Book: A Little Princess

"A Little Princess" by Frances Hodgson BurnettAs a young child Sara Crewe is brought over from India by her father to join a girl’s seminary in London. Her greatest joy is to ‘pretend’ things to make life more magical, for herself and those less fortunate than herself. She is a general favourite, but her splendid clothes, French maid, and personal carriage set her apart from the rest and create jealousy in Miss Minchin, the avaricious head of the school. When Sara is suddenly and tragically thrown into poverty, she must keep a strong hold on her vivid imagination and tender heart to prove to those who ill-treat her that even through hardship and want, she can remain ‘a little princess’.

After reading The Secret Garden, and enjoying it completely, I sought out other classics written by Miss Frances Hodgson Burnett. And while Little Lord Fauntleroy continues to elude me, I was able to find a copy of A Little Princess in the bookstore I grew up in (which sadly doesn’t exist anymore.)

This being one of the books I managed to sneak into my busy schedule, it will come as no surprise that it was a very quick read. So far, most of the classics I’ve read are quick reads–save for Journey to the Center of the Earth. But that might have more to do with the fact that I found the main character tedious. And that’s not the case at all for Princess Sara.

Sara Crewe is as lovable as can be. She’s the complete opposite of Mary Lennox (of The Secret Garden) in which she knows how to hold her temper. But, oddly enough, I don’t remember Sara having this much spine when I look back on the A Little Princess stories I’m familiar with–the Japanese animated series, the American film directed by Alfonso Cuaron, and the Filipino movie. This is a pleasant surprise, because while I am used to female protagonists who are such martyrs, it’s very pleasant to find one who knows how to fight back–but prefers not to because it would be beneath her to do such thing. n this way, Sara Crewe is a real princess.

What makes a classic? My guess is it has to do with the story being timeless–and you can’t go more timeless (which is a weird thing to say aloud, try it) than A Little Princess. While certain things are very regional (chimneys, for one thing, are very rare in the Philippines), and some things are dated (the diamond mine boom, the Indian colonization), when you strip the story down to what Sara goes through in Miss Minchin’s school, you can imagine it really happening at a local boarding school–which we don’t have, I don’t think. Let’s say orphanages then.

But Miss Minchin isn’t completely unreasonable either. She’s just really driven to succeed, which I gleaned from the original source material. In the Japanese animated series, and the movies, she just came off as one sadistic bi—

Moving on.

With the current success (and popularity) of The Hunger Games, I think it’s important now more than ever for people to get exposed to the classics again. Not that I’m disparaging The Hunger Games in any way. It’s a very well-written book, and I’m a fan. But it also features too many +1’s: it’s set in a dystopian future, it has action, adventure, a love story–it’s a mutt. And people should learn to appreciate the beauty of a simple story again. Like A Little Princess.

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11 thoughts on “Book: A Little Princess

  1. I loved this one, too–I’m a huge fan of Hodgson Burnett. If you don’t mind reading books in audio format, you can download a copy of Little Lord Fauntleroy from Librivox. 🙂 I have a copy that I’ve been meaning to listen to, as like you, I’ve been catching up on the classics this past year or so.

    • Thanks for the suggestion! I did (finally) find a copy at one of the bookstores I rarely go to. It’s a children’s book version, the customer service person told me. But I don’t know what sets it apart from regular versions. Nor will I ever now. 😀

      It’s fun to catch up on classics! I have four more to go through before I go classics hunting again. 🙂

  2. My favorite classic. 😀 Whenever I reread this I have to laugh at how many extra scenes there were in the Japanese anime. I’ve read this about four times already and it still feels pretty timeless for me. 😀

    • Don’t you just love it when you have books that you can read over and over and not feel the slightest bored? Also, I know what you mean about the extra scenes. But what really tickles me is how meek Sara had become in the Japanese animated version, and in turn, the Filipino version.

  3. Pingback: Book: Little Lord Fauntleroy | taking a break

  4. she didnt “have spine” in the movie? she was considerably less likeable at one part in the movie where she pranks the mean girl (which goes against her I-dont-fight-back idea). also, fighting back isnt admirable, which is why Sara doesnt do it, even if she knew how, which I doubt. I wish people would stop admoiring that. but it’s nice to see someone who DOESNT dislike how “too good” Sara is. she is strong and has flaws- she just tries to overcome them, which makes her a great kinda person. best of all, she tries her best to be ladylike and not return meanness with meanness, which, goodness knows, is one of the most trying, willpower-crushing things in the world.

    and seriously dude, THG are not even close to being well written :p But I get your point.

    • The key phrase in what I said was “I don’t remember.” I didn’t exactly have time to actually find copies of the movies (and animated series) I mentioned. But I understand what you’re saying.

      What I don’t understand is what follows; you don’t want people to admire people who fight back? Why? I mean, I don’t want people to actually fight fire with fire–but standing up, and pointing out that what a bully (or an authoritative power) is doing is wrong…that’s considered to be fighting back as well.

      As for THG… I guess we’ll have to agree to disagree as I really do think that it’s well-written. 🙂

  5. Pingback: Filipino Friday: Kids and Books | taking a break

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