Review: Disney Princess Tales of Courage and Kindness

As soon as I learned that yesterday's Ultimate Princess Celebration came with a free ebook, I scoured the internet to find and read it. Tales of Courage and Kindness contains 14 short stories that each feature a different official Disney Princess and two bonus stories that about Queens Anna and Elsa that take place after Frozen 2. The book's illustrated novella format reminds me of a two-book series I found many years ago called Once Upon a Princess, which retold each princess's story from her point of view. This book differs from that format in that it is told in the third person narrative, but the compilation of different princess stories accompanied by beautiful illustrations is still similar. Each short story is written by a different author and illustrated by a variety of artists, each with their own unique and colorful style.

Disney Princess Tales of Courage and Kindness book cover

There isn't much point in reviewing each short story individually when you can read them all for free online, so instead, I will go over some highlights and recurring themes. Each story does a beautiful job of capturing the spirit of the Disney Princesses as kind-hearted and rebellious young women who go out of their way help those around them, especially those who are outcasts or underprivileged. The stories reminded me of what was so great about Disney's animated Little Mermaid series, which contained similar themes. From Belle learning to communicate with a Moroccan ambassador despite the language barrier to Rapunzel creating a Braille star chart for a blind astronomer, each story emphasizes the princesses' desires to encourage tolerance of those who are different than them, a popular narrative in today's princess media. Though some of the stories included the princes in the background, none of them were focused on romance. Sometimes the lack of love stories in modern media bothers me, but that wasn't the case here because it was so nice to see my favorite female leads make new friends and form closer bonds with the few female sidekicks that already existed in their stories. One story that stood out in this respect was Pocahontas, who befriended three English sisters that settled near her village after John Smith left. John was the only English settler in her movie that she had any genuine contact with, so it made sense that she would meet others after he left and she remained in the village. It was an added treat for her to interact with female characters her own age besides Nakoma.

Artistic illustration of Belle in her libraryPocahontas sketch illustration with the colors of the wind in the background

I like that these stories take place at various points in the princesses' lives, showing that the authors were not limited by the events of their movies or sequels. Ariel's story takes place when she is still a mermaid, while Mulan's is shortly after returning to her village prior to the events of her sequel. I particularly enjoyed reading the story about Cinderella because it gave a rare look at a time in her life where she actually impressed Lady Tremaine as a result of being kind to her stepsister, Anastasia. It would be difficult to imagine that her stepmother was cruel to her every second of the time that she lived under her roof, so it was nice for Cinderella to achieve a win for herself and get on her stepmother's good side without external help for one fleeting moment. The only story that I would have preferred to see take place in a different time was Merida's. the author placed her tale right in the middle of the movie Brave, which made it feel too much like a summary of the film instead of an original story. Other than that, the tales in this book felt like gazing into a magic mirror at a secret part of each princess's life that we would never have otherwise gotten to see. Since they were written as one-offs for a single book, the stories felt more genuine and less commercialized than the Disney Princess Enchanted Tales series that Disney attempted over a decade ago.

Illustration of Ariel performing a concert with her six sistersTriptych of Merida with her three brothers as bears one one side and humans on the other

Of all the stories in this book, Jasmine's was the felt the most out of place and didn't make sense given her character's background. She is the only official Disney Princess who wasn't the main character in her own movie, so perhaps the author felt she needed to stretch our suspension of belief to get a good enough story to match the rest of the themes in the book. In this tale, Jasmine becomes the team captain for a group of princesses who participate in a game of polo in a tradition that dates back to when her mother was alive. Where the theme of female friendship resonated beautifully for Pocahontas, it was awkward and confusing for Jasmine. The original Aladdin movie asserts that Jasmine was raised alone and had no friends besides Rajah. For her to know these other princesses well enough to lead them in a team and be familiar with her mother's activities in the game seems to contradict everything we already know about her. On a personal level, I had trouble getting into this story because I don't like sports, but Jasmine also never came off as a particularly athletic princess. Even when she managed to jump across the rooftops of Agrabah using a wooden beam, she seemed just as surprised by her own skills as Aladdin was. It was also odd that all the male characters from the original film acted like mindless cheerleaders with nothing to talk about other than how much they supported Jasmine winning the match, which is the exact opposite problem that I had with the animated Aladdin series, which placed too much focus on the male characters.

Jasmine illustrationIllustration of Rapunzel admiring the stars

All in all, Tales of Courage and Kindness is a charming anthology that contains all the things I love about princesses. Most of the stories stay true to the core of each princess's being and what makes her special. I love that they didn't feel like generic lessons for children about morals and that each author took the time to explore a good time and place for the event in each princess's life and what sort of unique challenges she might face in her own individual kingdom. It is littered with breathtakingly gorgeous illustrations in numerous styles from pencil art to paper art to more traditional-looking storybook drawings. If you are a fan of the Disney Princesses, this book is a must read. It is free at www.disneyprincessstories.com from now until August. Happy reading!

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