I love fairy tales (who doesn’t) and I was thrilled to receive a copy of The Adventurous Princess, and other feminist fairy tales written and illustrated by Erin-Claire Barrow.
As Barrow notes in her foreword to the book, traditional fairy tales “offer us the magic of bravely won happily-ever-after endings, true and enduring love, and worlds of enchantment and adventure.” But there is a cost to modern readers; there is little diversity, out-dated gender norms and social mores are perpetuated, and oftentimes the very things we shrink from are those that are rewarded in such fairy tales; think of the passive princess waiting to be rescued by the competitive hero.
There are no such stereotypes or tropes in this magical, inspiring retelling of some of my favourite fairytales. Barrow recently gave a TED Talk about the story and inspiration behind her book which is, as all TED Talks are, both entertaining and informative. If you have time, do check it out.
My favourite of Barrow’s retellings would have to be The Princess and the Pea. Why did the princess turn up at the castle in the middle of the night in such inclement weather? Because she was on an adventure, of course! I love the twist in this retelling where the princess ends up talking the prince into going on some adventures of his own!
Barrow has retold Cinderella to uncover social injustices that our own society grapples with; elder abuse. And she has included less able-bodied characters than the perfect, beautiful characters we are used to in traditional fairy tales.
What I love about this book is that Barrow has made each of these tales her own. She has taken the tales that so many of us love and have grown up with, and tilted them to reflect our own times and to encourage us to be the heroes of our own stories. I’d love to see Barrow on the staff at Disney. How great would the Disney movies be then!
As an illustrator/author, Barrow has complemented her stories with her own exquisite artwork. Her illustrations are whimsical and appealing, and capture the very essence of each tale.
The Adventurous Princess, and other feminist fairy tales is an outstanding book. Highly recommended for lovers of modern fairy tales who aspire to be the heroes of their own stories.
Thank you to Odyssey Books for a copy of this book to review.
What if Beauty stood up to the Beast, the Princess never tried to sleep on the pea (and wouldn’t have noticed it if she had), and the Swan Maiden took her revenge on the hunter who kidnapped her? The Adventurous Princess and other feminist fairy tales is a retelling of nine traditional fairy tales with a feminist twist. Fairy tales open up new worlds full of enchantment and adventure, but many of these traditional stories also reinforce rigid gender roles and norms, perpetuate stereotypes, and lack diversity in their characters. In The Adventurous Princess, the charm, whimsy, and magic of traditional fairy tales remain, but the diverse characters challenge stereotypes about who they should be or how they should act, stand up for themselves, and shape their own futures.
About Erin-Claire Barrow
Erin-Claire Barrow is an author and illustrator originally from the Adelaide Hills in South Australia. She paints in watercolours to create whimsical scenes, storybook illustrations, and bring to life the strange creatures of fairy tales and folklore. Erin-Claire is always on the lookout for ways to combine her passions for art and equality, and is particularly interested in how art can be used to raise awareness of social justice issues.
In 2018, she spoke at TEDx Canberra on retelling fairy tales for our diverse, modern society to challenge stereotypes and encourage young people (and especially young women) to see themselves as the heroes of their own stories.
Buy a copy of The Adventurous Princess, and Other Feminist Fairy Tales