Leetah is a powerful healer with the ability to mend wounds of mind and body with a touch. She is gentle and nurturing, yet fierce and tenacious when using her powers to protect those she loves. Though she now lives in the forest and follows the ways of the nocturnal Wolfriders, Leetah remains a creature of light and there is a feline elegance to her golden beauty. With the combination of her healing power and maternal wisdom, she holds a position of honor with both the desert and the woodland tribes.
I don’t remember who brought Elfquest into the house. I have to imagine it was my brother because he was crazy about comics from a very young age. Sure, I read Betty and Veronica and all nature of Archie and friends comics, including Katy Keene but my brother indulged in more serious, dramatic comics with darker, racier themes. Elfquest was one of them. And somehow, my mom started reading them as well because I recall that she was the last person to take over that collection Presently, I am still in possession of the X-men collection.
Yeah, the three of us were nerds.
But back to Elfquest. What drew me to this comic was the story of the Sun people and the powerful healer among them, Leetah. As a young girl, when I saw Leetah I saw a super feminine, Black being, a loving, healing, psychic, intoxicatingly beautiful, maternal woman, who above all things, was proud and unashamed of her femininity. She kept a beautiful golden dagger strapped to her thigh and was raised among people, who, like many native and indigenous tribes, understood and revered the power of women in their community. The Sun Folk gave daily praise and deference to the power of nature in all things. They lived in an advanced, civilized, agrarian society while their pale counterparts, the Wolfriders, lived in caves, fleeing from humans and all manner of treachery, danger and inherited fears. Of course the Wolfriders end up invading the Sun Folk because they’re starving, need shelter and stuff and don’t trust nobody, have no home training and are savages.
It didn’t offend me at the time, when Leetah, despite herself, recognized Cutter, the leader of the Wolf Riders, as her soul mate. The story, not surprisingly, is written and illustrated by a white couple. White people are always both dependent on us for their survival to the point of depletion, yet somehow completely incapable of anything resembling proportional gratitude or compensation in any but the most useless words and empty symbolic gestures.
Always, in the foreground of my consciousness, as a I read this comic book I loved, was the sense of regret and resentment of the trouble, the strife and violence that was forced upon the Sun Folk when the Wolfriders entered their lives. Before they arrived, the Sun people lived for a long time in peace and harmony, with their traditions and rituals, obeying the forces of nature and the ways of their ancestors. But without the Wolfriders, there would be no quest. Or to put it another way, heroic narratives told by oppressors only begin with their invasion of a people. The lives the of those people before colonization is rarely made accessible to the mainstream.
From the beginning, the history of race relations, after the construction of race was created, in order to tip the balance of privilege to Caucasians, has been inextricably predicated upon the necessity of violence, genocide, rape, murder, torture and gentrification of Black and Brown peoples. No fictional story which includes the entrance of Europeans or pale races, into the land of a peaceful, nature abiding, indigenous, diasporic peoples ever ends well for those people.
The merging of Wolfriders and the Sun people or rather Leetah with Cutter, was not without its challenges. Rayek, a powerful warrior in Leetah’s tribe who loved and wanted her as his mate, was naturally painted as a petty and unworthy opponent who retreats into self-exile after losing the trial for her heart. But of course the Sun Folk never intended to fight the Wolfriders because they were not a fighting people….
They were peaceful and welcoming. And ultimately, the Wolfriders had no intent to wage war on the Sun Fok. They were just seeking sanctuary and shelter from their persecutors and a pit stop from a fearful, desperate and nomadic way of living. But the fear, violence and destruction they sought refuge from, followed them eventually. And this time, when the Wolfriders fled the Village of the Sun Folk, Leetah went with them; her fate tied to people she was not akin to but would be bound to forever.
Still, in a world of whitewashed, female heroes, whose stories were set in the cold and concrete realities of patriarchal metropolitan societies or futuristic wastelands, I found refuge in Leetah’s journey as a Brown woman living in harmony with nature. With the full knowledge of her purpose as a healer, mother and potential life partner, and as someone who was raised among elders whom she worshipped, Leetah was accustomed to going to them for wisdom and guidance as a way of life. In a very Oshun like way, she was surrounded with beauty, love, fertility, abundance, intuition and fierce capability I rarely ever saw in Black female comic characters. So for me, Leetah was a very early example of Goddessness personified.