A Little Princess, by Frances Hodgson Burnett, was one of my favourite books as a child. It’s the story of Sara Crewe, a beloved and pampered child who is suddenly orphaned and left destitute. When they realize she is penniless, the other students and teachers of her boarding school treat Sara cruelly, but Sara never loses her dignity or kindness. It was a story that sang to my soul.
“Whatever comes,” [Sara] said, “cannot alter one thing. If I am a princess in rags and tatters, I can be a princess inside. It would be easy to be a princess if I were dressed in cloth of gold, but it is a great deal more of a triumph to be one all the time when no one knows it.”
Sara Crewe showed me that I too could be a little princess no matter what the condition of my physical world because being a true princess is about nobility of spirit and heart.
It’s easy to think the lessons espoused in this book, which was published in 1905, can’t be applied today. Too often, being a princess now means pouting and having royal temper tantrums, bullying and disdaining others who don’t have the latest glitter or tutu, assuming a haughty attitude and treating people as if they were indentured servants. Our society has Bratz dolls and “mean girls” and tiaras for everyday wear.
But, Frances Hodgson Burnett wrote her book precisely because meanness, tantrums and haughtiness were rife in her day too. Her readers could relate to these sorts of behaviours and were enchanted by Sara Crewe who, through goodness of heart and strength of character, rises above adversity and is richly rewarded for it in the end.
We choose the type of princess we will be.
Happy birthday to Frances Hodgson Burnett – born November 24, 1849.