Ordinary–But Charming

I’ve read several books about ordinary princesses.  The danger is that ordinary can sometimes be only half a step from boring, and when you set out to make your heroine ordinary, you sometimes end up with a heroine who is so very ordinary that she’s not at all interesting or distinctive.  But, on the other hand, sometimes it works.  There’s nothing at all boring about Amy in The Ordinary Princess by M. M. Kaye.

I have to love a book that begins “Long and long ago, when Oberon was king of the fairies, there reigned over the fair country of Phantasmorania a monarch who had six beautiful daughters.”

Amy is born seventh, and is cursed–or blessed?–at her christening by a fairy to be ordinary.  Unlike her blonde-haired, blue-eyed and breathtakingly beautiful sisters, Amy has mousy brown-hair and a turned-up nose, is not the least bit graceful, and is, well, ordinary.  But she knows how to climb down the wisteria vine growing by her window and go off into the forest to climb trees and make friends with squirrels, and she has a wonderful practical bent.  Of one of her sisters’ suitors, she thinks, “He may be very good-looking, but I’m quite sure he has never giggled one good giggle in his life!”

When Amy’s turn comes to get married, the royal family is at an utter loss to find an interested prince, so they decide the solution is to bring in a dragon.  That will of course tempt some prince to come kill it, and then he’ll have to marry the princess.  Not wanting a dragon to lay waste to the country, Amy decides to run away.

She goes on to have quite ordinary adventures, in the forest and later as a kitchen maid at another castle, where she falls in love with a man-of-all-work.  They’re ordinary adventures in the most charming way.  The writing is very good, and Amy is a sweet and endearing heroine.  She somehow seems utterly unlike a lot of the brown-haired, tom-boyish, clumsy “ordinary princesses” that populate other books of this sort, even though point by point she has a lot in common with them.  Maybe it’s simply better writing.

I love practical, pragmatic, humorous stories loosely inspired by fairy tales, and this one’s a favorite.

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