Saturday, July 17, 2010

The Princess and the Pea

I’m not really sure what I think about princesses. When Annalise began her interest in girls with crowns and long flowing dresses, I panicked. What sort of role model were princesses to the modern three-year-old? What exactly did they represent? What would they inspire in her? What characteristics would she try to imitate?

I decided that it was up to me to provide good, inspiring, courageous, kind-of-out-there princess examples. We started with the princess from “The Princess and the Pea” story. For Christmas last year, I gave Annalise three different versions of the story, as well as a small princess figure and a wooden bed with ten mini quilts. I sewed the quilts with leftover fabric scraps and bought the princess and bed from the lovely toyshop Honeybee Toys. And, of course, we needed a pea – not a real one, just a felt one!

“The Princess and the Pea” by Rachel Isadora is the stock standard version, so that Annalise would know the original story. The illustrations, made with oil paints, printed paper and palette paper, are vibrant and vivid, and I love the African princesses. The story also uses some African words, which are defined at the back of the book. Thanks to Honeybee Toys for finding that book for me.

“The Princess and the Packet of Frozen Peas” by Tony Wilson is about a prince called Henrik who wants to find a princess to marry.

She didn’t have to be beautiful or sensitive. She just had to like hockey and camping and have a nice smile.

Prince Henrik’s test involves not a canopy bed with 20 mattresses and one pea, but a thin camping mattress, an old sleeping bag and a whole packet of frozen peas. You’ve got to love a down-to-earth, practical prince!

“The Princess and the Pea” by Lauren Child is an amazing piece of artwork. Lauren painted cornflake packets for the paneled rooms and set up the paper-dressed characters inside with tweezers, before Polly Borland, the photographer, took the photos. The language used is just as wonderful –

“You see,” said the king, “a real princess is not only mesmerisingly beautiful and fascinatingly interesting but, most important of all –"
“She has manners,” said the queen.
“No one should ever travel without them,” said the king.
“No, never, never go anywhere without your manners,” agreed the queen, taking her elbows off the table.

And now I am ready for Annalise to embrace her inner princess – she can be as mesmerisingly beautiful and fascinatingly interesting as she likes – as long as she remembers her manners!


  1. I love this post Karen. I also want to reinforce the value of every little girl being able to escape into the world of fairy tales to learn some of life's valuable lessons. When my youngest boy was at school and had the chance to take part in Sleeping Beauty, he asked to be the wicked godmother. Why? As the youngest of six children, he imagined that she had the power to tell everyone else what to do! I had never imagined how many people told him what to do everyday, until then!

  2. Thank you for sharing these - they are perfect for a little 4 year old girl I know who is having a birthday soon. G particularly liked the part in 'The Princess and the Packet of Frozen Peas' when the Prince thinks that Pippa has a lovely smile - event with a gap between her front teeth (something G has and is very sensitive about!) KLH