Princesses In Fairy Tales

By H J Ford, L Speed – The Red Fairy Book, 1890., 10th impression 1907 Lang, Andrew, 1844-1912; Ford, H. J. (Henry Justice), 1860-1941; Speed, Lancelot, 1860-1931, ill. London : Longmans, Green, and Co. Copy held by Uni Toronto. Lib., scan made available at (online viewer). Convert to PNG, from JPG, and greyscale, with black and white point correction., Public Domain,

We do formal storytime twice a day: fairy tales at lunch time and the older two listen to a chapter book read by the professor at bedtime while the younger ones get a shorter story individually read by me.

Our lunchtime story has been from Andrew Lang’s Fairy books.* Since September we have made our way through the Blue and Yellow fairy books and now we are in the Red fairy book.

As it happens most of the “fairy” stories involve princesses in addition to fairies, and the princesses that are heroines of fairy stories always are endowed with great beauty and the very best of virtues. They are all very good, despite their various upbringings.

Now, don’t get me wrong, some of the nobility are evil. They are princes, princesses, kings, or queens and are very bad. It is always clear in the stories that these people are bad. Often a story will have it that the eldest two in a family of three brothers or three sisters will be more selfish or more foolish, and the third will be the most beautiful and most virtuous. And sometimes the oldest two in a family will be just bad.

One thing we have learned about princesses in fairy tales is that if she is married to a prince who is an unhuman creature by day, such as a pig, and a man at night, if she does anything to see him at night, which she most certainly will, then she will be separated from him forever, that is unless she embarks on an impossible quest which requires the aid of the sun and the moon and the west wind and the east wind and the north wind and the south wind to fulfill.

It should also be known that if a princess in a fairy story is told that she can do anything but one specific thing, then she will most certainly do the one thing which is forbidden, and then a consequence will ensue which will involve an impossible quest which requires the aid of the sun and the moon and the west wind and the east wind and the north wind and the south wind or perhaps the aid of a fairy.

Sometimes in the quest of a prince, he will help three animals out of various difficulties and they will come back to help him when he needs help to do whatever task he has to do to gain his freedom or his love. Often these tasks involve bringing a horse out to graze that runs away everyday, and if the prince cannot bring him home the witch or giant will eat him.

And while most princesses have happy endings, it does happen sometimes that the prince and princess will run out of magical resources at the end of the tale and the evil yellow dwarf who wants to marry her will slay both her and the prince with the prince’s magic sword which he drops instead of listening to the advice of the dolphin who brought him to the island on which his princess was being help hostage.

*Andrew Lang’s Fairy Books:  
The Blue Fairy Book
The Red Fairy Book
The Green Fairy Book
The Yellow Fairy Book
The Pink Fairy Book
The Grey Fairy Book
The Violet Fairy Book
The Crimson Fairy Book
The Brown Fairy Book
The Orange Fairy Book
The Olive Fairy Book
The Lilac Fairy Book

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