"Every little girl is a princess, and there would be no need to say anything about it, except that she is always in danger of forgetting her rank, and behaving as if she had grown out of the mud. I have seen little princesses behave like children of thieves and lying beggars, and that is why they need to be told they are princesses."
—George MacDonald, The Princess and the Goblin
The ideal of the "princess" has been romanticized throughout literary history, sometimes to the point of absurdity. In popular culture, this has manifested itself primarily in two (harmful) trends. One portrays a princess as a stunningly beautiful woman whose life only begins when all her problems are solved by the appearance of Prince Charming and the other tries to overturn that trend by portraying an equally beautiful woman who gets everything she wants when she rebels against her parents or societal norms.
These are obviously not the kind of stories you want your daughters to be reading, but that's not to say you should throw out princess stories altogether. Princesses exemplify femininity in a way that is appealing to (and good for) girls of all ages, and there are books out there that accurately portray this.
Take the story of Cinderella, for example. She did all of the cooking, cleaning, washing, and sewing for an entire household—without a word of complaint. Sara Crewe gave to the poor even when she was the poorest she'd ever been. Princess Irene was brave in the face of great danger. Addie faced her worst fears to save her sister.
And you can't neglect stories about real princesses (and queens) alongside the fictional ones. Women like Pocahontas, Ka'iulani, or Elizabeth may not have stories as magical as those of Cinderella, Rapunzel, and Sleeping Beauty, but they also exhibit the kindness and fearlessness of a true princess.
Because, ultimately, a true princess should be defined by behavior, not by birth. Stories about brave and selfless women who care about others and are willing to do the right thing, no matter the cost, are the kinds of princesses worth reading about—and hopefully the kind that girls will grow up to be.
Review by Lauren Shearer
Lauren Shearer writes words for fun and profit. She also makes films, but everyone knows you can't make a profit doing that. Her other hobby is consistently volunteering way too much of her time. You can read more of her reviews here.
Did you find this review helpful?