Welcome to the third and final Game-Changing Princess Books post: Dangerously Ever After (2012) by Dashka Slater!
Princess Amanita loved things that were dangerous. She loved her pet scorpion, and her brakeless bicycle, and her collection of broken glass. She loved leaning out of the topmost turret in the castle, and walking blindfolded at the edge of the moat. But most of all she loved her garden, which was said to be the most dangerous in the world.
As the opening lines suggest, Princess Amanita is not your typical princess. She loves to spend time in her wonderfully dangerous garden, until one day Prince Florian from a neighbouring kingdom arrives. He promptly (albeit accidentally) destroys her brand-new ruby-studded wheelbarrow and after one look at Princess Amanita he gets back on his bicycle and rides away. When he returns with the roses his kingdom is famous for Princess Amanita is less than thrilled to have flowers which do nothing dangerous and only look pretty and smell good. Until she discovers the thorny stems, that is. She accepts the roses and gives Prince Florian a tour of her garden and then asks him to send her some rose seeds. When he hesitates, she makes “an exasperated face” and hands him a note to pass onto his gardener:
Princess Amanita is thrilled when her nine seeds arrive and plants them right outside her bedroom. When the plants finally bloom, however, instead of thorny pink roses Princess Amanita finds she has planted large pink noses! The noses, as it turns out, are allergic to every plant in the garden and sneeze all day, then snore all night, keeping everyone in the palace awake. The next morning Princess Amanita pulls up every nose plant and rides off on her bicycle declaring, “I’m going to find Prince Florian, and when I do, I’m going to stick these noses in his ear.” She rides away and gets all the way into a dark and gloomy forest before she realizes that she has no idea where she is or where she is going. She also realizes that while she loves dangerous things, she mostly loves them when she is safe at home and not lost in a forest. She blames the noses and is getting rather upset until she notices all nine noses sniffing in the exact same direction. Hoping that it’s dinner they’re smelling, Princess Amanita jumps back onto the bicycle and pedals in the direction the noses are pointing. Soon enough, they arrive at Prince Florian’s castle and its garden filled with thousands of roses. Princess Amanita is so happy to have arrived that instead of sticking the noses in his ear, she gives them to him as a bouquet. When she notices that the noses do not sneeze once in the presence of the roses she suggests that they plant them in this garden. They do, and, “the roses didn’t mind the noses, and the noses loved the roses. Both, in fact, lived happily ever after.” As for Princess Amanita, she goes home with the thorniest rose bushes in the royal garden and they are just as dangerous as she had hoped.
I love Princess Amanita. She breaks the princess convention because she likes dangerous things and takes-charge of the situation. She isn’t afraid to show her disdain for the prince and his roses, until she decides that she likes the roses and must have some of her own. Then she has no problem making nice and asking for exactly what she wants – giving the prince the note when he hesitates about asking the gardener himself.
One of my favourite parts of this story is that the happily ever after has nothing to do with the princess. We get the cliched “happily ever after” but it refers to the plants, and not the people. Princess Amanita is happy to take just her plants home with her. Of course, this is if one strictly reads the words because the artwork suggests affection between Amanita and Florian. While the last page only mentions Princess Amanita in her garden with the dangerous rose bushes, the illustration tells a different story:
The illustrator has chosen to depict Princess Amanita adoringly gazing at Prince Florian (who is terrified to be in the dangerous garden), instead of the sassy, take-charge girl we meet at the beginning of the story. But aside from the mixed messages you get when looking at the illustrations, I love this story for the words.
Basically, what I’m hoping readers will take away from Princess Smartypants, The Princess Who Had No Kingdom, and Dangerously Ever After, is that princesses come in all shapes and sizes. We don’t have to discourage little girls from being princesses just because the archetype may initially have been pretty problematic (with the popular dainty little damsel in distress trope and what not). We just have to show them that you can be a princess and be smart and independent, or brave with an affinity for dangerous activities. You can be a princess and be whatever you want to be.