“No proper princess would come out looking for dragons,” Woraug objected.
“Well I’m not a proper princess then!” Cimorene snapped. “I make cherries jubillee and I volunteer for dragons, and I conjugate Latin verbs– or at least I would if anyone would let me. So there!”
―Patricia C. Wrede, Dealing with Dragons
Much of what I imagine about princesses stems from Disney movies and fairy tale stories: they’re young, beautiful, magical, loved, and live happily ever after. While there are more instances of stories featuring headstrong princesses these days–favorites including books like Dealing with Dragons, movies like Brave, and TV series like Once Upon a Time–I still don’t automatically think of the modern woman when “princess” is uttered.
When I took Zimbino’s “Which Disney Princess Are You?” quiz, I ended up with Aurora–which I couldn’t help but balk against given her passivity. From birth, she is helpless to the curse given to her and does little to fight her fate. There’s an even darker version of the tale where the sleeping princess is raped by a passing king and only wakes after she has given birth to twins. Her story is more like a horror story than the happy ending we’ve come to expect from fairy tales.
The introduction of Log Horizon’s Lenessia looks much like any powerless princess. She passes each day like she’s sleepwalking; she smiles and pleases viewers, but ultimately does nothing worthwhile. It’s no wonder that by the time that Crusty meets her she already has resigned herself to a lifetime of meaninglessness. But through their interactions and his continual baldfaced honesty, Lenessia comes to realize just how tasteless her days have been thus far, and how much more the world has to offer her. When the moment came for her to decide between continuing her quiet, sheltered lifestyle and coming forward with the truth of the legendary Izumo Knights, not only does she do the latter, but she follows through with a truly noble proposal of diplomacy with herself as Eastal’s representative to the District of Akihabara.
“I’m just a stupid girl so I don’t really understand politics. But I think when you ask someone for something you should show respect…I learned from my grandfather that showing respect doesn’t mean using fancy words.”
–Lenessia, “A Lazy, Cowardly Princess”, Log Horizon
Lenessia’s request to go to the Adventurers in a gesture of peace to request aid in the war against the goblins seems like common sense, and I’d be tempted to attribute it to the predictability of NPC characters in any world-scale event. However, the reality of the situation is that this isn’t the world that our main characters, the Adventurers, grew to know through regular game play. From the very first episode, we’ve known that our players are stuck in an MMORPG, unable to log out or contact anyone outside of the game. While game knowledge is helpful to surviving Elder Tale, unpredictable elements keep occurring that defy all logic; not even Shiroe’s intellect and background knowledge of the game can prepare him for how the NPCs have evolved and how ignored quests have turned into world events that threaten everyone’s way of life. And unlike Adventurers, the People of the Land cannot revive. Even knowing this, Lenessia chose to venture alone with the Akihabara representatives back to their city and make her plea. Her bravery impresses me, as well as makes me wonder just how different the Adventurers and the People of the Land truly are now that the game has become their reality.
At the start of this arc of the Goblin King’s Return, the princess allowed herself to be a vision of nobility–inaccessible and ineffective. Now that we are nearing the clash between armies, she has turned into a more tangible vision of war, complete with skimpy armor and a passionate following. I’m wondering whether she’ll continue to remain removed from the front lines or if she’ll actually take part in the defense of Eastal. And if the goblin king is successfully thrown down and trade between Eastal and the various Adventurer districts flourishes, perhaps the travel gates will somehow be activated for fast access to other formerly unreachable parts of the world.
So venture forth, Lenessia Erhart Cowen, and redefine what it is to be a princess!