A two-male fairytale breaks ground in children’s literature

Hayley Williams/Staff

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Let’s think back to bedtime stories: thin, hardbound books stacked atop the bedside table, unassuming but full of magic, wisdom and fantastical stories. Mother Goose, nursery rhymes, fairy tales and fables, princes slaying dragons, kings marrying off their fairest daughter to the most worthy suitor and the new royal couple living hetero ever after.

But what happens if the princess doesn’t want to get married? What if “hetero ever after” isn’t the only kind of happy ending?

University of the Pacific professor Jeffrey Miles answers these progressive questions in his groundbreaking children’s book, “The Princes and the Treasure.” The book follows Gallant and Earnest, two young bachelors on a quest to rescue Princess Elena, who was kidnapped by an evil witch. Along the way, they discover that teamwork and compatibility are their strongest suits and that neither of them was fit to marry the beautiful princess. Instead, they were meant to marry each other.

The book’s modern material is complemented by the traditional illustrations of artist J.L. Phillips.

“I wanted the book to have a timeless quality to it,” Miles said. “So I went with a rich, colorful fairytale style.”

The kingdom of Evergreen, where the story takes place, is an idyllic fairytale realm, complete with beautiful scenery and enchanting magic. But the fantastical notion of same-sex relationships being universally accepted is not far from a hopeful reality in the near future.

Miles treats same-sex marriage with normative respect and does not draw great attention to the fact that two men have fallen in love and are getting married: It’s exciting for Evergreen to be getting two new princes, but the princes’ marriage is far from controversial. The idea that an entire community is unfazed by the marriage of two men is reflective of viewing the situation through the eyes of a child.

“All of the kids who have read the story don’t find it unusual that the two characters who get married happen to be two men,” Miles said in an interview with Irish LGBT blog Gaelick. “Kids seem to see that love can happen between two people regardless of the couple’s gender. I’ve been amazed how easy that idea is for kids to understand, and how hard that is for some adults to understand.”

Miles is not the first author who has tried to help children and adults understand same-sex families and relationships. Author Leslea Newman has been writing LGBT-friendly children’s books since 1989, with the publication of her most famous and controversial work, “Heather Has Two Mommies.”

Although Miles is not the only author to tackle LGBT issues in children’s books, the fear of backlash from audiences with opposing viewpoints is inevitable. But Miles chooses to focus on those who are welcoming the book and its ideals, rather than those who vehemently oppose it. “I have never thought about the ‘demographic’ or the ‘target market’ for the book,” Miles said. “I wrote the story for anyone who wants to read a fairy tale story of two men who meet each other, go on an adventure, fall in love, get married and live happily ever after.”

Contact Rosemarie Alejandrino at [email protected].