Robert Munsch wrote “The Paper Bag Princess” in 1980. This feminist fairy tale is still very underrated. With characters that defy stereotypes and a perfect ending, it fully deserves to be mainstream, and we should make it so.
Most of the fairy tales that we know of have the same plot. They are all about a damsel in distress waiting for a strong prince to come and rescue her. By the end of the fairy tale, the prince rescues the damsel and they get to have a “they lived happily ever after.” However, in the fairy tale “The Paper Bag Princess,” it’s not the same. We get to see a brave princess who rescues the prince charming. The best part is that she does it by outsmarting the dragon and not by fighting with the creature. She uses her wits to defeat the dragon. It is definitely an uncommon ending. “The Paper Bag Princess” has a feminist ending.
You can read a brief summary of this fairy tale here.
An Uncommon Ending
The ending of this particular fairy tale is rather remarkable. It’s not disappointing in the least. The ending does not have a “they lived happily ever after.” The prince does not like to see the princess smelling of ashes and wearing a paper bag and so he rebukes her. The princess then calls him a bum and leaves him. The fairy tale is important because it raises questions about existing gender roles. Even though it is unusual, the ending is perfect. This feminist fairy tale is still very underrated.
Is It Still A Fairy Tale If It Does Not Have A Happily-Ever-After?
Some might argue that since the ending separates the prince and the princess, it cannot be put into the genre of a fairy tale. However, I don’t agree. The ending of this fairy tale is very different from the others, agreed, but I don’t think it deviates from the concept of a fairy tale. It still has a happy ending, even if it’s of the princess without the prince. The purpose of a fairy tale is to entertain its audience and provide a moral lesson. In “The Paper Bag Princess,” both of these prerequisites are met.
There are so many things we can learn from the ending of this fairy tale.
One of them is that a princess’ goal in life is not just to get successfully married to a prince. She can be whoever she wants to be without having to marry someone. She can be happy even without a charming (or in this case, not so charming) prince. It is important to note that this message is valid, and still very applicable, in 2020. The idea that a woman’s only goal in her life is to be married to someone is flawed. We must learn to let a woman decide her own goals and support whichever one(s) she chooses.
Another moral lesson we learn from the ending of this fairy tale is that we should accept people the way they are. Prince Ronald does not accept Elizabeth when she is wearing a paper bag and is smelling of ashes. This hurts her and she chooses to leave him. We must always be content with how they want themselves to be. With characters that defy stereotypes and a perfect ending, “The Paper Bag Princess” needs to be mainstream. Let’s make it mainstream.