I have a little 5-year old niece who loves spending time with me. Since I’m the youngest, all the children in the family like me more, plus, lets face it, my immaturity appeals to them. My niece randomly wants me to tell her stories, and as all little girls do, prefers stories about princesses. I don’t particularly like any of the princess stories out there, so I make up my own. Naturally, they’re not particularly conventional stories. For example, our favorite catchphrase is me asking her, “What does a real princess do?!” My niece responds with, “A real princess doesn’t wait for a prince to save her, she kicks butt on her own.” When I ask, “When the prince gets there, what does she do?” My niece replies with, “She dusts off her hands and says, dude, what took you so long?”

This is one of the stories I’ve told her, and among her favorites.

The Little Princess Who Wanted To Be A Doctor

Once upon a time, there was a little princess who lived in a far-off kingdom. Now this little princess wasn’t very beautiful, or very ugly. She was pleasant to look at, but wasn’t extraordinarily pretty. She had dark hair and dark eyes, and her skin wasn’t pure and fair, as beautiful princesses were supposed to be. She had an olive complexion, and normal looking lips, not ruby-red lips. She wasn’t particularly fond of singing, and she didn’t play any musical instruments with dazzling expertise, even though she enjoyed playing the piano and the cello. She was of average height, and had a 28 inch waist, instead of 24 like princesses were supposed to have. She didn’t wear tightening corsets to pinch her figure smaller either, nor did she eat a slice of bread and one lettuce leaf per day, as princesses are supposed to so they’ll look beautiful. She ate creamy pasta and meats with gravy, and in the evening, she’d play out in the garden with her handmaidens, and come back with her not-very-white cheeks flushed from exertion, instead of looking pale and delicate as princesses are supposed to.

Now even though this princess wasn’t as beautiful as she was supposed to be, everyone liked her because she was very smart. She loved to read, and she could spend hours holed up in the royal library, poring away at her father’s texts on politics, law, religion, philosophy, and many other tomes that a princess has no business to be reading. When people gifted her the sorts of books princesses are supposed to read, like books about enchanted castles with fair-haired damsels in distress that are saved by a dashing prince, she would use the book to light the fireplace in her room, because she disliked such books.

The princess was very kind too. She always wanted to help people, and to see them happy and unharmed. She loved animals, and could often be found down in the kitchens with a new stray animal she’d adopted every single day. She loved spending time in her father’s stables with his horses, and she didn’t just ride the horses, she would also rub them down afterward and feed them and take care of them, getting grubby in the process, though a princess had no place doing such manly work. Her favorite pet was a fierce wolf-dog, who guarded her and played with her all the time, even though everyone knows a princess is only supposed to keep a parrot or a kitten as a pet.

Now as this princess grew up, the time came for her to graduate high school. When she graduated, the people asked her what she would do next. All princesses are supposed to marry after the tenth grade. That’s why their fathers send them to school, even though its such a burden as girls do not earn like boys do, and their fathers have to spend more money on them. But instead of saying she would get married, the princess gravely replied, “I’m going to go to med school.”

Naturally, this created a huge uproar. All the kingdom was in pandemonium. How could a mere girl even think of becoming a doctor? Careers were for men, because they were big and strong and hardened by the world, not by soft, sensitive girls, who were too emotional and lacking sensibility, and would often be irrational. A girl’s primary function was to marry, keep a good home for her husband, be thankful and loving to him for providing her with a stable life, and bear him children, and keep his house clean, and cook for him, and sew for him, and wash his clothes, and polish his shoes, and be devoted to him, as if he was a god for her, and to unflinchingly offer her body to him, as marriage meant that he could do anything he wanted to her.

The king was furious. How dare a female child embarrass him thusly, he roared. How dare a girl speak of a career! The shame! The horror! As a girl, the princess was supposed to uphold the family honour, not trample upon it in the mud!

The princess listened to her father’s raging calmly, sipping her tea, and then went to bed. The next day, before her father rose, she awakened, put on her finest dress, perched a new pair of spectacles on her nose, and went to the biggest college in the kingdom. When the headmaster met with her, she explained to him that she wanted to study in his college. The headmaster  laughed and laughed and laughed, until he saw she was serious. Then he sternly explained to the princess that a girl had no place in a college, and that the princess shouldn’t be shaming her father in such a disgraceful way by speaking of such unladylike things.

This was the response the princess got in all 20 colleges in the kingdom’s capital, where she lived. Then, just as she was wondering if she should go to the other cities of the kingdom, her handmaiden told her of another college that the princess had forgotten about. Instead of a headmaster, the college had a headmistress, which was why no one liked that college. The king had only allowed the headmistress to run the college because she was not married, and everyone felt sorry for her, as marriage is the prime reason for a girl’s existence. But no one ever wanted to study there, as the shame of studying at a college run by a woman was too much for the male students of the kingdom. Only really poor boys, or boys who were expelled from other universities, or who were not smart or strong or rich enough to go to the good colleges attended that college.

When the princess met the headmistress, and explained that she wanted to study in the medical field, the headmistress couldn’t believe her ears. But when she saw that the princess was serious, she agreed to do so, on the condition that the princess would protect the college from shutting down as a result of her father’s rage, which the princess agreed to.

So, the princess started studying in the college. All the male students were rude to her, and would try to pinch her bottom or her chest, because they all thought she was an immoral girl for shaming her father and daring to study. But the princess had learned to fence in the royal castle, and she was allowed to carry a sword as the headmistress understood that she would be bullied, so the boys quickly learned to stay clear of the princess’s wrath. When they didn’t, the princess would challenge them to a duel in public, and as men are strong and brave, they could not refuse, but could never win, due to the princess’s skill in swordplay.

As the years passed, the male students learned to respect the princess, because she was the brightest, most eager student. When any student would dare mock her for dishonoring her father, ten swords would draw before the princess’s own sword in her defense. This also stopped quickly, as those ten well-meaning boys faced the princess’s wrath for daring to fight her battles for her, even if they did it out of respect for the princess.

But when the princess graduated, no one was willing to let her work in their hospitals. They all told her that if a girl worked for them, not only would it look bad for the hospital, but as girls are incapable of doing anything but cooking, cleaning, keeping house, and taking care of children, then they would have more patients dying because girls are inept, and the princess wouldn’t treat them properly like a clever, intelligent male doctor would.

However, as with her college, there was one hospital that was run by a woman. This woman had been very pretty in her youth, but her father died in a hunting accident, so no one wanted to marry her, as she would not have a dowry without a father to provide it, and a lack of dowry is a matter of great shame for a girl, since she is not being given away as a present, but rather, sold off to whoever is willing. So because of that, the king allowed the woman to run the hospital since everyone felt sorry for her, but like the princess’s college, no one really worked there unless they were refused entry everywhere else.

This woman also agreed to let the princess work at her hospital, because the princess had the highest test scores, and had graduated with distinction, and had always been top of her class. And so, the princess started practicing as a doctor. She loved helping people in this way, even though a lot of patients would often refuse to be treated by her since she was a woman. But because mostly poor patients came there, they didn’t have much of a choice. Sometimes, the woman who ran the hospital would lie and say there were no other doctors, so the princess would have a chance to work, and this way, the patients had no other way to get healed.

As the princess kept working, the poor patients of the hospital spread word of what a good doctor she was. Then, more and more people would come and ask for her to treat them, because everyone told them how she saved so many lives. As word spread, the nobility also heard of this woman who was a doctor, and at first, they came to the hospital only to laugh at her, as if she was some poor animal stolen from its natural habitat and locked away in a zoo. But when they saw how patiently she’d treat them, even when they pretended to have an ailment just for the chance of seeing her, they also started coming to her for healing. The bigger hospitals that had refused to let the princess work were alarmed, as they were losing their rich patients, whose donations and agreement to pay the outrageous bills of the fancy hospitals were what kept them running. Eventually, they had to beg the princess to work for them, just so their profits wouldn’t suffer. But the princess refused to work for them, since they had refused her when she needed a job.

As more and more rich patients came to her, they also made donations to the hospital as gratitude. Then the hospital grew larger and had better facilities. The woman running the hospital was very happy, and everyone respected her a lot, because she was the only one who had recognized the princess’s potential where everyone had failed. Because of this, the woman and the princess told everyone that the princess wouldn’t have been such a good doctor, if it hadn’t been for the headmistress who’d let the princess study at her college. Then the grateful nobility made donations to the college as well, and sent their sons to study there, and no one pitied the headmistress anymore, but instead, respected her for running such a good college.

Then, as little girls who had been born at the time of the princess’s high school graduation grew up, they told their parents they wanted to be just like the princess who was a doctor. Because that princess was so respected, those little girls were allowed to study beyond high school, because their parents wanted their little girls to be respected and admired just as the princess was. But the princess was still not married, and all her suitors were rejected, because they only wanted to marry her as her father, the king, would pay a handsome dowry. When the parents of those little girls saw that the princess rejected suitors seeking dowry, they also did the same for their daughters. This meant their daughters married men they loved and who respected those girls and saw them as equals, not as damsels in distress, so the parents knew their little girl would be happy, and they did not have to spend their whole lives working themselves to death for the sake of a daughter’s dowry. Nor was having too many female children considered a burden, as girls would study and go on to become doctors, artists, writers, engineers, scientists, etc. and work hard and contribute to the family’s income.

No one knows what happened to the princess, or whether she married or spent her life alone. But one thing is for sure, whether she had a man by her side or not, the princess spent her life happily, working at what she loved to do i.e. helping people by healing them. She opened up many schools, colleges, hospitals, animal hospitals, etc. for people as well, specially for girls. She was never too proud to grub about in the stables as in her youth, or run through the fields with her wolf-dog and her puppies. She was never beautiful like a princess should be, or quiet like a princess should be. She wasn’t soft-spoken like a princess should be, and she had strong opinions on serious issues, which princesses aren’t supposed to do. She was neat enough, but not fastidious and anal about keeping the house clean as princesses are meant to be. She didn’t really like cooking, and preferred take-out, which a princess must never do. She always spoke her mind, and never talked like she wasn’t that smart, like a good princess should do, so no one is alienated by an intelligent girl. She worked hard, helped people, and died happily, with or without a man by her side. Everyone mourned the loss of their unconventional princess, and erected a monument to her in the kingdom’s capital, so that no one would forget the little princess who dared to dishonor her father, and thus, changed the lives of all the little girls that came after her, and might have died without ever marrying, but still died with a smile on her lips, the smile that one gives when they know that they have lived a full, contented life.

The End.

  1. Aamna says:

    A refreshing read.

  2. Ghausia! That was a wonderful fable for a five year old 🙂

    I liked how anvilicious it was. You made the point and you made it thoroughly!

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