Author Analyzes Fairy Tales, Discovers Stark Emotional Contrast Between Princes and Princesses

The author of Cinderella Didn't Live Happily Ever After found that while more than half of princes are happy, the same may not be true for princesses

Photo: Walt Disney Pictures/courtesy Everett Collection

Are kings and princes happier than queens and princesses in fairy tales? According to author Anne Beall, that looks to be the case.

Beall, who wrote Cinderella Didn’t Live Happily Ever After: The Hidden Messages in Fairy Tales, explores this possibility in her book. For her team’s research, according to a release, they analyzed 169 of Grimms’ 200 fairy tales (including well-known stories like Snow White, Sleeping Beauty and Cinderella) and found that 41 percent of kings boast happy expressions; the same is true for 56 percent of princes.

In contrast, while princesses exude happiness when they find their princes, next in the emotional bucket were sadness at 26 percent and fear (22 percent).

Beall also found that “princesses in fairy tales are likely to be in terrible situations, such as being captured and locked away or tormented by a stepmother such as in Snow White” or confined to a tower, like in Rapunzel, and the group most likely to experience sadness was queens (41 percent).

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Disney’s Sleeping Beauty. Disney/Everett Collection
SNOW WHITE AND THE SEVEN DWARFS, Snow White, Prince Charming, 1937
Disney’s Snow White.

The debate about princess stories being positive or negative in their influences has varied among parents, including those in the spotlight.

Kristen Bell (the voice of Princess Anna in 2013’s Frozen and its recent sequel) revealed in an October 2018 interview with Parents magazine that she is especially concerned about some of the plot points in Snow White when it comes to daughters Delta, now 5, and Lincoln, now 6½.

“I look at my girls and ask, ‘Don’t you think it’s weird that Snow White didn’t ask the old witch why she needed to eat the apple? Or where she got that apple?’ I say, ‘I would never take food from a stranger, would you?’ And my kids are like, ‘No!’ And I’m like, ‘Okay, I’m doing something right,’ ” recalled Bell, 39.

” ‘Don’t you think that it’s weird that the prince kisses Snow White without her permission? Because you cannot kiss someone if they’re sleeping!’ ” she added of what she has told her girls.

Cinderella Didn't Live Happily Ever After
Cinderella Didn’t Live Happily Ever After.

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On the flip side, many celebs have highlighted the positive side of the princess narrative — like Savannah Guthrie, whose 2017 debut children’s novel Princesses Wear Pants isn’t about tearing down dresses and instead encourages little girls to be well-rounded.

“We wanted our daughters to be okay with their love of princesses, but also realize that princesses are strong women with real things to do!” the Today show co-anchor, 48, previously told PEOPLE of the message behind the book. “The pants just became a fun vehicle for explaining all the different interests that a well-rounded young lady can have.”

“We are saying, ‘Hey, we love all that girly-girl stuff — but be sure you’ve got some substance underneath, too,” added Guthrie, a mother of two. “We are definitely not anti-princess. In fact, having lots of fun and frilly clothes (yes, including dresses!) was an absolute must for the book. You gotta give the (little) people what they want!”

Cinderella Didn’t Live Happily Ever After: The Hidden Messages in Fairy Tales is available on

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