The Royal Heart, a children’s book by Greg McGoon, has many markers of a classic fairy tale: A royal court, a far off setting, a coming of age narrative, and a magical transformation, to name a few. But, significantly, this fairy tale features a transgender character. The story of how a prince becomes a princess, The Royal Heart teaches its young readers about the power of acceptance, love, and embracing your true self.
“I want everyone to feel like they can have their own once upon a time,” McGoon told Hello Giggles. He said,
Given the variety of fairy tales throughout history from all around the world, one thing I’ve always noticed is lacking: LGBTQ characters. And that is not because they did not exist, it is because society squashed their voices. Children have their princes and princess to dress up as and fantasize about, but what if you are gay or lesbian, undefined or transgender? Children deserve to have a tangible story and character to relate to, especially in a fairy tale capacity.
In The Royal Heart, McGoon tells the story of Lyric, a prince who worries about fulfilling his parents’ expectations that he will become king and who doesn't feel comfortable with the gender assigned to him at birth. When he turns 16, Lyric runs away; he eventually meets the spirit of his grandmother, who helps him to transform into a princess. Now called “Lyra,” she declares, “This is who I am. This is who I have always been. In my heart I knew I was not meant to be King. But maybe I can still be a leader.”
The Royal Heart offers a powerful message, not only to LGBTQ youth, but to all children. McGoon told The Huffington Post,
It is never too early to teach children about acceptance. We all live on the same planet. In order to function in a healthy manner, we must start embracing the spectrum of lives and experiences in order move past fear or disgust and recognize the part of ourselves that wants to be fully accepted.
He added, “This book is saying, ‘Be careful not to run away from yourself and ignore and silence your voice.’ As well as, ‘Love people for who they truly are.’”
Fairy tales are famously stories of enchantment — of mystical creatures, fairy godmothers, and supernatural transformations. But McGoon suggests that, in his story, the truly powerful thing is love. “The most important part is the response,” he said of his character’s transition. “That is where the true magic lives — ‘we love you.’ How incredible would it be that any person would be able to share themselves with the people they love and hear ‘We love you. We are proud of you.’”
The Royal Heart is the first in a series that McGoon plans to write of LGBTQ-focused fairy tales, the next of which will be about a gay prince. In the meantime, you can check out McGoon’s latest book, Tanglelows: Traveling the Twisting Troubling Tanglelows' Trail , out in March.
Find The Royal Heart, with illustrations by J. Orr, here.
Images courtesy of Greg McGoon.