Everyone loves Disney Princesses, which is why they make up approximately 100% of online content. You might not know, though, that history is full of lesser-known awesome princesses. In honor of Women’s History Month, here are 5 incredible real-life women that Disney should totally turn into movies.
Princess Yennenga, West African Warrior Daughter Turned Queen Mother
According to oral tradition, Yennenga was princess of the Dagamoba Kingdom in 15th century West Africa. She was beautiful, beloved, and very good at riding horses, which also describes the main character of every book written by a 6-year-old girl. From the age of 14, she commanded her own battalion in her father’s army. In a surprising twist on how this story would usually go, her father forbade her from getting married because she was so good at fighting. When she protested, he placed her under house arrest, but she escaped and fled on horseback. Dressed like a man, just to complete Strong Female Character Bingo. After a tumultuous journey, in which she fought off attackers from rival tribes, she met a sexy elephant hunter named Riale and fell in love. Their son, Ouedraogo, grew up to found the Mossi Kingdom. As a result, Yennenga is considered the mother of the Mossi people.
Princess Zhao of Pingyang, China’s Real-Life Daenerys Targaryen
Some princesses are born. Others marry into the throne. Pingyang, on the other hand, earned her title the hard (read: awesome) way. She was the daughter of a military commander during the reign of Yangdi, emperor of the Sui Dynasty in 600s China. Now, Yangdi is considered one of the worst tyrants in Chinese history, and since Chinese history spans 5000+ years, that says a lot. Her father and husband led the inevitable rebellion, but Pingyang had to escape the palace solo to return to her family estate. Upon learning the common people were starving, she opened the family storehouses and distributed food. This made her so popular that many men pledged loyalty to her…so many that she soon had an army of her own.
At the tender age of 20, Pingyang personally led her troops in battle, traveling from province to province to recruit other rebels. Her forces eventually rose to 70,000, thanks to her Khaleesi-like combination of kindness with badassness: her men were forbidden from looting, raping, and pillaging, instead celebrating victories by distributing food to the poor. Yangdi hadn’t taken the “Army of the Lady” seriously, but after his subjects started welcoming her as a liberator, he couldn’t ignore her any longer. He sent a whole battallion to fight hers, but her makeshift army routed his troops and defeated them. Soon after, she reunited with her father and husband, and their armies together fought the final battle to overthrow the emperor. Her father founded the Tang dynasty, a golden age in Chinese history. Pingyang was given the title “zhao”, meaning “wise”…and of course, the title of princess.
Princess Eréndira of the Purépecha, Who Loved Ponies (And Used Them to Stick it to the Spanish)
It’s debatable whether Eréndira, princess of the indigenous Purépecha people of modern-day Mexico, actually existed. But folk legend holds that when Spanish conquistadors invaded her homeland in the 16th century, she led her people to war against them, at the young age of 16 or 17. After killing a Spanish soldier, she stole his horse, and afterward, she taught her people to steal the conquistador’s horses and use them against them. While the rebellion was ultimately unsuccessful—accounts of Eréndira’s fate range from exile to suicide—she was much celebrated for her heroism. One legend claims her own people loved her so much they stole her away and put her in a temple to protect her from the Spanish.
Princess Khutulun, Strong, Independent Mongolian Wrestler Who Didn’t Need a Man
Khutulun was the daughter of Kaidu, a 13th century Mongol king, and exactly no one was surprised when she turned out to be a total badass. She was the great-great-granddaughter of the infamously brutal Genghis Khan, as well as the great-niece of Kublai Khan. Her clan greatly valued physical strength, with much prestige given to horseback riding and archery. Khutulun was incredibly gifted at all these sports, surpassing all 14 of her brothers in skill. Her real talent, though, was wrestling. When her father wanted her to get married and she wasn’t down for that, she made a deal: she’d marry any man who could defeat her in a wrestling match. Potential suitors who lost would have to give her 100 horses. Khutulun defeated every single man who stepped forward, ending up with 10,000 horses. Her father loved her all the more for her fierce independence, though, and she ended up his most trusted military advisor and a high-ranking member of the fearsome Mongolian army.
Princess Noor Inayat Khan, WWII Spy and Martyr
Noor Inayat Khan wasn’t your typical Disney Princess. She was a bona fide blue-blood—she was descended from Tipu Sultan, who ruled over the Indian kingdom of Mysore—but she was born in 1914, during British imperialism, and raised in Europe, so she was pretty removed from her royal roots. Also, her story had a tragic ending. It was so remarkable, though, that it deserves to be told: Khan, besides being a princess, was an Allied spy who sacrificed her life to defeat the Nazis.
On the surface, Khan seemed like a terrible choice to spy for the British. Besides naturally standing out as a biracial princess, the daughter of an Indian father and a white American mother, she was a pacifist and such a devout Muslim that she refused to lie. In fact, she flat-out told the British spy recruiters that she actually opposed their government and would campaign for Indian independence as soon as the Nazis were dealt with. She was shy and clumsy and struggled with spy training. Also, her pre-war profession was writing children’s books and playing the harp. The harp. Do you know how much less badass that awesome musician in Mad Max: Fury Road would have been if he’d ridden on the back of that car with a harp instead of a electric guitar that shoots fire? It was a miracle that she was admitted into the elite spy squad and deployed in France, their first undercover female radio operator.
She ended up the last surviving radio operator for the French Resistance, after a massive crackdown destroyed almost their entire network, but single-handedly continued the operation, relaying all intelligence back to London all by herself. She refused to abandon the Parisian outpost despite the tremendous danger, changing her name and location almost daily for 5 months to evade the Nazis. When she was finally caught, she never gave the Gestapo a scrap of information, even after 10 months of solitary confinement and torture. Finally, she was executed in Dachau concentration camp, but remained defiant to the end. Her last word was “Liberté.”