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Jul 5, 2011

Why We Love Princesses

Princess Kate gets hitched.

I love princesses. I should. A princess taught me to read. A princess convinced me to get married. And a princess made my dream come true.

But I met a guy once who hated princesses. He was a Spanish anarchist who would hold up protest signs whenever any Spanish royalty showed up. The problem, he complained at a dinner party attended by radicals, pacifists and intellectuals, was that just about everyone in Spain adored the Spanish royal family, and for good reason. The king of Spain had defied terrorists to defend democracy.

The anarchist didn’t care. “I hate the kings. But I especially hate the damn princesses.”

“I love princesses,” said the activist next to me. “I LOVE them!”

She and the gay guy on her other side then started talking Princess Fashion Tips.

The anarchist rolled his eyes. I wondered if he was right. Are we unhealthily obsessed with royalty?

Dany from Game of Thrones. 

Some examples:
The Royal Wedding. Need I say more? Just as Princess Diana was the idol of millions, Princess Kate is the new darling. Ok, I know she’s actually “Duchess Kate,” but she did marry a prince. And let’s face it, if she invited you to tea, you would totally be tweeting all your friends, “Check me out having tea with a princess!”

Game of Thrones. This is the most awesome new fantasy series on television, and it’s all about kings and princesses and warriors and barbarians vying for power.

Harry Potter. Wait a minute, you’re saying. There are no princesses in Harry Potter. That’s true. But there is a half-blood prince. I rest my case.

Snape, I love you.

Let’s face it, even when the word “princess” is not used, the role sneaks in. For instance, in my epic fantasy series The Unfinished Song, there are no kings or princesses. But there is a Vaedi: The one girl in all the world with the magic to fight Death. The hottie warrior who loves her is not called a prince. He’s just the biggest badass of all.

Is there something wrong with us for being so interested in royalty in the age of democracy? I don’t think so, because I believe our obsession about princesses isn’t really about princesses at all. It’s about fairytales. You might think fairytales exalt royalty, but they don’t. They exalt common heroes. The boy or girl who is plucky and compassionate and daring is the one who becomes the prince or princess at the end of the story.



The princess who taught me to read wasn’t born a princess. She didn’t even marry a prince. Her name was Sarah Crewe and you might know her. She was the heroine of A Little Princess, the 1905 children's novel by Frances Hodgson Burnett.

In second grade, when most of the kids around me were already reading primers, I couldn’t read three words. I had dyslexia and reading was just like torture for me. Then my grandmother began reading to me from A Little Princess every night. One chapter at a time. And suddenly the torture of needing to know what happened in the next chapter overpowered the challenge of reading. I don’t know how my brain made the leap. I just knew I couldn’t wait to find out what happened to Sarah Crewe and I raced ahead, finishing the rest of the book by myself in one day. It was “the Magic” just like in the story.

As you wish.

I went from being unable to read at all to being a voracious reader. That’s how another princess came to unite me with my true love. When I met a man who took me to a bookstore for our second date, I knew I had found a prince. Flashforward half a year, and he bought me a copy of The Princess Bride. Inside, painstakingly fitted into the chapter entitled, “The Bride,” gleamed a diamond ring. That day I was amazed to discover that when he was saying, “Read this book,” what he meant was, “I love you.” And even more amazing was that I realized I truly loved him back.

The princess who pushed me to follow my dream was Dindi. She’s not really a princess either, she’s just a girl who is plucky and compassionate and daring, who insisted that I write her story. Ten years of research, writing, re-writing, querying agents, and finally publishing went into achieving that dream. I went from being a kid who couldn’t learn to read to a fanatic reader to a published author. When I think about that, I feel so grateful to all my readers, the fans who write to tell me how much they love Dindi and Gwenika and Kavio, and to everyone who made it possible. Thank you all. You make feel like a princess.

The Unfinished Song: Initiate  The Unfinished Song: Taboo  


The Unfinished Song: Initiate -- Nook, Kindle UK, Kindle US, Paperback

The Unfinished Song: Taboo -- Nook, Kindle UK, Kindle US

Look out for The Unfinished Song: Sacrifice, coming soon.

6 comments:

Krista said...

In "A Little Princess" - Sara says that all girls are princesses. I think that deep down inside we all believe that, so that is why we are fascinated with them. The more we see beautiful, brave, happy, strong princesses the more we know we can be like that!

Michelle Davidson Argyle said...

I love A Little Princess. LOVE that story. I think you nailed it when you say that it's about fairy tales, in the end. I agree. I certainly obsess about royalty more than I should... :)

Mina said...

Though I don't obsess about royalty, I love princesses and agree with your fairy tale in the end. So well said!

siebendach said...

As long as our society's little girls can be brave, happy strong princesses... well, we know we're doing something right.

Rayne Hall said...

I had dinner with Princess Anne.
Or rather, 'dinner in the presence of Princess Anne', since there were over a hundred people invited. It was in a real palace, nonetheless. The food was heavenly. And Princess Anne was awesome - such an intelligent, critical-thinking, educated outspoken woman.

I nearly declined the invitation because I had another commitment that evening - but when I mentioned the invitation, word spread, and employers, colleagues, neighbours, all told me ONE DOES NOT DECLINE AN INVITATION TO DINE WITH ROYALTY. So I went. I'm glad I did.

Taryn Tyler said...

Sarah Crewe is without a doubt my favorite princess. I owe a lot of my imagination to her. :D

(I tagged you in a meme. I don't know if you like such things or not but I'd love to see your answers)