Beyond Disney Princesses
Can't Get Enough Princess Stories?
Did you know there are many more princesses out there besides the Disney princesses? And did you know that all princesses don't wear sparkly gowns and wait for Prince Charming to rescue them? There are all kinds of princesses just waiting for you to discover their stories!
There are princesses of all shapes, sizes, and skin tones; princesses who like adventure or fixing things or getting dirty or fighting crime; princesses who wear pants; princesses who wear sparkly gowns; princesses who like the same things you do. There is no one right way to be a princess!
This guide will help you find the perfect princess story for you, whether you want traditional fairy tales, twisted fairy tales, new stories, or stories about real princesses, plus suggested websites and apps for you and your grown-ups to find even more princess stories and activities!
This guide contains resources for ages 3-12 and their caregivers; all books shown are available from the Lexington Public Library. Your local librarian is always happy to help find the perfect book for you!
Why not start at the beginning, with the very first princess stories!
Fairy tales inspired many of the Disney princesses, and are the original princess stories. Written fairy tales date back several hundred years, though it's possible they originated even earlier as oral stories along with folk tales.
In fairy tales, magic is required for the main character to prevail, and certain motifs are common, resulting in similar stories coming from very different cultures (Bottigheimer, 2009).
Cinderella may be the most well-known fairy tale princess, but there are many more, and from many cultures.
Looking for something to tickle your funny bone? In a silly mood? Need cheering up? Try a fractured fairy tale!
Fractured fairy tales are alternate versions of classic fairy tales in which one or more key elements have been changed, such as the point of view, conflict, characters, setting, key plot elements, or a surprise ending, with a humorous effect (Yomtov, 2014).
A good fractured fairy tale is delightfully irreverent, contains some familiar elements, but has a humorous twist and may reverse roles. The humor and artwork are sophisticated, yet rooted in things kids can relate to (McLaine, 2015).
Want a spunky princess who can get things done herself? These girls don't need anyone to rescue them!
These modern princess stories are original stories, not based on specific fairy tales, though they may have subtle references or humor based on common fairy tale motifs and stereotypes.
Modern princess stories typically feature spunky, adventurous princesses and often have feminist themes, empowering girls to be themselves and look beyond appearance.
Want to learn what it's really like to be a princess? Try these non-fiction books!
Non-fiction books are informational books with true stories and facts, rather than made up stories.
Biographies are non-fiction books that tell about the lives of real people. Good biographies have information that is engaging, engrossing, and informational (Meade, 2011).
Biographies can be more inspiring than fiction, and can provide background information across subjects. They are also a great way to bring history to life (Minsker, 2014).
Need even more info or suggestions?
Check out the curated list of online resources related to princess stories and fairy tales.
You can listen to The Paper Bag Princess told by its creator, find several lists of diverse princess stories, learn the histories of the classic fairy tales and explore different versions of them and similar stories from other cultures, explore a literature site just for kids to read articles and reviews, learn about real life princesses, and find princesses in movies and television.
Looking for some princess fun? Check out these activities!
Want a story that you can interact with? We have an app for that!
Do you want to create your own fairy tale and bring it to life? There's an app for that, too!
How about a tool that helps you write your very own fractured fairy tale?
There's also an app with princess coloring sheets, puzzles, games, and more; and a link to fun princess-themed building challenges!
Storytelling helps develop narrative skills, expressive language, and creativity, and STEM activities help develop critical thinking and problem-solving skills.
For Parents, Caregivers, Teachers & Librarians
Why not Disney? No one can deny the appeal and popularity of Disney's films and characters, and many of us likely have treasured memories of watching these films as children and sharing them with our own children. But, some people prefer not to support commercialized characters, or just want a little variety or balance. In addition, there are some concerns about the messages the Disney princesses send to children regarding gender expression, gender roles, and body image.
While recent Disney princesses are not as passive, helpless, and dependent on men as their predecessors, they are still often portrayed in a very patriarchal context, and their desire for independence is frequently the exception, not the norm, and often the source of the conflict (Higgs, 2016). Though there are a few recent exceptions, most Disney princesses have the same body type and general appearance: slender, tiny waist, long legs, small nose, large doe eyes, high cheekbones, full lips, and long hair. But this is not what most women look like. Some preliminary studies suggest concerns about the messages children may be internalizing regarding gender and body image from the Disney characters may be valid (Coyne, et al., 2016; Golden & Jacoby, 2018).
This does NOT mean Disney princesses are "bad" by any means! But it does mean it's probably a good idea to balance things out by introducing a variety of other princess stories as well, particularly those with strong female characters that buck gender stereotypes and show more diverse and realistic body types. And if Moana is any indication, Disney is making huge strides in the right direction (even if Moana insists she is NOT a princess).