The Paper Bag Princess was first told at the Bay Area Childcare Center in Coos Bay Oregon where I had a job in 1973 and 1974. I had been telling lots and lots of dragon stories. They were all fairly regular dragon stories where the prince saves the princess from the dragon.
One day my wife, who also worked at the daycare centre, came to me and said “How come you always have the prince save the princess? Why can’t the princess save the prince?”
I thought about that and changed around the ending of one of my dragon stories. That made the adults a lot happier, and the kids did not mind. The original ending had Princess Elizabeth punching Ronald in the nose. When Michael Martchenko drew a picture of that it looked a bit too violent, so we changed it around and had Princess Elizabeth call Ronald a bum. Later, when Scholastic International wanted to do a book club edition for England, Australia and New Zealand they said “We can’t use bum. People in England don’t call each other bums. They just don’t do it. Princess Elizabeth should call Ronald a toad”.
We said that was okay, but besides doing it in England, Australia and New Zealand, they also did it in Canada. So Canada has some Paper Bag Princesses where Elizabeth calls Ronald a bum and some where Elizabeth calls Ronald a toad.
For Canada, I like bum much better. People don’t call each other toads in Canada. I never have. Have you ever called somebody a toad? People just don’t do it.
When the Paper Bag Princess was published it sold 3,000 the first year. I thought that was great, but since then it has sold almost 3,000,000.
Elizabeth became the name for the Princess at the Family Studies Preschool at the University of Guelph, in Ontario, Canada. Elizabeth had lots of older brothers and when she came to the preschool the first time, she dropped her coat on the floor and waited for me to hang it up. I thought ‘Wow! This kid thinks she is a princess.” When the story got published, I decided that she should be the kid in it. Elizabeth still lives in Guelph (2002) and now she has a son of her own.