Let us begin with the classics: Snow White (1937), Cinderella (1950), and Sleepy Beauty (1959). These women are exactly who come to mind when thinking about classic fairy tale characters: Stunningly beautiful, sweet as pie, and completely helpless. All three princesses wait for adventure to find them and when they fall upon hard times a handsome prince swoops in and saves the day. Another key plot point in these fairy tales is that the princesses have lots of help from others to make their dreams come true. Snow White relies upon the kindness of the dwarfs, Cinderella upon her Fairy Godmother, and Aurora upon the good fairies. And in the end each princess finds a prince, kingdom, and happily ever after by a stroke of luck, not their own doing.
Next we move to the princesses of my childhood: Ariel (1989), Belle (1991), and Jasmine (1992). These women are not afraid to want more out of life and set out on an adventure themselves. Ariel becomes human, Belle becomes a prisoner to The Beast to spare her father, and Jasmine leaves her palace seeking freedom. They speak their minds, argue with villains, and help their prince succeed in a happy ending. All three women display a strength and independence prior princesses did not. Ariel saves Eric from drowning, Belle fights off wolves with the Beast, and Jasmine seduces Jafar while Aladdin sneaks in to free her, the Sultan, and Rajah. These princesses make more of a connection with the audience in my opinion, because they let us see their fears, flaws, and not so lady like moments. I appreciate seeing a more down to earth, well rounded character, versus the simple minded beauty of earlier princesses.
And lastly the modern day princesses: Tiana (2009), Rapunzel (2010), and Merida (2012). These princesses take fairy tales to a whole new level. I admire them for having dreams that extend beyond finding true love and teaching little girls to follow their own dreams. Tiana opens her own restaurant, Rapunzel forces a stranger to go on an adventure to see the floating lanterns, and Merida defies a long standing tradition in her kingdom. I love that these princesses are so spirited and capable. They show that while beautiful and kindhearted, you can also be full of personality and take charge of your own destiny. Tiana is a force to be reckoned with in the kitchen, Rapunzel with a frying pan, and Merida with archery.
In closing I feel each type of princess is important but for different reasons. The classics represent the origin of fairy tales that we all heard as children. The princesses of my childhood helped me feel less alone when I had dreams that differed from what others wanted for me. And the modern day princesses inspire us to never stop chasing our dreams. Which era of princess is your favorite? Leave me a comment below.