[The Inner Princess]

7:30 AM

Pick up anything older than the 1900’s written for young ladies. Who is our heroine? A modest, genteel, golden-curled, delicate (slightly boring) girl who everyone admires for her sweetness and beauty. Fastfoward to around the 1960’s: our heroine is now riddled with acne, glasses and mousy hair, not known for her beauty but for her temper and intelligence.

Post-Second Wave, the measure of a woman became not her looks or her sweetness but how independent, smart and witty she could be. It’s unfashionable to put much emphasis on beauty in this culture—at heart we still revere the pretty woman, but in word we focus on inner strength of character and smarts.

Of course, I’m all for breaking away from the stock character of Yon Princess—blue-eyed, golden-haired and impossibly sweet. I’m not saying girls with blue eyes, golden hair or sweet dispositions ought to get the boot entirely: but I do think a shift away from outer to inner beauty is constructive. Not all of us are blessed with good looks, and if a literary heroine is formidable, it ought to be because of her character—not her infallible skin.

My concern is that another stock character has been created to do battle with Yon Princess, which is both literary and Christian suicide: the Inner Princess.

The Inner Princess may or may not be beautiful—normally she straddles the line between handsome and plain. The emphasis on her looks is only to say, “Girls—forget being pretty. The inside counts more.” So far, so good. But what’s oftentimes on the inside is a royal version of Ms. Feminist: this girl is independent, tomboyish and couldn’t care less about decorum and principle. She beats her own path through the woods. She slides down banisters, tears her dresses and rejects all typical princess pursuits. She’s active, academic and possesses characteristics of a king: strong, stubborn, insensitive and rather disdainful of any girl who prefers to pursue queenly habits.

Her tutors and parents (unless they’re more progressive-minded) have their hands full with her, and they shake their heads and try to marry her off. She is so much a leader that she never submits herself, accommodates others or budges an inch from her likes and dislikes. Not to say that she’s totally unpleasant—she still has glimmers of compassion and care. It’d just be more convenient for her if you agreed with her point of view on womanhood.

Not surprisingly, her husband-to-be is a similar stock character attracted to a fiercely independent, barely-accomplished young woman: he’s disdainful of decorum too, easy-going, ignores or loathes his duties and is independent of courtiers’ and/or parents’ advice—again depending on the progressive nature of his authority figures.

I like smart girls. I like girls who think for themselves. I understand that some girls are more inclined to ripping their dresses and being active and doing things typically reserved for men. But is this the only replacement to Yon Princess? You’re either beautiful, sweet and empty-headed or plain, independent and disdainful? No, thank you. I’m not buying it—but our girls are. For in these modern day fairy tales, their heroines are this new Inner Princess and their heroes are the men who are attracted to them. All others are fuddyduddies not yet caught up with the times.

It’s not enough to shift focus on the outer to the inner and then call anything inside beautiful. True womanhood needs encouragement and shaping, and we are not obliged to recognize and admire everything naturally found in the heart of a girl. No, you don’t have to love embroidery over archery; you don’t have to be stupid in order to be feminine. But the Inner Princess—focused so much on her individuality—is overkill.

The inside counts. So evaluate the Inner Princess—her looks may not be of any weight, but you can double bet her heart does.

The Inner Princess:

Ella Enchanted
The Ordinary Princess
The Prydain Chronicles
Catherine, Called Birdy

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9 impressions

  1. Hi! I love this new character series you've been writing. But I was just wondering, why didn't you put a list of positive literature in this post? Just curious.

  2. You're right. I did not come up with an alternate list, mainly because of this reason: I couldn't think of any off the top of my head at the time. The Princess Adelina comes to mind. Actually, the notable female characters in Don Quixote tend to be strong, witty and distinctly feminine. The queens and royal females in The Chronicles of Narnia and Lord of the Rings have much grace, femininity and yet courage and strength about them.

    Perhaps you readers would be so kind as to pull from your literary experience?

    *NOTE* Again, as with all the other posts, just because a book appears on The List does not mean it is poorly written, ungodly, inappropriate to read or uninteresting. :o)

  3. A Gown of Spanish Lace. Countless other books - that one tops all. Actually, I don't remember it, besides the fact I didn't like it. :)

    I bash you with nasty comment. The Ordinary Princess was a wonderful book (pretending not to read your comment above) Rants on...

    - - - yeah, yeah, yeah, so she fits the line...still *angry face* Burrito Bandito ain't gonna forget this one

  4. I've read several books with good female characters: Little Women, A Girl of the Limberlost, Anne of Green Gables series (especially the later ones), and An Old-Fashioned Girl.
    You hit the nail on the head with the Inner Princess here! I think most characters would reject that title, however ;). Also, the American Girl series is totally about being an inner princess--"follow your inner star," or something like that.
    Keep posting about this. You're evaluating children's literature very well!

  5. Hello Bailey!
    I found your blog the other day through Sonja {girlish musings}'s blog.
    Just wanted to tell you that I have been really blessed by your writing. You certainly have a talent for words and articulating thoughts clearly and beautifully, but what has really blessed me is your "realness" and openness. Some of your posts just perfectly put into words some of my own thoughts and feelings.

    So anyway.... "thank you," "HI!," and "keep up the good work!"

    P.S. I am a fellow grammar-"geek" as well.... only my pet peeves are spoken grammar, pronunciation, and spelling. I have a hard time with punctuation. As you can probably tell. ;)

  6. I truly enjoy well-written, rounded Inner Princesses. I love heroines whose characters, not beauty, take the spotlight. There are numerous unique personality traits that make the stories a joy to read. So then, why is it that many authors equate character only with fierce independence, impudence, and defiance? Why must these be the only acceptable qualities for the Princesses? Optimistic, industrious, joyful ladies have been swapped for spitfire, stubborn heroines. Consider the following all-too-common protagonist:

    A witty, outspoken young woman who rejects the oft-heard phrase "Proper ladies do not [fill in appropriate forbidden activity]." She usually takes great pleasure in doing said forbidden activity, often besting even the most athletic boys. Quite often she is freckled and redheaded (American Girl's Felicity, anyone?)

    This is not to say that there isn't a place for the occasional Feisty Lass character in good literature. But we see her so often that she ceases to be a character and becomes a stereotype. Suffice it to say her sharp remarks and clever comebacks get old pretty fast.

    Bring on the Inner Princess! Bring on the plain, but bursting-with-personality heroine! Just be sure that her personality isn't identical to the hundreds of Feisty Lasses we already have.

    *aside from this lengthy ramble*
    Lovin' this series, Bailey! You've done a terrific job so far. I do have one request: could you do a spotlight on some male character stereotypes? I would enjoy that =)

  7. Dear Bethany Grace,

    I agree that The Ordinary Princess was amazing.

    But A Gown of Spanish lace was most certainly wonderful. In fact, I do believe it was the single Janette Oke book I truly enjoyed. (Love Comes Softly movies aside.)

    Miffed at Your Disdain for Oke's Single Book Capable of Holding My Attention

  8. Bailey, I so enjoy your gift for communicating with beauty, clarity, and grace. Do not doubt that God is using your efforts to challenge and encourage others (myself in particular!).
    In Him,

  9. Have you read Deborah Alcock's books? The women in her books are strong and brave and thoughtful, but also pretty and ladylike. The one downfall is that the books are usually from the man's perspective, so they think of the ladies as good and then the ladies end up a little too good. I enjoyed this series. :) I like quality literature.


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