I like to watch familiar movies to help me fall asleep, and I've been watching a ton of Disney movies lately. I grew up watching Disney princess movies, and I still love them. When I was a kid, I just enjoyed the pretty dresses, fun songs, and inspiring plots. I still enjoy those things, but recently, I've thought more deeply about these movies while lying awake at night, and I've noticed a common trend: most of the princesses are very sheltered and naive about the world around them.
I'm ranking all of the official Disney princesses (sorry Elsa and Anna, you aren't qualified) from least to most sheltered. There's no real criteria for these rankings; it's based on what I've noticed while watching and my opinions. Some of these ladies were tricky to place, but I think we can all agree on the top two along with the first on the list.
Tiana was definitely not sheltered at all. Tiana is the only princess who works in the (mostly) modern world, and she even works more than one job. Her mother brought little Tiana to work with her and her father always talked about working hard to achieve your dreams. The family lived in a modest home among average people, unlike the princesses living in lavish castles. Yes, Tiana did kiss a talking frog, but she had a lot of reservations about this and was clearly living in the real world up until that point.
Mulan is the only official Disney princess that is not royal by blood or marriage. Like Tiana, Mulan was an average girl with a normal upbringing. She was very aware that she would have an arranged marriage and what was expected of women in her culture. She might not have fit in with what society expected of her, but Mulan was well aware of this. Mulan was in a little bit over her head when she took her father's place in the army, but for the most part, she knew what she was getting into and what was at stake if she failed.
Image from Pocahontas's page on Disney Princess Official Site
Pocahontas is the chief's daughter, but she still helps in the fields and isn't cooped up inside. Pocahontas is very much aware of the world around her and is one with nature. She's a bit naive when it comes to forming a relationship with John Smith, but she is cautious at first. Her father warns her to stay away from the dangerous white men, and unlike other fathers with vague warnings on this list, he is right! Nothing has been sugar coated for Pocahontas, and like Mulan, she was aware that she was supposed to marry someone chosen for her. Pocahontas wasn't sheltered and any naivety she has comes from the dangers of greed and weapons never being present before.
Belle wasn't exactly sheltered, but she did live in the same small, idyllic village for her whole life and she didn't leave until she had to look for her father. Belle is an avid reader, but she only has access to her town's little book store and seems to favor fantasy, so it seems she doesn't have much of an education of the outside world. Her lack of fear towards the snarling Beast and her stalker Gaston is a bit concerning and supports this idea. Belle is smart and brave, but she must have been sheltered to some degree to be so naive at times.
Merida is the first princess on this list to grow up in a castle away from average people. Living the life of a royal is bound to come with some level of being sheltered. At the beginning of Brave, Merida complains that her mother controls every single day of Merida's life and that her whole future is planned for her. Merida does get to galavant around the Scottish countryside and practice archery in her free time, but the rest of her life is spent preparing to be a monarch. Despite this, Merida is shocked when she learns that she's going to be in an arranged marriage. Most people would be upset about this, but it seems odd that a princess like Merida wouldn't have seen this coming. Maybe her parents kept this information from her to maintain the peace within the family. For the most part, Merida knows what's expected from her and hasn't been sheltered nearly as much as the princesses after her on this list, but she certainly doesn't have a difficult life.
Ariel lives in a beautiful underwater castle with her father and six sisters. Even though she lives a luxurious life as a mermaid, all Ariel wants is to be a human. She collects human artifacts in a cave and naively glamorizes human life despite her father's numerous warnings about humans being dangerous. King Triton never really elaborates on why humans are dangerous; he just yells that they are. Sweet, naive Ariel catches one glimpse of a human and decides she's in love and that they'll end up together (she isn't wrong, but still). So, Ariel goes to a terrifying sea-witch and exchanges her voice for a set of legs. This is absolutely insane, and no one with any sort of real knowledge about the world would do something so reckless. Instead of trying to protect her from humans in the laziest way possible, Ariel's father should have educated her about the real issues with humans and the other dangers lurking in the ocean.
6. Snow White
Snow White is sweet and naive like Ariel, but she's probably a bit more naive. She frolics around a castle all day, blissfully unaware of how much her stepmother hates her and wishes her dead. The queen orders a hit on Snow White, but thankfully, the would-be assassin got cold feet and let her go. Snow White runs away through the forest and stumbles upon a filthy little cottage that is clearly occupied by numerous men and decides it's the perfect place for her to settle down. These strangers thankfully aren't dangerous, but the queen still wants her dead. Even though she knows this, Snow White takes a poisoned apple from a very suspicious looking woman wearing a spooky black cloak. Snow White knows nothing about the dangers of life and must have been extremely sheltered growing up.
Moana is being trained to be the next chief of her island kingdom, but she doesn't live a life of luxury like most princesses. Moana lives life similarly to her people, just with a bit more responsibility. All of this doesn't make Moana sheltered, but the fact that she lives on a tropical island and isn't allowed to go in the ocean does. Not only is Moana not allowed to go sailing or swimming, she gets scolded for even going near the water! This poor girl lives on a beautiful beach and can't even enjoy it because her father is afraid something horrible will happen if she steps foot in the water. Even when the island's food supplies are threatened, Moana's dad refuses to entertain the idea of the fishers sailing a little bit past the shallows to find more food. This anti-ocean stance goes way beyond being a protective parent.
Cinderella is horribly mistreated and sheltered by her stepfamily so they can keep her as a servant. Cinderella spends all day doing chores and waiting on her stepmother and stepsisters. It doesn't seem like Cinderella is allowed to leave the house, but she probably wouldn't even have the time because she's so busy cleaning and maintaining such a large house all by herself. For the most part, Cinderella seems to be unbothered by being a servant, and I have to assume it's because her stepfamily started brainwashing her at a young age. Unlike most princesses, Cinderella is no stranger to hard work, but there's no way she has any knowledge about anything other than housework.
Jasmine also isn't allowed to leave her house, but unlike Cinderella, her "house" is actually a giant, luxurious palace. Jasmine lounges around her beautiful palace and its gardens all day while wearing fancy clothes and gold jewelry. She complains about not being allowed to leave and finally decides to sneak out to see what it's like in the outside world. Jasmine immediately gets in trouble for stealing because she doesn't know that you have to pay for things! This princess is so sheltered from the real world that she doesn't know about the concept of money!
Aurora is extremely sheltered, even by Disney princess standards. Maleficent curses little baby Aurora to prick her finger and die, and in response, she's whisked away to a little cottage in the middle of nowhere and is hidden away from the rest of the world. It's understandable that Aurora's parents were afraid of their new baby being killed by such a powerful and evil entity and wanted to hide her from Maleficent, but I think they took this way too far. Aurora only has contact with her three "aunts" and doesn't know anything about her family or that she's a princess. Heck, Aurora doesn't even know her real name! The fairies called her Briar Rose and raised her to frolic with cute woodland creatures and pick berries. The first time Aurora encounters another person she's shocked, but immediately falls in love with him. When the fairies finally tell Aurora about her true identity, she's reasonably devastated. Aurora's sheltered life was meant to keep her safe, but I doubt she'll be well-adjusted after being lied to about everything she ever knew.
Rapunzel is definitely the most sheltered Disney princess. When I was planning out this list, I wasn't sure if Aurora or Rapunzel should be number one, but then I remembered that Rapunzel had never touched grass before. Both princesses were hidden away from other people and lied to about their true identities, but Rapunzel couldn't even go outside. Gothel stole Rapunzel as a baby and kept her sheltered so she could use Rapunzel's magical hair to stay young forever. Rapunzel is told that evil people are looking for her to use her for her hair (ironic, isn't it?), and is forbidden from leaving her tower for her own safety. Flynn Rider is the first person Rapunzel ever sees besides her "mother," and she immediately suspects him of trying to steal her for her hair. Everything Rapunzel knows comes from whatever Mother Gothel tells her, along with a few books that she gave to Rapunzel. Gothel lies to Rapunzel about so much and doesn't care enough about her to even take her outside, so who knows how much is actually kept from Rapunzel. Like many other princesses, Rapunzel doesn't know anything about the world outside of her home, but her lack of knowledge about everything goes beyond the rest.