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What Classic Novel Should You Revisit Based on Your Favorite Disney Princess?

Disney Classics

The films featuring Disney Princesses are themselves based on different fairy and folktales, but the archetypes and story lines of these tales can also be seen in works of classic literature. Maybe you have heard of these books but never got around to reading them, maybe they have been sitting on your shelf without being opened, maybe you pretended to read them for class but just read a plot summary, maybe you skipped the book and only watched the movie. But here are some classic books you should give a chance based on your favorite Disney Princess.

If you love Snow White…

(Disney’s Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs, 1937)

Left: Snow White living as a servant in the castle, Right: riding off to happily ever after

You Should Read: The Count of Monte Cristo by Alexandre Dumas, 1844

A story about an outcast noble person who survives an attempted murder and hides before returning to get what is rightfully theirs. In Snow White, the restoration of her crown involves a fateful kiss and a life with her Prince in his castle. For The Count of Monte Cristo, it involves an intricate plot of revenge years in the making. 

Left: the Alexandre Dumas novel, Right: the 2002 Touchstone Pictures film adaptation

If you love Cinderella…

(Disney’s Cinderella, 1950)

Left: Cinderella prepares for the ball with her fairy godmother, Right: stepsister Anastasia attempts to fit the glass slipper.

You Should Read: A Midsummer Night’s Dream¬†by William Shakespeare, 1595

Fairies come to interlude in the love lives of mortals, leading to some magical mishaps and cases of mistaken identity. For Cinderella’s Prince, his men are sent all over the kingdom to see which maiden fits the glass slipper of the mysterious maiden who fled the ball. For the heroes of this Shakespearean play, a few doses of love potion lead to some comical mix-ups.¬†¬†

Left: William Shakespeare’s Comedy, Right: Artist’s Rendering of Titania Queen of the Fairies

If you love Aurora…

(Disney’s Sleeping Beauty, 1959)

Left: Aurora is surprised when meeting a mysterious stranger, Right: The curse of Maleficent is fulfilled

You Should Read: Anna Karenina by Leo Tolstoy, 1878

 A woman who is betrothed to another finds herself drawn to a handsome young stranger. For Sleeping Beauty, she does not know the handsome stranger she met in the woods is in fact the Prince to whom she has been betrothed to since childhood. But for Anna Karenina, the man who she finds herself falling for is most definitely not her husband. 

Left: Tolstoy’s Russian literary epic, Right: The 2012 film adaptation starring Keira Knightley as the titular tragic heroine

If you love Ariel…

(Disney’s The Little Mermaid, 1989)

Left: Ariel falls in love with Prince Eric as a young girl by the shore, Right: Eric is enchanted by another woman

You Should Read: Rebecca by Daphne du Maurier, 1938

A couple falls in love by the sea, but there is a seemingly magic spell on the eyes of the man involving the memory of another woman. For Ariel, it involves the magical interference of the sea witch Ursula. But for the unnamed heroine of the Daphne du Maurier novel, it involves the ever-present memory of her husband’s first wife.¬†

Left: The Gothic romance novel, Netflix’s 2020 film adaptation starring Lily James

If you love Belle…

(Disney’s Beauty and the Beast, 1991)

Left: The Beasts’ castle looming ominously above, Right: Tale as old as time, the beauty and the beast

You Should Read: Jane Eyre by Charlotte Bronte, 1847

A book smart young girl makes her way to a castle full of secrets, falling for the master of the castle with a monstrous exterior. For Belle, the castle’s forbidden West Wing holds the secret of the prince cursed to live as a Beast, and the enchanted rose with its slowly falling petals. For Jane Eyre, the walls of Thornfeild Hall and its Master Mr. Rochester hold mysteries that include something or someone moving around at night.¬†

Left: Charlotte Bronte’s Gothic classic, the 2006 BBC miniseries based on the novel

If you love Jasmine…

(Disney’s Aladdin, 1992)

Left: Aladdin rides into Agrabah as Prince Ali Ali Ababwa, Aladdin reaches his hand out to Princess Jasmine for a magic carpet ride

You Should Read: The Great Gatsby by F. Scott Fitzgerald, 1925

A young man with no prospects falls in love with a woman far beyond his standing, and makes himself a new identity to win her. For Aladdin, a chance encounter with a Geenie enables him to wish himself into a Prince, to woo Princess Jasmine who he met as a street rat. For Jay Gatsby, a mysterious millionaire in the roaring twenties, all of his wild parties are an attempt to capture the attention of a girl he once knew long ago as a young soldier. 

Left: The cover art of the famous novel, Right: Leonardo DiCaprio as Gatsby in the 2013 film

If you love Pocahontas…

(Disney’s Pocahontas, 1995)

Left: Pocahontas risks her own life to save the life of John Smith, Right: Pocahontas must say farewell to the man she loves

You Should Read: Paradise Lost by John Milton, 1667

A great battle reveals the fall of mankind in its sin. For Pocahontas, the war between the settlers and members of the Powhatan tribe and the European settlers demonstrates inherent prejudice and violent tendencies on both sides. For the fallen children of God in the Garden of Eden and the angels cast into hell, their hubris and sin forever separated them from the love of God.

Left: The epic 17th century poem, Right: Satan and his fallen angels are defeated by the archangels and banished to hell

If you love Mulan…

(Disney’s Mulan, 1998)

Left: Mulan cuts her hair to join the army in place of her father, Left: Mulan as Ping

You Should Read: Little Women by Louisa May Alcott, 1868

A young girl cuts her hair and rejects marriage to pursue a field dominated by men in a time of war. For Mulan, a failed meeting with the Matchmaker and a call to war for her father means cutting her hair and joining the Chinese army. For Jo March, it means selling her hair while her father is fighting in the civil war in order to make it as an author. 

Left: Louisa May Alcott’s beloved semi-autobiographical novel, Right: Jo, played by Winona Ryder, shows her sisters she sold her hair

If you love Tiana…

(Disney’s The Princess and the Frog, 2009)

Left: Tiana is taught valuable lessons by her father, Tiana wishes for her life to change after her father’s death

You Should Read: To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee, 1960

A girl growing up in the American South learns strong lessons from her father, and also about prejudice. For Tiana, her father teaches her that good food has the ability to bring people together, and it is meant to be shared. For Jean Louise Finch AKA “Scout” her father Atticus teaches her about the world and what is right and wrong, famously saying “It’s a sin to kill a mockingbird.”

Left: Harper Lee’s novel on race and justice, Right: Gregory Peck as Atticus Finch in the 1962 film

If you love Rapunzel…

(Disney’s Tangled, 2010)

Left: Mother Gothel uses the magic of the glowing flower to restore youth and beauty, Right: Rapunzel uses her hair to heal

You Should Read: The Picture of Dorian Gray by Oscar Wilde, 1860

Something magical and hidden maintains the youth and beauty of a nefarious but complex character, who can only be destroyed if the object itself is. For Rapunzel, it is her magic hair that glows when she sings, used by Mother Gothel. For Dorian Gray, it is a beautiful painting done of him at the height of his youth and beauty, that changes with age as he remains the same.

Left: The cover depicts the flawless face of Dorian Gray’s portrait, Right: The perfect picture of the young man is revealed

If you love Merida…

(Disney Pixar’s Brave, 2012)

Left: Princess Merida attempts to touch the sky, Right: Queen Elinor attempts to get Merida to accept her responsibilities

You Should Read: Wuthering Heights by Emily Bronte, 1847

A wild young woman with great spirit runs about the moors of her native land and rejects the ways of being a lady. For Merida, it involves riding across the Scottish countryside with her wild red hair flowing in the wind. For Cathy, it is running across the English moors with her beloved Heathcliff.

Left: The tragic novel set in the English moors, Right: Juliette Binoche as Cathy in the 1992 film adaptation

If you love Moana…

(Moana, 2016)

Left: Moana discovers that her ancestors were voyagers, Right: Moana falls into the realm of monsters

You Should Read: The Odyssey by Homer, 8th Century B.C.

A hero sets out on a long journey at sea, encountering many dangers, storms, and monsters along the way. For Moana, it is a journey across the sea with demigod Maui to restore the heart of the ocean to Te fiti. For Odysseus, it is an epic journey across the ocean to return home to his kingdom and wife. 

Left: Homer’s The Odyssey, Right: Odysseus, King of Ithica, encounters monsters on his voyage

If you love Anna & Elsa…

(Disney’s Frozen, 2013)

Left: Sisters Anna and Elsa awake to the Northern Lights, Right: Adult Anna and Elsa comfort one another by talking in bed

You Should Read: Sense and Sensibility by Jane Austen, 1811

Two sisters, one who believes in duty above self and one who believes love conquers all, deal with love and judgement of society. Elinor, like Elsa, is the older sister, practical and reserved who wants to protect her family. Marianne, like Anna, is the younger sister, open to love and life, who finds love with a man who betrays her trust. 

Left: One of Jane Austen’s seven beloved works, Right: Sisters Elinor and Marianne talk of life and love at night by candlelight

Which of these pairings of Disney Princesses and literary classics is your favorite? Which of these books have you read- and what was your favorite? Let us know!

About Maggie Koch