There is one common thread that runs through many of the fictional books I most passionately love, and that is that they are the same kind of myth: the myth of the hidden prince (or princess). Today I would like to discuss a little bit about why and how and why that particular myth has such a powerfuleffect on me personally and so many other people.
First, before we discuss the myth of the hidden prince itself, let us explore the effect that a myth has on a heart that is responsive and resonant with it. The effect is like the moon pulling on the tide, or of the wind of the Tacoma Narrows causing Galloping Gertie to, well, gallop. When we hear or read stories that deeply move us, the stories have an effect on us that pulls our emotional state like the moon, or that amplifies our feelings like the effect of a resonant frequency on waves. This is so because the myth itself corresponds with something that is already in our heart, making its effect on us that more powerful–whether good or bad.
Now, let us discuss in particular the hidden prince myth and its distinctive qualities. The myth of the hidden prince (or princess) is a story that tells of a young man (or young woman) who take on the form of a servant, as it were, but has within them the true and deep identity of a great and noble and important person, which gives them the strength to endure suffering and ultimately achieve their destiny. Despite savage and barbaric childhoods, hidden princes and princesses are able to proudly and resolutely endure and develop their God-given talents and abilities to achieve what they were put on this earth to do. Such stories deeply resonate with me personally (and not only me).
Such stories are also both strikingly common and enduringly popular. Harry Potter, the boy who lived despite ten years of abuse and neglect at the hand of his “Muggle” aunt and uncle, is a hidden prince. So is Prince Arthur. Sara Crewe, heroine of A Little Princess, is a hidden princess whose proud knowledge that she is better than a mere scullery maid and of her father’s love allows her to overcome brutal mistreatment at the hand of the cruel Miss Minchin. The Bible’s David, Joseph, and Jesus Christ are all “hidden princes,” as is Moses. (Small wonder those stories of the Bible have resonated with so many, myself included.) At least three of Jane Austen’s heroines are hidden princesses of one sort or another, Catherine Moreland, Fanny Price, and Anne Eliot. At least one of her heroes is also a hidden prince, Mr. Fitzwilliam Darcy. Both of Jane Eyre’s main characters are also–Jane Eyre and Mr. Rochester. Shasta of C.S. Lewis’ A Horse and His Boy is one too. Abraham Lincoln was a hidden prince as well–a reminder (along with the biblical stories) that hidden princes belong to real life as well as well as the realm of fiction. Simply because something is a “myth” or touches upon a myth does not make it untrue. Far from it.
The fact that hidden princes are so ubiquitous and so enduringly popular ought to give us a bit of pause. Why does that myth strike a nerve with so many hearts (my own included)? I will venture some hypotheses. For one, human beings often see people based on superficial appearance, or wealth or one’s birth status, without taking a look at how someone is inside. So long as we see only the outside the noble characters of those we consider common will remain unseen. Those whose deep and notable virtues are ignored by others will see themselves (accurately) as hidden princes and princesses unloved and uncared for by those around them, and will draw strength and encouragement, along with a fair amount of righteous anger, from the fact that such heroes and heroines are very common in both life and literature. Additionally, far too many vulnerable children have to endure and overcome child abuse, neglect, bullying, and other lamentable and wretched fates that are far too common in this world. Such children (and the adults they grow up into) are painfully aware that their worth was not recognized by those around them, including their closest family–a key component of the “hidden prince” myth that is true for many people. One of the ways such children endure is to remember that they are better than their abusers because they do not sink down to their level, a prideful component of hidden prince (and princess) stories that rings very true to life. Our character and our choices, not our backgrounds and experiences, are what defines our worth as people.
This is to say that there are many hidden princes in this world. Though some elitists may scoff and say that only the most beautiful or wealthiest or strongest ought to consider themselves confident or worthy, such snobs are quite wrong. We have worth as human beings, all of us, of whatever origin or background, because we are all children of our heavenly Father, creator and ruler over all the universe. We are all children of a king. We are all of royal birth–our elder brother is Jesus Christ, King of Kings and Lord of Lords. Therefore, to the extent that our dignity and honor is not respected by others around us, whether our family or neighbors or others, we are hidden princes and hidden princesses. And we know it deep in our hearts because the stories of others like ourselves resonates so strongly with. The truth of the myth resonates with the truths inside our hearts, our deepest longings and struggles that we may be too shy or too proud to admit even to ourselves. And that is the power of the myth of the hidden prince–that it is indeed true, and we are all princes and princesses, awaiting the time when our glory will be seen by our terrified enemies, who will have to ask us for mercy and forgiveness for their cruelty and evil. And we, being noble princes and princesses, will give it to them, knowing that though they had evil in their hearts that it was designed ultimately from above for the good. For being a hidden prince or princess means not only having the glory and the power, but also the nobility of character, to be above such petty selfish pleasures as personal revenge.