The books we read as children are quite ridiculous if you examine the messages that are the topics of even the most regulated of children literature. Streets and Roads is a basic reader that was passed down from my mother as reading material before I started kindergarten. I used to love the short stories in the reader. If I were to identify one book that sparked my interest in reading, this would be it. Years later, I can still recall many of the themes, morals, and images.
One of my favorite stories were “The Princess Who Never Laughed”. It was the typical princess-meets-peasant tale where the one boy who was able to make the princess laugh. The story itself seemed harmless enough as a child but there are some obvious issues with the morals. Yes, of course there are sexism issues and gender equality issues, like most romances that you read as a child. The king gives the princess to the poor boy as his wife, keeping his “promise”. This portrayal is an issue across all royalty-themed tales. However, the real point that I noticed, after reading the story as an adult, is the skewed portrayal of love.
In my eyes, each character shows love in an idealistic and twisted way. The king loves his daughter so much that he would do anything to see her smile. Adorable. His love confines her to marry the first man to make her laugh. A little twisted. The daughter apparently falls in love with a poor boy who makes her laugh using a trick. Pretty shallow, but romantic. He also kidnaps a bunch of working class villagers to do this trick. Twisted. The princess not only laughs at other people’s misery, but she refuses to laugh for her whole life, making her loved ones suffer. Interesting story, but not as charming as it seemed as a child.