What do you think of when you hear the word "princess"? Pink, frilly dresses, elaborate balls and dancing, spoiled and helpless women, and kisses from Prince Charming? Well writer M.A. Larson goes back to the original Grimm's fairy tales to completely shift your perspective in his new series Pennyroyal Academy.
At the titular Pennyroyal Academy, bold and courageous young princesses and knights go through a vigorous training process to be ready to battle their major rivals, the witches and the dragons. Larson's story is set in the Grimm's fairy tale universe, with famous characters like Snow White and Rapunzel as princess role models in the academy. But these princesses are definitely not helpless bystanders in their own lives; they're fiercely compassionate, clever, brave, athletic, often driven by a deep human kindness. Larson describes his own changing view of the word "princess" as he was completing this project:
Back then, I viewed princesses as pink and helpless and unworthy. But now that I’ve written Pennyroyal Academy, my definition of what a princess is has changed dramatically. A princess is courageous. She is compassionate. She is kind. She is disciplined. And if my daughter told me she wanted to be a princess when she grew up, well, nothing would make me happier.
Reese Witherspoon's company Pacific Standard picked up the movie rights to The Pennyroyal Academy before Larson even sold the manuscript to a publisher. It's Pacific Standard's first official project, and the company aims to make it a series like the books. Witherspoon said of the project:
Finally, there is a princess story that reflects the values young women truly want to embody ... These princesses are strong, independent and fierce, and the knights are their match. In telling their story, Larson has created a magical universe that everyone will love to get lost in.
You may already know Larson for another project that debunks gender stereotypes. For much of his career, he was a staff writer for the Cartoon Network, the Disney Channel, Nickelodeon, and Discovery Kids. Most notably in our pop cultural discussion, Larson has been a longtime writer on My Little Pony: Friendship is Magic, the series that has launched a group of adult and teenage male fans, who call themselves "Bronies."
Bustle has an exclusive look at the first trailer for Pennyroyal Academy, and it's already tearing up all of those princess stereotypes. Instead of dancing around, there's tree climbing. Instead of kissing princes, there's dragon flying. But you can just see for yourself:
But seriously, am I too old to enlist? Larson's Pennyroyal Academy is available now, so if you're a devoted Once Upon a Time viewer or you still can't get "Let It Go" from Frozen out of your head, you're going to want to grab yourself a copy.
Images: Courtesy of Penguin