How to modernize The Twelve Dancing Princesses?

Hi berries!
I am going to be writing a modernized, non-magical version of The Twelve Dancing Princesses and wanted your ideas for the plot. I have several ideas, I just would like to see how everyone else would rewrite that classic story in the modern day without magic. Thanks in advance!

Oh, I love that story! Maybe they could be a dance team?


Such a great idea! I’m not sure how close you want to stay to the original, but I would probably turn it into the following, The Modern Twelve Dancing Princesses (With A Twist):

Twelve sisters live in [name_u]New[/name_u] [name_m]York[/name_m] with their father. Since their mother died after an assault, he is very protective and strict and locks their bedroom door every night. However, he notices that every morning his daughters’ shoes look dirty and worn. He questions them but they refuse to explain. He puts an advertisement online, offering anyone who wants to try to solve the mystery a stay of three days in his house. If they haven’t found it out by then, they have to leave and pay him $1000 for the visit. If they solve it, the father will pay them $10000.

Several men and women try to solve the mystery of the Twelve Sisters. All of them fail because the sisters secretly drug them with their sleeping medicine, that they were prescribed because they have had trouble sleeping after their mother’s death.

Then a young woman, about the age of the sisters takes the challenge. When the youngest sister meets her the first afternoon, they immediately like each other. After talking for hours, the sister tells the visitor not to drink or eat anything the other sisters offer her, pretend to be asleep and then silently follow them.
That evening the eldest sisters goes to the woman’s room and offers her a glass of wine. She takes it and trows it away secretly. Then she acts like she is tired and pretends to fall asleep. The eldest sister goes away satisfied.

Later that evening, once the sisters are locked in their bedroom by their father, they climb out of their window and take the subway. The visitor follows them from a distance, only noticed by the youngest sister. Once arrived, they go to their favorite club and dance the whole night. The youngest sister and the young woman dance together, out of sight from the others. After a fun night out they go home again, back to the locked bedroom.

The other two nights go just like this. The youngest sister and the young woman now realise they’re truly in love.
Knowing that it’s better not to hide the truth any longer, the sisters and the visitor tell the father about their nights and the youngest daughter comes out as lesbian. At first he becomes mad, but then he understands that his daughters aren’t little girls anymore and that they deserve more freedom, and love.


Ooh that’s a challenge because the magical aspect of the story is so intrinsic to it in my mind! I love the previous ideas, but to give it a slightly different vibe, here’s a middle grade level idea that sounds pretty interesting to me -

A family living on the outskirts of a forest grieve the death of their mother. The sisters become closer through the tragedy, growing apart from their emotionally distant father. At night they begin slipping out of their rooms at night, just a few at a time to keep the noise down, and meeting in their mother’s favorite large clearing in the woods. They remember her stories of magic and beauty, and though they know it’s all make believe, they find healing in the woods at night. That is, after all, the time their mother called the most magical.

They maintain the clearing and they decorate it, stringing up battery-powered lights and placing artificial candles at the bases of the trees all around. And then they dance, as they once danced in the classes their father no longer allows them to take. As their mother once danced. And gradually, the other children in their town begin to join them by invitation until the clearing in the forest is the town’s greatest and most magical secret. It’s a small, tight-knit community, and all the children are clever, knowing which nights to stay home so that the others aren’t caught, never posting on social media about it. At school, however, the teachers notice how tired all of their students have become. They begin to question them and inform parents of the problem. But none of the children crack and admit the truth. Those who know their parents will notice them sneaking out simply stop coming until they find a safer time to sneak out. Most parents come to the conclusion their children are just staying up on their phones too late. Teachers become resigned to the fact most of their students keep falling asleep in class. False rumors even fly through the school of nonexistent video games or “stay awake” challenges as the kids post fake comments about it online. But the school librarian isn’t buying it, even after weeks of caution and misdirection.

Watching one night, the librarian sees children sneaking along the edges of the sleepy little town and follows them undetected to the clearing where she sees everything that’s happening. Once the kids notice her, they beg her not to give away the secret they’ve worked so hard to keep. The librarian agrees on the condition that teachers see a rise in student efforts in class - however they manage that is their responsibility. With this new understanding, the students shorten the hours of their nighttime parties and many of them begin sneaking out less often. Sometimes, the librarian joins the party and is welcomed. Volunteering at the school library becomes a more popular choice than ever. And though the secret is eventually leaked after some time, the tradition of seasonal festivals planned and attended in the forest by the town’s children continues for years and years to come.


Okay, please note that this is very poorly written. I originally intended it to just be like a quick description and then went overboard. I wish I had written it in story form, but I didn’t, so it’s basically an overly-long blurb.

It would probably have to be set in a country that still has a monarchy… Denmark could be cool! Or maybe they’re just the daughters of a famous person. The girls would have bigger personalities, and there would be individual attention on more than just the oldest and the youngest. They’d probably have a larger age difference- there would have to be at least 10 years between the very oldest and the very youngest. I’d say that they range from age 8 to age 19. Or maybe they were all adopted… and they have three girls in each room. There’s a closet between the first two, and a closet between the second two; and the first two are across the hall from the second two. Their dad doesn’t lock them in their rooms, but, as princesses/famous people, they have super tight security, with alarms that could be triggered by one of them. However, each of the princesses has different talents, and one of them is very athletic, one is very good at puzzles and observation, stuff like that, and the two of them help guide the rest downstairs and outside, where they run across the lawn to their boathouse. One of the girls had to steal the key from their father. They only have four canoes, so they have three girls in each boat. Before leaving their rooms, the girls all changed into athletic clothing. They rotate between which two per boat have to paddle each night. They row to an island in the middle of the lake, without anyone else there, and they explore it, dancing. The next day, their single father notices on the security camera that there are a few shadows- 12 shadows- darting from a tree to a bush. They’re not seen anywhere else, but he confronts them and asks them about it. They say that they don’t know anything about it, and point out that it could just be squirrels. Their father obviously doesn’t believe them, and when no one admits it for three days (they repeat the process every night, exploring a different part of the lake each time, never caught on camera again), he locks them in their rooms. This just makes the girls mad, and even though they hadn’t planned on keeping going, they decide to keep going just to prove they can. The 14, 15, and 16 year old girls go through their closet to talk to the 17, 18, and 19 year olds and decide to sneak out of their rooms- through their windows. They then write a letter, fold it, and push it quickly under their door so that it slides across the hall, underneath the door of the 11, 12, and 13 year olds, and do the same for the 8, 9, and 10 year olds. They tell the 13 year old to go to the room of the 8, 9, and 10 year olds to bring them to her room before helping them down. The 16 year old goes first, so that she can run around the house to collect the younger girls. She uses a tough linen curtain, slid off the rod and held by her sister, to rappel down, and tells the younger girls to use the lasso from the 8 year old’s cowgirl phase. The 10 year old goes down first, as the 12 and 13 year olds hold the lasso; followed by the 8, 9, and 12 year olds. Then the 13 year old ties the lasso to the heavy bedpost before nervously dangling herself out of the window. Meanwhile, the older girls have been coming down one by one in the same manner. (SORRY, I WENT INTO WAY TOO MUCH DETAIL THERE). They’ve chosen their favorite spot on the lake, and now keep returning to that same place. When they go back to their house, the girls all climb back up their respective ropes and return to their rooms, untying the ropes. However, when their father unlocked their rooms in the morning, he notices that the girls look far too tired. On a hunch, he opens their bureau, and finds their clothes in a sweaty heap in the drawer. He’s completely fed up with their lying to him, and can’t believe that he can no longer trust his daughters. He decides to hire extra security, and considers taking his girls to family psychology. Most of the younger girls want to back out, realizing how cruel it is to their father. But the nineteen year old is angry. She can’t believe that her father is still treating her like a child, with childish punishments and childish rules. She tells the others that they can back out if they want, but she won’t stop. Realizing that she’ll get herself killed if she goes alone, the 18 year old says she’ll go with them. The 17 year old is best friends with the 18 year old, so she agrees to go along. Feeling that she belongs with the older girls, the 16 year old simply must go along, so as not to be lumped with the early teens. The 15 year old realizes that the 16 year old is going purely out of spite, and so she goes along. The 14 year old has been trying to prove herself to the 19 year old, so that the older girl will let her have more freedoms (because they all listen to what the 19 year old says), so she goes. The 13 year old is up for adventure so she tags along. The 12 year old doesn’t want to have to play babysitter because she knows that the 8 and 9 year olds think that they’re too old to respect her, so she goes. The 11 year old can tell that the 12 year old doesn’t really want to go, and so the 11 year old goes along as well to provide comfort. The 10 year old has to prove that she’s a big girl, and so she goes. The 9 year old doesn’t want to left alone with ‘the little kid’ (because obviously, being 1 year older makes her ever so much more glorious), and the 8 year old doesn’t want to be left alone. (SORRY, WAY TOO MUCH DETAIL). The girls all go. Their father doesn’t know that they climbed out the window, so the security guard doesn’t stand a chance. But the next night, the 8 year old decides to stay back anyway- she’s had it. But she’s so lonely, and when she sees them all laughing as they return, she feels left out, so she decides to go the next night. After the girls manage it again, their father fires the security guards and leaves a bad review. Their father decides to have a security guard sit in their hall, so he would be able to hear them climbing out. But a foolish maid fancied him and went up to talk to him. Despite the fact that he tried to wave her away, her chatter masked their descent. Their fed-up father fires that guard, too- and the maid. But upon further examination of the security feed the next morning, he catches a flash of motion in the boat house. The girls had let down their guard, and made a mistake. The father doesn’t tell them of this discovery yet, though. Instead, he posts a guard outside, just out of sight behind a larger boat in the boathouse, to follow them after they leave. But there’s no way to follow them without being seen, so the guard just waits and reports back to the father the next day. He doesn’t fire the guard yet, seeing as how he’s the first one to make any progress. He tells the guard to keep waiting until he can figure out a way to discover where they’re going. it repeats several nights, with him watching silently, until one day the girls decide to take the larger raft. The guard hears them discuss this as they walk down to the boathouse, so he quickly dives into the bottom of it, covering it with a tarp. He endures a painful ride, with feet stepping on him, but after they arrive at their destination and he hears the chatters move away, he extracts himself and watches them. He sees them hauling large moss-covered logs, and tying things with rope. They’re building a fort! They twirl through the woods as they gather materials for their lean-to. The glow of a watch eventually illuminates the nineteen year old’s face, and she tells the girls that it’s time to go. The guard dashes back to the raft and hides himself in the bottom just as the girls return. He’s about to go triumphantly tell their father when he hears a snippet of their conversation. They’re discussing how much they wish they could visit in the daytime. The 8 year old is saying that their father could help them build a real treehouse, and the 17 year old staunchly says that the 18 and 19 year old could build just as good a treehouse as their father, if only they were allowed to. The guard pauses. And then he gets an idea. He dashes off to the king. They debate furiously, but finally the king gives in. The next morning, the guard tells the girls that their father wants to meet them in the boathouse. Their pulses race- does he know? But they’re met only by four canoes, each loaded with wood, hammers, nails. “Let me know if you want my help,” their father says, before waving them across the lake.


I think the most difficult part for me is having them be biological sisters. Since the original story focuses on the youngest, and often ends in her getting married, you figure she has to be 18 at the very least (maaayyyybe 16 if we’re talking Middle Ages time setting here) which means that without multiples and with having one every year, the eldest is 30. Why isn’t she or any of the others married then, I wonder? Most people who are 30 try not to be living with their parents.

I might try something similar to the plot of [name_m]Palace[/name_m] of Mirrors by [name_f]Margaret[/name_f] [name_m]Peterson[/name_m] Haddix. The book came out when I was a 4th grader because I bought it at the book fair (ah good times) but spoiler alert, the big reveal of the book is that the queen had a stillborn daughter and, in her grief, adopted 13 baby girls. So when they all claim to be the “real daughter of the queen”, they’re all technically correct. I’m thinking perhaps an adopted family, either legally or people who have sort of self-adopted one another as family. Orphans, childhood friends, unlikely enemies to allies?

[name_m]Even[/name_m] without magic, I’d probably keep it in an imaginary world. Idk I just find I’m often underwhelmed by the “here’s [name_m]Hansel[/name_m] and [name_f]Gretal[/name_f] but STARBUCKS EXISTS” type stories. Maybe because the otherworldly element is one of the highlights of fairytales for me. Without magic, I’d probably use some sort of technology or machine to echo the role the magic played in the original story. Maybe one of the girls is a tech expert and another is an engineer? I’d love giving them STEM interests as well.

I don’t have storylines like everyone else lol but that’s sort of the concept I’d find most interesting to play with.


I’m not the original poster but I love reading all of your ideas!

@midwinter, I really like how your idea still has a strong magical feeling, while taking place in the modern world!

@dogs_books, I love all your details, it really gives the girls a personality!

@SparkleNinja18, the idea of the sisters being adooted is really smart! Some technology elements would also be cool indeed.


@Johannaa, thank you! I was also thinking about having one or multiple sisters be LGBT but you suggested it first lol.

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Actually I already figured out the sibset and four of them are adopted :wink:

the oldest is 21 and the youngest is 11. There are 16 year old triplets and 13 year old twins. =)

OOh nice idea!!

the oldest is in college (age 21) majoring in mechanical engineering and the youngest (11) is an inventor!

I know!