Who knew that Willa Cather tried her hand at a fairy tale? This month’s story, “The Princess Baladina—Her Adventure” is a fairy tale that Cather published in 1896 for The Home Monthly.
Cather was hired as the first managing editor of The Home Monthly in the summer of 1896. It was the first job that took her east, to Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. Cather worked for the publication from June 1896 to July 1897, and wrote much of the content that filled its pages, often using a pseudonym.
In the case of “The Princess of Baladina — Her Adventure,” Cather used one of her younger brother’s names as author, Charles Douglass. This story appeared in a section called “With the Young Folks,” so read it with that in mind.
If there’s a young person in your life, read it to them. It would be interesting to hear what a contemporary kid thinks of this story about a discontented princess.
Early editing career
In March 1897, a reporter for the Pittsburgh Press, Jeanette Barbour, wrote an article about Cather in her new position called “A Woman Editor.” Here’s a snippet:
“Miss Willa Cather, the editor of the Home Monthly, is not Pittsburger, but she is carrying on her editorial work here and is such a thoroughly up-to-date woman she certainly should be mentioned among the pioneers in woman’s advancement… Miss Cather is just beginning her career, but she is doing it with the true progressive western spirit, that fears neither responsibility nor work, and it will be a career worth watching. To go off, when one is but twenty-one, into an entirely new part of the country and undertake to establish and edit a new magazine requires plenty of ‘grit’—a quality as valuable in a business woman as in a business man.”Source: “Annotations from the Archive: Early Magazine Days,” National Willa Cather Center (link)
Click through on this link to read more about Cather’s early magazine days and to see a great photo of her working at her desk.
Read “The Princess Baladina—Her Adventure” over on the Willa Cather Archive sometime this month and then come back to discuss it on the response post I’ll share on November 24th, the fourth Wednesday of the month. Or, feel free to read it now and comment here if you can’t wait until then!
New to this blog? Learn more about the Willa Cather Short Story Project here. In a nutshell, we’re reading one Cather short story a month. I remind everyone of what story we’re reading on the second Wednesday of the month and then share a response on the fourth Wednesday of the month. Jump in anytime!
Out of the mouth of babes…This spoiled princess did indeed find a worthy prince. At least her father was wise enough to reward the boy for his gallant behavior…even if he wasn’t really a prince.
I collect illustrated children’s books–or more accurately, I collected during what I call the Second Golden Years of Illustrated Children’s Books, about a century after the wonderful years of British illustrators prior to W.W. I. My collection covers the closing years of that same century with the beautifully illustrated books of Scott Gustafson, Robert Ingpen, Jerry Pinkney, K.Y. Craft, Charles Santore, and many more. Many of the books they illustrated were fairy tales, which offer such opportunities for children’s imagination and subtle lessons about life. Fortunately for my budget but sadly for children, today’s children’s books are inferior in both the writing and the illustrations–in my opinion.
I enjoyed Cather’s fairy tale, and I think children would too. She dispensed with the magic but told a fun story with a lesson that wasn’t too heavy-handed.
This was hilarious! Love Cathers fractured fairy tale with sly social commentary.
[…] mentioned in the reminder post for this story, Cather was the new editor of The Home Monthly in August 1896 when this story […]