The Paper Bag Princess

The Paper Bag Princess
Ellen Collington, 2002

June is the classic time for weddings. Another time I may tell you about hosting a wedding celebration in the garden here… without a tent, and without formal catering… and having a wonderful day! Every time it rains in June I shudder at all the things that could have gone wrong, but didn’t, when my son and his wife opted for a small and simple wedding that grew… and grew… without changing the basic plans.

In our family we also celebrate several June  birthdays, including our grand-daughters’.  I made this wallhanging ten years ago for my first grand-daughter’s birthday. It was passed on to her younger sister and has been returned to me now that they have both “outgrown it” and are redecorating their rooms to reflect more grown-up tastes. That’s fine by me… I am confident that the lesson of this wonderful story will not be outgrown, whatever happens to my quilt.

Do you know this favourite by Robert Munsch? Wikipedia summarizes it:

Princess Elizabeth plans on marrying Prince Ronald, who is practically perfect. However, a dragon arrives who destroys her kingdom, kidnaps Ronald, and burns all her clothes so that she has no choice but to wear a paper bag. Elizabeth follows the dragon and Ronald, and seeking to rescue her fiancé, challenges the dragon to burn forests with fire and to fly around the world. The dragon completes the tasks but after flying around the world a second time becomes tired and falls asleep. Elizabeth rescues Ronald, who is ungrateful and tells her to return when she looks more like a princess. Elizabeth realizes that she is better off without Ronald and sets off into the sunset to live her own life.

I love the subversive humour of this feminist fable that concludes with two speeches that send little girls into gales of laughter and cause big girls… and grandmothers… to nod their heads in wry appreciation.

Elizabeth walked right over the dragon and opened the door to the cave. There was Prince Ronald. He looked at her and said, “Boy, you are a mess! You smell like ashes, your hair is all tangled and you are wearing a dirty old paper bag. Come back when you’re dressed like a real princess.”

“Ronald,” said Elizabeth. “your clothes are really pretty and your hair is all neat. You look like a real prince, but you are a bum.” They didn’t get married after all.

Tomorrow we will be celebrating a twenty-first wedding anniversary, as well as sixteenth and twelfth birthdays. The gifts now are expensive electronics, gift certificates for books, clothes chosen by their mother, and cheques for their college savings accounts. I did find a 5 DVD boxed set of Audrey Hepburn’s best films, and am starting them on the steam punk novels in Scott Westerfeld’s Leviathan series! These books have trailers on YouTube!

Twenty years have passed in a blink, and the girls have grown up much too quickly. No more cute, no more marvellous picture books, no more treasures for the dress-up box.

But they are still as amazing as any grandkids can be, lovely young women, every bit as independent as Munsch’s paper bag princess. Besides their academic success and training in music and dance, they are also both trained in Karate… any snotty, superficial, and tyrannical Ronalds had better watch out.

These young women will not be standing around trying to look beautiful and pretending to be helpless while they wait for their prince to show up.   I am confident that, like their mother, they will be far too busy building meaningful lives; and I hope their two doting grandmothers will be there for many years to cheer them on!

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