Princess September: Summary and Analysis

Princess September, written by William Somerset Maugham is a fairy tale about the beautiful bond shared between Princess September and a singing bird.

Princess September Summary

The story is about a princess named September. She had eight sisters who were all named after different months of the year. The King of Siam had a strange habit where he gave gifts on his birthday. He and his wife, the Queen, gifted each of their nine daughters, a parrot in a golden cage. All of the princesses were very happy to receive the gifts and they spent an hour each day with their pet. The parrots could say ‘God Save the King’ and some of them could also say ‘Pretty Polly’ in seven different Oriental languages.

Once, Princess September went to see her parrot and saw that it was lying dead in its cage. She started to cry when she saw her dead pets. Her Maids of Honor were not able to anything to comfort her. They had informed the Queen, who asked them to put the little princess to sleep with no supper. They put the princess to bed and left her crying to go to a party. She was crying and noticed a bird hop into her room. He sang a beautiful song near the lake in the King’s garden with the willow trees staring at themselves in the still water. The goldfish glided in and out of the branches that reflected in the water. She was engrossed in the bird’s song and forgot that she did not have her supper. She appreciated the bird after he finished his song.

The bird bowed to the princess and asked the princess if she would keep him in her parrot’s place. He admitted to not being as pretty as other birds, but he could sing beautiful songs for the princess. The princess clapped her hands in delight, and the bird was singing another song and she quickly slept. She next morning, she saw that the bird was still there. The princess bathed her in her saucer and fed her rice with her own hand. The princess took the bird to the King, Queen, and her sisters. Everyone was delightfully surprised when they heard him sing. The King mentioned how fed up he was after hearing ‘God save the King’ and ‘Pretty Polly’ from the parrots. He drew a comparison between their words to that of his Councilors, who always said the same thing. The bird’s singing was a pleasant surprise for him.

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The other princesses were jealous of Princess September’s singing bird. The bird used to fly around and sing in the palace’s room. The princesses suggested that Princess September could get a new parrot, but she said that she already had a pet bird who sang beautifully. They also said that the bird could fly away anytime and that she should keep him in a cage. However, the princess had faith in her bird and thought that he would never betray her.

Once, the bird was visiting his father-in-law and took longer to return to the Princess. She got worried and put him in a cage as soon as he returned. When the bird asked the reason why he was put in a cage, she said that it would keep him safe from the cats that were roaming around in the palace. The following day, the bird requested the princess to open the cage, but she refused to let him go. She asked him to sing, but he could not do that. On constant insisting, he said he wished to see the trees, lake, and the green field. He did not eat too.

Princess September was taking her sisters’ advice and kept the bird locked in the cage. Soon, the bird stopped singing and did not sing songs like he used to. The princess asked why he was not singing. The bird said that he could not sing if he was not free and would die if he was kept locked in the cage for long. The Princess did not want to lose her bird again, so she set him free. The bird flew away and promised to return soon. The princess always kept her window open, and the bird would visit her often. He sang beautifully for her. 

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As years passed, Princess September grew up to be a beautiful lady. She credited the natural sunlight and air coming through the window. She got married to the King of Cambodia. Her sisters were not pretty and got married to the King’s Councillors with a Siamese cat and a pound of tea. 

Princess September Theme

The story is based on the theme that freedom is the birthright of every living being. The loss of it cannot be made up for with any amount of expensive items, money, or worldly possessions.

The free bird that lives his life is creative and interesting. He is not simply trained to say ‘God Save the King’ and ‘Pretty Polly’. So, the free bird seemed attractive to the King and Queen too. The other princesses, like their parrots, became dull with time and were not pretty. Princess September grew up to be beautiful because of the freedom she and her bird enjoyed.

Princess September Character Sketch

Princess September was very emotional and heartbroken because of the death of her parrot. The bird delights her with beautiful songs and shows off the bird to her sisters, not knowing that they would be vexed and envious. When the bird is unhappy about being caged, she lets him go, knowing that it could mean that she would him. The princess put the bird’s happiness over her own.

The bird sang beautifully and delighted the princess with the most well-sung songs. He loved his freedom and could sing well after he was caged and told the princess he would die if he was caged for long.

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Princess September Analysis Key Points

The story written by William Somerset Maugham is about a princess, September. The king gifted a parrot each to all the nine princesses. They were all in golden cages. However, Princess September’s parrot died and she wept alone in her room. While she was weeping, a little bird came into her room and sang beautifully about the garden, fish, and the willow tree. The princess later caged the bird because she feared he would leave. She understood her fault and released him.