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The Dear Princess Project

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Don’t look for a white knight to save you
He’ll grow tired of you soon as you’re saved
And find his own happily ever after
     rescuing some other lost dame.

Don’t go looking for love when you’re hurting,
To fill up that dark empty space,
‘Cause the one that you find is entirely more likely
To want to keep you that way,
Don’t look for salvation out in the dark woods
In a grand castle carved out of stone
Find your own love within you and be your own hero,
Dear Princess, be strong on your own

Don’t try to run off to some faraway land
Taking all of your baggage to go
Because whatever promise you thought you might have
You won’t reach carrying such a load

Don’t put all your faith in that storybook ending,
If you skip to the end, then you’re done
The ever and after will care for themselves
our story is still going on

Don’t look for salvation out in the dark woods
In a grand castle carved out of stone
Find your own love within you and be your own hero,
Dear Princess, be strong on your own
Dear Princess, be strong on your own

The original Grimm fairy tales are, well, grim. Snow White’s wicked stepmother is forced to dance in hot iron shoes until she dies. Cinderella’s wicked stepsisters are made to cut off parts of their feet to try to fit them into Cinderella’s golden, not glass, slippers.

The stories, along with so many others, have been sanitized over the years, with the underlying belief that doing so was in the best interest of children. I would argue that meddling with classic tales actually does the opposite, doing them a disservice. Kids have the ability to interpret stories in the context of the era they’re written in, something adults seem to have trouble with.

The result? We have generations of kids who grow up not knowing their real past, so can’t really learn from it. They grow up with unrealistic expectations.

This is the reason I thought of the Dear Princess project. It started with writing a song for a friend who seemed to always find the wrong men to be partners with.

The song is meant to be empowering, written as an anti-fairy tale song, even done as a folk guitar interpretation of a waltz. The lyrics imply that by being a strong person she’d find a real Prince Charming.

illustration on book pages

The original illustration, done in pen on book pages after the style of John Clark.

illuminated storybook pages

The drawings transformed into book illustrations.

I was inspired to do more. Thinking about the original fairy tales, I wanted to illustrate the originals, unvarnished, in a style that revealed the characters as they were originally intended. I started by illustrating book panels in the style of John Clark, capturing the characters highlighting certain phrases in the text. In the case of Snow White, the phrase was, “paragon of beauty.” In the case of the wicked queen, it was, “Snow White shall die.”

With that as a starting point, I thought that the illustrations might actually work better in illuminated pages. I’m now looking at more parts of all the old tales, in the hopes of bringing them back in their original form, with illustrations that reflect the original intent of the authors, free of sanitization.