The Two Princesses of Bamarre – #bedtimestories

In #bedtimestories, Features, HOME, LITERATURE by Sonia Muhwezi

#bedtimestories is a feature in which people reminisce about their favourite work of children’s literature they read or had read to them as a child and why it remains so important to them today. We could go on about it a bit more but that’s about it really. What were your favourite bedtime stories? Let us know in the comment section below.

The Two Princesses of Bamarre – Gail Carson Levine

40134_496167016417_7052030_n“You know, for a tomboy whose favourite colour’s blue, you wore an awful lot of pink.” That’s usually one of the first comments I hear from the chosen few allowed to gaze upon old pictures or home videos of me.

Yes. I know. I did wear a lot of pink. Mostly because my mum did all my shopping but also because I quite like pink. It’s a pretty colour. But I also liked getting messy, and having food fights. I wanted to paint my nails and play video games all day long. I wanted to be Princess Leia, but also Han Solo because nobody could handle a light-saber like I could (well, a pool stick or whatever else was at hand, but you get the picture). I took tae kwan do and ballet. No sooner had I slipped into my Baby Spice pumps that they were destroyed during an impromptu trek through the forest.

My point is, I’ve always been an awkward mix of girly and tomboyish. And the age-appropriate, gender-appropriate books I was reading at the time? Well, they kind of told me you had to be one or the other. You were either Rapunzel, trapped in a tower awaiting a prince, or you’re Mulan, bold and brave, shying away from anything remotely girly. You were either the princess or the badass. It was frustrating.

At first, I shied away from all the pink. I’d consent to wearing my Belle pyjamas, because they were purple at least, and she liked to read so that wouldn’t give off the wrong impression. I had plain stationary and blue duvet covers just in case someone saw all the pink and decided I was a Rapunzel. I was not a Rapunzel. I really didn’t want to come off as girlier than I was.

And then my sister stumbled upon The Two Princesses of Bamarre. This was what I’d been waiting for. I cannot begin to tell you how many times we read that book. Princess Addie and Princess Meryl are as different as can be: Addie is shy and timid, Meryl brave and daring. But for all their differences, they love and admire each other fiercely.

So when Meryl falls ill with the dreaded Grey Death, Addie musters up every ounce of courage she has and sets off on a dangerous quest to find the cure. She battles ogres and gryphons, outwits spectres, and charms a dragon with her superior embroidery skills. And that’s the shy, girly one of the princesses. Her sister, too, is so fierce and strong-willed, the most badass Fairy Godmother there ever was. Addie and Meryl were the first characters I met and identified with.

We weren’t really read to as children, so reading was – and to some extent still is – a very personal thing, that I only  shared with my siblings. It was our little secret. And Addie and Meryl were a point of refuge every time someone gave me a look for being a confusing mix of “girly” and not. I chose Princess Peach every time I played Mario Kart, because yeah, she’s a princess and I hope you like the back of her pretty poufy pink dress because she’ll leave you in the dust.

The Two Princesses of Bamarre taught me that ‘princess’ wasn’t the trope I thought it was. So yes, my favourite wrestler’s the Undertaker and I could probably knit my way out of the Tombstone.

What was even more special is that I read it with my sister (we took turns, which I clearly wasn’t so happy about). We were both so obsessed with it. I think it’s the first and only time we had two characters and weren’t fighting over who got to be one and who had to be the other. There were no losers. Addie and Meryl were both Beyoncé.

And more than that, their love for each other was the first time I’d seen the love I have for my siblings reflected on paper. I’d conquer all my fears for them, battle any monsters – and I know they’d do the same. All these years later, Frozen is getting all the awards for doing what The Two Princesses of Bamarre did over a decade ago: a story where the all-powerful love was between two sisters, two princesses.

My mum has nicknames for all her children. Samantha is Queen, Sam is King, JJ’s Prince, and Sandy and I are both “Princess”. I have a lot of sparkly, pink, princess trinkets around my room. It’s not something I’m wary of or chafe at anymore. Hell yeah, I’m a princess. What that means is up to me.

Sonia Muhwezi

Sonia is the Editor of LITERATURE at PTL. She is currently undertaking an MA in Publishing at Kingston University, having graduated from Brighton University with a degree in English Lit & Lang. Education is cool. In other Sonia related info, she can turn any conversation into a game of Six Degrees to Harry Potter and is also a Beyoncé stan. Bow down bitches.

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