Welcome to the official release of The Princess and the Pauper – Regendered. It’s available now for purchase on Amazon! The story follows two young girls in 16th century England, one a princess and heir to the kingdom and the other a pauper. Circumstances arise which allows them to trade places, and they each must adapt and learn how to live in the others shoes. If this plot sounds familiar, then you’ve probably encountered one of the countless adaptions of it that’s appeared in movies and television shows.
While the central plot has been used over and over again, with varying degrees of success, I think it continues to be interesting and relevant. The idea of looking at someone else’s life and imagining the grass is greener for them is something that people continue to do. By showing us what it’s actually like for someone to live in another person’s life, we gain some insight into their reality, and hopefully a little more appreciation for our own lives. It feels like this trope is even more relevant in today’s social media age where all too often we get a false sense of how other people live based on what they choose to share with the world.
As usual, the novel presented its own unique challenges when I was regendering it. I talk about these in more detail in the Author’s Note, which I’ve included below. There aren’t too many spoilers in this one, so feel free to take a peak, but I’ve hidden it just to be safe.
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Once again, this novel was selected for The Regender Project due to its author as much as for the novel itself. I’ve admired the work of Mark Twain for ages and wanted to ensure I included something he’d written in the project. His two more famous works, the Adventures of Tom Sayer, and Huckleberry Finn, would have made great choices but I was particularly drawn to The Prince And The Pauper. The theme of characters swapping positions and roles, and discovering insight into how the other lives just resonated so much with what I’m trying to achieve with The Regender Project.
The biggest challenge I faced when regendering the novel was how I wanted to handle historical figures. One of the original ‘rules’ I established when creating The Regender Project was historical characters would remain unchanged and retain their original genders. Given this novel is centred on the royal family of England, I had to reassess this rule. In the end, I decided to keep the king, Henry VIII, and his wife, unchanged but regendered all the other characters. I felt this create enough of an anchor to its historical setting while also allowing the story to be regendered. It does end up creating an alternate version of history where one of the most famous kings of England had many sons and just a younger daughter who became his heir. It’s a situation I wanted to avoid but couldn’t in this case.
The next challenge was all the titles in the story. Just keeping track of them was difficult but the main issue was how biased they are towards males. While certain titles have obvious female equivalents, such as King and Queen, Duke and Duchess, and Baron and Baroness, there some many without them. Lords, Earls, and Sirs all regender to simply Lady. Not only would this have proven to be confusing, it didn’t accurately convey the differences in rank between the titles. I decided to regender Earls into Countesses, even though it’s a European rank not used in England.
As always, names proved to be a thorny issue. In this case, it was mostly due to the volume of them. Not only were there more characters than any of the other novels I’ve regendered but there were quite a few using the same name. ‘John’ in particular seemed very common, which no doubt mirrors the time the story’s set in. Regendering them all to the same name, such as ‘Jane’ or ‘Joan’, didn’t really have the same feel, as well as making the story a tad overly complicated. Therefore, I chose to regender each character into new, different names when they happened to share a first name.
Apart from these challenges, I found regendering the novel to be a delight. The end result keeps all the main themes and social commentary from the original novel but centres them around female characters. There is some sense of gender stereotypes are play, particularly with how now it is women who are presumed to be heirs and holders of important positions and titles. Also, the regendered novel features men portrayed as being soft, caring and nurturing, which is jarring a first but I think reinforces the lack of depth that female characters generally have.