Wednesday, May 13, 2009

Where have the princesses gone?

The word "princess" has been used by media (to describe the Hollywood lifestyle?) and marketing giants (to sell!) so often that it's hard to think of it without that tiara-wearing, luxury-overloading, scepter-wielding, pony-riding and pink-overusing parody coming to mind. While there are admirable characteristics about Disney princesses (and even Barbie movie princesses), so much attention is put into emphasizing the prettiness of it all that the better side of the word is left to fester and fall away.

It's time to look for another image of a princess. And I have just the girl! She isn't blonde--she doesn't even think of herself as good-looking--she wears too-small clothing, she has lost all the riches she once had...and yet, she still offers an ear to her friends, makes up stories for lonely and cold nights, thinks about another child's hunger over her own, and meekly submits to the ways of the world while keeping her head high. Do you know who I'm talking about?

Illustration by Odelia Leaf

I finally read Frances Hodgeson Burnett's A Little Princess. You probably know what happened in that story, as it has been retold countless times... but I'd like to give a rehash: Sara Crewe, raised in India and sent to London to study, was a girl who had just about everything a girl ever wanted. Her father Ralph was rich man who liked to lavish her with gifts...she had the most beautiful (ridiculous, as Miss Minchin would say) wardrobe and everything a princess seemed entitled to. But one day, news about Ralph Crewe's death arrived, and along with it the vanishing of all Sara's fortune.

What I admire about Sara is fortitude and character--and what willpower that child had! I can't help sharing some Sara-isms with you! These are little lessons from a princess on how to be a real princess, or at least, someone strong, admirable and compassionate. Might be good to think about when the going gets tough!

On being a princess:
"Whatever comes cannot alter one thing. If I am a princess in rags and tatters, I can be a princess inside. It would be easy to be a princess if I were dressed in cloth of gold, but it is a great deal more of a triumph to be one all the time when no one knows it."

On giving:
"If nature has made you for a giver, your hands are born open, and so is your heart; and though there may be times when your hands are empty, your heart is always full, and you can give things out of that--warm things, kind things, sweet things--help and comfort and laughter--and sometimes gay, kind laughter is the best help of all."

On patience and fortitude:
"When you will not fly into a passion people know you are stronger than they are, because you are strong enough to hold in your rage, and they are not, and they say stupid things they wish they hadn't said afterward. There's nothing so strong as rage, except what makes you hold it in--that's stronger. It's a good thing not to answer your enemies."

On trials:
"Perhaps I have not really a good temper at all, but if you have everything you want and everyone is kind to you, how can you help but be good-tempered? Perhaps I'm a hideous child, and no one will ever know, just because I never have any trials."

On miracles:
"Somehow, something always happens just before things get to the very worst. It is as if Magic did it. If I could only just remember that always. The worse thing never quite comes."

Now I have someone new in my Awesome Fictional People list. ;-)


Anonymous said...

This true Princess is a perfect counterpoint to the Material Girl ethos bandied about by MTV! Kudos to you for bringing this up.

petrufied said...

Thanks Manny! The princess problem is something my friends at work and i often ponder about...and it's really important to emphasize the good qualities, manners and responsibilities of a princess rather than what we commonly see today propagated by pop culture. our country's future women will be defined by this--so we should find them great princesses to emulate! :-)

sunnyday said...

Hay. The princess syndrome. All I can say is... go to this link, which is a post on (the daddy blogger) -- it's a great read. Of course you can't NOT read the comments :-)

I can read this over and over and not get tired of it.

petrufied said...

sometimes the discussions on such posts are as enlightening as the post itself. ;-) thanks for the link!