When I think of Fairy tales like Cinderella and Snow White, I think of wicked stepmothers and spiteful siblings. So I first approached Princess in the Rough (by HAERUA and Harasyo) with that expectation. While the webtoon does begin as a Cinderella story, it suddenly takes an unexpected and pleasantly surprising direction.
I’ve been granted free access to Princess in the Rough from Tapas. All opinions are my own.
Estrella lives in an abandoned castle in the forest with her small dragon companion Shion. The lost child of the Emperor, she isn’t discovered until she encounters a prince (her half-brother) and then a knight. After agreeing to go to the palace, she reunites with her father and half-siblings. Because of a curse set upon her late mother’s people, she and her mother were magically forgotten after the Emperor left them with the promise to return. As she adjusts to her new life, her power to see what others cannot challenges her fate. The country needs her to fight its enemies, but is it too soon for her to face her destiny?
Princess in the Rough contains gorgeous art and riveting storytelling. The fairytale-like story turns Estrella’s journey into a question of what it means to have extraordinary abilities. What does it mean to be someone with the fate of the country or the world on your shoulders? Estrella, just a child, lives most of her life struggling to find food in the forest. The palace introduces to her a loving family, hot meals, and clean clothes. She receives attention from her father and half-siblings.
What’s astonishing about this fantasy webcomic is the dynamics between Estrella and her newfound family. Even before entering the palace for the first time, the Emperor respects her needs and boundaries. Her half-siblings welcome her, competing for her attention instead of for the throne or inheritance. Even the stepmother takes the time to genuinely get to know her. There’s no jealousy or intent to get rid of Estrella or ruin her life.
When the call for her to save the country arrives, the Emperor, understandably, objects. He wants Estrella to be a child instead of experiencing horrors and violence early on. The internal and external conflicts provide enough tension and effective moments to drive the story. Overall, Princess in the Rough is a beautifully constructed webcomic that confronts the consequences of shouldering the burden of saving the world.
Author: Brahidaliz Martinez
Brahidaliz (pronounced Bra-da-leez) is a 2019 graduate of American University’s MFA in creative writing program. Their cross-genre chapbook, Coquí’s Song, is forthcoming (2023) from Mason Jar Press.
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