Princess Ugg, volume 1 is a graphic novel by Ted Naifeh, illustrated by Warren Wucinich about a princess from a mountain kingdom who is used to a warrior lifestyle. Young Princess Ulga is taking a journey down to the lowlands where there are kingdoms living in peace, and with princesses that more or less fit the stereotype of a fairytale princess and that of typical mean girls. The story opens up to show us Ulga and her mother having a dialogue before Ulga goes into her fist battle. Simultaneously, we see a lowlander princess get up and start her day. Needless to say, the two are drastically different. The humor comes into play when at princess school they must room together.
This first volume sets out the conflicts that will continue to be present in the story, that of being different, being an outcast, and such things which young girls everywhere feel, but set in a very clear black and white contrast in this book. The second conflict isn’t brought up until near the end of the volume and that is how Ulga wants to bring diplomacy to her kingdom and, working with a tutor and these mean princesses, she sets out to do so. At the end of the volume, there is enough accomplished to feel like you’ve really read something, not just a snippet, but you walk away wanting to know the next chapter in Ulga’s journey.
The art in this book is fantastic; there is great attention to detail and fabulous colors. The style of Wucinich is very full, he shows Ulga’s muscles and pays close attention to every detail in the background as well as in the characters themselves. He depicts rage and joy and sadness. Everything needed to help support the characters’ dialogue and the narrator in this book.
It is clear the Ulga’s kingdom is based on Old Norse culture and legends and the lowlands are the classic Germanic fairytale types, reminiscent of Disney films. What was really interesting was how Naifeh wrote the dialogue of Ulga and her people in their vernacular. Everything was written exactly how it would sound spoken aloud. The lowlanders used more modern English as their speech to show the two people’s differences. Reading such dialogue was a bit hard at first but you quickly get used to how the speech flows.
Overall, this was a very cool and fun read. We live in a culture demanding that the princess stereotype be remade. We want princesses who are warriors, who are smart, and who don’t need a prince charming. Princess Ugg fits that demand wonderfully. It is fresh and interesting with a lesson for young girls about staying true to yourself and about how sometimes it’s harder to try for peace than it is to fight. I cannot wait to pick up volume two, for I will be following this series of graphic novels quite excitedly.
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