Do you remember this cartoon character from those morning cartoons in ABS-CBN?
In case you’re from an younger generation, the cartoon character is Sarah Crewe, from the 1985 Japanese anime produced by Nippon Animation, based on Frances Hodgson Burnett’s novel, A Little Princess (Wikipedia). This was shown in ABS-CBN in the 90′s, during 10:00am, and various movies have been made based on this series as well. This is undoubtedly one of my favorite cartoons, and it led me to search the novel and read it. I remember wishing so bad to be Princess Sarah, and having her beautiful room and her dolls and clothes, and even going through the same struggles, content in knowing that there is a brighter tomorrow in store for her.
I can’t remember the last time I read A Little Princess by Frances Hodgson Burnett, but I knew it’s been a long time since I did so. It’s one of the classics that I knew for sure I read multiple times and loved every single time I did. It wasn’t until lately that I felt the need to read it again, perhaps to cleanse my palate from all the intense reads I’ve had lately.
For those unfamiliar, A Little Princess is the story of Sara Crewe (no h in the book), the daughter of rich, doting father, Captain Crewe, who is sent to Miss Minchin’s Seminary for Girls to study. Miss Minchin secretly thinks that Sara is spoiled, despite her becoming the favorite pupil and classmate because of her intelligence and imagination. Sara befriends most of the students but becomes especially close to slow and pudgy Ermengarde, crybaby Lottie and scullery maid Becky. Other students call her Princess Sara after news of her father’s investment on diamond mines spread, and while this embarrasses her at first, Sara learns to use this to remind herself to be compassionate to others.
Sara’s lavish eleventh birthday party was abruptly put to a stop after the news of her father’s death, leaving her orphaned and penniless, after his father’s friend disappears with all their mone. Miss Minchin is forced to adopt her and she falls from being the show pupil to a drudge, helping Becky out in the kitchen and in various errands around the school. Sara makes use of her imagination, strength and compassion to get through the next three years as a servant, attempting to pretend her cold and hunger away, finding comfort from the few friends she had left, and doing her best to still act like a princess despite being a pauper.
Spoiler warning starts here.
I realize as I re-read this classic that I knew the story almost by heart. I remember all the characters around Sara — Ermengarde, Lottie, Becky, Miss Minchin, Miss Amelia, Lavinia, even Melchisedec the rat and Emily the doll. My visualization of the characters are still the same as the cartoon, having watched them for years. There were a lot of differences from the cartoon and the book, of course, such as:
- One of Sara’s parties when Lavinia scares her horse by pricking it with a pin (tsk for equestrians)
- Lavinia’s birthday party
- Peter, Sara’s horse guy, who becomes a chimney sweep and Sara’s attempt at being one
- Sara spends the night in the stable
- The stable being on fire because of Lottie upsetting her jack-o-lantern after she was scared by Lavinia
- Lavinia moving into Sara’s old room and requesting her to be her personal maid
It kind of scares me that I remember so much detail in the old cartoon. But anyway, despite not having those juicier scenes, A Little Princess is still a beautiful classic story, one that every girl, no matter how old or young, should read. We could learn a lot from Sara, most especially compassion for others even if they do not deserve it. Her generosity is something to be admired, and the novel shows us that a little generosity can go a long way and can inspire other people to do the same (the particular scene where Sara gave five loaves of bread to a street urchin when she was just as hungry was very heartwarming).
When I was a kid, I used to wish I was Princess Sara because she was a pretty, well-liked girl, who manages to rise above her trials. Now that I’m years older — and hopefully, wiser — I still want to be like Princess Sara, but not for the same reasons. I want to be as compassionate, as imaginative, and as resilient as Sara Crewe, and be a princess in the way she thought a girl should be. :)
2010 Challenge Status:
* Book # 59 out of 100 for 2010
* Book # 3 out of 10 Classic books for 2010
My copy: free ebook from Amazon Kindle Store