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  • Writer's pictureG R Matthews

Twelve Dancing Princesses (illustrated by Anna Luraschi)

<SPOILER WARNING – if you haven’t read this book then know that I give away a lot of the plot here>

I have just read 'Twelve Dancing Princesses' to my daughter. A book provided by her school. The basic premise being that the father, the King, of these twelve princesses does not want them dancing. He locks them in a tower all night, every night and yet, somehow, they get out and go dancing (surely a comment on rebellious teenage life).

The King, ever wise and in need of visit from Social Services, devises a plan to find out just what is going on. Princes from all over the lands head to his castle to help him. In return, they get to marry one of the princesses… what could be better? Though, giving the princesses a choice might seem a more appropriate thing to do. However, all is not as it seems. Should the plucky prince fail, during one night locked the self-same tower with twelve beautiful princesses (does the King have his priorities straight?), to discover the truth then he will be executed. For some reason, not satisfactorily explained in the text, none of the princes decide that this is not a good deal and run away. They all take the gamble.

Now, these beautiful, charming princesses whose only crime is rebel against their father’s wished and dance do, with malice and forethought, drug... DRUG... each and every prince in the sure and certain knowledge that they will be executed by the King in the morning. All justified by the desire to continue their dance.

I have no idea how many poor princes arrived at the castle and put their lives in danger, but those princesses knew what they were doing. One of them, the more redeemable perhaps, gives voice to the thought that maybe, just maybe, she doesn't want one of the princes to die. But no, they try to drug him anyway and leave him, in a stupor, to face the King’s executioner in the morning. Couldn’t they just lock or barricade the door? With not a care in their hearts, souls, or with any moral qualm they head off to a night of revelry and dance.

Luckily for him, he is wise to the plot. But does he run a mile from the wicked princesses and king? Not a jot of it. He follows them and discovers their secret. Then he rushes off to tell the King how his twelve daughters go dancing.

Now he is alive, and free to leave this castle full of murderous father and daughters, does he make a mad dash for it? Nope, he picks a princess and gets married into surely one of the darkest families in all of history. Admittedly, it is the princess who proposed the idea that, just for once, could they refrain from condemning the poor fella to certain death, but he doesn’t know that.

This is not a happy book.

Why couldn't the twelve princesses talk to their father about his rule forbidding them to dance?

I have one daughter... she can wrap me round her little finger easily enough. I can't imagine what twelve of them would do!

I may have taken that story too seriously...

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