Featured Fairy Tales, Young Adult

Featured Fairy Tales: The Twelve Dancing Princesses

Featured Fairy Tale: Once upon a time there were twelve princesses who shared a room. Every night the king would wake them and find that their dancing shoes were worn out and every day the royal shoe maker would have to fashion new dancing shoes for the twelve princesses. The king was baffled by this mystery, confused where his daughters went every night for they never left their room.

Tired of replacing their shoes, the king announced that anyone who could solve the mystery of the princesses’ worn dancing shoes would win the hand of one of his daughters and his kingdom. The stipulation was that the mystery had to be solved within three days’ and three nights’ time and if it wasn’t, that person would be put to death.

A soldier returning home hears of the king’s offer and decides to give it a try. On his way to the palace he meets an old woman who gives him an invisibility cloak and warns him to not eat or drink anything the princesses give to him.

That night the soldier pretends to sleep and the princesses open a trap door in their bedroom. He follows them through it and enters into a magical world. The princesses climb aboard small boats and are rowed by princes to a castle across the lake where they dance the night away.

Each night the soldier follows the princesses, taking a small token from the magical world with him. The morning after the third night the soldier tells the king he has solved the mystery and shows him his tokens. The princesses cannot deny where they go and the soldier is given the kingdom and chooses the eldest princess as his bride.

Why I love it: This is my FAVORITE fairy tale. Although I think the ending leaves something to be desired, I love the idea that these girls escape from their world and enter into a world of their own where they can be free to enjoy their lives. I’m pretty sure the tale was originally meant to have a “don’t be a naughty little girl and keep secrets from your parents” kind of meaning, but the meaning I’ve always gathered from it was freedom and independence, being your own person and living your life your own way.

Why you’ll love it: First off, there’s dancing. THERE’S DANCING! These are the original party princesses who know how to get down every night. The story also leaves quite a good bit to interpretation. There’s really no whys that explain the princesses’ reasons for dancing; the magical world they go to doesn’t have a reason for existing; the princes who wait for them each night are mostly just placeholders… I think because of this it’s a great canvas for interpretation and retelling. It has the potential to be light and sweet or take on a much darker tone – which I totally prefer!

Awesome Retellings: There are some GREAT retellings of the Twelve Dancing Princesses out there!

Wildwood Dancing – Juliet Marillier

  • Review – Tripping Over Books




Entwined – Heather Dixon

  • Review – Good Books and Good Wine



Princess of the Midnight Ball – Jessica Day George

  • Review – The Book Smugglers

    P.S. I HIGHLY recommend this one!



The Thirteenth Princess – Diane Zahler





The Princess Curse – Merrie Haskell

  • Review – Bookalicious.org
    • Review – Bibliophilic Monologues





Did you review any of these retellings? Let me know and I’ll add your review link on here!

11 thoughts on “Featured Fairy Tales: The Twelve Dancing Princesses”

  1. The Faerie Tale Theatre production of the Twelve Dancing Princesses (actually only six in the show) was my favorite. I loved their dresses.

    I’ve read Princess at the Midnight Ball and loved it. Well, I just think Jessica Day George is amazing. But I haven’t read the others. I own a copy of Entwined, but for some reason, I haven’t read it. I’ve also checked out Wildwood Dancing from the library a couple times, but haven’t read that, either. I need to get on that.

    I can’t wait to see your other fairytale posts. I’m a sucker for fairytale retellings.


    1. Their dresses were great! The soldier in the show left something to be desired though. I hope you get to the other book in Jessica Day George’s series. I actually read it BEFORE Princess of the Midnight Ball and thought it was great. Glad you like this feature; I’m so excited about doing it! 🙂


  2. I’ve never read the actual fairy tale but I fell in love with this story…wait for it…through a Barbie movie. I know! My kids love Barbie movies (and sadly, my taste has gotten to the point that I actually get really excited when I hear a new one is coming out AND I also spend time during the film trying to decide if the love interest is crushworthy. It’s sad, really). I read Entwined last year and LOVED it. I had no idea there were other great versions of this story. Now I have to read them!


    1. Okay… confession time… When I was looking up retellings of this I saw the Barbie version and kind of wanted to see it… haha! Definitely check out Princess of the Midnight Ball if you liked Entwined – it’s got that same darker vibe that Entwined does… and the love interest was much better!


  3. In Alicia Blade’s (aka Marissa Meyer) full-length Sailor Moon fanfiction “Return to Aysel” there’s a whole Dancing Princess overlaying plot. Yupp, I went there.


  4. So first of all, I DIED when I saw Brittany’s comment up there about Faerie Tale Theatre. My sister and I used to rent the SHIT out of those tapes from the video store (all the kids are like, “what’s a tape? And video store??”) But yeah. I always like The Little Mermaid one and the Golidlocks and the Three Bears (WHY is there no retelling of THIS?!? We must write it), but YES. Those were fab.
    But I love this fairy tale. I didn’t really encounter it too much until I was little bit older, but I love it. Because I basically see the same things you do in it: freedom and a little bit of rebellion to do something you chose for yourself. Those are themes I appreciate.
    Thanks, too, for the shout-outs. *hugs* <333


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