Monday, August 11, 2014

Princess Wilhelmina and the Coin of Destiny

Wilhelmina with her dragon, the book cover
Laura Valojärvi: Prinsessa Wilhelmiina ja kohtalon lantti
Illustrated by Emilia Lehtinen

Princess Wilhelmina is like other princesses. She dresses for three hours, her ladies in waiting are a pajama dresser, nose wiper, two corset tighteners and three cheer-uppers: a juggler, a choir and a reader of admirer letters.

Finally, when the princess is all dressed up an authorized match-maker check hers. The match maker has been authorized by the king: the king has to think about administrative issues: the court does not expand if the princess does not marry.

Princesses have several suitors, but the princesses are picky and often reject their suitors. While the princes think their are noble, but they can be stiff as marble pillars and they do not even know how to disco. The only dance minuets in their wigs and their faces are powdered white. What if all princes are dorks?

Princess Wilhelmina decides to take a walk to a near by meadow, where she meets an ordinary boy. They play together and the next day Wilhelmina can only think of the boy. She talkes to her father, the king, that she would like to marry that boy. The king says it is out of the question.

Now the king has a problem: how to stop the loving? He also sees how unhappy Wilhelmina is. He asks for fortune tellers, who tell him that if the princess chooses the boy, they will end up in dragon's belly. They suggest other suitors: a nuclear physicist, a rock star and an athlete. They all have courts of their own.

Wilhelmina discovers science with the physicist.
The king decides to have a ball, where the suitors are invited. The physicist takes the princess dancing. (Now the reader can toss a coin: if it is tales, the princess chooses the physicist and the reader can read about their lives. If the coin is heads, princess does not choose him and the reader is directed to continue with the story)

The dragon takes over the kingdom.
The princess chooses the physicist and she gets excited about science. Together they experiment in their lab and marry at the age of 70.

If the result of the toss of the coin is heads, we read on... The next suitor is the rock star. Again with the toss of a dice we get to read, what happens, if Wilhelmina chooses him. With the rock star, Wilhelmina becomes a key board player and together they have concerts in many countries.

The third suitor is the athelete. If Wilhelmina chooses him, she will cheer her husband in all sports events and has six children. On Sundays they all go for a walk in identical track suits.

If the coin toss leads to the ordinary boy, the king wants to train him. The king sends for a stylist and soon the boy looks like a prince. The boy gets scared and runs off. Wilhelmina has enough and locks herself in a tower. The royal gardener brings a seedling to the king and tells him it is a chili, but if the thought of the breeder is in a bad mood... the king won't listen and takes the plant to Wilhelmina.

Wilhelmina takes the plant and waters it. Soon she realizes, she is raising a dragon.

Wilhelmina and the ordinary boy live happily ever after.
Wilhelmina sets the dragon free and soon the whole castle is running around like madmen. The dragon eats everything in his way. Even Wilhelmina flees to the ordinary boy's house. The boy wants to slay the dragon and takes off with a Swiss army knife. The dragon eats the boy. Wilhelmina doesn't think twice and follows the boy into the dragons mouth. They fall into the dragons belly, where already is half the kingdom. Wilhelmina's comfortable princess life can continue. They live happily ever after in the dragons belly. Only the king cries outside for his lost daughter.

My son chose this book by its cover. He is fascinated by dragons, so he loved the cover of this dramatic book. He is very visual type: he refused to see Disney’s Hercules for a long time, because he saw the dvd cover and thought Hercules was a girl. (If I was paranoid, I’d be a little worried: did he see a resemblance between me and Hercules? Since the women in Finland aren’t as masculine as Hercules! Let’s hope, it was only the hair that made him think of Hercules was a girl.)

I like the new ideas of this book: the modern day princes, rock stars and athletes, have entourages. I also like that the stories for girls tell that girls can do anything they want (in real world they have to follow the boys’ rules, but that is another story). I am also intrigued by the idea that someone might be able to outline the future: if you choose A, this will happen. If you choose B that will happen. What if someone showed the future’s with every possible spouse you meet? Then you could choose the best. Maybe that wouldn’t work, since people tend to grow and what they want in their 20s may be something totally different from what they want in their 40s.

What caught my attention in this story is that Wilhelmina got to have a career of her own with all other suitors except the athlete: then she had to be the stay at home mother. There is nothing wrong of being a stay at home mothers, I am sure many women will enjoy that. To me it just was the worst choice and I wonder if the writer chose the athlete intentionally to be the traditional one. Or is it just that you cannot be a top athlete, if you haven’t been training since birth?

Then I began to think that everything nowadays is possible for girls as it is for Wilhelmina (except that the girl has to follow the rules of masculine world) but what if a boy wants to be a stay at home dad? I have read that at least in Sweden, it t is totally acceptable that the dads stay at home for longer periods. What if a young boy announces that when he grows up, he is going to marry a wealthy woman and stay at home? How would his parents react? Finally I started to think about the ending with the ordinary boy: even though they lived in the dragon’s belly, Wilhelmina’s life changed only a little. That is something new as well: in the traditional fairytales the princess’s life changes, when she meets her prince and decides to live with him. Is here a reflection of the modern life? Do the women define nowadays how the family life turns out? Previously the bride moved in with the groom’s family and they taught the bride the manners of the house and she had to adjust.

The only one who loses in the book, is the king. That'll teach parents not to push too much or then they'll lose their kids forever. But what is too much? How much is enough that the child will make the right choices for himself?

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