Do we really want our Children to Dream of being a Pirate and a Princess?


When I think of a pirate a very clear picture comes to my mind. He is a tall strapping man with dark evil eyes. He is mean and ruthless and will kill anyone who gets in his way. The pirate is a murderer and thief and wreaks havoc on the world.

When I think of a princess I have in mind another clear picture. I think about a fairy tale. Most definitely she is beautiful with long flowing hair and wears a gown made of the finest fabric. She is loyal to her father, the King, and upholds the duties that are bestowed upon a young woman born into nobility. She does what is expected of her and knows she will one day marry into another noble family and look down at her poor subjects who did not have the good fortune to be born into royalty.

Our modern society has romanticised the world of the pirate and the princess, and it is something I just don’t understand.

The pirate in particular has become a much-loved cartoon character and Halloween costume for children. We, as adults, find it so cute when our kids put on the pirate hat, eye patch and hook and say things like “Ahoy Matie” or “Walk the Plank.” Pirates were not cute – they violently plundered ships and shoreline communities, killing people along the way. There are even some pirates today, sailing off the coast of places like Eastern Africa. I am quite sure no one wants their kids to look up to these people.

Princesses are in quite a different category as, for the most part, they do not steal and murder. But, the fairy tale princess is not one I would like my daughters to model themselves after. I see the princess as a second-class citizen, who though intelligent, is often passed over in favour of the male heir. I know what you are thinking – in recent years we have seen the coming of age of the feminist princess like Elsa and Ana in Frozen, or Merida in Brave. They are the exception, and I cringe when someone calls my daughter a princess.

That said, I am not going to stop my children from dressing up as pirates and princesses and reading about them in bedtime stories. I will admit that my kids have dressed up in versions of pirates and princesses over the years. I let them take their own spin on it, like my daughter’s werewolf princess costume for Halloween a couple of years ago. It was definitely unique.

My daughter’s own creation

Maybe I am just a crank and should let it go. Could it be that our modern society believes that with time our perceptions of everything changes? The 17th and 18th century pirate was a villain then but is seen as a bold and formidable character today. The fairy tale princess obeyed her family’s wishes and was mostly a pretty thing whose only dream was to marry a handsome prince. Today people believe that same princesses could have ruled the kingdom and changed the world.

What do you think? Are there other historical characters or stories that have been romanticised? Leave me a comment here, post to Facebook or Tweet me @AliciaRichler.