Wednesday, September 3, 2014

On Princesses

Flickr Credit: Krystn

If you think about it, there is an abnormally high proportion of princesses in fiction. And if not princesses, then something a little more modest, like a duchess or a countess. Sure, we have Princess Buttercup from The Princess Bride, the entire Disney Princess franchise, and all the princesses Barbie has plugged out, but there’s plenty more. *

Think about it.

Star Wars: Princess Leia. Cycle of Inheritance: Princess Arya and Princess Nasuada. Scarlet: Princess Isabel and Princess Marian. Lord of the Rings: Princess Éowyn and Princess Arwen.

There’s at least one princess in The Heroes of Olympus, Ever After, The Neverending Story, The Princess Diaries, Entwined, Game of Thrones, Avatar, The Lunar Chronicles, My Little Pony, Vampire Academy, Fairest, The Goose Girl, The Enchanted Forest Chronicles, Legend of Zelda, The Myth-o-Mania Series, Adventure Time, Pandora’s Mythic Misadventures, The Odyssey, Princess Mononoke, Anastasia, Monty Python and the Holy Grail, the John Carter of Mars Collection, Tales of the Frog Princess Series, The Hound Saga, The Paper Bag Princess, Thumbelina, The Royal Diaries, The Graceling Series, The Ordinary Princess, The Princess Tales, Shrek, Once Upon a Time, Avatar: The Last Airbender, The Bible, The Queen’s Daughter, Eldest, the Bloodlines series, Ella Enchanted, Around the World in 80 Days, The King Must Die, The Twelve Dancing Princesses, Once Upon a Mattress, Merlin, Aida, Princess Ben, Mario (the video game franchise), War and Peace, The Two Princesses of Bamarre, The King and I, King Arthur, Princess Academy, Pippi Longstocking, Once Upon a Marigold, The Wingfeather Saga, The Selection, Xena: Warrior Princess, Nobody’s Princess, almost any world mythology, Ranger’s Apprentice, Sailor Moon, Buffy the Vampire Slayer, The Oz Books, The Tale of Despereaux, Into the Woods, ETCETERA, ETCETERA, ETCETERA!

From this we can learn two things: there are a lot of princesses, and I don’t value studying for my AP Bio quiz nearly as much as I should.

Princesses are fascinating. Yeah, they’re stuck in fairy tales more often than not, but sometimes those fairy tales are marvelously recrafted—read The Lunar Chronicles or Rick Riordan’s books. And there are a few things that we seem to love about princesses that always bring us back…

1. They’re powerful—She can be married, unmarried, on the throne, yet to ascend. The simple fact that a girl has a hereditary rank and is expected to become a leader is important, because that means a girl can make stuff happen.

Take The Enchanted Forest Chronicles—by becoming Kazul’s princess, Cimorene puts herself in a position where she has a vital role within two kingdoms and sets the stage for rivalries with wizards for years to come.

2. They’re targets—I don’t want to say “vulnerable” because that’s not necessarily true, but being of a high-ranking family means that a princess will have more dangers out on the road than your run-of-the-mill farmgirl.

Princess Cassandra from The Ranger’s Apprentice is attacked by Morgarath’s forces and captured by Skandians in The Burning Bridge. When the Skandian Oberjarl decides to kill everyone in Cassandra’s family, the only thing that saves her is her anonymity.

3. They’re romantic—Not “lovey-dovey,” but the entire idea of being a princess is very pretty.

When it comes to marrying a prince, Lottie from The Princess and the Frog would do just about anything—even kiss frogs. She doesn’t, but it is a good example.

4. They have far to fall—Usually princesses are rich, and inexperienced with the “real world.” When a princess is caught out of her element, she often has to be more resourceful and make friends wisely if she wants to survive.

Princess Elizabeth of The Paper Bag Princess loses everything, and has to rely on her own skills to rescue Prince Ronald from the dragon. (Excellent book, if you were wondering.)

5. They’re eligible—Yes, a princess can be married, and a queen can be unmarried, but romance and love triangles are just a part of fiction. I can’t honestly say if it can be helped or not.

Especially within Game of Thrones, any girl or woman of a high enough rank is a target for marriage. Political alliances are everything in that series, and whether there’s romance involved or not, one wedding could mean life or death… but seeing as it’s Game of Thrones it’s probably death.

6. They’re expected to grow up—A princess has responsibilities. Even if her role in political life is to look pretty, that is still a role in political life, and there is no room for mistakes. She must be adult, must protect her people, and must be a symbol. That’s no easy thing.

The Lunar Chronicles show that Cinder has to be a double grown-up. On the one hand, Cinder has to provide for her family and face her stepsister’s death. On the other, Cinder has to become a Lunar princess and fight against Queen Levana A.S.A.P.

7. They have a lot of options—People to send messages, spies to learn information, teachers to show her things, money to buy things. A princess has a number of resources at her disposal to achieve whatever her ends may be.

Bitterblue from the Graceling series wants to learn more about her kingdom, and she has advisors to help her, a library to study, her father’s diaries to read, the accounts of her spies to listen to, the stories of her friends, and her own eyewitness survey as she sneaks out herself.

8. They’re easily misplaced—in accordance with #2, there is an awful lot of room for otherwise normal girls to turn out to be princesses. They’re joining the world they were born to be a part of, but they have no idea how to survive there.

As Anastasia says in the movie of the same name, “I guess every lonely girl would hope she’s a princess.” She goes on to discover she’s the lost daughter of the Tsar, and rejoins her grandmother in Paris, finally finding her family.

9. They are beloved—Every princess or queen has the potential to be evil, but many times our favorite princesses are symbols of the people they lead. They sympathize with the people, they represent ideals, and they prove that their nation is strong.

Princess Mia from The Princess Diaries 2 (Yes, the movies, which I like better, but we can talk about that later) puts an entire parade on hold to tell a few bullies to leave a little girl alone, and then invites everyone in the orphanage to be a prince or a princess for the day. She plays on her country’s sympathies and shows off her—and her country’s—power in a non-threatening way.

10. They have potential—A princess cannot be confined to any of the above rules. We have our stereotypes, and a princess has every potential to break them. Most of the best ones will. Maybe they have very limited power, maybe no one loves them at all. Maybe they’re nasty and cruel. Maybe they’re even evil. Fun fact: Princesses are people, too… and that means they have just as few boundaries.

Go reread the big list at the top of the post. You’ll manage.

Pretty much, princesses are awesome. And we still love them.

Wow, this post is annoyingly long, you might be thinking. Well, I promise to keep the rest of them shorter… but I’m afraid you’re stuck with the theme.

That’s right. For the rest of September, we will enter the Ariel vs. Belle debate, learn about a mythological princess, review my favorite princess movie, and much, much more.

Dust off your tiaras, my friends. It is time for some princess business.

What do you think makes princesses so interesting? Who’s your favorite princess? Share in the comments below!

Flickr Credit: Robynlou Kavanagh

*A bold title indicates that I have read or seen that thing. I did research to find more items because I wanted to make sure I could cover as much ground as possible. Many thanks to Wikipedia, my best friend, all the folks on the GTW Facebook page, and Goodreads.


  1. Good post. :) Princesses are really fun to write. I have a few noblewomen in my story. Do you have any in yours?

    Stori Tori's Blog

    1. Ooh, princesses in fiction are certainly interesting for me as a reader. What kind of princesses do you write about, if you do not mind my asking?

      I've written a few princess stories, and I've admired many princesses, but I think my heart truly lies with secret agents and superheroes. XD Perhaps someday, though!


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