Many a princess seems to be simply another damsel in distress. A girl whose problems are solved again and again by breaking down in a fit of tears and being rescued by a dashing prince. As engrained in culture and history as these stories are, however, these aren’t the princesses we want our daughters emulating. We want them to be strong, spunky, confident, and capable of solving their own (and other’s) problems, with a strong self of self. Lucky for us, there’s many a princess in modern children’s literature worth emulating and here are just a few:
1. The Princess Sue – as seen in The Worst Princess (by Anna Kemp, illustrated by Sarah Ogilvie)
Princess Sue has been waiting for a prince to come rescue for so long, that when he finally rescues her she’s ready to get out and about! When she realizes that he wants to just bring her back to ANOTHER castle where she’ll essentially be stuck in a penthouse with nothing to do but try on dresses and twirl her hair, she decides she’s had enough. She still gets her happily ever after… but only after making friends with a dragon.
Emulation worthy traits: spunk, rescues herself from her predicament
2. Beauty – as seen in Beauty and the Beast (by Marianna Mayer, illustrated by Mercer Meyer)
In this beautifully illustrated re-telling of Beauty and the Beast, much of the story remains the same, albeit with greater depth of character than some of us might recognize from the most well-known re-tellings. Beauty is selfless, hard-working and empathetic towards those around her as she copes with the transition from her comfortable situation to life in the country and then again to life with the Beast, her actions guided first by love for her family, and then love for the Beast.
Emulation worthy traits: empathetic, selfless, hard-working, optimistic
3. Edna – as seen in Cinder Edna (by Ellen Jackson, illustrated by Kevin O’Malley)
Cinder Edna lives right next door to Cinder Ella, but their attitudes on life couldn’t me more different! While Ella is crying and sitting in the cinders to stay warm, Edna is cleaning out bird cages to earn extra money from the neighbors, and mowing lawns to stay warm. When Ella calls upon her Fairy Godmother for a dress and a lift to the ball, Edna uses her bird cage cleaning money to buy herself a nice dress, and then takes a bus. As you can imagine, their taste in men is also quite different, so it’s a good thing that there are 2 princes as different as the girls are. Who do you think lives happily ever after?
Emulation worthy traits: resourceful, hardworking, independent
4. Fanny – as seen in Fanny’s Dream (by Caralyn Buehner, illustrated by Mark Buehner)
While not quite a princess, Fanny certainly aspires to be one and makes plans to attend the ball at the Mayor’s mansion once her Fairy Godmother shows up and gets her all fixed up. While she’s waiting though, she gets a proposal from Heber Jensen, a farmer who lives nearby, and after an hour she accepts his proposal. They work together, laugh together, start a family together, rebuild their burnt down house together, and when Fanny’s Fairy Godmother finally shows up several years late she gets to choose whether to stay with her family, or go off and marry a Colonel at a nearby ball. For Fanny the choice is simple–she already has a family she adores.
Emulation worthy traits: hard-working, loyal, practical
5. Elizabeth – as seen in The Paper Bag Princess (by Robert Munsch, illustrated by Michael Martchenko)
Elizabeth has a beautiful palace, beautiful clothes and is engaged to marry a handsome prince named Ronald. After all her worldly possessions are burnt to a crisp and her prince carried off by the dragon, Elizabeth dons a paper bag and goes off to save her prince using her brains rather than brawn or eyelashes. Is the prince worth saving in the end? Let’s just say Elizabeth is strong enough to recognize her own value.
Emulation worthy traits: clever, sense of self-worth
6. Violetta – as seen in The Princess Knight (by Cornelia Funke, illustrated by Kerstin Meyer)
Violetta has three older brothers, and since her mother died when she was very young, the King has raised her just like his three boys–to be a knight. Because of all the teasing she gets from her older brothers for not being as strong and as skilled as they are, Violetta starts putting in extra time at night, secretly honing her fighting skills until she can beat them all. These improved skills serve her well the day her father announces that the winner of his upcoming jousting tournament will receive Violetta’s hand in marriage.
Emulation worthy traits: hard-working, resilient, resourceful
7. Rosamund – as seen in The King’s Equal (by Katherine Paterson, illustrated by Vladimir Vagin)
Though Rosamund was blessed by her mother’s dying breath to become a king’s equal, she begins life as a simple goat herder. Yet when she gives her own food to a hungry wolf so he will spare her tiny goats, she is shown a way she can save her kingdom from the King’s son, who is both arrogant and thoughtless. Upon presenting herself to the prince, she helps him see that she is his superior in both intelligence and wealth, and she sends the prince to the mountain with the goats. Will life as a humble goat herder help the prince learn what he needs to save the kingdom and himself?
Emulation worthy traits: kindness, empathy, with-holding judgment
8. Hope – as seen in Rumpelstiltskin’s Daughter (by Diane Stanley)
When Rumpelstilzkin’s daughter Hope is put in a room full of straw and told to spin it into gold for the greedy king, she knows her father could get her out of this pickle, but she has another idea. She persuasively convinces the king that gold is grown, not spun, and then that gold is knitted, not grown. Having helped the king feed and clothe his people for the upcoming winter, as well as earn their good-will and loyalty, Hope is offered the job of queen. But with her power of persuasion, she has something more than a figurehead position in mind!
Emulation worthy traits: empathy, selflessness, resourcefulness, patience, courage
Looking for more books with strong female characters? Check out our full list!