In honour of International Women’s Day, here is a deeply feminist childrens’ book.
Elizabeth is a beautiful princess who lives in a castle and is going to marry a handsome Prince called Ronald. Unfortunately, a dragon destroys her castle and makes off with Ronald, leaving Elizabeth no choice but to put on an old paper bag she finds and follow the trail of destruction to rescue Ronald. Spoiler Alert: She succeeds. She outwits the dragon and rescues Ronald. Ronald is not properly grateful and tries to neg her into coming back when she is more appropriately dressed. Elizabeth tells him off, leading to the glorious inspirational last line of this book: *They didn’t get married after all” and the final illustration of Elizabeth triumphantly dancing into the sunset.
This book was written in 1980 by famous (in Canada) storyteller Robert Munsch. His children’s stories are all wonderful. He has a knack for great lively writing, full of action and excitement. I’ve seen him perform live, where he takes the name of a child in the audience and tells a story about them. He’s mesmerizing. His frequent collaborator Michael Martchenko is a terrific illustrator. That last image of Elizabeth dancing is as iconic as the story itself as far as I’m concerned.
I feel like Princesses get a bad rap in Feminist circles. We don’t want our little girls to be so obsessed with being pretty and shallow, and there is a Princess Industrial Complex that I do not support, obviously. I am writing this on a table covered in yogurt from my dearly beloved 2 year old Squishie who loves dinosaurs and princesses equally. I want her to have varied interests but I acknowledge that she is drawn to princesses and pink and sparkles. It’s hard to fight that and the culture supports this pervasive idea that girls have to be pretty sweet pink princesses.
BUT. You know who else was a Princess? Xena. Wonder Woman. General Leia Organa. There are ways to be *girly* that are powerful and strong and helpful. Elizabeth outwits the dragon without hurting it. She rescues the Prince, and then when she realises that he is not worthy of her, she joyously moves on. She is smart and strong and awesome.
I highly recommend this book for all the little girls (and boys) out there, and adults who love them. Strong women: may we know them, may we raise them, may we BE them.