I have two boys. I didn’t have to worry (like some of my friends with daughters did) that reading or watching movies about princesses saved from peril by handsome princesses would inspire a “rescue me” attitude. Even so, I did want my boys to grow up knowing that women are just as capable as men. We watched Disney princess fare without qualms, but I also made sure to include plenty of opportunities for them to meet strong female characters in books and movies (and of course, in real life!).
In The Enchanted Forest Chronicles, author Patricia C. Wrede offers up a perfect combination of adventure, magic, and feisty princess. In the first book of the series, Dealing with Dragons, we meet Princess Cimorene who is not at all interested in towing the princess line. No lady-like embroidery and arranged marriages for her, thank you very much. She wants to learn to fence and speak Latin, both of which are frowned upon activities for princesses.
While other princesses in the kingdom fret over being captured by dragons, Princess Cimorene leaves her mundane royal life behind and runs away to the Enchanted Forest where she takes up with the dragon Kazul. Cimorene endears herself to Kazul by making a most coveted dish – cherries jubilee – and proceeds to create an anti-flammable potion to withstand the dangers of living with fire breathing beasts. As Kazul’s princess she discovers unscrupulous wizards plotting against the dragons, learns about magic, and spends enough time turning away the persistent princes who have come to rescue her that she finally posts a sign warning potential suitors to stay away.
Princess Cimorene is exactly the kind of female character that I have tried to expose my boys to over the years: confident, smart, feisty, and kind. Her willingness to stand up for what she believes in, whether it be following her own life choices or going to great lengths to help her dragon friends is admirable, and coupled with the humor and adventure in the books, probably one of the reasons we loved the series so much. We read the entire series aloud several times when my boys were early elementary age, and my eldest read the entire series again when he began reading on his own. (I daresay, it’s about time for me to read it again!)
Dealing with Dragons is followed by three more books, all featuring Princess Cimorene and a grand cast of dragons, wizards, witches, and magic spells, with cameo appearances by stereotypical princes from throughout the kingdom: Searching for Dragons, Calling on Dragons, and Talking to Dragons.