Types of Love Shown by Disney’s Princesses

Reading up on the types of love has helped me understand what I like and dislike about the different Disney princesses.

When you think about how a Disney princess exemplifies love, the relationships for many of the early princesses—Cinderella, Snow White, and Aurora—appear to be focused on eros, at least as far as the princes are concerned. Mulan’s interest in Shang starts with eros, but her feelings evolve into respect and admiration for his character, not just his eight-pack. Even Ariel only demonstrates eros for Eric, whom she does not know at all except by sight.

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As much as I adore The Little Mermaid, her relationship with Eric is extremely superficial and borders on mania. I mean, she gave up her voice for a man. Rapunzel also shows mania, given her determination to see the floating lanterns.

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As far as ludus, Belle, Jasmine, Rapunzel, Anna, and Tiana show the building of their relationships through romance. To a much lesser degree, Mulan and Shang flirt, but they snip at each other more than anything else.

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Of the princesses demonstrating philia, the most obvious is Mulan, who saves first her entire troop on the mountain and then the emperor through the end of the movie. Anna demonstrates this in Frozen 2 when she awakens the mountain trolls.

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By the time Frozen 2 rolls around, Anna and Kristoff have reached as close to pragma as any Disney princess can through the short duration of the films. The best example I can offer is Mulan’s parents (who actually survive the story!) and the sorrow they share when her father is preparing to leave. Rapunzel’s parents also appear to share pragma in their grief and hope for finding their missing daughter.

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While Snow White, Aurora, and Ariel appears to share storge for the fairies, dwarves, and King Triton respectively, Cinderella doesn’t really have a loving relationship with anyone except her animal friends. Rapunzel even shows storge for Mother Gothel, despite the abusive control she exhibits to her adopted daughter. Mulan goes to war out of storge, because she doesn’t want her father to die. Similarly, Belle sacrifices herself as a prisoner to the Beast for her father. There is also obvious love between the sultan and Jasmine, as well as between Tiana and her family. The storge of Anna for Elsa forms the crux of both Frozen plots, and Elsa eventually shows the same deep-rooted affection for her sister by the end of the first movie. More heartbreaking is the storge Moana has for her family, especially her grandmother.

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Philautia is a little harder to observe, but Belle refuses Gaston because she knows she deserves better. Jasmine also appears to express her self-worth as she tells Aladdin and Jafar off for imagining they know her life better. Tiana knows her worth, too. She has a plan to run her own business, and she knows she has the skills needed to succeed. The rest of the princesses seem to significantly lack any sense of self-worth. In the case of Mulan, this is unfortunate, since the historical character went on to become a decorated commander. She would not have been so successful had she lacked faith in herself, which Disney reinforced through the song “Reflection” as well as her botched matchmaker visit.

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Finally, we come to agape. The first example that comes to mind is Moana, who is willing to sacrifice everything to save her people and is even able to find empathy for Te Ka, who is actively trying to kill her. Anna also exemplifies agape. She runs off to find her sister in Frozen to save all the people of her land from the endless winter Elsa has unleashed. The lesson of agape comes to Elsa a little later, but she goes into the unknown past to save a bunch of strangers who have been trapped by weird magic, and then, after her sister breaks the dam, races to rescue Arendelle from the coming wave that would have destroyed the homes of all her people.

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Largely because of the way they demonstrate different forms of love, Anna, Elsa, Moana, and Mulan present as more heroic and far less hollow than their fellow princesses.

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Obviously I don’t own any of these Disney characters. They make a good resource for study because of everyone’s familiarity with their stories. I also chose to leave  Pocahontas out of this analysis to avoid conflating the Disney character with the historic one.

Fairytales and Train Schedules

Experts remind us regularly of the importance of reading to our children.  I hate to watch T get bored when we ride in the car, so I make a point of telling her stories.  After covering “Jack and the Beanstalk” in a couple installments on various trips, I started on “Beauty and the Beast.”  The version of the fairytale I like best is a mash-up of the Disney movie and Robin McKinley’s “Beauty.”

We were headed out to dinner with her grandparents in the car, but to keep T entertained, I continued my storytelling.  Imagine my surprise, as I’m describing Belle’s family and her father’s business problems, and her introduction to the Beast’s palace, when my mother-in-law interrupted me to ask, very intently, “But where’s the Beast?”  And once T fell asleep, I tried to end my tale, proposing to take up the next installment at a later date, but everyone in the car insisted I continue.  Once I finished the story, everyone agreed that they needed to see the movie and possibly also read the book.  Score 1 point for good storytelling!

The next day…on our regular day to have dinner with the family, T woke up in the middle of the meal, so I proposed that her grandfather tell her a story.  When he asked me which story to tell her, I requested one of my favorite tales from Indian history, the tale of Jhansi ki Rani, (the queen of Jhansi).  Now, it should come as no surprise that I find a queen who went into battle herself a good role model, even if things didn’t work out in her favor.


Railway Map of India CC-by-sa Planemad/Wikipedia

So my father-in-law began by telling T where Jhansi is, then proceeded, not to tell the biography of this great heroine, but to tell her how to get to Jhansi from New Delhi, where she’d stop along the way, and basically provides a travelogue rather than a story.  My husband interrupted, telling his father that T could get all the same information from Google and that T wanted “a story, not a train schedule,” leaving us in stitches for the rest of the meal.