Twelve Dancing Princesses | Modern Interpretations

The story of Twelve Dancing Princesses and its themes have appeared in literature and other forms of art. This page provides a small discussion of some of the better known treatments by authors and other artists.

Modern Interpretations

Calhoun, Dia. The Phoenix Dance. New York: Farrar, Straus and Giroux, 2005. Buy the book in hardcover.

NOVEL: From publisher: "On the island of Faranor in the kingdom of Windward, twelve princesses dance their shoes to shreds each night. No one knows why. Not the king or queen. Not the knights, lords, or ladies-in-waiting. When the queen blames the royal shoemaker, his apprentice, Phoenix Dance, puts her life at risk to solve the mystery. She braves magic spells, dragons, evil wizards, and the treachery of the princesses themselves. As Phoenix faces these dangers, she finds herself caught in the dangerous dance inside herself – a dance of darkness and light, a dance that presents her with the greatest challenge of her life.

"This captivating companion to Aria of the Sea weaves a retelling of Grimm’s fairy tale of the Twelve Dancing Princesses with the story of a young woman’s inward journey toward an understanding of a scary, unpredictable part of her own nature."

This is a companion novel to Calhoun's lovely Aria of the Sea.


Dixon, Heather. Entwined. New York: Greenwillow Books, 2011. Buy the book in hardcover or ebook.

NOVEL: From publisher: "Azalea is trapped. Just when she should feel that everything is before her . . . beautiful gowns, dashing suitors, balls filled with dancing . . . it's taken away. All of it. The Keeper understands. He's trapped, too, held for centuries within the walls of the palace. And so he extends an invitation. Every night, Azalea and her eleven sisters may step through the enchanted passage in their room to dance in his silver forest. But there is a cost. The Keeper likes to keep things. Azalea may not realize how tangled she is in his web until it is too late."

The Midnight Dancers by Regina Doman


Doman, Regina. The Midnight Dancers. Front Royal, VA: Chesterton Press, 2008. Buy the book in hardcover or paperback.

NOVEL: From publisher: "When teenaged Rachel Durham finds a way that she and her eleven stepsisters can sneak out of their Chesapeake Bayside home after midnight, their worried fundamentalist father enlists the help of Paul Fester, a traveling juggler, to find out what the girls are up to. A modern retelling of Grimm's fairy tale, 'The Twelve Dancing Princesses.'" Doman's books are written primarily for a Catholic audience, but should appeal to a broader audience.


Princess of the Midnight Ball by Jessica Day George

George, Jessica Day. Princess of the Midnight Ball. New York: Bloomsbury, 2009. Buy the book in hardcover.

NOVEL: From the publisher: "A tale of twelve princesses doomed to dance until dawn… Galen is a young soldier returning from war; Rose is one of twelve princesses condemned to dance each night for the King Under Stone. Together Galen and Rose will search for a way to break the curse that forces the princesses to dance at the midnight balls. All they need is one invisibility cloak, a black wool chain knit with enchanted silver needles, and that most critical ingredient of all—true love—to conquer their foes in the dark halls below. But malevolent forces are working against them above ground as well, and as cruel as the King Under Stone has seemed, his wrath is mere irritation compared to the evil that awaits Galen and Rose in the brighter world above."

The Princess Curse by Merrie Haskell

Haskell, Merrie. The Princess Curse. New York: HarperCollins, 2011. Buy the book in hardcover.

NOVEL: From the publisher: "I'm not your average hero. I actually wasn't your average anything. Just a poor guy working an after-school job at a South Beach shoe repair shop to help his mom make ends meet. But a little magic changed it all. It all started with a curse. And a frognapping. And one hot-looking princess, who asked me to lead a rescue mission. There wasn't a fairy godmother or any of that. And even though I fell in love along the way, what happened to me is unlike any fairy tale I've ever heard. Before I knew it, I was spying with a flock of enchanted swans, talking (yes, talking!) to a fox named Todd, and nearly trampled by giants in the Everglades. Don't believe me? I didn't believe it either. But you'll see. Because I knew it all was true, the second I got cloaked."

Wildwood Dancing by Juliet Marillier

Marillier, Juliet. Wildwood Dancing. New York: Knopf Books, 2007. Buy the book in hardcover or paperback.

NOVEL: From publisher: "High in the Transylvanian woods, at the castle Piscul Draculi, live five daughters and their doting father. It's an idyllic life for Jena, the second eldest, who spends her time exploring the mysterious forest with her constant companion, a most unusual frog. But best by far is the castle's hidden portal, known only to the sisters. Every Full Moon, they alone can pass through it into the enchanted world of the Other Kingdom. There they dance through the night with the fey creatures of this magical realm.

"But their peace is shattered when Father falls ill and must go to the southern parts to recover, for that is when cousin Cezar arrives. Though he's there to help the girls survive the brutal winter, Jena suspects he has darker motives in store. Meanwhile, Jena's sister has fallen in love with a dangerous creature of the Other Kingdom--an impossible union it's up to Jena to stop.

"When Cezar's grip of power begins to tighten, at stake is everything Jena loves: her home, her family, and the Other Kingdom she has come to cherish. To save her world, Jena will be tested in ways she can't imagine--tests of trust, strength, and true love."

Marillier is also the author of Daughter of the Forest (Six Swans) and Wildwood Dancing (Twelve Dancing Princesses).

The Twelve Dancing Princesses by Ellen Miles

Miles, Ellen. The Twelve Dancing Princesses. New York: Scholastic, 2004. Buy the book in paperback.

NOVEL: For junior readers. "Princess Jessamine loves to dance. Every night, when the rest of the castle has gone to bed, she and her sisters descend a hidden staircase to an enchanted kingdom where they dance through the night--and right through their shoes! Their father, the king, is determined to discover where the princesses sneak off to each night. He promises that whoever can reveal the princesses' secret may ask one of them to be his wife!Suitors flock from far and wide. Can Jessamine and her sisters guard their secret...and their hearts?"

The Night Dance

Weyn, Suzanne. The Night Dance. New York: Simon Pulse, 2005. Buy the book in paperback.

NOVEL: "Rowena, the youngest of twelve sisters, loves to slip out of the castle at night and dance in a magical forest. Soon she convinces her sisters to join her. When Sir Ethan notices that his daughters' slippers look tattered every morning, he is certain they've been sneaking out. So he posts a challenge to all the suitors in the kingdom: The first man to discover where his daughters have been is free to marry the one he chooses.

"Meanwhile a handsome young knight named Bedivere is involved in a challenge of his own: to return the powerful sword, Excalibur, to a mysterious lake. While looking for the lake, Bedivere meets the beautiful Rowena and falls for her. Bedivere knows that accepting Sir Ethan's challenge is the only opportunity for him to be with Rowena forever. But this puts both Bedivere and Rowena in a dangerous in which they risk their lives for a chance at love."


Winterson, Jeanette. Sexing the Cherry. Buy the book in paperback.

NOVEL: For older audiences. In the reign of Charles II, Jordan and his mother, the Dog-Woman, live on the banks of the stinking Thames, where they take in sights ranging from the first pineapple in London to Royalist heads on pikes. As a young man, Jordan leaves to travel the world, seeking wonder and knowledge, and learns that every journey conceals another within it. Sexing The Cherry celebrates the power of the imagination as it playfully juggles with our perceptions of history and reality; love and sex; lies and truths; and the twelve dancing princesses who lived happily ever after, but not with their husbands.

The Thirteenth Princess

Zahler, Diane. The Thirteenth Princess. New York: HarperCollins, 2010. Buy the book in hardcover.

NOVEL: From the publisher: "Zita is not an ordinary servant girl—she's the thirteenth daughter of a king who wanted only sons. When she was born, Zita's father banished her to the servants' quarters to work in the kitchens, where she can only communicate with her royal sisters in secret. Then, after Zita's twelfth birthday, the princesses all fall mysteriously ill. The only clue is their strangely worn and tattered shoes. With the help of her friends—Breckin the stable boy, Babette the witch, and Milek the soldier—Zita follows her bewitched sisters into a magical world of endless dancing and dreams. But something more sinister is afoot—and unless Zita and her friends can break the curse, the twelve princesses will surely dance to their deaths. A classic fairy tale with a bold twist, The Thirteenth Princess tells the unforgettable story of a magical castle, true love, spellbound princesses—and the young girl determined to save them all."


Hoffman, Nina Kiriki. "Night Life." Magazine of Fantasy and Science Fiction. August 2000.

Also available in:
Hoffman, Nina Kiriki. "Night Life." Time Travelers, Ghosts, and Other Visitors. New York: Five Star, 2003. Buy the book in hardcover.


Mayer, Gloria Gilbert and Thomas Mayer. "The Twelve Dancing Princesses." Goldilocks on Management: 27 Revisionist Fairy Tales for Serious Managers. New York: American Management Association, 1999. Buy the book in hardcover.



McKillip, Patricia. "The Twelve Dancing Princesses." A Wolf at the Door. Ellen Datlow and Terri Windling, eds. New York: Simon & Schuster, 2000. Buy the book in hardcover or paperback.



McKinley, Robin. "The Twelve Dancing Princesses." The Door in the Hedge. Greenwillow Publishing, 1981. Buy the book in hardcover or paperback.

SHORT STORY: McKinley's rendition of the tale is charming, but it does not provide a vastly different rendition of the tale.


Wingate, Anne. "'The Twelve Dancing Princesses' Revisited." Once Upon A Crime. Ed Gorman and Martin H. Greenberg, eds. New York: Berkeley Prime Crime, 1998. Buy the book in hardcover or paperback.

SHORT STORY: This time the "princesses" are daughters of a mob boss, but they still disappear mysteriously every night.



Allen, Debbie. Brothers of the Knight. Kadir Nelson, illustrator. New York: Dial Books, 1999. Buy the book in hardback or paperback.

PICTURE BOOK: Library of Congress Description: In this contemporary retelling of the fairy tale "The Twelve Dancing Princesses," an African-American reverend in Harlem endeavors to discover why the shoes of his twelve sons are worn to pieces every morning.


Bateman, Teresa. The Princesses Have a Ball. Lynne Cravath, illustrator. Morton Grove, Ill. : A. Whitman, 2002. Buy the book in hardback.

PICTURE BOOK: Library of Congress Description: In this rhyming update of the fairy tale of the "Twelve Dancing Princesses," twelve princesses wear out their shoes playing basketball.


Fitchett, Gordon. The Twelve Princesses. New York: Phyllis Fogelman, 2000. Buy the book in hardback.

PICTURE BOOK: Originally published in Australia, this book portrays the traditional tale while the illustrations depict the characters as ducks.


Mayer, Marianna. The Twelve Dancing Princesses. Kinuko Craft, illustrator. New York: William Morrow, 1989. Buy the book in hardback or paperback.

PICTURE BOOK: A luciously illustrated rendition of the tale.


Sanderson, Ruth. The Twelve Dancing Princesses. New York: Little Brown, 1993. Buy the book in paperback.

PICTURE BOOK: Traditional tale enhanced by Sanderson's high quality illustrations.


Grimm, Wilhelm and Jacob. The Twelve Dancing Princesses. Jane Ray, illustrator. New York: Dutton, 1996. Buy the book in hardback.


The Poets' Grimm edited by Beaumont and Carlson

Gilbert, Sandra M. "The Twelve Dancing Princesses." The Poets' Grimm: 20th Century Poems from Grimm Fairy Tales. Jeanne Marie Beaumont and Claudia Carlson, editors. Ashland, OR: Story Line Press, 2003. p. 18. Buy the book in paperback.


Rockwell, Margaret. "The Twelve Dancing Princesses." The Poets' Grimm: 20th Century Poems from Grimm Fairy Tales. Jeanne Marie Beaumont and Claudia Carlson, editors. Ashland, OR: Story Line Press, 2003. p. 115. Buy the book in paperback.

Transformations by Anne Sexton

Sexton, Anne. "The Twelve Dancing Princesses." Transformations. Houghton Mifflin Co., 1979. Buy the book in hardcover or paperback.

Also available in:
Sexton, Anne. "The Twelve Dancing Princesses." The Poets' Grimm: 20th Century Poems from Grimm Fairy Tales.Jeanne Marie Beaumont and Claudia Carlson, editors. Ashland, OR: Story Line Press, 2003. p. 32. Buy the book in paperback.

This poem is available online through at The Twelve Dancing Princesses by Anne Sexton.


Smith, Stevie. "The Ballet of the Twelve Dancing Princesses." Women's Poetry of the 1930's: A Critical Anthology. Jane Dowson, editor. New York: Routledge, 1996.

I have listed primarily classical compositions of music using the themes of this fairy tale in either ballet, opera or some other musical style. I have also provided links to popular recordings of the music when available at The advantage to these links is that you can listen to samples of the music at no charge.


Brothers of the Night Original Soundtrack

Ingram, James, composer. Brothers of the Knight. 1998. Buy the soundtrack.

SOUNDTRACK: This is the soundtrack to the musical discussed under DRAMA below.


To learn more about these films, please visit the
Internet Movie Database.


The Wonderful World of the Brothers Grimm

The Wonderful World of the Brothers Grimm (1962)Henry Levin and George Pal, directors.
Buy the movie on VHS.

Laurence Harvey .... Wilhelm Grimm/The Cobbler ('The Cobbler and the Elves') 
Karlheinz Böhm .... Jacob Grimm (as Karl Boehm) 
Claire Bloom .... Dorothea Grimm 
Walter Slezak .... Stossel 
Barbara Eden .... Greta Heinrich

The story of Wilhelm and Jacob Grimm, and three of their stories, including The Dancing Princesses.

The Dancing Princesses (1978) (TV). Ben Rea, director.

Joseph O'Conor .... The King (as Joseph O'Connor) 
Rosalie Crutchley .... Nurse 
Bosco Hogan .... Jamie 
Christopher Biggins .... Otto


The Dancing Princesses (1978) (TV). Jon Scoffield, director.

Jim Dale .... Soldier 
Gloria Grahame .... Witch 
Freddie Jones .... King 
Peter Butterworth .... Chancellor 
Lesley Collier .... Princess



Shelley Duvall's Faerie Tale TheatreFaerie Tale Theatre: The Dancing PrincessesFaerie Tale Theatre: The Dancing Princesses


Shelley Duvall's Faerie Tale Theatre: The Dancing Princesses (1987) (TV). Peter Medak, director. Buy the series on DVD.

Lesley Ann Warren ... Genetta
Peter Weller ... Soldier
Roy Dotrice ... King
Starr Andreeff ... Dinetta
Laura Harrington ... Coretta
Sachi Parker ... Loretta
Viveca Parker ... Musetta
Lora Staley ... Wanetta
Ian Abercrombie ... The Cobbler
Zelda Rubinstein ... Old Woman
Max Wright ... Prince Heinrick

This television series originally aired on Showtime for six seasons and a total of 27 episodes. To see a full episode list, go to Shelley Duvall's Faerie Tale Theatre.

The tale presents six princesses instead of the usual twelve.

Barbie in the 12 Dancing Princesses

Barbie in the 12 Dancing Princesses (2006). USA.
Buy the movie on DVD.

ANIMATION: Mattel's tie-in movie to accompany the release of their Barbie in The Twelve Dancing Princesses toy line.

Barbie In The 12 Dancing Princesses Princess Genevieve DollBarbie In The 12 Dancing Princesses Prince Derek DollBarbie In The 12 Dancing Princesses Princess Ashlyn Doll



Allen, Debbie and James Ingram. Brothers of the Knight. 1998.
Buy the picture book adaptation in paperback. or 
Buy the soundtrack.

MUSICAL: The stage production of this musical premiered at the Kennedy Center in Washington, DC in 1998.

Library of Congress Description: In this contemporary retelling of the fairy tale "The Twelve Dancing Princesses," an African-American reverend in Harlem endeavors to discover why the shoes of his twelve sons are worn to pieces every morning.

Read more about it on the Kennedy Center's website.


Rogers, June Walker. Twelve Dancing Princesses. Book by June Walker Rogers. Music by Diane Leslie. Lyrics by David Rogers. Woodstock, IL: Dramatic Publishing Company of Chicago, 1976.
Read more about the play on the Dramatic Publishing website.

MUSICAL: A king with 12 unmarried daughters and a mystery to solve! How do the 12 lovely princesses wear out their shoes night after night when they are securely locked in a room from which there is no escape? And where do the princes who come to woo them disappear to? The mystery is solved by Michael, an ambitious cowherd, with the help of Sterling, the Silver Fairy. To "kick-up-your-heels" dancing melodies, Michael discovers the princesses' secret and wins the hand of the youngest, Princess Linda.

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