This is the third post in my “Precocious Princesses” series, reviews of inspiring alternatives to traditional princess fairy tales.

The Ordinary Princess

by M. M. Kaye

Viking, 2002

112 pages

Developing this series, I looked high and low for a good tween-oriented princess tale.  There was Ella Enchanted, of course, but it seemed like such an obvious choice.

I wanted to find something off the beaten path, and one of my fabulous librarian friends obligingly pointed me to The Ordinary Princess.

It’s an overused phrase, but this really is a gem of a book.

It reads much like Winnie-the-Pooh, Beatrix Potter’s tales, or The Hobbit: comfortably chatty, seasoned with equal parts sly humor and old-fashioned propriety.

In short, it’s utterly, unmistakably English–the perfect tone for a cheeky rewrite of the typical princess tale.

Here’s the story: Her Serene and Royal Highness the Princess Amethyst Alexandra Augusta Araminta Adelaide Aurelia Anne is the seventh daughter of the King and Queen of Phantasmorania.

At her christening, a cranky old fairy “gifts” her with Ordinariness, and the princess grows up looking, thinking, and acting like a normal girl.

Fast-forward several years, and the King and Queen are seeking a husband for Princess Amy.  When they decide to take the drastic step of locking Amy in a tower and hiring a dragon to guard her–the King says it will make her irresistible to princes–the princess decides that she’s had enough.

She runs away to a neighboring kingdom, where she finds work as a palace kitchen maid and strikes up a friendship with a “man-of-all-work” named Peregrine.

When a couple of chance meetings reveal their true identities (Peregrine is actually a young king who doesn’t want to marry a typical princess), the two realize they were made for each other.

The story ends with them marrying and sneaking off to a honeymoon in an ordinary forest cottage.

There’s so much inspiration here, particularly for tween girls just beginning to navigate the world of body-consciousness and identity issues.

First, there’s the princess’s refusal to be passed from hand to hand or locked away like so much baggage.

Rather than allow others to determine her destiny–or, indeed, her worth–she courageously strikes out for a path that’s true to who she is.

Then there’s her adaptability.  She moves easily and competently between palace, forest, and kitchen.  She’s unafraid of hard work, and her joy isn’t dependent on wealth and pomp.

But what I love most is the fact that she’s at peace with herself.

She sees her ordinariness as a blessing, not a cross to bear (which, of course, is what the old fairy intended).  She doesn’t pine for ballrooms, jewels, and gowns–she’s happy to run around in the forest.

Nor does she spend her time as kitchen maid wishing she had the looks and accomplishments to fit into palace society.

Is she perfectly confident?  Not by a long shot.  She has her insecurities, her moments of wistfulness.  But those just make her seem real and relateable.

Overall, she is quite content to be The Ordinary Princess, and she refuses to do life on any terms but her own.

That’s inspiring to me.  How about you?

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