Personally, I refuse to read princess crap to Boogie. Frankly, even if I didn’t have a next generation feminist to raise, these ‘traditional’ stories drive me potty with sarcastic anger and the few times I’ve relented, I’ve found myself inserting a bit of gender commentary here and there when I can no longer resist the urge. My Cinderella tends to get back after the ball, steal one of her sister’s dresses and head on out back to the palace – I mean, he doesn’t know where she is, but she sure as hell knows where he is, right? Don’t hate her for wanting to marry rich, OK? Hate the game, not the player. These comments are often much to Boogie’s amusement, but sometimes much to her disgust, so she doesn’t ask me to read them any more. Phew!
There are, however, one or two princess books I can just about cope with:
Princess Smartypants – Babette Cole: Doesn’t want to get married, runs rings around the suitors her parents set her up with, and turns the prince who finally succeeds at the tasks she gives him into a warty toad. Which leads to a distinct drop-off in the number of princes up for marrying Smartypants. And she lives happily ever after.
Princess Pigsty – Cornelia Funke: Unimpressed by the trappings of princess-ness and femininity, Pigsty goes off to live in, well, a pigsty. Basically.
The Princess and the Wizard – Julia Donaldson: A fairly traditional princess, but at least uses her own smarts to outwit the wicked wizard.
The Princess Knight – Cornelia Funke: My fave I think. Her father organises a jousting contest with the prize being the princess’s hand in marriage. She’s outraged, but because of her sheer determination, she’s already trained herself to be the best knight around. She enters the competition anonymously and wins and tells her father to fuck right off with his marriage plans. I paraphrase the last bit. She spoils it a bit for me by marrying in the end (the gardener’s son), but hey, we all fall from the path of feminist righteousness. No hate here.
I’m fond of these books because I think they do cause Boogie to think a little bit about what they’re saying. Because they feature princesses, but show that princesses don’t have to follow the ‘swoon and wait for the kiss’ model, they can step out of their path a little bit and succeed by their own lights. More effective for thinking matter than just trying to ban princesses, methinks.
Now I just need to find a book like this that features someone other than a white (and still normally blonde) princess…