I recently stumbled across a charming little children’s story, The Ordinary Princess by M.M. Kaye. It is not a book so much as a story; although the version I read was published as a standalone, it would fit very nicely in a compendium of modern fairy tales.
I read and enjoy a lot of fairy tales, all types: original Grimm, Disney versions, modern retellings in novel form. In fact, I took a whole course on children’s fantasy literature in college (yay for a liberal arts education). I also often read articles about how these tales are bad for young girls (especially Disney versions) because they encourage us to aspire to be “princesses” with no valuable qualities other than beauty (and entitlement). I would like to think I did not, in fact, turn out that way. (But perhaps I should add that my childhood favorite Disney movie was actually The Lion King, which lacks any pretty pretty princess stuff.)
Anyway, The Ordinary Princess gently pokes fun at “those kinds” of fairy tales by offering a protagonist who can’t help but be ordinary–this quality was a gift from a fairy at her christening. (She also received Wit, Charm, Health, etc, but no one ever remembered those. Hey, at least it wasn’t Obedience.) Princess Amy likes to play in the woods and make friends with squirrels, and when she runs away from home, she must get a job just like everyone else.
While the characters are certainly relatable for the reader, the plot does not venture too far outside traditional fairy tale territory, which keeps it charming and magical. The story ends with a marriage, and unlike other current tales, has no interest in what happens after (when Amy inevitably discovers that she now has to wear nice dresses and sit in boring council meetings).
My favorite parts of the story were the tone, which is witty and droll while being simple enough for children, and the lovely illustrations placed throughout.
My childhood fantasies for my own future were amusing as well. At various times, I thought I might want to be a nun, a ballerina, or a naturalist. My ballet dreams were cut short by puberty when I added hips and a chest to my lack of turnout. But I still drag my husband to The Nutcracker every Christmas, etc., so the new ABC Family dramedy “Bunheads” (by the creator of “Gilmore Girls”) caught my eye. The pilot aired last night, and I watched the recording when I got home from work today. I usually give a new show about 2-3 episodes to hook me, and that really will be key for this show. I really enjoyed the pilot (characteristic machine-gun dialogue, some really likeable characters, and adequate dancing), BUT the show ended with a sudden twist that leaves me in doubt of the direction of the show. So I’ll keep watching a few more episodes with an open mind and see where it goes.