To avoid misunderstanding, the pages quoted in numbers begin with “1” and “Princess Smartypants did not want to get married. She enjoyed being a Ms.” (in case the original version of the book has different page numbers)
Babette Cole's Princess Smartypants is a young woman who has, according to her mother, reached the age at which she is ready for marriage (cf. Cole 1986:5). This typical fairytale theme of a young princess is contradicted and overthrown constantly by Princess Smartypants' character throughout the whole story - she seems, dresses, appears and behaves more like a child than a lady, favours pet monsters over men (cf. 1, 3) and tends to have more fun playing around than being responsible or at least behaving according to the position she is put into. It seems that for her, this childlike lifestyle is the key to living “happily ever after” (29) in a world such as hers - one of responsibility - and that she stands for the message that the child inside is what leads to happiness if lived to the full with devotion. This paper aims to elaborate on this thesis and its proof given in several elements of the children's story.
To begin with, the very appearance of Smartypants is not that of a young woman but rather of a child - especially on the book's cover. Pulling along a pet monster on a leash, wearing dungarees and with untidy hair, the impression she visually gives is that of a 12-year-old. In fact, she never wears a princess' dress throughout the whole story, instead she wears either her basic child-like outfit consisting of ordinary slippers, dungarees and a patterned t-shirt (cf. 17) or she dresses according to the activities she tests the princes with - looking more masculine than feminine doing so (cf. the motorbike ride on page 11 and the horse test on page 15). Her choice of clothing not only seems to underline her individual freedom but also her devotion towards it - she is not only a playful child with many hobbies, she also takes those seriously and equips herself fully for them. Her implied responsibility as a princess, to behave and dress like one and achieve marriage, is already on this level laid aside decisively in favour ofher other interests.
This is also emphasized by Smartypants' seemingly sole interest in having fun throughout the whole story - the men are of no interest to her (cf. 1) other than to enjoy seeing them fail her tests, which is shown in her remarkably content facial expressions on pages 10, 11, 12, 15, 17 and 19. She shows no care or interest for them at all, always placing herself in a superior, mostly higher position than them (cf. 2, 6, 10, 12 and especially 19), a position that seems to stand literally for the distance between her and the princes, and in this way between her and her responsibility as a princess. The fact that she herself does not appear in any of the pictures that depict dangerous tasks or those that require responsibility - such as the slug-reprimanding (7), pet-feeding (9), firewood-chopping (1314) and shopping with mother (16) - stresses Smartypants' preferred life of enjoyment rather than duty There is one peculiar page within the story - page 4, one of the few pages with no text, depicting her doing some cleaning work outside - but this is introduced by the phrase “Princess Smartypants wanted to live in her castle with her pets and do exactly as she pleased” (3), which puts emphasis on the fact that she might be fulfilling a certain responsibility here, but her true intention is to do whatever she wants, be it responsible or not (cf. her final leisure on page 29).
“Then Prince Swashbuckle [turns] up” (20). Being the prince who fulfills all the tasks she sets, it seems he would be the perfect husband for her - if that had been her intention in the first place. Instead, it becomes clear that she never wanted to find a potential husband with these tests (“thinking she was safe” when they “all left in disgrace” (19)) and again her facial expressions evidently show her disapproval not only at his success (cf. 22, 23, 24 & 25) but also at his very appearance (cf. 20). It is a remarkable fact that Princess Smartypants is never in harmony or any sort of accordance with the princes she encounters throughout the story - she and they are always headed in different directions, in a controversial relation towards one another (as the princes want her and she doesn't want them, as they fail the tasks, which she enjoys, and as Prince Swashbuckle masters them, which annoys her) that finds its peak and finale in their leaving (cf. 19 & 28) and her thus succeeding. It seems the princes stand representatively for the world of responsibility that she is put into as a princess, and though she might find her contemporary fun fooling around with them, they are not her key to living “happily ever after” (29) - nor is, thus, the life of a mature, responsible princess.
- Quote paper
- Marc Backhaus (Author), 2012, "Princess Smartypants" by Babette Cole as an example of how the child inside is the key to happiness, Munich, GRIN Verlag, https://www.grin.com/document/233456