10 Lessons We Can Learn From ‘The Paper Bag Princess’

For those who were deprived of books when they were young (we really should have a help line for this tragedy), The Paper Bag Princess by Robert Munsch is a beloved illustrated children’s book of a revamped fairytale. This post contains thoughtful comments and spoilers. But really, if you haven’t read the novel in the past 34 years, you should really take a look at your life…

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 The fantasy book follows an extravagant princess named Elizabeth who is happily engaged to the pompous Prince Ronald. Before this blessed arrangement is fulfilled, a fierce dragon steals Ronald and burns the princess’ clothes and castle so she’s forced to wear a paper bag. Elizabeth finds the dragon and cunningly asks him to show off his flying and fire-breathing skills. When the dragon falls asleep from being a constant show-off, Elizabeth frees Ronald who tells her to come back when she looks like “a real princess.”

Here are some life lessons we can gain from the transformed fairytale:

1. Sometimes it takes something horrible to find ourselves

For Elizabeth, it took an arrogant dragon and the destruction of her wardrobe to find her independence and bravery. For others, it’s an “F” on a paper, a car accident or an illness. No matter how many quotes we read about living life to the fullest and finding our identity, we don’t react until it’s thrust upon us.

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2. Be persistent

Usually when a dragon says to come back tomorrow because he already has dinner plans, you skillfully shuffle away. But after the dragon closes the door on her face, she doesn’t just knock again, she bangs. She doesn’t ask the dragon a question, she shouts.

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3. Humans are complicated

Elizabeth loves dresses, but she’s also adventurous, cunning and persistent. No one should find themselves “OK” with stereotypes.  The only person who needs to know who you are is yourself. 

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Munsch was inspired to write the short story when his wife asked him, “How come you always have the prince save the princess? Why can’t the princess save the prince?” Great question Mrs. Munsch!

4. Be eco-friendly

Okay, perhaps this wasn’t the implied moral of the story but Elizabeth really does rock the paper bag look. Then again, she did ask the dragon to burn hundreds of forests. 

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5. Love is powerful

Elizabeth is so infatuated with Ronald that she doesn’t notice he’s more interested in his tennis racket and sassy red shoes. But this is the same love that convinces Elizabeth to chase down the dragon.

6. Hide your Netflix obsession, not your emotions

Whether it’s joyous, surprised, frustrated or in love, Princess E is all about that feelings life.

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7. Don’t underestimate your intelligence

Elizabeth doesn’t slay the dragon with a sword but uses her intelligence and wit to outsmart the beast. Think about that when you see those Lumosity commercials.

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8. Clothes can be burnt, but true character is here to stay

After Elizabeth heroically saves her fiancé, the prince replies:
“Elizabeth, you are a mess! You smell like ashes, your hair is all tangled and you are wearing dirty old paper bag. Come back when you are dressed like a real princess.”

Elizabeth drops Ron like a hot potato. When Elizabeth is forced to shed her material possessions she unveils her fierceness.

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9. We’ll never have all the answers

Will the dragon try to hunt down Elizabeth? Is that paper bag itchy? WHY DOES RONALD ALWAYS CARRY A TENNIS RACKET? Some things we’ll never figure out… sometimes all you can do is dance into a sunset.

10. It’s perfectly fine to dance off in your own sunset

 

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In the last illustration, Elizabeth is shown embracing a new beginning in the arms of sunbeams. It’s unclear if she’s wearing her crown or not, but it doesn’t matter. Elizabeth can choose to be a princess, or a traveler or an eco-friendly fashion model — she’s whatever she wants to be.

I’m a literature college student and can barely remember to brush my hair in the morning. I don’t know enough about the world to preach about life morals. But this is advice I can offer: Put down your complicated and knowledgeable novel this summer and revert back to the simplicity of childhood books. A trip down memory lane taught me that I’ve always had a paper bag princess inside of me — she was just a little lost.

What lessons have you learned from The Paper Bag Princess?

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4 responses to “10 Lessons We Can Learn From ‘The Paper Bag Princess’

  1. Awesome post to accompany a really interesting story! I’m not so sure about how eco-friendly we can call it though… Those poor forests…

    • Thanks! And yes, when I first wrote it, I thought, “Wow! That paper bag looks super cool. How green of her!” Then I finished the story and thought, “Umm..just kidding. That’s a lot of forests..” Did you also grow up reading ‘The Paper Bag Princess’?

      • Unfortunately not, but I am sure I saw the book at some point in my distant past! The image of that paper bag sticks in the mind, you know?

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