WANTED: One little princess, preferably the youngest of seven. Should have no blue eyes and no golden hair. Should love the woods more than her clothes. In other words, should be 'ordinary'.
In her foreword to The Ordinary Princess
M M Kaye says she was inspired to write this story after re-reading a few of Andrew Lang's fairy tales. Realising that the princesses mentioned were, for the most part, blue-eyed and gloden-haired and quite perfect, Kaye decided that a story about an imperfect princess was what was needed.
Thus, the story is about the seventh princess born to the King and Queen of Phantasmorania. She was the most beautiful baby, as was predicted she would be by everyone in the kingdom. But on the day of the chiristening, a particularly powerful fairy decides to grant the new princess the gift of ordinariness. So Amy, the last princess, grows up to be as unlike her six older, beautiful sisters as can be. And since she is so ordinary no prince or duke or king wants to marry her. Her parents hatch a desperate plan that does not appeal to Amy and, therefore, causes her to flee the castle. She soon learns how to live an 'ordinary' life like any other ordinary person, and her adventures soon lead her to her future husband. The Ordinary Princess
is a fairytale in every sense of the word - minus a gorgeous looking princess. But peppered through-out the telling is a gentle vein of satire, poking fun at the usual themes and twists and turns a typical fairytale takes. I found some little things absolutely delightful! Like when the King of Phantasmorania speaks of his great-great-great grandmother - the one who fell asleep for a hundred years and the rest of the court with her (a reference to Sleeping Beauty
); and when someone rather caustically remarks how everybody knows future kings were always the 'youngest' sons of the eldest princesses - again a reference to many fairytales where the youngest prince is always the wisest and the kindest.
I enjoyed reading this tale; and while it wasn't particularly 'original', in light of the way fairytales are portrayed in this day and age on the movie screen, I think, for thrity decades ago, it must have been a refreshing change. All the characters in the story are absolutely endearing. I must admit to brief moments of wishing that this princess would be charmed back to what she was originally supposed to be, but then the whole purpose of the story would be lost. Also, I realised then, how much the stories of beautiful princesses are engrained in our psychee that we always believe that all
princesses must be so!
I would highly recommend this book for children and all those who love fairytales. It's absolutely worth it.