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Twice a year a group of very nice Belgian LARPers organise a day-long LARP for kids between six and twelve. They make their own characters, have to manage their hit points, mana and xp. They cast spells and swing rubber swords around. And they fight, explore and puzzle their way through a fantasy world with a lot of stories.

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The 8-year old daughter of friends is a regular player and she asked us to come. So the last two times we volunteered to play NPCs on Ankoria. I’ve played the same part each time: a spoiled princess. The first game I was a side character for the young heir who had to marry me as part of the trial he had to fulfill to become the emperor. But he was in love with a lady pirate and I was spoiled and annoying! In the end, I was ditched in favor for true love, but the kids convinced me to take up adventuring instead. Whoo!

This time, I had gone on an adventuring mission to another continent of the world. Our ship had crashed on the shores and we were beset by pirates, and rescued at the last moment by the kids. Together we travelled to a Calt (Keltish) village and helped its barbarian inhabitants defend themselves from the demon pirates. Sadly we couldn’t prevent them from freeing the trickster demon Floki (…) and we’ll have to deal with him some other time.

I’m not sure how I landed the “play the pretty, pretty princess” part. I’m not much of a girly girl, never had a princess phase, have no jewelry, wear no make-up, and have no cute dresses.

But, as it turns out, little girls don’t really care. As long as you are a princess, it’s all cool. “Are you a real princess?” they kept asking. I kept saying yes every time. They held my hand, admired my clingy velvet (fake H&M velvet) dress and my gold locket. Hugged me, found me when they were crying or scared, and told me tons and tons of stories. I didn’t really have a name, I was just ‘the princess’.

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And not as bad as it may sound to you. Princesses carry swords around and go adventuring. They fight monsters and get it on with men who are good instead of handsome. No single little boy or girl told me I couldnt do something because I was a princess. Princesses rock especially because they are a tad squeamish, scared of scary things, and don’t have crazy delusions about being invincible. So when they do got out and kick butt, they are being doubly awesome!

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I don’t know. I feel like how vampires and werewolves are metaphors for teen hood, princesses are a metaphor for what it’s like to be a young girl. Often when I was playing my part I was just mirroring the things the other little girls were saying. They cried when they got rope burn at the rope pulling contest, but they went on to the next contest anyway. They cried again at the scary monster, but attacked it when it’s back was turned. They complained about walking far and getting their dresses dirty, but kept right on walking. It’s a time of playing the hand you’re dealt. It’s a time of negotiating life’s ups and downs and bravely stepping into a world where not everyone recognizes your authority or fawns over you.

It’s a pretty magical time.

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This LARP was also the first time Jan played an NPC that took the kids along for adventuring, and he spent a ton of time with them. I was surprised how well he did! He even found an admirer in the white dressed girl in the picture above, who walked with him hand in hand and told him many many stories as well. So sweet!

Near the end of the game, a boy came up to us and said

“I wish real life could be like this. Except the monsters, I mean.”

We hear you, little boy.

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