The Princess and the Warrior

The Princess and the Warrior
by Duncan Tonatiuh

Readers Theater

Book Trailer

Author Interview

Related Activities & Resources:

Informational Resources:

Author & Illustrator Information:

Duncan Tonatiuh’s webpage:

Meet Duncan:

Questions for Duncan Tonatiuh:

A Conversation with Duncan:

Duncan’s twitter:

Activities & Resources:


History & Creation Stories:

Read other creation stories and then write one of your own.

Learn about the history of Mexico City, its people and its past.

Discover the Mexican culture–learn what the words from the glossary in the book mean; use some in your daily vocabulary.

In other versions of this myth, Popoca is from another land; read other versions of this particular creation myth.

Learn about the Aztecs:

Aztec culture:

Read other myths from the ancient people from Mexico and Central America:

More myths:

Even more myths:


Construct your own volcano:

Go on a nature hunt for different forms of volcanic rock such as obsidian and pumice, examining the differences and similarities of each.

Learn the differences between volcanoes and mountains, volcanic ranges and mountain ranges.

View the volcano:

View the volcano:

Map the volcanoes in modern day Mexico.

Sing the Popocatepetl volcano song:

Discover Mexican culture:

Aztec History & Daily Life:

What do you imagine life as an Aztec princess was like? What clothes would you wear? How would you keep yourself busy?

Learn about the food the Aztecs ate:

When warriors would go into battle, they often had a flag, or an ensign. Imagine you are one of Popoca’s warriors. What would be on your battleflag? Draw your battleflag.

MakerSpace Activities:

Create your own petlatl (a mat from woven fibers from a small palm), using construction paper and then learn how and why they were used.

Using construction paper, newspaper or tissue paper, create a papier-mache cenzontle (mockingbird) and display it.

Display pictures of Aztec art and provide construction paper, pencils, clay, etc., to let students create some Aztec art.

Provide paper and colored pencils and have children draw the Mexican flag. Let the children create their own version of the Mexican flag based upon the story. Have the children design their own Aztec flag.

Discussion Questions:

Why do you think the Emperor wanted the Princess to marry a ruler?  Do you think she was right to stick up for Popoca?

Why do you think Izta loved spending time with the people? Do you think they loved her?

Why do you think she wasn’t impressed, or interested in any of the suitors?

Why is Izta’s kind and beautiful heart important? Why is it important to Popoca? What kind of princess do you think she was? Do you think her kind and beautiful heart was important to her father, the Emperor?

Why do you think Izta was not impressed with the gifts and promises made by her suitors? How do you think you would’ve felt?

Why do you think the Emperor wanted Izta to marry a ruler? Do you think that she would’ve been happy? How do you think the village people would have felt if she’d married a ruler? Would Izta miss the people and teaching them poetry?

Popoca is the best and bravest warrior. What do you think that means? Would you want to be like him? Why or why not?

Why do you think Jaguar Claw was warring with the Emperor and his people? What do you think could have started the war? Could it have been a misunderstanding?

Do you think the Emperor would have kept his word and let Popoca marry Izta if he had defeated Jaguar Claw? Why or why not?

Why do you think Popoca’s personal messenger betrayed him? What do you think the bribe was? If you were the messenger, what would you have done?

When Izta hears the news that Popoca is dead, she grieves by shutting herself in her room and not eating. Have you ever known anyone who is grieving? If you were Izta, would you have trusted the messenger? Would you have asked for proof that Popoca died? Why or why not?

How do you think the messenger feels? Do you think he feels guilty for betraying Popoca and Izta? How would you feel if you’d made the same choice?

After Popoca defeats Jaguar Claw he returns home, only to find out that Izta cannot be woken. How do you think he feels? How would you feel? How do they know Izta is only sleeping? How do you think Popoca tries to wake her? What would you have done if you were Popoca?

Now that Izta is sleeping, and can’t be woken, how do you think the Emperor feels? How do you think the villagers feel?

Do you think they ever found out that Popoca’s messenger betrayed them? Why or why not?

Popoca is true to his word. He stays with Izta. Why? What do you think you would have done?

How do you think Izta feels? Would she want Popoca to stay with her or to go on and live his life? Why do you feel this way? What do you imagine you would have done?

Izta becomes the volcano Iztaccihuatl and Popoca becomes Popocatepetl. He spews ash and smoke at times, while Iztaccihuatl sleeps. Do you think she’ll ever wake? Why or why not?

Do you think the Emperor ever visited Izta after Popoca took her to the top of a tepal? Why or why not?

In the pictures, do you see the shapes of Izta and Popoca?

How does this story try to explain why these two volcanoes are there and why they do and do not erupt? Have you ever read other similar creation stories?

Book Talk Teasers:

Wondering how Mexico got its volcanoes?  What role do they play in Mexican/Latin American culture? Discover how two of Mexico’s famous volcanoes came to be, read The Princess and The Warrior.

Read Alikes:


Abbott, Tony. In the shadow of Goll. When a wicked ancient sorcerer named Shadowface vows to wake the infamous Warriors of the Skorth to aid Ko’s army of beasts, Eric, Julie, Neal, and Keeah must pursue him through the treacherous Dark Lands to stop him. (NoveList)

Jay, Stacey. Princess of thorns. After ten years of exile among fairies who teach her to use her magically-enhanced strength and courage, Sleeping Beauty’s daughter Aurora enlists the help of Niklaas, eleventh son of King Eldorio, in the fight to reclaim her throne. (NoveList)

Jones, Frewin. The emerald flame. Branwen has accepted the role of Chosen One, and now, with a growing army including her half-owl half-human friend Rhodri and the dashing yet maddening Iwan, she must overcome terrifying odds if she is to succeed in saving Wales from the Saxon invaders. (NoveList)

Kennedy, Hunter. Xena and the magic arrow of Myx. Xena, the warrior princess, and her sidekick, Gabrielle, race against time to discover who is responsible for casting the terrible spell that launched the deadly “magic arrow of Myx,” a weapon that will never stop until it strikes its target–Xena. (NoveList)

Mitsunaga, Yasunori. Princess resurrection. It’s finally time for Blood Warrior Hiro to become Princess Hime’s hero. The vampires and the werewolves are clashing in a terrible feud, while the ghosts are whispering of betrayal … and giant insects are planning to make a meal of Hime and her friends. Only one thing’s for sure: There’s going to be even more blood-soaked mayhem and unstoppable action than ever before! — Publisher description. (NoveList)

Wallace, Becky. The storyspinner. The Keepers, a race of people with magical abilities, are seeking a supposedly-dead princess to place her on the throne and end political turmoil but girls who look like the princess are being murdered and Johanna Von Arlo, forced to work for Lord Rafael DeSilva after her father’s suspicious death, is a dead-ringer. (NoveList)


Anderson, Jodi Lynn. May Bird, warrior princess. Three years after her return from the Ever After, May Bird, now thirteen, draws her scattered friends–Pumpkin, Fabbio, Beatrice, and Lucius–out of hiding to take a final stand against Evil Bo Cleevil, as May herself makes ready to live up to the prophecy that placed the fate of the Ever After, and her own world, in her hands. (NoveList)

Beaton, Kate. The princess and the pony. Princess Pinecone would like a real war horse for her birthday, instead of which she gets a plump, cute pony–but sometimes cuteness can be a kind of weapon, especially in a fight with dodgeballs and spitballs and hairballs and squareballs. (NoveList)

Friesner, Esther M. Deception’s princess. In Iron Age Ireland, Maeve, the fierce, willful youngest daughter of King Eochu of Connacht, is caught in a web of lies after rebelling to avoid fosterage with another highborn family and an arranged marriage. (NoveList)

Giallongo, Zack. Broxo. “Broxo, the only surviving member of a tribe of barbarians, spends his time on a mountain hunting and avoiding the man-eating walking dead until everything changes when Zora, a foreign princess, arrives on the mountain seeking Broxo’s lost tribe.”–Publisher. (NoveList)

Hoffman, Alice. The foretelling. Growing up the daughter of an Amazon queen who shuns her, Rain rebels against the ways of her tribe through her sister-like relationship with Io and her feelings for a boy from a tribe of wanderers. (NoveList)

Jones, Frewin. Destiny’s path. When fifteen-year-old Princess Branwen tries to turn away from her destiny as the one who will save Wales from the Saxons, the Shining Ones send an owl in the form of a young girl called Blodwedd to guide her and Rhodri on the right path. (NoveList)

Jones, Frewin. Warrior Princess. After a deadly attack on her home, fifteen-year-old Princess Branwen meets a mystical woman in white who prophesies that Branwen will save her homeland, Wales, from falling to the Saxons. (NoveList)

Milliron, Kerry. Queen of the Amazons. Xena helps her friend Gabrielle thwart the plans of a scheming warlord to start a war between the Amazons and the Centaurs in order to gain control of Arborea. (NoveList)

Nyoka, Gail. Mella and the N’anga: an African tale. Mella must go on a perilous journey–one which her brother failed to complete–in order to help heal her father, the king of what is now Zimbabwe, who is gravely ill. (NoveList)

Roberts, Judson. Viking warrior. Despite being the son of a chieftain and a princess, fourteen-year-old Halfdan lives as a slave in Denmark in A.D. 845 but through a tragic bargain he gains his freedom and sets out to claim his birthright. (NoveList)

Sakaki, Ichiro. Scrapped princess. Vol. 4, March of the knight. As Shannon and his siblings are about to take out a gang of bandits, they are joined by Leo, a curious young man who is obsessed with justice. When he sets his passionate gaze upon Pacifica, it’s love at first sight. But how will Leo react when he finds out the truth about the treacherous scrapped princess? — Publisher description. (NoveList)

Tomlinson, Theresa. The moon riders. When thirteen-year-old Myrina of the Mazagardi tribe joins the Moon Riders, a revered band of warrior women, she becomes caught up in the life of the Trojan princess Cassandra and the epic, ten-year Trojan War. (NoveList)

Yep, Laurence. Lady of Ch’iao Kuo: Warrior of the South. In 531 A.D., a fifteen-year-old princess of the Hsien tribe in southern China keeps a diary which describes her role as liaison between her own people and the local Chinese colonists, in times of both peace and war. (NoveList)


Jolley, Dan. The smoking mountain: the story of Popocatepetl and Iztaccihuatl: an Aztec legend. Aztec warrior Popo seeks to prove his worth to win the hand of the emperor’s daughter, Izta. (NoveList)

Graphic novels:

Limke, Jeff. Tristan & Isolde: the warrior and the princess : a British legend. From an ancient legend comes a love story for all time. Strong and brave, Tristan is the nephew of King Mark of Cornwall and one of his finest English knights. Mark sends Tristan to Ireland to bring home the king’s bride, the princess Isolde. While in Ireland, Tristan slays a dragon and wins Isolde’s hand for his uncle. But through a twist of fate, Tristan and Isolde fall in love on the voyage back to Cornwall. Will Tristan and Isolde each do their duty as a loyal knight and a promised bride? Or will they follow their hearts and risk many dangers to be together? (NoveList)

Historical fiction:

Friesner, Esther M. Nobody’s princess. Determined to fend for herself in a world where only men have real freedom, headstrong Helen, who will be called queen of Sparta and Helen of Troy one day, learns to fight, hunt, and ride horses while disguised as a boy, and goes on an adventure throughout the Mediterranean world. (NoveList)

McKissack, Pat. Nzingha: Warrior Queen of Matamba. Presents the diary of thirteen-year-old Nzingha, a sixteenth-century West African princess who loves to hunt and hopes to lead her kingdom one day against the invasion of the Portuguese slave traders. Includes Kiluanji family tree, pronunciation guide, and glossary of characters, places, and things. (NoveList)

Science fiction:

Craze, Galaxy. The last princess. Tired of the royal family’s relative comfort while they suffer in the wake of worldwide catastrophes in 2090, rebels kill the British king and abduct two of his children, but Princess Eliza escapes, disguises herself, and joins the rebels to seek revenge and the safe return of her siblings. (NoveList)

Peterson, Alyson. Ian Quicksilver: the warrior’s return. Fifteen-year-old Ian Quicksilver has discovered the unsettling truth that he is not a scraggly cast-off, bouncing around in the Nevada foster care system like an unpicked lottery ball, but the Last Warrior Prince of a distant planet threatened by a sociopathic magician. (NoveList)

Book Reviews

Bulletin of the Center for Children’s Books, 11/01/16

Tonatiuh, Duncan, ad. The Princess and the Warrior: A Tale of Two Volcanoes; ad. and illus. by Duncan Tonatiuh. Abrams, 2016 32p. Trade ed.  ISBN 978-1-4197-2130-4 $16.95.   E-book ed. ISBN 1-61312-970-X $15.54 R 6-9 yrs

Southeast of Mexico City rise a pair of volcanoes—the dormant Iztaccíhuatl and the active Popocatépetl—that have inspired ancient folktales. Tonatiuh offers his own version, based on previous tales and figures from several codices, of how a princess lost her one chance at love through the fatal trickery of the enemy, Jaguar Claw, who poisoned her just before her warrior lover returned from victorious battle. To this day the heartbroken warrior, Popoca, keeps vigil over his sleeping Izta. There is a solemn tone to the simple storytelling, which simultaneously evokes the antiquity of the tale and makes it accessible to younger independent readers. The strong linearity of the compositions, which is interrupted only in the more chaotic battle scenes between Jaguar Claw and Popoca’s forces, complements the formal text, while the warm and dusky hues of earth and sky control the mood for the tragic love story. Children too young for the complexities of Romeo and Juliet will be touched by the legend’s enduring theme and intrigued by its vulcanism connection, which Tonatiuh explains in a closing note. A bibliography and a glossary with pronunciation guide are also included. EB  (November 2016)  Used with the permission of Bulletin of the Center of Children’s Books.

Horn Book     

[STARRED] The Princess and the Warrior: A Tale of Two Volcanoes  by Duncan Tonatiuh; 
illus. by the author.  Primary. Abrams. 40 pp. 10/16  978-1-4197-2130-4  $16.95

After a string of award-winning picture-book biographies (Separate Is Never Equal, rev. 7/14; Funny Bones, rev. 11/15), Tonatiuh turns to folklore for this adapted pourquoi story that explains the origins of two volcanoes in Mexico: Iztaccíhuatl and Popocatépetl. Izta is a kind and beautiful princess; “suitors traveled from distant lands to woo her.” But despite promises of a life of luxury from several royal admirers, it’s the honest young warrior Popoca who captures her heart. Izta’s father, the 
emperor, sends Popoca off to fight and 
defeat rival ruler Jaguar Claw, at which point Popoca will earn Izta’s hand in marriage. But a tragic turn of events leads Izta to drink a powerful sleeping potion. Upon returning from battle and 
finding his love in a deep sleep from which she will not wake, Popoca takes her to the top of a mountain, hoping to revive her, but to no avail. Soon, “where once there was a princess with her true love by her side, two volcanoes emerged.” The style of Tonatiuh’s mixed-media art, an homage to the Mixtec codices, is instantly recognizable. The textured backgrounds are boldly colored, and the compositions convey a feeling of great motion throughout, but especially in battle scenes. Tonatiuh’s storytelling grows more assured with each title; this 
may be his best yet. Included in the excellent back matter are an author’s note, a glossary of the Nahuatl terms found sprinkled throughout the text, and a bibliography. SAM BLOOM.   From the September/October 2016 issue of The Horn Book Magazine.    Reprinted from The Horn Book Magazine by permission of The Horn Book, Inc.,

School Library Journal

[Starred] TONATIUH, Duncan, retel. The Princess and the Warrior: A Tale of Two Volcanoes. illus. by Duncan Tonatiuh. 40p. bibliog. glossary. Abrams. Oct. 2016. Tr $16.95. ISBN 9781419721304.

PreS-Gr 2 –Princess Izta is the most beautiful and eligible maiden in the land. One day, a humble warrior named Popoca approaches the princess, offering her the promise of true love and fidelity instead of lavish gifts or material wealth. Izta falls in love with him, even though her father, the emperor, feels Popoca is unsuitable for his royal daughter. He agrees to allow Popoca and Izta to marry, under one condition: Popoca must defeat Jaguar Claw, the infamous ruler of a neighboring land. Popoca fights many battles and defeats Jaguar Claw. But with the help of a bribed messenger, a bitter Jaguar Claw manages to take one last stab at Popoca by tricking Izta into poisoning herself into a deep sleep. Just as he promised, Popoca stays by her side, lying next to her until, as legend has it, two volcanoes are formed: Popocatépetl, meaning smoky mountain, and Iztaccíhuatl (sleeping woman). Award-winning author/illustrator Tonatiuh successfully retells this ancient tale using his distinctive and artistic illustrations with spare but effective text. The action battle scenes will excite and captivate, while the images of Popoca kneeling beside Izta in determined wait will stir the hearts of readers. The integration of Nahuatl words (defined with a pronunciation guide in the glossary) into the narrative provides a rich opportunity to introduce and explore another facet of Aztec culture. VERDICT Use this Aztec legend to inspire readers while teaching a bit about dramatic irony; a first purchase for all folklore collections.–Natalie Braham, Denver Public Library.  Reprinted with permission from School Library Journal,  Copyright 2016.