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The Gypsy Princess

By Phoebe Gilman, Scholastic Canada

Summary

Cinnamon could read fortunes and speak to the wind. She could carve wonderful animals and dance with a bear but she dreamed of great fortune. When one day she is given the opportunity to become a princess Cinnamon gives up her old life without thinking about anyone else. She soon finds that gold cannot bring her all the happiness she thought.

Guidelines for Philosophical Discussion

By Leanne Doherty

Phoebe Gilman’s story The Gypsy Princess addresses various philosophical topics including happiness, friendship and personal identity. In the story, Cinnamon leaves her old life and friends behind in order to pursue her dreams of gold and being a princess, which she believes will make her happier.

Happiness and what you need to be happy is a great place to start a discussion. Asking questions such as “What makes you happy?”; “Does getting everything you want make you happy?”, and “Have you ever not been as happy as you should have been when you received something you wanted?” also known as buyer's remorse, are all good starting points.

One idea of achieving happiness suggests that one should, whenever possible, seek better forms of happiness. As John Stuart Mill believes, there are two pursuits of happiness, lower and higher. Lower pleasures involve immediate satisfaction, such as Cinnamon’s pursuit of a ‘crown of gold’, and higher pleasures are those which engage the mind, strong relationships of friendship. Starting a discussion about the situations that make people happy is a good way to initiate a discussion about what it means to be happy. The Gypsy Princess concentrates on the mistake of not appreciating the happiness that your current situation provides.

Another topic that this story touches on is Friendship. Cinnamon’s material based friendship with Princess Cyprina, one based entirely on gaining wealth from the other person, can be starkly contrasted with the mutually affectionate relationship between her and Babalazzi, a friendship where both parties contribute selflessly for the well-being of the other. These two forms of friendship satisfy different needs. Cinnamon’s friendship with Princess Cyprina would be one stemming from utility, how useful having her as a friend is; whereas Babalazzi satisfies a friendship of pleasure, not for selfish gain. Most definitions of friendship involve a mutual love for each other, or caring for the other person for their sake without any motives. When discussing friendship with the class different types of friends, best friends, acquaintances, classmate, family friends, and the characteristics of good friendship may be considered. Cinnamon’s action of trading Babalazzi with Cyprina may initiate a discussion around the permissibility of a friend to trade up when someone new comes along.

Questions for Philosophical Discussion

General Questions

  1. Why don’t you think Babalazzi would go with Cinnamon and Princess Cyprina?
  2. Cyprina said if Cinnamon and her bear would come to the palace, Cyprina would never be bored again. Do you think that would have been true? Why or Why not?
  3. If you were in Cinnimon’s situation would you have left Babalazzi?
  4. Does anyone know what ‘Pomade’ and ‘Crinolines’ are? (Pomade is a greasy substance that is used to style hair. Crinolines are a stiffened petticoat designed to support the skirts of a woman’s dress.)
  5. When dancing with Princes, Cinnamon thought dancing with Babalazzi was more fun. Cinnamon got what she had wanted, why don’t you think she was happy?

Friendship

Cinnamon has great dreams and when Princess Cyprina gives her the chance to live them Cinnamon does not hesitate to leave her friends behind.

  1. Do you think Cinnamon made the right choice in leaving her Aunt and Babalazzi behind? Why or why not?
  2. Do you think Babalazzi was sad that his friend left him?
  3. Can people still be friends even if they are apart?
  4. Was it fair that Cinnamon seemed to trade Babalzzi’s friendship for Princess Cyprina’s friendship?
  5. What makes a good friendship?
  6. Can people have friendships with things other than people, like animals and inanimate objects? Why or why not?
  7. Should you be friends with someone just to get something? Is that really friendship?
  8. How do you know if someone is being a good friend?

Happiness

"Even Princesses can be unhappy [because] there are things more precious than a crown of gold" auntie told Cinnamon

  1. Do you believe auntie when she says that “even princesses can be unhappy?” If you had everything that a prince or princess had would you be happy?
  2. What types of things make you happy? What do you need to be happy?
  3. Cinnamon says she is “lonely” when she is in the castle.
  4. Do you think this is why she is unhappy?
  5. Do we need other people to make us happy?
  6. When was Cinnamon happiest? When are you the happiest?
  7. How would you feel if your best friend didn’t recognize you?
  8. Have you ever wanted something so much you thought you could never be happy without it?
  9. Were you made as happy by getting it as you thought you would be? Why or why not?

Personal Identity

"Have I changed so much" that even my old friend no longer recognizes me? Cinnamon Wondered

  1. Does changing how you dress change who you are?
  2. What types of things can you change without becoming someone else?
  3. What things can’t you change?
  4. When Cinnamon gets dressed in fancy clothes with her hair done up is she a princess?
  5. Is she still a princess when she is not dressed up?
  6. Cinnamon says she’s “Lost” during one of her dreams, what do you think she means by this?
  7. When Cinnamon attempted to leave the castle she complained about her crown and her shoes then turned back. Do you think she actually couldn’t carry on because of these items, or do you think she was making excuses because she was still unsure of what she wanted?

This book module deals with ethics, specifically friendship and happiness, and metaphysics, specifically personal identity?. You can buy this book on Amazon.

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