The Light Princess

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The Light Princess is a Scottish fairy tale by George MacDonald. It was published in 1864.

Plot summary[edit]

A king and queen, after some time, have a daughter. The king invites everyone to the christening, except his sister Princess Makemnoit, a spiteful and sour woman. She arrives without an invitation and curses the princess to have no gravity. Whenever the princess accidentally moves up in the air, she has to be brought down, and the wind is capable of carrying her off. As she grows, she never cries, and never can be brought to see the serious side of anything. The court philosophers, when consulted, are unable to propose any cure that the king and queen will suffer to be used.

She passionately loves swimming, and when she swims, she regains her gravity. This leads to the proposal that if she could be brought to cry, it might break the curse. But nothing can induce her to cry.

A prince from another country sets out to find a wife, but finds fault in every princess he finds. He had not intended to seek out the light princess, but, upon becoming lost in a forest, he finds the princess swimming. Thinking she is drowning, he "rescues" her, ending up with her in the air, with her scolding him. He falls instantly in love and, upon her demand, puts her back in the water, and goes swimming with her. Days pass, and the prince learns that her manner is changed between the water and the land, and he can not marry her as she is on land.

Princess Makemnoit, meanwhile, discovers that the princess loves the lake and sets out to dry it up. The water is drained from the lake, the springs are stopped up, and the rain ceases. Even babies no longer cry water.

As the lake dries up, it is discovered that the only way to stop it is to block the hole the water is flowing from, and the only thing that will block it is a living man, who would die in the deed. The prince volunteers, on the condition that the princess keep him company while the lake fills. The lake fills up. When the prince has almost drowned, the princess frantically drags his body from the lake to take it to her old nurse, who is a wise woman. They tend him through the night, and he wakes at dawn. The princess falls to the floor and cries.

After the princess masters the art of walking, she marries the prince. Princess Makemnoit's house is undermined by the waters and falls in, drowning her. The light princess and her prince have many children, none of whom ever lose their gravity.

Musical stage production[edit]

In 2013, the National Theatre produced a musical staging of the story. It is adapted by Samuel Adamson; directed by Marianne Elliott, winner of the Tony Award for Best Directing in 2011, and has music and lyrics by Tori Amos.[1] It was expected to premiere in London in April 2012, but The National Theatre announced in October 2011 that the production would be delayed until later in the year. [2] It finally opened to positive reviews in September 2013, starring Rosalie Craig, subsequently singled out as a stand-out performance.

For the stage production, the original story underwent major changes. The princess (now named Althea) loses her gravity and the ability to cry at age six, after her mother dies. Her father became a cold-hearted man after the loss of his wife. Their country Lagobel (which is rich in gold, but has no water) is at war with the neighboring Sealand (which has water, but no gold). When Althea's older brother is killed her father tells her she must prepare to be queen, but she laughs and refuses, leading to a disheartened Lagobel army being slaughtered in battle with Sealand troops. Althea's father tries various cruel cures to find her gravity, and tries to force her into an arranged marriage so she can provide a child to be a more suitable future monarch, but she escapes and flees to the wilderness that separates Lagobel and Sealand. There she meets Sealand's prince, Digby, who has been unable to smile since the death of his mother. The two fall in love and conceive a child, but soon fight as Digby wants a more traditional life in a house, while Althea wants to live in the lake forever. Digby returns home, where his cruel father dams the lake in order to cut off Logobel's water supply and kill all the people. Digby runs away from his own arranged marriage and breaks down the dam, but is nearly killed in the process, causing Althea to cry and therefore regain her gravity. The two get married and live happily ever after, Althea becoming a marine biologist and leaving the running of the country to her female prime minister.

Another stage adaption was done to the fairy tale by a Massachusetts director, Emily C. A. Snyder.


As of April 2014, there are no plans to release a soundtrack. Source: Tori Amos Store.

Notes and references[edit]

  1. ^ [1] Retrieved 3 March 2011.
  2. ^ "BBC News - Tori Amos musical The Light Princess put on hold". 2011-10-23. Retrieved 2013-05-24. 

External links[edit]