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two Princess books with similar titles

Entirely by accident, I just realized.


So as mentioned, I Googled Played a bunch of free books onto my phone. I've now read two. The first was A Princess of Mars, by Edgar Rice Burroughs. I'd never before read a Burroughs or Barsoom novel. I wasn't sure I'd get far in this one, I was curious. But the language was engaging straight off, and I ended up reading the whole thing happily. It has a bit of Mighty Whitey trope, not to mention an uncomfortable friendliness to the Southern cause (but that doesn't last long) but then Carter is explicitly unusual. And for an action-packed planetary romance novel it has some nice twists. It also had some personal appeal due to my playing Martian Rails in Chile, which unlike Lunar Rails is quite pulping including a ton of Barsoom references. Red Martians, Green Martians, Helium, thoats, Atmosphere Plant... it was nice to see them in their original habitat.


And then I read A Little Princess by Frances Hodgson Burnett, author of The Secret Garden, a children's book of my childhood, which had turned out to be somewhat heavily moralistic and piety-pushing compared to my dim memories.

This one... you could call it moralistic or twee. The 'princess' is Sara who's nearly perfectly nice: rich and materially spoiled yet not conceited or arrogant, kind and understanding of others, unusually mature for her age... quite likely it was meant as a moralistic role model: "be more like her." But as a fan of Maria-Sama, Aria, and Nanoha, I find I *like* smart women being really nice. (Not that Maria-sama or Aria emphasize brains that much.) As with Maria-sama, I could see the emotional manipulation strings, but enjoyed reading it anyway, and was tearing up by the end. I don't know if I can recommend the book in general; all I can say is that I liked it, and if you like such things you might too.

I'd say the villain is a caricature, except sadly such simplistic petty evil seems all too realistic, especially where children are involved.

The big surprise, considering The Secret Garden, is that the piety content is pretty much zero. Sara, or for that matter anyone, prays exactly no times. Church is never mentioned. She does think about 'heaven' as a place where her dead mother is (making up her own more interesting version of heaven) but this is a girl who openly says she pretends things to make life more interesting. She also mentions Revelation as having some rocking stories beating even her own imagination. Otherwise, zip. Considering other children's books of the era where learning to pray was a big deal (Heidi, I think Anne of Green Gables) it's rather surprising.

Wikipedia tells me that there are two different anime adaptations, not to mention other series (one Japanese live drama), movies, and multiple musicals of this book I'd never heard of before. One of the anime involves mecha and some seriously trippy plot re-working. If I had time I'd have a new timesink in "Princess Sara", supposedly the best adaptation.


The similarity between A Princess of Mars and A Little Princess is almost entirely superficial, in their titles and the coincidence of my choosing to read them in order. Almost but not entirely: both *do* feature goodness and kindness being rewarded in the end. The Burnett, naturally, has 100% less wholesale slaughter.

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Damien Sullivan

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October 2018


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