Robert Munsch’s The Paper Bag Princess


Not a fairy tale exactly, but the sort of story you’d make up for a group of kids in your daycare center who want “a ‘tory” but have grown weary of the standbys…which is exactly what it is.

When the book begins, Elizabeth is your standard beautiful princess with a castle and lots of beautiful clothes1 who has a Mad Crush on the Handsome Prince, Ronald2; keep in mind we’re talking kids in the preschool age range, judging by the illustrations, so nothing more than TV-Y7 here. Unfortunately, a Fierce Dragon3 burns down the palace and up her clothes with one fiery breath, and abducts Ronald, leaving Elizabeth no choice but to don the only remaining item which remotely resembles a garment4 and set out to rescue Ronald. She finds the dragon easily enough by following the trail of burnt forests and other typical detritus, and plays into his ego by asking him first to show off how many forests he can burn up with one breath and then how many times he can fly around the earth. Needless to say, these two activities quite quickly leave the dragon not only breathless but flameless. He collapses into an exhausted nap, permitting Elizabeth to rescue Ronald.

However, Ronald now shows his true colors, saying “Elizabeth, you are a mess! you smell like ashes, you hair is all tangled and you are wearing a dirty old paper bag. Come back when you are dressed like a real princess.” Elizabeth replies “Ronald, your clothes are real pretty and your hair is very neat. You look like a real prince, but you are a bum.”

…and the last illustration is of Elizabeth skipping off all by herself into the sunset, still sooty and in her paper bag.

There’s not as much to analyze in a book of this length as there is for the majority of adult novels out there, but all I can say is I wish Martchenko had been writing when I was of an age to appreciate this sort of thing for the first time. I loathed most fairy tales from an early age. I would heartily recommend this to anyone who is similarly sick of the standard fairy tale trope of weakly dainty girls unable to do anything for themselves; fortunately, the trend to self-sufficient fairy tale princesses has been building for a while. What to read next? Well, there’s Cinder Edna and Alix Berenzy’s The Frog Prince for younger kids, and Patricia Wrede’s Dealing with Dragons for older kids.

1spangly ball gown, hearts bubbling up and popping around her head as she gazes upon Ronald
2kitted out in tennis whites and holding a racket, and (giving a hint about the ending) nose up to there ignoring Elizabeth
3bright green, with a distinct air of the debonair lounge lizard about it
4not surprisingly, a paper grocery bag

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One thought on “Robert Munsch’s The Paper Bag Princess

  1. Pingback: Goldilocks and the Three Dinosaurs by Mo Willems | Josephine's Readers Advisory

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