She eyed Thom. "D'you want to be a sorcerer bad enough?" she demanded. "It means years of studying and work for us both. Will you have the guts for it?" Thom straightened his tunic. His eyes were cold. "Just show me the way!" (1.20-21)
It seems likely that perseverance is an inherited trait, since Alanna and Thom both have tons of it. Too bad they don't also share Alanna's other good qualities, like selflessness and chivalry. We're not too sure about this Thom guy, whether or not he's Alanna's twin.
"There are a lot of tests ahead for you," Thom said earnestly. "Watch your back." "I'll pass the tests," Alanna said. She knew they were brave words, almost foolhardy, but Thom looked as if he needed to hear them. (1.68-69)
Alanna seems pretty confident when she and Thom part ways. It's always good to be optimistic when you're starting a new venture, but we suspect Alanna might not quite know what she's in for. Remember, she's never really known hardship in her cushy, noble-born life.
Here was the center of training for knighthood…She must learn to fall, roll, and tumble. She would get dirty, tear muscles, bruise herself, break bones. If she withstood it all, if she was stubborn enough and strong enough, she would someday carry a knight's shield with pride. (2.124)
It sounds like becoming a knight means pushing your physical limitations to the edge, and then some. Only those who are very determined (and resilient) can pull it off. Whew. Leave Shmoop out of it—we'll stick to the library with Thom. Well, maybe not with Thom. But definitely the library.
"Face it," Gary told her kindly. "You'll never catch up. You just do as much as you can and take the punishments without saying anything. Sometimes I wonder if that isn't what they're really trying to teach us—to take plenty and keep our mouths shut." (2.137)
From Gary's perspective, training for knighthood means pushing ahead and doing what you're supposed to do even when you're overwhelmed. It sounds like he's saying that knights sometimes have to approach situations where they know they'll fail, but try anyway. Man, the more we learn about knighthood, the happier we are to stay at home.
Alanna paced the room. "I can't do this…The pace will kill me." … "I never figured ye for a quitter," Coram interrupted softly. (2.141-142)
Coram knows how to hit Alanna where it hurts: her pride. She's usually the stubbornest thing around, so for him to call her out on giving up is a low blow. But Coram knows what he's doing: it turns out that Coram's right, and she's not a quitter at all, she just needed to throw a fit about how much she hates knighthood training before getting back into it.
"When you're little, like me, you either quit and get picked on all the time, or you stick it out. I have to stick it out." (3.65)
Alanna's approach to Ralon's bullying—stick it out—is brave and shows her persistence. It also condemns her to many a bruise and bloodied nose, so we just hope they've got good doctors in Tortall.
Her splinted arm turned into an advantage. Normally she was right-handed. Now Alanna had to depend on her left hand for everything, and her left hand was the one she first learned to really fight with. She quickly saw that she could be twice as effective using both hands, and worked as hard as she could to develop her skill. (3.149)
Only someone as single-mindedly goal-driven as Alanna could see a broken arm as an advantage. She's like, "Nope, it's cool, this'll actually help me be a better fighter in the future." How many people do you know who would think like that?
Coram sighed and met Timon's puzzled look. "Sh—he's Trebond," he explained. "Stubborn as pigs, all of them." (4.46)
Oh, Trebond. That explains it. Wait, no it doesn't. Apparently, in Tortall, people from Trebond have a reputation for incurable stubbornness. Helpful in some situations, mega annoying in others.
"Ye're turnin' into a woman, aren't ye?" … Alanna stepped from behind the screen. Her eyes were red and swollen. If she had been crying, Coram knew better than to mention it. "Maybe I was born that way, but I don't have to put up with it!" (5.9-12)
Oh, Alanna. Only you could be so stubborn that you'd actually try to outrun your own biology. She's still so set on becoming a knight that she begins to bind her breasts, which hides them—painfully. But the way she sees it, she's come this far, so she doesn't really have a choice.
Alanna hefted the weapon in her hand. It was the largest, heaviest sword she had ever handled… She trotted off to find an empty practice room with plenty of mirrors. (5.212-213)
Alanna is so hardcore that she practices with a sword that's almost as big is she is. It's difficult to wield a blade almost as big as she is, but that's the point—after forcing herself to practice extensively with it, anything else she uses will feel like a toothpick. That's how dedicated Alanna is.