The Twelve Dancing Princesses

by Grimm

Other authorsMarianna Mayer (Author), Kinuko Y. Craft (Illustrator), K.Y. Craft (Illustrator)
Hardcover, 1989



Local notes

398.2 Gri




HarperCollins (1989), Edition: Book Club (BCE/BOMC), 40 pages. $14.95.


When the king's twelve daughters, under an evil spell, wear holes in their dancing slippers every night and grow pale and mysterious, Peter the gardener's boy discovers their secret and breaks the spell.


Original language


Original publication date


Physical description

40 p.; 11 inches

User reviews

LibraryThing member ncgraham
“The Twelve Dancing Princesses” is an old tale, so old that it exists in multiple versions. Most famous is the account published by the Brothers Grimm, but there is also an interesting French variant popularized by Andrew Lang in his Red Fairy Book. In the past few decades it has appeared in
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novel form (as in Juliet Marillier’s Wildwood Dancing among others), in various short stories (happily for me, both Robin McKinley and Patricia McKillip have written versions), and even a Barbie movie! It should not be surprising that what with the innumerable princesses, dresses, and multi-colored woods, it has inspired a number of picture books as well. Of this last category, I am certain this rendition, with text by Mariana Meyer and illustrations by Kinuko Y. Craft, is the very best.

Of course, Craft’s artwork is the real reason to get this. Though she is a prolific artist, providing the covers for many a fantasy novel as well as contributing to several picture books, I think that she has rarely done better work than she does here. The portrait of Princess Elise belongs in an art gallery, and Craft’s interpretation of the famous golden wood episode is unusually light and ethereal.

Meyer’s work should not be underestimated either. Rarely diverging from Lang, she somehow manages to brighten and humanize his already complex portraits of the characters (complex, that is, in comparison to Grimm). I love the final exchange she adds for Peter and Princess Elise: she says that they will never be able to return to the twilight kingdom, he asks if she is sad, and she says that she is not, because “now we have each other, and I have grown to love you more than anything else.”
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LibraryThing member Whisper1
Lush illustrations by K.Y. Craft coupled with the highly imaginative version of this tale, make this a five star illustrated book.

There were twelve lovely sisters, each one beautifully different from the others, and collectively all were stunningly attractive. When Peter, a farm boy from a local
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village felt it was time to leave his life and start a new. Learning of the twelve princesses, he vowed to capture the heart of one and marry her. Previously, each suitor that asked for the hand of a princess was turned away.

Each night the King locked his lovely daughters in a beautiful room with twelve beautiful beds. Each morning, much to the King's amazement, the soles of all slippers were shredded to pieces. The king wondered how this happened since he made very sure they could not get out at night, nor could anyone get in.

Before her death her mother consulted a fortune teller who said that until the secret is found , they daughters cannot marry.

When the darkness filled the night sky, the princesses were transported to a magical place when the eldest sister knocked three times on her bed, as winding staircase appeared. Gleefully, the princesses escaped to a place where all those who previously tried to obtain their love were forever bound to dance with the princesses throughout the night into the morning.

Peter, now the gardener of the palace, found a flower that rendered him invisible. Using this flower, he silently crept into the bedroom and watched and followed the princesses where they danced all night.

The youngest sister was the one who caught his eye. Where he invisibly walked home with the princesses, a petal from the magical flower snapped, but safely he arrived back in time. The next day, he took a stem from the magical flower and placed it into the youngest daughter's bouquet.

When confronted, Peter vowed he would never break the secret even though they offered money to him for his silence.

Because of his humbleness and truthfulness, the spell was broken and he was able to have the hand of the youngest sister.
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LibraryThing member shillson
The Twelve Dancing Princesses is an adaptation of a Grimm's Fairy Tale where Peter, a young farmer, is given a task by the King to discover why his daughters' slippers are worn away nightly however they refuse to marry any of the suitors who come before them. If Peter can unravel the mystery of why
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they have become so cold and distant, he will be allowed to marry one of the maidens. After Peter assembles flower bouquets for the princesses, it is discovered that they emerge from their chamber in the evenings to attend lavish banquets and dance until dawn. Peter frequents one of the dances, and the youngest princess Elise becomes infatuated by him as he is the best suitor she has known. Peter is about to consume a special drink that would cause him to become as pale and sickly as they are when Elise prevents him, thus breaking the bewitching spell with this act of kindness and love and leading to their marriage.
There is no mention or citation of the original source for the folktale. The plot is complicated and confusing at times. The flowery language is not in keeping with the oral tradition. The idea of loving conquering all is evident. The illustrations are the best part of this retelling. The elegant borders and detailed illustrations beg for repeated viewings. The story is probably too long for a read aloud and may be too confusing for most young children. I would recommend this folktale to students in grades 3-6.
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LibraryThing member gundulabaehre
I have never really enjoyed the Brothers Grimm's tale about twelve dancing princesses and their tattered slippers (die zertanzten Schuhe, The Worn-Out Dancing Shoes). There really is not all that much "magic" in the tale, and the princesses only admit their nocturnal escapades because they realise
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that their secret has finally been discovered. Furthermore, the fact that in the original tale, the suitors who are unable to discover the secret of the dancing shoes are executed by the king (and that this known fact does not seem to matter to the twelve princesses, who proceed to callously drug the wine of their hapless suitors), also somewhat bothers me.

I know that there is violence and the threat of the same in many fairy tales (and that the actual executions are ordered by the king, not his daughters), but the attitude of the twelve dancing princesses towards the doomed princes seems quite cold and calculating, a testament to their own vanity and desire for pleasure. On the other hand, I am also aware of the fact that the king has chosen to lock his daughters in their bedchamber at night and am angered by the fact that he would even consider doing such a thing. Maybe the king's original act of absolute parental control could or should be considered as the actual impetus to the princesses' actions, a form of rebellion against parental (patriarchal) authority. However, that still cannot make me accept the fact that the princesses knowingly send potential suitors to their likely doom, simply in order to safeguard their secret dancing.

With that in mind, I actually prefer Marianna Mayer's adaptation of the Grimms' tale, although I do believe that it is a bit text-heavy and more suitable for older children (I could imagine younger children perhaps becoming a bit distracted and losing interest or focus). I think that Mayer has managed to successfully keep the spirit of the original tale, while removing some of its less palatable aspects. There is, fortunately, no longer mention of possible executions, and while the princesses are still rather vain and seemingly bent on pursuing their dancing escapades, they are, in fact, also bewitched and enchanted, no longer simply the calculating, seemingly heartless pleasure seekers of the original tale. When Elise stops Peter from drinking the potion (as told in Marianna Mayer's adaptation), she not only saves him, but also breaks the spell cast upon the princesses themselves (in the Grimms' tale, the princesses are never enchanted or under a spell, they just do not want to give up their secret).

I honestly do not think that I can adequately describe Kinuko Y. Craft's wonderful illustrations. They are evocative, luminous, absorbingly detailed, a perfect complement and addition to Mayer's engaging and flowing narrative. Even children who do not read yet would surely take pleasure poring over the evocative illustrations, which tell the story of the twelve dancing princesses almost as well as the text itself.

This book really does deserve four stars, and if this tale had been a completely original fairy tale, I would have had no qualms whatsoever rating it with four stars (perhaps even five stars, although I do think that the narrative is a bit too long and involved). However, The Twelve Dancing Princesses is clearly an adaptation, a retelling of the original Brothers Grimm tale, and I simply cannot accept the fact that Marianna Mayer has not provided an author's note, or even a short blurb acknowledging her sources. It is not only somewhat academically suspect for her not to have made note of the Grimms' original tale (and even a very short note would have sufficed), it is also somewhat disrespectful of the Brothers Grimm and their legacy.
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LibraryThing member RebeccaStevens
This children's book is a retelling of the classic tale. A king has twelve daughters who wear out their slippers every night while locked in their bedroom. To solve this mystery, he promises that anyone who can solve it can marry one of his daughters. Peter, a shepherd, hides in their room only to
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see that they have a hidden passage that takes them to a magical realm where they dance the night away. In time, he falls in love with one of the princesses and she falls in love with him.

The charm of this book is the glorious illustrations by Kinuko Craft. These paintings glow with rich colors, looking like masterpieces from the Renaissance period. The details of the paintings match the written passages, indicating that the author and illustrator worked closely to produce this book.

This book will be appreciated by all ages of readers. Young children will enjoy hearing the story. Older readers will enjoy the antique flavor of the entire presentation, from the writing style, the fonts used, and the illustrations. Even adults will enjoy the beauty of this book. The message of the story is encouraging to adolescents who are becoming interested in romance.
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LibraryThing member cmbohn
Beautiful illustrations in this retelling of a favorite fairy tale.
LibraryThing member jhunt6
The Twelve Dancing Princesses is a great example of Traditional literature. It is about twelve princesses who travel to a underground land where they dance with their princes until their shoes are worn to the core. I liked this version of the book more than the Grimms brothers’ book because it
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had more of a character development for the new prince. In the Grimm brothers’ book, a lonely solider just appears to be walking by the castle. However, in this retelling the solider not only has a name, but we learn his purpose. For example, the beginning of the book states that, “a women dressed like a queen was standing before him…Peter you must go to the king’s castle. If you succeed where other have failed, you shall get your wish and marry a princess.” This adds to his character development and draws the readers in. Another why I liked this retelling compared to others is because its plot had a slight suspense to it even though it was a fairytale. The king wanted to know where his daughters were going and he gave anyone wanted to find out 3 days to gather the information. If they did not succeed after three days they would be killed. This plot line is much different than more common fairytales, which made it an interesting pick among its genre. The plot creates a page turner as you the reader wants to know who will be the lucky man to claim the daughter. Lastly, I liked this book because the illustrations enhance the story’s writing. This is because the illustrations are drawing that would fit in the time period that this story originated in. It gives the story a more authentic feel because it places you in that time period. Also the illustrations match the font choice for the book, which is a nice touch.
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LibraryThing member meallen1
This book is a fairy tale. It is about 12 sisters who become dancers. It is a classic story that every child would like to read. The reading level is first grade. The curricular connection is it is a fairy tale.
LibraryThing member LibrarianRyan
This book has the most beautiful illustrations. And the story is very compelling. Each night the 12 princesses dance through their dancing shoes and the kingdom wonders why. But only a lowly farm boy can find out the truth. This is one of the best versions of this story available.
LibraryThing member JCLHeatherM
Enchanting paintings accompany a beloved story of twelve sisters looking for adventure and the gentleman who catches them at their own game.
LibraryThing member champlin
Fairytale. This story is about a king who has twelve daughters. Each morning he finds their shoes completely worn out. To find out what they are up to every night he puts out an announcement that whoever finds out will marry one of his daughters. The girls are tricky and they drug many of the
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suitors. A soldier hears about the challenge and on his way meets an old woman. She gives him an invisibility cloak and tells him not to drink anything they give him. The soldier follows her orders and then follows the princesses into their secret world where they dance all night long. He chooses one of the princesses and marries her. This is a great book to introduce traditional tales and inspire the imagination.
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LibraryThing member TrgLlyLibrarian
Very pretty pictures. Kind of weird story, but overall cute with a happy ending (OF COURSE).
LibraryThing member mccooln
This charming tale has it all - princesses, a secret place, mysterious nighttime rendezvous - all beautifully illustrated. This is a dreamy story that will likely appeal to little girls. Be careful purchasing it for them though, you may find yourself reading it over and over and over.
LibraryThing member AbigailAdams26
The classic fairy-tale of the twelve dancing princesses, their worn-out slippers, and the young boy who solves the mystery of their night-time activities and frees them from their enchantment, is here presented in an exquisitely-illustrated picture book. I am a huge fan of Kinuko Craft's work, and
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this title does not disappoint. With her jewel-like palate and her attention to detail, Craft creates an absorbing visual narrative that perfectly complements the romance of the tale. The painting of the twelve sisters conferring, with Elise in the center, is perhaps the finest in the book.

I have always loved fairy-tales, but although I spent hours poring over these stories as a child, this lovely tale somehow failed to make a lasting impression upon me. I couldn't say for sure, but it almost seems as if it has become more popular in the last decade or so. There have been many recent picture-book adaptations, with illustrations by artists such as Ruth Sanderson, Jane Ray, Dorothee Duntze, and the brilliant Laszlo Gal, but this is by far my favorite. The narrative by Marianna Mayer is a fairly smooth adaptation of the original tale from the Brothers Grimm (The Shoes That Were Danced to Pieces), in which the prince is replaced by a humble but loving gardener. I did find myself wishing, as I so often do, that some mention of the tale's origin had been made.
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LibraryThing member kathleen586
I didn't care for the story, but the illustrations are beautiful. I appreciate the fact that the young princess had dark hair and amber eyes (it was a nice change).
LibraryThing member kpalmer07
This book is an excellent example of fairy tale. This is an old story that has been passed down for a long time and is now being retold again by a modern author. The story has the usual beginning with "A long time ago." The book has unbelievable yet made believable fantastic elements, such as
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spells and curses, that the characters must face. It has a conflict, like the princesses going out and dancing every night and being put under a spell, and resolution like the prince and princess falling in love.

The point of view of this story is omniscient 3rd person. The narrarator seems to know everything that is happening in the book, including characters feelings. I think this is a good point-of-view of the book. It allows for the reader to know what is going on and feel what the characters are. It also keeps the traditional story telling way of how it was passed down which is nice.

Media: Oil paints
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LibraryThing member Katherine.Boykins
The king does not understand how his daughters keep wearing out their dancing shoes each night. Desperate to find out why, he has some one find out for him. His reward being marrying one of the princesses. Princes try and fail to solve the mystery, until a gardener is able to out smart the
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princesses to solve the mystery. Students can compare and contrast this version of the story to other versions. They can predict what they think will happen throughout the book and they can create their own fractured fairy tale version of this story.
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(98 ratings; 4.3)
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