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The Gabrielle Question That Still Has Xena Fans Scratching Their Heads

If you look at it one way, then the story of the two main characters of the long-running swords-and-sandals series "Xena: Warrior Princess" almost sounds like a social experiment. 

What happens when you take Gabrielle (Renee O'Connor), a naive, peaceful farm girl from the backwater village of Potidaea, and place her in the company of one of history's most renowned, and at one time most brutal, warriors: Xena (Lucy Lawless)? What will that pairing look like years later, after venturing throughout the known world together? Who will each of those two people become after having the sorts of adventures they had? 

Though it was unarguably the central relationship of the show, some fans are questioning whether the journey Gabrielle went on with Xena, and the subsequent changes it wrought on her personality and worldview, was ultimately good for her as a person. In other words, was the junior member of the "Xena: Warrior Princess'" dynamic duo ever meant to end up as a fighter, to carry on in Xena's footsteps even after the show's conclusion?

Fans are wondering whether Gabrielle was ever meant to be a warrior

The question was raised by Redditor u/lostworld21 in a post titled "Was the Way of the Warrior the right way for Gabrielle?" It asked, "In S6 the Abyss, when Gabrielle is injured after being haunted by Cora's death, Xena blames herself and tells her it's my fault 'for setting you on a path you were never meant to walk.' Was Xena right?"

The original redditor points out that Gabrielle was quick to look for alternatives when they presented themselves in hers and Xena's journey, be it married domestic life with her childhood friend Perdicas in Season 2 or the attempting to live by the non-violent teachings of the Way of Love preached by Eli (Timothy Omundson). Even the paths she experienced in alternate realities were all far from a life of violence, whether as a poet or an orator, except in the alternate universe where everyone was flipped to become their opposite, where she became a bloodthirsty killer. "The extreme pacifism from the way of love might have been the wrong fit for her ... but I still wonder if the way of the warrior was really the right one," the post went on.

Was a peaceful way possible in Xena's ancient world?

The question became a chance to discuss the nature of pacifism and the possibility of a non-violent existence in a world in which violence is prevalent. "Gabrielle believes absolutely in the ideal of peace and love, of doing no harm (quite the opposite; she wants to heal the world). But she doesn't live in an ideal world, she lives in one where evil is proactive and violent, and though it pains her to fight and kill, she learns and realises that good can't be passive in the fact of that," wrote u/Sinomatic.

"I think Ides of March specifically served as a rude awakening to her rather delusional beliefs regarding non-vioelent peace based belief system," wrote u/queeeeeni. "I think Gabrielle knows by the end of the show that you have to fight for peace, you can't achieve peace by asking nicely and expecting people to listen."

Others disagreed with that sentiment, saying even Xena hoped Gabrielle would be able to live a life that wasn't that of a warrior. "To try to reach peace through fighting is just an easier way than a peaceful one," wrote u/Siddhartha_2021. "Xena once said something like this: 'Making war is simple, making peace is never easy, if it was everyone would do it.' You have to be/do what you wanna see in the world."

Gabrielle's journey was about finding balance between her path and Xena's

But u/psychosus argued that Gabrielle was given little choice by the circumstances of the show and its central conflicts, which kept pushing down one particular path. "The whole point was that Gabrielle didn't have a choice any more than Xena did. It was a cumulative effect of the decisions and actions of others in addition to her own ... Xena wanted to preserve her innocence because she knew what would happen and eventually it happened anyway."

But even as Gabrielle grew more comfortable with the martial elements of her travels with Xena, that doesn't mean she would necessarily become a warrior in the end. The user u/Bookbringer thought Gabrielle's eventual balance between someone seeking peace but preparing for war was the essence of the character. "Path of Peace represented an ambitious, hopeful part of her — what she thought was best in the big picture — while Way of the Warrior represented a more grounded, practical side — what she thought was best in the moment. She needed to embrace both parts of her in order to be whole."