Also known as The Little Princess and Sara Crewe.A 1905 novel by Frances Hodgson Burnett, also author of Little Lord Fauntleroy and The Secret Garden. This was a revised and expanded version of a novelette called Sara Crewe first serialized in St. Nicholas Magazine in 1888.Sara Crewe, the daughter of a British Army officer (so there is no actual princess), is refreshingly kind, generous and clever, despite her father's wealth buying her every luxury she could desire. (She does, however, have a nasty temper when provoked.) She retains this attitude even when she is packed off to a boarding school for formal education. However, a couple of years later, word comes that a bad investment bankrupted her father, who subsequently died of Brain Fever brought on by the shock.Since Sara can no longer pay for her education and cannot reimburse expenses that were to be billed to her father, Miss Minchin, the owner of the boarding school, dismisses Sara's maid, confiscates her possessions (except for beloved doll Emily), moves her into a drafty attic room, and forces Sara to work as a servant. Despite these hardships, Sara continues to keep her kind and generous personality, and endures graciously, mostly through stubborn optimism and a belief that there is a magic in the world that would not let things get as bad as they could be. She does finally give in to bleak despair — only to be rescued from that despair by the kindness of a stranger.At the end of the story, it is discovered that "the Indian gentleman" whose servant Ram Dass has befriended Sara is in fact Mr. Thomas Carrisford, her father's "dear friend" who has been searching for Sara. He gives her back her half of the "bad investment", which in the end turned out to be worth many times more than he and her father had anticipated, and takes her as his ward. Her fortune returned to her, Sara is restored to her former social station, but does not forget those who were kind to her when she was in need.Inspired a few movie adaptations, most notably one starring Shirley Temple in 1939 and one directed by Alfonso Cuaron in 1995. The latter cast Liesel Matthews in the role. It has also had many stage adaptations as well as various television shows, including a critically acclaimed World Masterpiece Theateranime series in The Eighties and the more recent (and far more loosely-based) anime Soukou no Strain, which adds fanservice and mecha along with giving the heroine an alternative reaction to trauma. In SPACE. There's even a Veggie Tales adaptation (2012's The Penniless Princess).Not in any way a Distaff Counterpart to The Little Prince, though there's a paper to be written on that topic. Please do not confuse with Little Princess.
Tropes seen in this story include:
Adaptation Expansion: The writing of A Little Princess is, itself, a tale of Adaptation Expansion. It began life as a novella named "Sara Crewe", but the author felt that the story was incomplete, so it was first expanded into a play, "A Little Un-fairy Princess", and finally into the novel we all know and love. Many of the novel's memorable characters, such as Ermengarde, Lottie, Becky and Lavinia, were first seen in the play. Reading the three side by side is a fascinating first-hand look at how this trope works.
Mr. Barrow, Captain Crewe's solicitor. He's the one who comes to the school to announce his client's death, and suggests making a servant of Sara to Miss Minchin (as an alternative to throwing her out on the street, which would be bad publicity for the school).
Averted with Mr. Carmichael, Carrisford's solicitor. He's introduced as the head of a loving family that Sara envies, and when his profession is revealed, it's in a conversation where he offers to travel to Moscow to follow a vague lead on Sara's whereabouts.
Book Dumb: Ermengarde St. John, who has trouble with her lessons, particularly French.
Book Worm: Sara is an avid reader, even at age seven.
Break the Cutie: The bulk of the story. Miss Minchin, the servants, and Lavinia deliberately try to break her further after she's ruined. the novel even points out that "her child heart might have been broken" had it not been for Ermengarde, Lottie and Becky.
Comic Book Time: Sara goes to the seminary when she is seven and becomes poor when she is 11. On her first day Lavinia is already one of the oldest children and is specifically described as 14. By the time the main events play out she should be 18 and have left the school.
Companion Cube: Emily. Although in one moment of despair Sara screams at Emily that she's "just a doll".
Contrived Coincidence: well, it is by a Victorian novelist: the old gent who moves in next door turns out to be looking for a particular young lady who is due to inherit a great deal of money. Since the 'Indian Gentleman' is not even sure which CITY the little girl was sent to school in, it's somewhat serendipitous that he happens to move in next door from the right girl.
Costume Porn: Some paragraphs in the book are spent describing Sara's beautiful clothes. Indeed, lengthy paragraphs are devoted to describing the wardrobe of the doll.
Daddy's Girl: Sara and her father were very close, and her mother died when she was quite young.
Doormat: Miss Minchin's sister is far kinder but is completely dominated by her until the end of the story when she finally speaks her mind.
Earn Your Happy Ending: It's Sara's kindness in the worst possible circumstances that attracts the attention of her father's partner, laying sick in the house next door, and leads to their discovery of each others' identities.
Have a Gay Old Time: The word "queer" is thrown around like a stuffed animal in the book, if only in the archaic sense.
Heroic BSOD: Sara during her most despairing moment is no longer able to pretend that Emily is anything other than a doll and knocks her on the floor. She pulls herself together though and says that Emily can no more help being a doll than Lavinia can help being horrid.
Lampshade Hanging: Done with some of the story's more dramatic coincidences, including the news of Captain Crewe's ruin and death arriving immediately after Sara has a conversation about whether she'd be such a nice and happy person if she weren't so rich and the way Carrisford finally finds Sara.
Lonely Doll Girl: Sarah's doll Emily was bought by her father so she'd feel less lonely when he returned to India. She becomes one of Sara's few companions when Sara loses her fortune.
Meaningful Name: Sara is Hebrew for "princess." In the book of Genesis, Sarah — wife of Abraham — gives birth to Isaac, and is promised that she will be a princess of many nations. Becky's name is a diminution of Rebecca, Isaac's wife (Sarah's daughter-in-law), and the mother of Jacob / Israel. Maria (Miss Minchin's first name) means "bitter". Amelia means "lovable"- and she is the nicer sister.
Neutral No Longer: Lavinia's empty-headed friend Jessie reprimands Lavinia for tattling on Sara and her friends for planning a midnight feast (after Sara has been deprived of food for a day) and later says Miss Minchin has no right to starve Sara.
Nice to the Waiter: One of Sara's defining traits. Even when she herself falls on hard times, she's still kind and generous to those even worse off.
Ojou: Sara before her father dies. Look at the title.
Sara's mother died in childbirth, and her father when she's eleven.
Lottie's father is said to be very "flighty" and to have left Lottie to others after his wife died.
Pretty in Mink: A few furs are mentioned, like a doll with an ermine-lined cape, and the fur coat Sara wears at the end.
Princess Classic: Or almost. In fact, Sara looks up to historical queens and princesses (notably Marie Antoinette in one instance) as role models, which helps her control her temper on occasions.
Princess In Rags: As a servant, Sara wears an old black velvet frock of hers, that is already too small for her when she puts it on. The book mentions a bonnet with ostrich plumes that also belonged to her, but becomes bedraggled from repeated errands in the rain.
Rags to Riches, inverted: The book and adaptations are frequently promoted as a "riches to rags" story. Though of course she becomes rich beyond her wildest imagination again when it turns out the diamond mines were real and her father's partner is still alive.
"The Reason You Suck" Speech: Miss Minchin's well-meaning but cowed sister Amelia finally snaps at the end of the novel and thoroughly tells her off ("You're a hard, cruel, worldly woman.") Miss Minchin is shocked and intimidated, and Miss Amelia takes a greater role in running the school thereafter.
Rich Bitch: Lavinia Herbert, who was the richest girl in school before Sara turned up, and sees the younger girl as a threat to her social standing. She's unmerciful in her ridicule when Sara loses her fortune.
Sadist Teacher: Miss Minchin, who has a nasty cruel streak and cares about nothing more than money. Her sister calls her out on it right at the end: "You're a hard, cruel, worldly woman."
Said Bookism: There are some instances of words being "ejaculated" in the novel.
Spoiled Sweet: Sara's a bit naive about the state of the world at first, but even before things get horribly awful she realizes that there are people less fortunate than she is and doesn't act like a Rich Bitch.
True Colors: After Sara's father dies, Miss Minchin reveals her bitchy, greedy self.
You Dirty Rat: Subverted with the rat in Sarah's attic room whom she befriends and names "Melchisedec," after an Old Testament king. She comments on how hard it must be to an animal that everyone treats with fear and disgust when it is just trying to feed itself and its family.
Deus ex Machina: Or rather, extremely powerful convenient visitor. When Sara finds the hospital that may contain her wounded, amnesiac father, she is allowed to search it after asking a very old, important-looking woman for permission. Upon thanking her for this, Sara asks the woman's name, and then blushes and curtsies when she responds: "Victoria." It's a heartwarming moment, and kind of stops anyone this side of God from keeping father and daughter apart one second longer.