Jump directly to the content

The Problem with Karen Kingsbury's Princess Books


Mar 7 2012
As it turns out, Christian fairy tales are just as bad for little girls as their secular counterparts. We can do better.

This morning I was a scientist studying lions and a magic doctor healing giraffes. I was a three-year-old girl holding a baby jaguar; I was a pony running through a candy forest. I was friends with a lion, a little girl, a pony, and finally, a princess.

The princess, my 3-year-old daughter Rosie, put on a pink and white nightgown. "I think this twirls," she said, experimenting. "I must be a princess!"

Like any modern mom, I'm wary of Cinderella eating my daughter. I decided it was time to conduct some research. "What do princesses do?" I asked."I don't know," she said, disinterested. "They organize things." Then, she added nonchalantly, "Sometimes people think I'm a princess … because they think I'm pretty. Hey Mom, chase me!"

I'm relieved that Rosie consistently chooses to play tag or lions before playing princess, especially if what makes a princess a princess is just beauty.

Let me be clear: I have nothing against twirly skirts, telling our daughters that they are beautiful, or fairy tales with happy endings. I enjoy love stories, including my own, which, incidentally, began a long time ago in a faraway land and involves a strong man with kind eyes.

I have nothing against princesses, when they are done right. But I do tend to get up in arms when the story told - especially by Christians - to my daughter features a beautiful, silent, passive, nameless teenage princess who needs only a man chosen for her to marry in order to have a happy ending.

Stories matter, and in this formative period in which my daughter can remember the words to a book after hearing it only once or twice, I'm careful about what she hears, especially if she's hearing about God. That's why I find The Princess and the Three Knights (Zonderkids 2009), by Christian romance novelist Karen Kingsbury, so troubling.

After an epigraph from 1 Corinthians 13:4,7, the picture book tells of a King who seeks a worthy knight to marry his daughter, "the fairest one in all the land" whose "greater beauty" comes from within. Many knights engage in contests to win her hand until three suitors remain. In the final competition, each knight is challenged to ride toward the edge of a cliff imagining that he carries the princess, to see who can get closest to the edge. The third knight, however, refuses to take part because he loves the princess and "would never take her anywhere near that cliff." With his answer, the knight wins, for he shows that he understands that "true love always protects."

Perhaps, in summary, the tale sounds heartwarming. Protection is, after all, something every parent desires for her children. But was this princess a protagonist I wanted my daughter to identify with? Was this how I wanted my daughter to understand the meaning of love?

Related Topics:Children; Gender
Support our work. Subscribe to CT and get one year free.

Comments

To add a comment you need to be a registered user or Christianity Today subscriber.

orSubscribeor
More from Her.menutics
There's Never Enough Time

There's Never Enough Time

What I’ve learned as a working mother about the limits of time management.
Why Adult Coloring Works for Christians

Why Adult Coloring Works for Christians

I mocked the coloring book trend, until I discovered it for myself.
Does the Road to Character Run Through Silicon Valley?

Does the Road to Character Run Through Silicon Valley?

The HBO show draws us in with deeper questions about power and morals.
Blessed Are the Agnostics

Blessed Are the Agnostics

How I learned to see my unbelieving husband through God’s eyes.
Include results from Christianity Today
Browse Archives:

So Hot Right Now

Blessed Are the Agnostics

How I learned to see my unbelieving husband through God’s eyes.

Twitter

  • Where mental health meets ministry: My depression is not wasted @MarlenaGraves @GillianMarchenk https://t.co/GT2TjCrjuH
  • What to get Dad? Take care of your Father's Day gifts now with CT's gift box! (It's a deal, too.) https://t.co/aEbNjOBMQ3
  • RT @ChrisMartin17: "She scrolls, she waits. For that little notification box to appear." This story is heartbreaking on so many levels: htt2026
  • What being a working mom taught me about time management https://t.co/LaOAAq5SMv
  • RT @samanthalmoats: This one. This one here right here. I don't have hand clap emojis, but if I did I'd use them for this. https://t.co/9z2026


What We're Reading

CT eBooks and Bible Studies

Christianity Today
The Problem with Karen Kingsbury's Princess Books