Of all the fairy tale characters, that of the princess has a special potency for girls. Taken symbolically, the princess archetype is not about material privilege or social status — it’s about self-esteem and personal power. The little girl who is in touch with her inner princess has a head start in life — always providing that this inner princess models the qualities that she needs as she moves from the protection and safety of home to navigate the complexities and challenges of the wider world.

Finding strong princesses as role models has always been a high priority for me as an editor. These are some of the Barefoot princesses who most inspire me:

Shahrazade, heroine and narrator of The Arabian Nights, must be one of the most accomplished and compelling princesses in world literature. She’s beautiful, she’s brilliantly clever, and she has an utterly fearless warrior’s spirit —yet she uses it in the most feminine of ways. Shahrazade’s approach is subtle and persistent. Instead of being confrontational, she lets the drama and suspense of storytelling work its magic in order to win her enemy over. This is nonviolence in action! If you raise your daughter on these stories alone, you will have done her a huge service.

Turandot in The Barefoot Book of Princesses is also a complex and fascinating young woman. Her instincts are in excellent form — although this is not made explicit, she knows that the many suitors who clamour for her hand are far more interested in her inheritance than in who she is as an individual. The measures she takes to protect herself may be extreme, but anyone who has been harassed by an unwanted admirer will easily relate to them! All too many women fall prey to men whose motives are questionable, to their own detriment. Turandot is determined that this won’t happen to her. What’s more, she finds plenty of creative occupations to keep herself happy: painting, inventing and studying the night skies.

The secret to winning Turandot lies not in force, but in purity of heart. It’s worth noting that our English word courage has as its origin the French word for heart: coeur. Any man who would win Turandot must be courageous in the full sense of the word, matching her courage and wit with his own and knowing how to retain his sense of composure. To me, this story is a powerful cautionary tale to our daughters: don’t give yourself away too easily. Make sure you wait, like Turandot, until you have met a man who is your equal in wisdom. As an aside, I particularly enjoy the riddles in the climax of this story. Have a read and see what you think!

Of our most recent publications, the princess I particularly admire is, of course, Dara of Dara’s Clever Trap. If you attended this year’s Ambassador Conference, you will remember that this is a cracking story — no shilly-shallying. Boom — Dara finds her man, falls in love and is happily married by page 6 (or thereabouts). Then things get complicated — her father’s evil ministers are most discomfited by Dara and her husband’s achievements as a husband-and-wife design team. They want him out of the way, so that one of them can marry her instead and claim the throne. They soon realise that they have met their match — Dara’s skill as an engineer and her unswerving loyalty to her husband are forces to be reckoned with!

Let me know which of our princesses inspire you and you family. Are there any particular princesses you’d like to see in print on the Barefoot programme? Tell us in the comments!

Read the books to experience these astounding heroines for yourself:


  • The Arabian Nights: US / UK
  • The Barefoot Book of Princesses: US / UK
  • Dara’s Clever Trap: US / UK


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