The Prince Predicament

I like princes.

I won’t say that all girls (and some boys) dream of Prince Charming, but he does touch our lives in some way. For me it started with fairy tales and Disney and was shaped by YA Fantasy novels, cartoons and comics.  There were a few exceptions like Margaret Peterson Haddix’s Just Ella where Cinderella’s prince is an empty-headed twit. Maybe even a king here or there like Zane Cobriana. For the most part though, it’s Team Prince all the way.

Prince Charming and Me

My prince-mania is probably a little more extreme than the most people. I think. Over the course of junior high and high school I came up with dozens of different stories and comics  that have since been abandoned (or “put on hiatus” for the ones I still can’t let go of). Most of them had a prince. There was the prince-in-disguise who was gentlemanly as all heck and  the evil alien prince who one of my characters was in an arranged marriage with and the moody cursed prince and so on. Just those three have at least twenty tropes between them.

And there is also the fanfiction. Oh God. I have at least two boxes full of notebooks and I will admit to all of you now that most of it was fanfiction I started writing it in fifth grade on and even now, once in a while I’ll need to dash off a few paragraphs for fun. Last summer, being unemployed due to surgery, I had a lot of free time. So I thought I’d go through all those notebooks and tally up everything.

I was bored okay?

One pairing had the most fics. And the male half of that pairing, was a Prince.

It was Dragonball Z. It was Vegeta and Bulma.

You can stop laughing anytime now.

Vegeta isn’t the type of prince we’ll tackle. I want to deal with the usual character, the man who is intelligent, courtly/polite. Sometimes he’s aloof with a big heart underneath, sometimes he’s got charm and humor that makes him seem like a regular guy. And most of these dwell in YA fiction.

Type A

My first encounter with the YA prince was in Ella Enchanted with the sweet Prince Char. Yes he had the responsibility and the privileges but really he was just a nice, sweet guy who saw Ella’s worth even though she wasn’t like other girls. We’ll call him Type A: the prince who balances maturity with good humor, who may sigh over his burdens but never fails to do the right thing. He resembles that one boy in high school who was hot and popular but also a pretty nice guy too. Actually, that guy was in a lot of young adult romances set in high school when the love interest wasn’t the rebel boy or the friend that was there all along.

I can get that. There were a lot of douchebaggy popular jocks at my school but there were some that were pretty decent. It works like Twilight and other paranormal romances do. The thought that someone you think is far superior wanting you the unpopular teen, the nerdy kid, that’s powerful. Not that all of the Twilight fans are nerdy kids but I suspect that those of us who weren’t the popular ones are more likely to read paranormal romance than those who were. I know I dreamed of being swept off my feet by a prince and taken away from the “cruel world of high school.”

The princes in YA books liked the girls who weren’t typical. Often the cheerleader equivalent was there as a step-sister or the prince’s evil fiancée but the heroine triumphed. This sort of prince was never so macho that he had to be the champion. Sometimes he needed to be rescued or sometimes he was the sidekick in the final battle but it was always up to the heroine to kick butt. Which is something I love and I think is empowering for the girls reading it.

Examples of Type A Princes:

Char from Ella Enchanted by Gail Carson Levine

Gabriel from The Swan Kingdom by Zoe Marriott

Luka from Dragon Slippers by Jessica Day George

Ossin from Deerskin by Robin McKinley (this is based on the fairy tale Donkeyskin/Manyfurs/Thousandfurs and deals with issues of incest and rape. Not for the faint of heart but a very good and provoking read)

Mendanbar from Searching for Dragons by Patricia C. Wrede (part two in a four-book series)

Tor from The Hero and the Crown by Robin McKinley

Prince Eric from Disney’s The Little Mermaid

Type B

Type B is the silent, more courtly prince. Not the tortured or anti-hero prince (not in this post). Maybe he has an oppressive father/guardian or he has shouldered responsibility far too soon. I’m a sucker for this one, especially if there’s a feisty and/or perky heroine to compliment him. I think where the Type A is the sweet high school boy, Type B is his college-age brother. Mature and handsome. A lot of them are pretty-handsome in the way Legolas is.

They work like the Type A’s girl. Only on top of being different and special enough to catch the prince’s eye, they’re also the one who gets the prince to open or learn how to live.  There’s a fine line: I won’t read it if the man is just a jerk and the girl tries to “change him.” The girls usually get to still kick butt. Type B’s are more proficient in their heroics but they either arrive too late after leading the troops to the final battle or taking on the lieutenant of the big baddie.

Type B’s are appealing because they have the ability to take care of you but they still let you go be a heroine. It’s like a safety net–you might not need it but it’s nice to know it’s there. (Wow, sorry if that sounded like I was objectifying the men. Though considering that the site is called “Literary Mancandy” I guess I’m already in trouble).

Examples of Type B Princes:

Vidanric from Crown Duel by Sherwood Smith (In the second half he’s a king-to-be until the end so he’s pretty much a prince)

Roiben from Tithe/Ironside by Holly Black (not entirely a prince–he’s a knight who becomes a king but fits very well)

Anji from Spirit Gate by Kate Elliot

Lucius from the first half of Jessica’ Guide to Dating on the Dark Side by Beth Fantaskey

Corlath from The Blue Sword by Robin McKinley

There are more prince types (oh Vegeta…). Once you get to more adult fiction, the princes become kings and get far more tortured or libidinous. And you know, I love the flirtatious guy characters and the Byronic heroes. But I love the princes mentioned above a little more. They’re feel-good characters that almost never raise red flags for being too jerky or ultra-macho. So most of these will remain on my top list of mancandy.


3 Responses to “The Prince Predicament”

  1. 1 Jessica May 2, 2010 at 6:05 am

    I totally agree with everything you just said. O.O

  1. 1 Yesway, Maybe, Noway « Literary Mancandy Trackback on August 31, 2010 at 7:01 pm

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