Make yourself a cup of hot chocolate or hot choco-soy or hot tea or something otherwise soothing (as hot chocolate is not if you are lactose intolerant) and I shall tell you the tale of Bedelia, The Practical Princess.
When Bedelia was born, three fairies arrived to endow her each with a gift: beauty, grace, and common sense. The last one irritated the King because a Princess doesn’t need common sense; what she needs is charm. But when she hit the age of consent, a dragon swooped in; we don’t know why or from where, so we’ll call him Mystery. He sent a message to the King that he required a Princess to devour, that if he did not get one, he would destroy the kingdom. But the Princess saw through his technique and said no way.
“He’s just asking for me because he’s a snob.”
Alas, no bouncer was nearby to evict Mystery from his cave, so she realized that she would have to handle him herself. She was a Practical Princess and she brought him down with his own mouth and his own fire and his own lack of vision.
“Dragons,” she said, “are not very bright.”
This caught the attention of the interim ruler of the country next door, which we shall call Walland to protect the innocent, and thus, while his name was not lost to history or literature, we shall refer to him as Wallander. He was old and ugly and rich and bald; Bedelia didn’t like him at all but Wallander felt entitled to her affections.
“He is rich, greedy, and crafty,” said the King, unhappily. “He is also used to having his own way in everything. He will be insulted. He will probably declare war on us, and then there will be trouble.”
And so, once again, it was left to Bedelia to save the day. She sent Wallander on the impossible task of buying a bottle of overpriced alcohol ahem, I mean retrieving the branch of the Jewel Tree of Praxis, but like a guy in a purchased costume shit-testing a female cosplayer, he’d simply had a branch made instead of doing the work himself. Pointing to the price tag still hanging off the branch, she tried to send him on his way. But he persisted, insisting that he was entitled to another chance despite his previous appalling behavior. She sent him on some more tasks but once a cheater, always a cheater.
When he didn’t get consent, he whisked her away to a tower in his kingdom, presumably one that looked a bit like this one.
…he said, “If I can’t have you, no one shall!”
Every day, Wallander came to the tower to coerce her into marrying him, but Bedelia held strong. She wandered about the tower looking for an escape, because, as she said,
“If you sit waiting for a prince to rescue you, you may sit here forever. Be practical! If there’s any rescuing to be done, you’re going to have to do it yourself!”
Eventually, she came upon a snoring, counting stack of hay, but that’s ridiculous, so she crept closer and brushed the hay away to discover that it was actually a very hairy blonde dude. He was the rightful Prince of Walland, imprisoned in the tower and put under a spell by Wallander. Bedelia, who was quite practical, had studied psychology and immediately diagnosed the spell as a psychogenic disease. She gave him cognitive therapy until he broke the spell himself and he woke up.
It was a long way down from the tower, but Bedelia remembered the story of Rapunzel and looked over at the Prince’s face, which had a beard much like the majestic one pictured at left. She realized that such a beard would hold her as she slid down to the ground, where should could look for a ladder or a gun or a horse to ride out on for help. But as she slid down, Wallander rode in and chastised her:
“Meddlesome fool!” he shouted. “I’ll teach you to interfere!”
He grabbed the Prince’s beard and yanked, pulling the Prince through the window and down on top of him, squishing him flat.
Bedelia and the Prince snagged Wallander’s high horse and rode off to Walland, where the Prince was recognized by his citizens and there was much rejoicing. Yay! And since she had rescued the Prince, Bedelia claimed him as her own, on the condition that he was hot after he got a haircut.
(Heterosexual) ladies (and others interested in dating men), you’ve been sold a tale of Prince Charming, the man who will whisk you away on the back of his white horse and save you from your dreadful tale, or perhaps the man who seems ugly but is changed into perfection by your loving kiss. Both of these, my dears, are bullshit. Prince Charming does not exist. He is an illusion, a façade.
The names change but the stories stay the same.
Real princes come with glasses or moles or a funny-shaped nose or scraggly beard or a pudgy belly. But you’ll know them by the way they treat you—not charming you, but valuing you; not putting on a façade, but being honest and honestly flawed.
We are all flawed; anyone who tells you otherwise is selling something.
The Practical Princess was originally published by Jay Williams in 1969 by Parents Magazine Press, New York, with original illustrations by Friso Henstra. It was republished in 1979 by Hippo from Scholastic, in the collection The Practical Princess and Other Liberating Fairy Tales, with illustrations by Rick Schreiter, one year after Williams's death. The story was written and dedicated to Williams's grandson, Ben, and Williams said that he did not intend for the work to be a feminist work. Bolded text denotes an excerpt from the books; the rest is paraphrased with many omissions and liberties.
Dear World, get this book back in print with modern illustrations. kthx.