The Paper Bag Princess

No damsel in distress here!

The Paper Bag Princess, by Robert Munsch

Elizabeth is a beautiful princess who wears pretty clothes and is engaged to a handsome prince named Ronald. One day, a dragon burns down her castle and kidnaps Ronald. Wearing the only thing that survived the dragon’s attack (a paper bag), Elizabeth goes after the dragon and outsmarts it by appealing to its large ego. But when she finally rescues Ronald, he scolds her for looking like a mess, and so she quickly ends their engagement, and that is that!

I love how this story turns the typical fairy tale formula on its head, featuring an empowered princess as the main character who takes down a dragon using her smarts, and her “happily ever after” doesn’t require being married to a prince. This story is really enjoyable as a read-aloud, and the discussions you can have after reading it are not only fun, but really important for kids as they are learning about what society expects boys and girls to be like. Here are some questions that I like to use to help my students process this story and notice stereotypes in more traditional fairytales:

Discussion Questions

Before reading:

  1. What are some fairytales you already know of?
  2. What kinds of characters are usually in fairytales? ( Royalty (king, queen, prince, princess) Magical/talking animals, fairies, dragons, witches/sorcerers, evil stepmother/stepsisters
  3. What words come to mind when you think of fairytale princesses?
  4. What about fairytale princes?

During the read aloud:

  1. (After reading page 1) How is Elizabeth similar to other fairytale princesses?
  2. What is the problem in this story?
  3. How does Elizabeth manage to get past the dragon?
  4. Why don’t Elizabeth and Ronald get married at the end?

After reading:

  1. What are some adjectives that describe Elizabeth?
  2. How is Elizabeth like other fairytale princesses? How is she different?
  3. Can you think of any other brave girls in stories you’ve read? Can you think of some brave boys in stories you’ve read? Do you think there are more brave girls or boys in stories and movies? Why do you think that?

Activity Ideas

  • Have your child/students create a fancy shirt using a paper bag. Cut holes for the neck and arms and let them decorate the shirt with markers, glitter glue, paint pens, etc.
  • Create a Venn Diagram (Or double bubble map, if you are familiar with graphic organizers) comparing/contrasting Elizabeth and another fairytale princess. Then have your child/students create another diagram comparing/contrasting themselves with a friend or classmate.

Download the Teacher Guide below for a full lesson plan, which includes discussion questions and Common Core Standards for grades K, 1, and 2.

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