Sunday, December 5, 2010

The Princess and the Goblin by George MacDonald

The reason I picked up this story was because of it's author. Don't get me wrong, the titles in the 1800's leave nothing to the imagination. They tell you exactly what the story is about. Besides, how can a book about princesses and goblins be boring?

But I'll return to my first point. George MacDonald was a favorite of JRR Tolkien and C.S. Lewis (all time favorite author's of mine) and Lewis Carroll, so I simply had to check him out for myself.

On the surface, The Princess and the Goblin is a fantastical adventure. All the elements of Fantasy: monsters (the horrid, malevolent goblins and their terrifying pets), dark tunnels beneath the earth, murderous plots of revenge, Princesses, Kings and Queens, a 'fairy godmother'. But what I appreciated most about the story were the strong moral and spiritual themes that George MacDonald wove into the very fabric of the plot and characters. After all, he was a pastor.

Our heroine is Princess Irene and our hero is the simple son of a miner, Curdie. Although, MacDonald makes a point to inform the reader that Curdie has the courage and bravery of a King, which makes him one despite his 'class'. Curdie works in the mines and discovers the goblins evil plot, while the Princess makes a discovery of her own: her great-great-great-great grandmother lives up the old stairs in her house. It's just that Princess Irene is the only one that can see her. The Grandmother is beautiful, despite her old-old-old age and can appear as a light in the sky, and gives the Princess a gift of thread, which eventually leads our heroine to saving the hero. And together, the Princess and Curdie save the entire palace from disaster at the hands of the Goblins.

MacDonald puts great emphasis on believing in the things that are unseen--having faith and trusting in that faith to guide and protect you (through the Grandmother). And it takes a childlike innocence to accept it. Irene has a disposition to accept more readily while the hero, Curdie, has to learn to accept--which he eventually does. MacDonald used the Princess as model of virtue: always telling the truth, admitting when you're wrong, and keeping your word.

The style of writing is so conversational, I felt as if I were sitting at the fire with my legs crossed sipping hot cocoa while my grandfather was reading me a story. This is definitely one I'll be sharing with my kids some day (should we have them). It has a sequel, The Princess and Curdie, which I plan to read soon. The adventures and themes are timeless and I would recommend this to anyone wanting to escape into the heart of childlike innocence.

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