The first appearance of menstruation. It is not the same as puberty, which applies to both male and female, and which is defined as the capacity to beget or to bear children.
The ritual significance of menarche in human societies varies widely. When the term is used in fantasy texts, it refers to a momentous event which tends radically to affect the life of the girl undergoing it, perhaps most radically in Robert Holdstock's Lavondyss (1988), whose young protagonist's menarche coincides with the book's halfway point, and signals an extraordinary intensifying of the tale. Frequently menarche is associated with the sudden blossoming of a Talent, as in Stephen King's Carrie (1974), filmed as Carrie (1976). More vaguely, it can be associated with the first steps towards empowerment in fantasy novels whose protagonists are young women destined to gain great gravitas in their world. [JC]