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Jules Verne does like his leading ladies to be unconventional. The only non-European character, Aouda is as exotic and foreign as the lands Phileas speeds through on his quest for world domination… er, make that time-zone domination. "It is enough to say, without applying this poetical rhapsody to Aouda, that she was a charming woman, in all the European acceptation of the phrase" (16.8). Unlike pretty much everything else he passes by while circling the world, when Phileas takes a gander at Aouda, he actually stops for once to look at the view.
The romantic backstory of Aouda almost makes the novel less about adventure and more about love. A rich, beautiful princess who is forced to marry an old rajah after her father's death is one of the oldest tales in the book. When the rajah kicks the bucket, Aouda is expected to calmly lay down with his corpse… on his funeral pyre. We can guess how excited she is to do that, so she's doped up with drugs to make sure she cooperates.
Fogg and company stumble upon the ceremony and a daring rescue mission takes place. Afterward, Aouda is eternally grateful to Fogg and Passepartout and agrees to go with them on their epic world tour.
Aouda is the only girl on a trip made exclusively by men, for men. And though the guys do their share of protecting, Aouda proves she can do more than turn a few heads with her beauty. During a train raid, for instance, "Aouda behaved courageously from the first. She defended herself, like a true heroine, with a revolver" (29, 25). It seems the princess doesn't mind fighting off enemies in a rumble with her fists, braving hurricanes on the high seas, or bitter cold temperatures on a sail sledge—she does it all without a sniffle. What kind of man can resist that?
Perhaps the coolest part of Aouda lies in her perceptive nature. She's kind, caring, and intuitive (and did we mention she plays whist?). She can see the heart that beats beneath Fogg's cold, methodical nature, and she totally digs it. She grows to love Phileas Fogg as more than just her rescuer, and even though he never shows more than one blink of returning that love, she has the nerve to ask him for his hand in marriage. You go, girl.
Fogg of course agrees because, like, he's totally been in love with her this whole time (duh, who wouldn't be?). Thanks to Aouda, he gains something at the end of the trip that he's probably been searching for his whole life: a companion and a meaningful relationship with a hot princess. Boom.