A Little Princess

Listen to this article
From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

A Little Princess
Front cover of the first edition (1905)
AuthorFrances Hodgson Burnett
CountryUnited Kingdom
GenreChildren's literature
PublisherCharles Scribner's Sons
Publication date
September 1905
Media typePrint (hardcover)
LC Class
  • PZ7.B934 Sa[1]
  • PZ7.B934 S (1888)[2]
  • PZ7.B934 S23 (1938)[3]
Copyright: Public Domain (in most countries)

A Little Princess is a children's novel by Frances Hodgson Burnett, first published as a book in 1905. It is an expanded version of the short story "Sara Crewe: or, What Happened at Miss Minchin's", which was serialized in St. Nicholas Magazine from December 1887, and published in book form in 1888. According to Burnett, after she composed the 1902 play A Little Un-fairy Princess based on that story, her publisher asked that she expand the story as a novel with "the things and people that had been left out before".[4] The novel was published by Charles Scribner's Sons (also publisher of St. Nicholas) with illustrations by Ethel Franklin Betts and the full title A Little Princess: Being the Whole Story of Sara Crewe Now Being Told for the First Time.[1]


"She slowly advanced into the parlor, clutching her doll": Illustration from Sara Crewe; or, What Happened at Miss Minchin's (1888)

Captain Ralph Crewe, a wealthy English widower, has been raising his only child, Sara, in India where he is stationed with the British Army. Because the Indian climate is considered too harsh for their children, British families living there traditionally send their children to boarding school back home in England. The Captain enrolls his seven-year-old daughter at an all-girls boarding school in London and dotes on his daughter so much that he orders and pays the haughty headmistress Miss Minchin for special treatment and exceptional luxuries for Sara, such as a private room for her with a personal maid and a separate sitting room (see Parlour boarder), along with Sara's own private carriage and a pony. Miss Minchin openly fawns over Sara for her money, but is secretly jealous and dislikes Sara almost from the outset.

Intelligent, imaginative and kind, Sara sees through flattery and remains unspoiled; she embraces the status of a 'princess' accorded by the other students, and lives up to it with her generosity. She befriends Ermengarde, the school dunce; Lottie, a four-year-old student given to tantrums; and Becky, the stunted scullery maid.

Four years later, Sara's eleventh birthday is celebrated at Miss Minchin's with a lavish party. Just as it ends, Miss Minchin learns of Captain Crewe's unfortunate demise due to jungle fever. Furthermore, the previously wealthy captain has lost his entire fortune, investing in a friend's diamond mines. Preteen Sara is left an orphan and a pauper with nowhere to go. Miss Minchin is left with a sizable debt for Sara's school fees and luxuries, including her birthday party. Infuriated and pitiless, she takes away all of Sara's possessions (except for an old black frock and her doll, Emily), and makes her live in a cold and poorly furnished attic, forcing her to earn her keep by working as a servant.

For the next two years Miss Minchin starves and overworks Sara, turning her into a menial servant and unpaid tutor, with the prospect of turning her into an under-paid teacher when she is old enough. Most of the students take their tone from Miss Minchin, but Sara is consoled by her few friends and uses her imagination to cope with her bleak existence. She continues to be kind and polite to everyone, even her abusers, in the belief that conduct, not money, make a true princess. On one of the bleakest days when she herself is ravenous, she finds a coin and buys six buns, but gives a beggar-child five of them because the latter is starving.

During this time Mr. Carrisford moves into the house next to the seminary. He is an extremely wealthy invalid come from abroad and retains Mr. Carmichael, a solicitor who lives nearby. Sara has often observed Mr. Carmichael's big and loving family, whom she has dubbed the “Large Family” - while they are equally curious about her and call her “the little girl who is not a beggar.”

Mr. Carrisford is revealed to have been Captain Crewe's partner in the diamond mine venture. Thinking all was lost and both suffering from severe illness, Carrisford abandoned Captain Crewe and himself wandered in a delirium. When he recovered it was to find Crewe dead - and the mines a reality. Extremely rich but suffering both ill health and pangs of conscience, he returns to England and makes it his mission to find Sara, though he does not know where to look.

Meanwhile Ram Dass, Mr Carrisford's Indian servant, climbs across the roof to retrieve a pet monkey which has taken refuge in Sara's attic. He sees the poor condition of her room and, touched by her courtesy and demeanor, sets out to discover her history. To distract his master from his own sorrows, he tells Mr Carrisford about the "little girl in the attic." Between them they devise a scheme whereby Mr Carrisford becomes "The Magician", a mysterious benefactor who transforms her barren existence with gifts of food and warmth and books – snuck in by Ram Dass.

One night the monkey again visits Sara's attic, and she decides to return it to Mr. Carrisford next morning. He learns that Sara is Captain Crewe's daughter; Sara also learns that Mr. Carrisford was her father's friend – and The Magician.

Miss Minchin pays a visit to collect Sara, but is informed that Sara will be living with Mr. Carrisford from now on; not only is her fortune restored, she is now heiress to diamond mines. Miss Minchin tries to retrieve the situation, going so far as to threaten legal action if she does not return to the school, and that she will never see any of her friends again, but Sara refuses and Mr Carrisford is adamant. Becky becomes Sara's personal servant and, with her newfound wealth, Sara makes a deal with a baker, proposing to cover the cost of food given to any hungry child.


Based on a 2007 online poll, the U.S. National Education Association listed the book as one of its "Teachers' Top 100 Books for Children".[5] In 2012 it was ranked number 56 on a list of the top 100 children's novels published by School Library Journal.[6]

Source material[edit]

The novella appears to have been inspired in part by Charlotte Brontë's unfinished novel Emma, the first two chapters of which were published in Cornhill Magazine in 1860, featuring a rich heiress with a mysterious past who is apparently abandoned at a boarding school.[7]


Millie James in the Broadway production of Burnett's play, The Little Princess (1903).

Burnett first introduced Sara Crewe in 1888 in print.[8] She returned to the material in 1902, penning the three-act stage play A Little Un-fairy Princess, which ran in London over the autumn of that year. Around the time it transferred to New York City at the start of 1903 the title was shortened to A Little Princess. It was A Little Princess in London, but The Little Princess in New York.[citation needed]

Burnett said that after the production of the play on Broadway, her publisher, Charles Scribner's Sons, asked her to expand the story into a full-length novel and "put into it all the things and people that had been left out before".[9] The book was illustrated by Ethel Franklin Betts[9] and published in 1905 under the full title A Little Princess: Being the Whole Story of Sara Crewe Now Being Told for the First Time.[10]



A Little Princess (1917)
Shirley Temple as Sara in The Little Princess (1939)
  • 1917 version: Mary Pickford as Sara and Katherine Griffith as Miss Minchin.
  • 1939 version: Shirley Temple as Sara and Mary Nash as Miss Minchin. This Technicolor adaptation notably differs from the original, in that Sara's father is wounded and missing in action in wartime, and later is reunited with his daughter with the help of Queen Victoria. Miss Minchin's younger sister Miss Amelia is replaced with "Mr Bertie", Miss Minchin's brother, a former music hall performer, who sings and dances with Temple. A substantial portion of the story is given over to Sara's abetting of an illicit romance between an under-teacher and the school's riding master, dramatized in an elaborate fairy-tale dream sequence.
  • 1943 Italian version: Principessina: Rosanna Dal as Anna and Vittorina Benvenuti as the Headmistress. It is a remake of the 1939 film set in Italy, in which Sara, now renamed Anna, is the daughter of a real prince.[11]
  • Harō Kiti no shōkōjo: 1994 OVA version starring Hello Kitty produced by Sanrio.
  • 1995 American version: Liesel Matthews as Sara and Eleanor Bron as Miss Minchin, this adaptation notably differs from the original and more closely resembles the 1939 version, in that Sara's father is wounded and missing in action in wartime, and later is reunited with his daughter. Another difference is that it takes place in New York City during World War I instead of London during the Boer War, and the character of Becky, canonically Cockney, is recast as African-American. The film is directed by Alfonso Cuarón.
  • 1995 Filipino version Sarah... Ang Munting Prinsesa: Camille Prats as Sara (name changed to "Sarah"), Angelica Panganiban as Becky, and Jean Garcia as Ms. Minchin. This adaptation was mostly based on the 1985 Japanese anime series Princess Sarah, which was hugely popular with Filipino audiences during the 1990s. The film was mostly shot in Scotland, with other scenes in Baguio, Philippines.
  • 1996 version: An animated direct-to-video film produced by Blye Migicovsky and directed by Laura Shephard. As in the 1995 film, Sara's father is later found alive, and, like in the 1995 film, Becky is black. The voice cast includes Melissa Bathory, Lawrence Bayne, Desmond Ellis, Nonnie Griffin, Marieve Herington, Sarena Paton, Katherine Shekter, and Colette Stevenson.
  • 1997 Russian film A Little Princess: Anastasiya Meskova as Sara and Alla Demidova as Miss Minchin.


  • 1973 version: Deborah Makepeace as Sara and Ruth Dunning as Miss Minchin.
  • Shōkōjo Sēra: a 1978 Japanese anime adaptation featured in episodes 105-115 (eleven 10-minute segments in total) of Manga Sekai Mukashi Banashi (1976-1979), an anthology series based on fairy tales and literature classics produced by Dax International and Madhouse. This adaptation is notable for the more cruel and violent script, focusing on the abuse that Sara and Becky have to suffer from Miss Minchin and Lavinia. It also adds some new characters and events while skipping over others from the novel, such as Mr. Carmichael and his family. Sara and Becky are friends with three orphaned boys that help them in several occasions, like when Becky gets seriously ill and Miss Minchin doesn't want to call a doctor. Sara has a love interest in Frederick, the son of a wealthy supporter of the school. Sara and Becky are thrown out of the school. In the ending Sara forgives everyone and return to the school with Becky after making a large donation to it.[12][13]
  • Princess Sara: a 1985 Japanese anime series, which was featured as part of Nippon Animation's World Masterpiece Theater collection. The series spanned 46 episodes, including a few new characters and adventures along the way, while following pretty closely the original plot. Some of the new additions resembles the 1978 anime version: the addition of a street boy among Sara's friends, Sara's dangerous illness, her departure from the institute, her forgiveness for every mean character and her huge donation to the school. Similarly to the 1978 adaptation, this version focuses more on the saddest aspects of the story and on the bullying, although in a more mildly and less violent way. Furthermore, Sara's personality has been made significantly more obedient and kind than in the novel. Veteran Japanese voice actress Sumi Shimamoto voiced Sara Crewe.
  • 1986 version: Amelia Shankley as Sara and Maureen Lipman as Miss Minchin. One of the most faithful adaptations, quoting many dialogues from the book and adding only a few new scenes, including a prologue set in India.
  • Sōkō no Strain, a 2006 anime that completely reworks the story into a mecha series about "Sara Werec", who finds herself robbed of the ability to pilot the titular Strain when her brother, Ralph, betrays and disgraces her family.
  • Princess Sarah, a Filipino 2007 remake, loosely based on the popular 1985 anime but with fantasy elements.
  • Shōkōjo Seira, a 2009 remake with the main character Japanese and named Seira, aged 16 when her father dies, and as an Indian Princess. Becky is changed to a male and a romantic lead. The 1985 TV series by Nippon Animation has a similar title in Japanese, although the two adaptations are not related.
  • "The Penniless Princess" (2012), a Veggietales episode


Due in part to the novel's public domain status, several musical versions of A Little Princess have emerged in recent years, including:

  • A Little Princess, Music and Lyrics by Eric Rockwell and Margaret Rose, Book by William J. Brooke. World premiere at the Sacramento Theater Company, April 2013.[14]
  • A Little Princess, Princess Musicals – Book and Lyrics by Michael Hjort, Music by Camille Curtis.[15]
  • Sara Crewe, premiered May 2007 at Needham (Boston, MA) Community Theater, first full production November 2007 at the Blackwell Playhouse, Marietta, Georgia; music, lyrics, and book by Miriam Raiken-Kolb and Elizabeth Ellor
  • Sara Crewe: A Little Princess, Wheelock Family Theatre, Boston, 2006; music and libretto by Susan Kosoff and Jane Staab
  • A Little Princess, TheatreWorks, Palo Alto, California, premiered 2004; music by Andrew Lippa; book by Brian Crawley; directed by Susan H. Schulman
  • A Little Princess, Wings Theatre, (Off-Broadway, New York, 2003) Book and Direction by Robert Sickinger; music and lyrics by Mel Atkey, musical director/arranger/pianist Mary Ann Ivan
  • A Little Princess, Children's Musical Theater San Jose, May 2002. Book and lyrics by Tegan McLane, music by Richard Link
  • A Little Princess, Bodens Youth Theatre, London, premiering February 2012; music and lyrics by Marc Folan, book by Adam Boden[16]
    • Off-Broadway U.S. Premiere, The Hudson Guild Theater, NYC, May 2014[17]

Some of these productions have made significant changes to the book, story and characters, most notably the Sickinger/Atkey version, which moves the action to Civil War-era America.

In addition, Princesses, a 2004 musical currently in development for Broadway, features students at a boarding school presenting a production of A Little Princess. Music and book by Cheri Steinkellner and Bill Steinkellner; lyrics and direction by David Zippel.

Other theatre[edit]

  • The London Children's Ballet performed ballet adaptions in 1995 (Choreographer: Harold King), 2004 (Choreographer: Vanessa Fenton) and 2012 (Choreographer: Samantha Raine).
  • A theatre adaptation by John Vreeke was produced by the New York State Theatre Institute and recorded as an audio book in 1999.
  • A theatre adaptation by Belt Up Theatre was performed at the Edinburgh Fringe Festival 2012 as 'Belt Up Theatre's A Little Princess'.
  • An adaptation of the book, entitled Sara Crewe: The Little Princess was written by Steve Hays and was featured at CityStage in Springfield MA, performing six shows and starred Carlie Daggett in The title role.
  • A theatre adaptation was written by Lauren Nichols and performed by all for One productions, inc., with original music composed by a young girl, Torilinn Cwanek, at the Allen County Public Library Auditorium in Fort Wayne, Indiana, in February 2013, performing six shows.
  • Hess Oster's adaptation for youth performers (StagePlays, 2013) has been performed by STARS Drama (2013), Actor's Youth Theatre (2013), Bordentown Theatre (2014), Fruits of the Spirit Academy (2015), Mosaic Children's Theatre (2015), and Shine Performing Arts (2017).

Related books[edit]

In 1995, Apple published a series of three books written by Gabrielle Charbonnet. "The Princess Trilogy" was an updated version of the classic, with the title character named Molly, rather than Sara. Molly Stewart's father was a famous film director who left his daughter in a posh upscale boarding school. There were three books in the series, which ended in a similar way as the original: Molly's Heart, The Room on the Attic, and Home at Last.

A sequel by Hilary McKay was published by Hodder Children's Books in September 2009: Wishing For Tomorrow: The Sequel to A Little Princess.[18] It tells the story of what happened to the rest of the boarding school girls after Sara and Becky left ("life must go on at Miss Minchin's").


  • A Little Lily Princess is a retelling of the classic novel in visual novel form with a Yuri Genre twist. It was released for the PC in May 2016 by the independent video game development company Hanako Games.


  1. ^ a b c "A little princess; being the whole story of Sara Crewe". LC Online Catalog. Library of Congress (lccn.loc.gov). Retrieved 2016-02-29.
      This catalogue record does not identify the illustrator but links a page-by-page "electronic copy from HathiTrust" that shows "with illustrations in color by Ethel Franklin Betts" on the title page. Those illustrations are 12 color plates including the frontispiece. An author's note, "The Whole of the Story" (pp. v–vii), precedes the novel.
  2. ^ a b "Sara Crewe; or, What happened at Miss Minchin's"(1888 novella). LC Online Catalog. Library of Congress (lccn.loc.gov). Retrieved 2016-03-02.
      This catalogue record does not identify the illustrator but links a page-by-page "electronic copy from HathiTrust" with unnumbered page 7, "List of Illustrations", subheading "From drawings by Reginald B. Birch". Those illustrations are 6 full-page black-and-white drawings including the frontispiece. The story spans pp. 9–83 including ten pages that represent the five interior illustrations.
  3. ^ a b "A little princess, being the whole story of Sara Crewe" (Reginald Birch edition). LC Online Catalog. Library of Congress (lccn.loc.gov). Retrieved 2016-03-02.
  4. ^ Wordsworth edition of A Little Princess.
  5. ^ National Education Association (2007). "Teachers' Top 100 Books for Children". Archived from the original on 7 June 2008. Retrieved 22 August 2012.
  6. ^ Bird, Elizabeth (7 July 2012). "Top 100 Chapter Book Poll Results". A Fuse #8 Production. Blog. School Library Journal (blog.schoollibraryjournal.com).
  7. ^ "Emma Brown by Clare Boylan – Reviews, Books". The Independent. Archived from the original on 21 May 2009.
  8. ^ Gruner, Elisabeth Rose (1998). "Cinderella, Marie Antoinette, and Sara: Roles and Role Models in A Little Princess". The Lion and the Unicorn. The Johns Hopkins University Press. 22 (2): 163–187. doi:10.1353/uni.1998.0025.
  9. ^ a b Shaw, Albert. "The Season's Books for Children". The American Monthly Review of Reviews. Review of Reviews Company. 32 (July–December 1905): 764.
  10. ^ Brown, Marian E. (1988). "Three Versions of A Little Princess: How the Story Developed". Children's Literature in Education. 19 (4): 119–210. doi:10.1007/BF01128141. S2CID 144166868.
  11. ^ "PRINCIPESSINA - Film (1943)". ComingSoon.it (in Italian). Retrieved 23 January 2023.
  12. ^ Wan, Fukuda (11 October 1978), Shokojo Sera, Manga sekai mukashi banashi, retrieved 24 January 2023
  13. ^ "「 小公女 」2本 - HARIKYU'S CAMERA CLUB 「BLOG 」". goo blog (in Japanese). Retrieved 24 January 2023.
  14. ^ "A Little Princess, the Musical by Rockwell, Rose and Brooke". alittleprincessthemusical.
  15. ^ "A Little Princess The Musical". A Little Princess – The Musical. 15 January 2013. Retrieved 21 December 2016.
  16. ^ "A Little Princess: a new musical version by Marc Folan & Adam Boden". alittleprincessthemusical.co.uk.
  17. ^ A Little Princess The Musical Off-Broadway and US Premiere. alittleprincessnyc.com. Archived 26 April 2014 at the Wayback Machine
  18. ^ McKay, Hilary. (2009). Wishing for tomorrow: the sequel to a little princess. Maland, Nick,, Burnett, Frances Hodgson, 1849-1924. New York: Margaret K. McElderry Books. ISBN 978-1-4424-0169-3. OCLC 987007186.

External links[edit]

Listen to this article (18 minutes)
Spoken Wikipedia icon
This audio file was created from a revision of this article dated 30 September 2023 (2023-09-30), and does not reflect subsequent edits.