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Literature / Princess Ben

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My gown suited me as well as I could ever hope thought I could not but envy the young ladies who would attract the honest compliments of the night. My bodice did not plunge as dramatically as some, and no man-no man I would ever want to meet surely-could fit his hands around my waist. But the gown had the simple elegance for which Queen Sophia's dressmaker so renowned, and what I lacked in beauty, I would simply have to earn with charm.

Benevolence is not your typical princess and Princess Ben is certainly not your typical fairy tale. With her parents lost to unknown assassins, Princess Ben ends up under the thumb of the conniving Queen Sophia, who is intent on marrying her off to the first available “specimen of imbecilic manhood.” Starved and miserable, locked in the castle’s highest tower, Ben stumbles upon a mysterious enchanted room. So begins her secret education in the magical arts: mastering an obstinate flying broomstick, furtively emptying the castle pantries, setting her hair on fire . . . But Ben’s private adventures are soon overwhelmed by a mortal threat facing the castle and indeed the entire country. Can Princess Ben save her kingdom from annihilation and herself from permanent enslavement?

Princess Ben is the third book by Catherine Gilbert Murdock and was released in 2008. She is not kidding when states this is 'not your typical fairy tale''. It has all the usual elements (princesses, cells in towers, magic, evil stepmothers, balls etc) which are both Deconstructed and Reconstruction by the end. Have fun spotting the references to classic tales.


Princess Ben has the following tropes:

  • Affably Evil: King Renaldo, the kind of Drachensbett, is impeccably polite. This is because he's not really evil.
  • All Myths Are True:
    • Legend has it that mages built the Chateau de Montagne. They did.
    • Drachensbett believes that dragons live on Acienne. Ben and Florian fight one.
  • Batman Gambit: Ben's "Dragon Raid" plan. It hindges entirely on her dragon disguise scaring the Drachensbett army into running away.
  • Battle Butler: Hildebert, Ben's personal attendant, who goes with her into the mountains to protect her from bears.
  • Be Careful What You Wish For: Ben wanted a humble life of annymous service in another country and and lo and behold she became a kitchen slave named "Piglet" for an enemy nation.
  • Berserk Button:
    • Mentioning that Sophia has failed to give birth in her earshot. She lashed Ben for it.
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    • Also a more minor one for Ben is judging others by their appearances, such as waistline or complexion. In the later chapters of the book, she gently reprimands anyone who judges another in such a fashion.
  • Beauty Equals Goodness: Subverted. Ben notes that Prince Florian is a handesome young man but his sneer negates it..
  • Big Bad: King Renaldo's attempts to take over Montagne form a great deal of the plot's conflict but he is not this because he didn't start the plot and was sad for the death of Ben's parents..
  • Brought Down to Normal: Ben breaks her arm at one point, which means she can't move the fingers on that hand, which means she can't use her spells.
  • Call to Agriculture: King Renaldo, after stepping down in favor of his son, becomes a full time gardener. Though he was already halfway there to begin with.
  • Captain Obvious: The magic mirror in the wizard room can only interact with someone to confirm what they already said. It gets boring being this trope. Later this rule is bent, as if the mirror is a Trickster Mentor trying to make Ben spit out that she is in love with Florian.
  • The Chains of Commanding: The cause of Ben's misery in the first act is 'acting like a princess should' and in the second act its 'marrying for the country's benefit'.
    • Later she finds Florian has the same burden.
  • Death Seeker: Downplayed but still there when Ben discovers the secret room. She thinks she has nothing to lose even if there's nothing beyond the illusion but a steep drop. "What had I to lose? Who would miss me should this end in tragedy?"
  • Deceased Parents Are the Best: Ben has the ideal parents, in the first chapter.
  • Disproportionate Retribution: Sophia replaces the entire dinning staff because one of them slipped the half-starved princess a rasin roll.
  • Dying Moment of Awesome: This trope is lampshaded by King Renaldo: "Would that he never died." wept the king, "But if he must, he should die so nobly.
  • Embarrassing Nickname:
    • Ben is called "Piglet" for her chubbiness.
    • Florian is called "Prince Chamber Pot" because a dragon actually Ben in disguise and throwing mud pooped on him. he later turns this into Appropriated Appellation by fighting a real dragon.
      • his Mom called him "Florrie" but he liked that one.
  • Enemy Chatter: Guards and their debate over the qualities of different varieties of apples. Their king takes them as seriously as warfare or politics.
  • Earn Your Happy Ending: Ben preserves her kingdom's independence and earns Sophia's respect by growing up and being quick witted.
  • Evil Plan: The events of the novel are set in motion by the death of Ben's parents and the plot is driven by Drachensbett's attempts at taking over Montagne.
  • Famed in Story: Ben's own grandfather, a warrior king and the reason Drachensbett hasn't bothered Montagne for thirty years.
  • Gender-Blender Name: Benevolence, "Ben" for short.
  • Happily Married: Though Ben points out as an old woman that no marriage is "Happily Ever After" there are still "moments of bliss" and "long spans of satisfied companionship" and true love. The list is:
    • Ben's parents, Walter and Pence
    • Sophia and Renaldo
    • Ben and Florian
  • Heel Realization: While not a villain, Ben realizes that the greatest threat to her country is not a foreign nation but her own immaturity.
  • The High Queen: Ben eventually. It's downplayed; she never reigns with the full authority of this trope but she kept her country intact, independent, and happy, which she says is all that matters.
  • Iron Lady: Sophia, cold and aggressive and stoic.
  • Kansas City Shuffle: Ben's plan to kill the dragon is one of these. She lures it to her and creates a double for it to eat. This double is made of snow and puts out the belly fire that keeps it alive. She tricked her mark into calling her bluff.
  • The Magic Comes Back: At one point in Montagne's history there were mages. For some reason they stopped reading the book for ages. All Ben needed to do was start reading it.
  • Marry for Love: The only reason Ben decides she would marry, "When very old and in my twenties" was for love.
    • Later she discovers that Florian has the same ideals.
  • Meaningful Name: "Benvolence"; Ben averts at first for various reasons but she grows into it.
  • The Mentor: Sophia teaches Ben important skills and praises her when she steps up to the challenge.
  • Modest Royalty: Ben was much happier living above a barracks and wearing rough clothing than living in the princess suite and wearing silk gowns.
  • Not So Different: Several characters note that Ben resembles Sophia when she's serious.
  • Passing the Torch: Sophia sequesters herself with the crew building "Fredinand's Wall" at the pass Drachensbett planned to use to invade Montagne. Thus, intentionally or not, leaving the day-to-day running of the Chateau de Montagne to Ben.
  • Proper Lady: Ben describes her mother as a paragon of the grace and warmth that a proper lady should have.
    • Ben's character development is to be more like this and less like a Spoiled Brat.
  • Prophecy Twist: A fortune was told of Florian that he would awaken a princess and win her hand. He thinks this is a Sleeping Beauty thing. He inadvertently 'awakened' Ben because his campaign to conquer her country, which indirectly lead to her working as a kitchen slave and healer in one of his camps, forced her to mature.
  • Oblivious Mockery: Prince Florian mocks Ben in the camp of his soldiers, unaware that that the princess herself is hiding in their midst.
    • He later inverts it by praising "Ben the shepherd" as resembling "Princess Benevolence" but more clever and more interesting.
  • "The Reason You Suck" Speech: The Drachensbett ambassador gives one about how Ben is no way qualified to run a country and that hers would be far better off with Drachensbett in charge.
  • Red Baron: Ben's grandfather is known as 'The Badger'.
  • Royals Who Actually Do Something: The title of 'commander' is just as important as 'king/prince' in Montagne because its frequently threatened by its neighbors.
    • Ben, after much character development, doubles as a healer for the castle and countryside.
  • Royal "We": Sophia always speaks like this and it drives Ben nuts that the queen thinks she can speak for everyone, especially her.
  • I Shall Taunt You: Ben shouts insults to a dragon! as part of a Kansas City Shuffle.
  • She Cleans Up Nicely: Deconstructed. Getting ready for the winter ball is a painful affair for Ben with corsets, wig fitting and all manner of Fashion Hurts tropes. She thinks she looks ridiculous. It even has the 'grand entrance on a staircase' but Ben is only happy to reach the bottom without tripping.
    • Her second ball the following autumn is played straight, and for drama. She now recognizes that showing royal elegance to her peers is part of convincing them that she is a proper and capable future queen.
  • Shout-Out: Murdock must have had a list of fairy tales she wanted to twist to her own prupose.
    • To Rumpelstiltskin, Sophia's grandmother is said to have spun straw into gold and made a tapestery that Sophia brings to Montagne.
    • Ben briefly considers scaling her cell with Rapunzel's hair before dismissing it as absurd.
    • Baron Edwig claims a pea under his mattress bruised him.
    • From Florian's point of of view, Ben's flight from the castle sounds like Sleeping Beauty: A witch casting a sleep spell on a princess before escaping; the princess can only be awakened by a kiss from a prince. In reality the 'sleeping princess' was a magic clone Ben created to hold others' attention while she studied, and instead of leading to a happily ever after, Ben fears that her connection to her double would fade and it will become the new princess, leaving her as a kitchen slave.
    • A farm boy thinks Ben's melted glass "gems" are magic beans.
    • The Frog Prince, but in this case the princess would rather keep him in a box and poke him with a stick than kiss him.
    • Saint George and the Dragon given the climatic fight with a dragon.
  • Slap-Slap-Kiss: After spending most of their aquiantance hating each other, Florian confesses his love for Ben. A day later, she confesses the same.
  • So Proud of You: After Ben convinces a pair of enemy spies to spill what they know, Sophia says, "...we must confess, Benevolence, that our esteem of you waxes with each passing day." The following is Ben's thoughts: "Aspire as I might to project queenly dignity, I could not restrain a flush of pride".
  • Spell Book: Found in a hidden room, Ben uses it to learn the gestures, words and otherwise mechanics of magic.
  • Spoiled Brat: While she has an excuse at the very beginning (i.e. emotional turmoil over her parrents' deaths) Ben acts entitled and throws an occasional tantrum.
  • Silk Hiding Steel: Invoked but then defied. Ben knows about these kinds of women and wants to emulate them but has no idea how. Later she stumbles upon 'abject passivity' which frustrates Sophia into drinking. Later still, she fulfills the trope.
    • In fact, a major theme of the story is 'fighting one's enemies with courtesy' and wielding power over them from a weaker position.
  • Sword and Sorcerer: Ben and Florian work together in in the final act with Florian fighting a dragon with metal weapons and Ben using magic spells.
  • Took a Level in Badass: Ben eventually reaches this stage: diving on a platoon of archers and throwing fire/wind spells can't be anything but badass. And if that's not good enough She taunts a dragon!
  • Traumatic Haircut: Ben's hair is cut short for a ball, abrutly and forcefully by a servant. For extra points, it was so a wig would fit better.
  • True Love's Kiss: Florian thinks this is in cards for him, Sleeping Beauty style. It's actually gender flopped because Ben is the one to save him from dragon poison this way.
  • Tsundere: Ben is a Type B post Character Development. She's able to maintain her kind and polite lady-like demeanor around everyone except Florian.
  • Unwanted Assistance: Not quite but the idea is there.
    At the dragon" He shouted, "You're supponsed to throw at the dragon!
    "I'm trying!" I shrieked back.
  • Wicked Step Mother: Sophia's 'noose' on Ben. Let's make a list:
    • forbidding her friends from visiting
    • keeping her half-starved
    • locking her in a tower
    • lashing on her hands for speaking out
      • Ben later realizes that Sophia was treating her like a Spoiled Brat because she was one. When she acts more like a proper princess, Sophia treats her better.
  • Wise Prince: Ben initially pegs Florian for an Evil Prince but, after spending time with him in a camp, she grudgingly admits he's more this trope considering his care for his soldiers and fond memories of his mother.
  • Worf Had the Flu: Ben notes that the dragon she defeats was old and sick at the time of their battle and she does not want to try her luck with one that is young and healthy.
  • Yandere: Apparently this is the case for King Renaldo. who Ben suspects was more in love with Montagne's ruler than its lands.


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