in which the hero disguises himself as a woman - I forget why; but he ends up as a nobleman's wife (?I think) and runs into trouble when the nobleman expects him to breastfeed an infant. It's a fun, bawdy story anyway (like all the stories in this wonderful book, besides the surreal/spooky ones).
posted by low_horrible_immoral at 3:45 AM on January 15 [1 favorite]

Lesser Shrew: "The problem is, unless the specific individual is in trouble, being a male is easier. Cite: Literally dozens, if not hundreds of women in Western history alone who posed as men to enjoy careers closed to women."

Yes! and a story that had a character with this motivation due to trouble would be interesting. This wouldn't necessarily be a story about a transgender character, for example, because a trans woman is a woman.

A Brother's Price has some boys chafing under gender roles, and one of them has to go in disguise as a woman because he is trying to escape kidnappers; but the novel doesn't quiet fit because it is set in a secondary world where the gender privilege is mostly just a flip of ours. I'm interested in a setting closer to our world because imaging the motivations of such a character is intriguing.

There is another novel that sort of might fit, but not exactly. Comittment Hour is about a town where people spend every other year as a different gender until a commitment ceremony. There were traditional gender roles, and people tended to pick a gender that matched the roles they enjoyed during their life. But this is somewhat of a dystopia since the person would never be able to remove the mask and continue life in whatever body they wish.
posted by bleary at 6:28 AM on January 15

In the movie "Some Like It Hot", Jack Lemmon and Tony Curtis spend most of the film disguised as women.
posted by Chocolate Pickle at 8:46 AM on January 15 [1 favorite]

Perhaps not quite what you want, and comedy, but Twelfth Night?
posted by epanalepsis at 10:37 AM on January 15

I recall that in the series Fushigi Yuugi, there was a character by the name of Nuriko who was a male living as a female. He was doing so in honor of his sister, who had died as a child in an accident. He's not the main focus if the story, but it seems like he'd fit what you're looking for.
posted by Sakura3210 at 8:09 PM on January 15

Gary Jenning's Raptor is a sprawling and intricately plotted historical adventure novel set in the early Medieval period. The main character is a hermaphrodite who, depending on circumstances, will "disguise" themselves as either male or female to survive. Unfortunately there is a great deal of violence (including sexual violence) and sexism in the story, which I suppose is accurate for the era but can be off-putting. However, if you can look past these flaws and the author's prejudices it is a great read.
posted by partly squamous and partly rugose at 3:20 AM on January 16

This is a component to the main character's story in Hedwig and the Angry Inch (movie/rock musical).
posted by eviemath at 4:30 AM on March 6

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