Theatre / The Prince Who Learned Everything in Books

El Principe Que Todo Lo Aprendió En Los Libros is a children's play written in 1912 by noted Spanish playwright Jacinto Benavante. It is about a young Prince who became obsessed with books— Fairy Tale books, that is. Worried that his son might be losing touch with reality, his father, The King (nearly every character in the play is known by his role, not a real name) sends him on a journey so he can see what the real world is like. Hilarity Ensues.

The play begins when Principe Azul ("Prince Charming") and his two companions, The Royal Preceptor (teacher) and the Royal Buffoon, reach a fork in the road. One branch is overgrown, while the other is well-kept; the Prince immediately assumes he must follow the ugly-looking path, since in the tales they always lead to a disguised Fairy Godmother, but the others disagree. Then, a passerby (a woman who is married to the owner of the local lands; the book calls her The Beauty) invites the travelers to spend the night at her husbands mansion, but the Prince assumes he must be an Ogre in disguise and refuses, going down the ugly path alone. The Buffoon, driven by hunger, accepts the offer. The Preceptor decides to stay at the fork, unwilling to make a choice until he has figured out where they are on a map.

In the forest, The Prince meets an Old Woman whom he assumes is an enchanted fairy. In truth, she is a poor woman who secretly helps some bandits to trick and rob travelers (though only because they force her to.) However, she finds herself unable to allow the kind, innocent Prince to die, so she convinces him to escape with her.

Meanwhile, the Buffoon meets the Beauty's husband, who turns out to be such an ugly, ill-tempered man that he becomes convinced it really is an Ogre, as the Prince said. Too scared (and hungry) to run away, he stays at their mansion however. He is soon joined by the Prince, the Old Woman and the Preceptor. When the Prince finds out that the "Ogre" made himself rich by overtaxing people, the Prince attacks him, but receives a beating and is forced to flee, along his companions.

They reach another country, whose king has three daughters. The Prince concludes that the youngest princess must be his True Love (again because that's usually the case in the tales) and almost agrees to marry her, until the Old Woman finds out what a brat she is after a series of clever questions. It turns out to be the middle daughter who really fits the Prince's desires.

The Prince's parents then conveniently show up to help resolve all the loose ends of the story. The King asks his son whether he has finally realized that fairy tales are not for real, to which the Prince responds that instead, he has learned that the lessons of those tales do apply in real life, since he met "men as vile as Ogres, and women as kind as fairies".

Tropes featured in this play:

  • The Atoner: The Old Woman.
  • Breaking the Fourth Wall: The play ends with the Buffoon addressing the audience directly, asking the children for applause.
  • Bookworm: The Preceptor.
  • Deadpan Snarker: The Preceptor.
  • Everyone Calls Him "Barkeep": Nearly everybody in the play. The only characters with proper names are the Buffoon (whose name is Tonino) and the second King (see Overly Long Name).
  • Fractured Fairy Tale: In part; despite the lack of magic, and a Deconstruction of certain Fairytale Motifs, the story does follow the structure of one, complete with An Aesop at the end.
  • Impoverished Patrician: The Kings in the story seemed to have limited amounts of money; The Queen can barely afford to give The Prince money for the trip, and the other King is desperate to marry off his daughters (though he has other reasons to do so.) The Princes sword broke in the fight with the Ogre, probably indicating a cheap quality.
  • Karma Houdini: While the play mentions in the end that The King will punish the Ogre and reward the Old Woman, the bandits are not mentioned.
  • Overly Long Name: King Chuchurumbe. Yes, thats a nonsense name.
  • Power Trio: The Prince is the Ego (since hes the main character), The Preceptor is the Superego (logical to a fault) and the Buffoon is the Id (driven by his impulses, such as fear or hunger).
  • Riddle Me This: How the Old Woman tests the princesses.
  • Too Dumb to Live: The Prince.
  • Troperrific: Or something of an early Deconstruction.