Saturday, June 02, 2007

Pondering princesses

I have a friend with a blog (who doesn't these days) who was recently pondering princesses and their impact on little girls (and boys I suppose). The blog is called Green-Eyed Momster and I highly recommend it for all us mamas who are trying to figure out how to raise eco-conscious children in a over-the-top-consumer culture.

Just as I disdain pretty much all things Barbie, I'm not thrilled with the princess hype that takes over so many of our little girls to the point that they, like my daughter, say things like "I'm going to change my name to Cinderella!" Ugh. What messages are they absorbing, soaking up like moisturizer, deep into their skin?

If you've ever disliked the princess culture -- the pink, the sparkle, the shiny shoes, Ariel, Jasmine and Snow White and of course Cinderella, you may be just as thrilled as I was to discover my new favorite book...

"Cinder Edna" is one of the best children's books I think I've ever been lucky enough to run across (in the local coffee house if you can believe it). This book is over 10 years old which leads me to wonder where exactly I've been, but then again I've only recently truly entered the land of the Once Upon a Time as it pertains to the princesses and their kingdoms.
So what makes this version of the Cinderella story worth your very limited mama time (and your child's too)?
Here's the basic plot:
As neighbors, Cinderella and Cinder Edna are living pretty parallel lives. However while Cinderella sits and mopes about her misfortune in the cinders(thus her name), Cinder Edna makes the best of it learning new recipes and gaining life skills. While Cinderella whines and moans helplessly to her Fairy Godmother for help in getting to the ball, Cinder Edna finally pays off that elegant dress she has had in layaway and takes the bus. You've gotta love this Edna ... and you'll be happy to know that it is indeed Edna who lives happily ever after as a princess even an eco-friendly, sustaina-mama can love!


  1. Hmmm.. I am of two mind about this. Generally, my first reaction as a mother is, thank goodness I don't have girls!

    My second reaction is as a girl. I had 5 brothers growing up, and I never got to BE girly. I would have liked to have some recognition that I was a girl! ( Believe me, I learned my life skills, some fantasy once in a while would have been nice.)

    I did get married ina beautiful pink dress that rivals Glinda the Good Witch of the Norths's dress!

  2. I must say that often I am struck lately with the feeling that a goy is just a toy, kids need to feel powerful (thus the sword and gun play, knights, kings, etc.). Sometimes a princess is just an excuse to dress up, to have a little fantasy and fun - a chance to feel sparkly and special. It does get frustrating when they start getting into the branding however (knowing all the princess names instead of making up their own), and of course if they just want to be skinny and pretty and marry a prince. You in a pink dress - I love it!

  3. Belinda6/03/2007

    Thanks for the plug, Sue! We just saw a cousin who always calls my girl Princess. G is verrry uncomfortable with this. I haven't talked with her much about it, but I'm secretly happy that she's not into being defined that way. I'm putting Cinder Edna on hold right now!

  4. I was a princess for Halloween for six years in a row. Now, that was mainly because all I had to do was make myself a crown and wear my best dress...but it was fun to pretend, even if just for one day a year.

    I think the mass marketing that happens today takes the princess thing to a whole new level. I mean, I distinctly remember going to see Cinderella at the drive in theater (double feature with Condorman, no less), but I don't remember the stores being full of merchandise afterward. Not that I would have gotten any of it, anyway - we didn't have money for stuff like that. And I wasn't allowed to have a Barbie.

    Another good princess book, if you haven't seen it, is The Paper Bag Princess by Robert Munsch, illustrated by Michael Martchenko.

  5. Kristin6/04/2007

    I was a princess girl growing up. I loved Cinderella as much as my Lilly does now. I was cinderella in 3 or 4 grade school plays, loved to dress up. I think I turned out ok. I had a lot of other role models of strong women which has more influence as I got older than the princesses. Although it did take me a while to find my prince - but that may or may not be caused by fairy tale influences. I think if you let them have their fantasy time but remain the realistic force in their lives, the girls will see that there is more to womenhood than the princesses.

  6. Yes overall I think like many things childhood, the princess thing only gets out of hand when we forbit it outright, don't engage a little in their play to gently and enjoyably challenge their thinking about what a princess is, ask them questions about what it is they like about princesses, and/or try to put our big people thoughts on these little people's worlds. Sometimes a princess is just a princess and nothing more... and I agree a strong role model or more who can show them strong and smart women who make good life choices is important too!

  7. My daughter is 11 and never was big on the princess thing. We had various Disney princess movies, which she watched, but she wasn't that interested in playing princess.

    There's one princess movie that's a must, A Little Princess. I think it was made in the '90s, but it's based on a Frances Hodgson Burnett book, which I highly recommend. Anyway, the movie makes an excellent point: that all girls are born princesses. The main character in the movie/book survives terrible situations with her imagination and confidence intact and never forgets she is loved tremendously. I love the movie and the book is even better!