“So you see there is some ground for supposing that Curdie was not a miner only, but also a prince. Many such instances have been known in the world’s history.”
“The Princess and the Goblin” by George MacDonald.*
With a great deal of adventure, action, mystery and magic, with a young Victorian heroine even more engaging, clever, and charming than Alice (and this coming from a self-proclaimed Aliceophile), it sometimes surprising me why George MacDonald’s The Princess and the Goblin is not better known, but, on the other hand, it doesn’t surprise me at all. It is usually the real gems that are stand as a mystery to most and a cherished experience for those who have the luck of having come across it. As a child, I had the book, but I remember not being very taken with it then. I recently rediscovered it and have been wondering what was wrong with my child self. Incredibly well-written, supremely smart, and not too over-archingly Victorian, The Princess and the Goblin is easy one of my favorite fantasies of this era.
The story takes place in a kingdom on a mountain, where, everyday, the miners risk their lives not only in their profession, which MacDonald clearly respects a great deal, but also in the fact that underneath the mines lie the lairs of the goblins, who are hatching a plot to kidnap the Princess Irene to be the wife of their prince, the awful and abominable Harelip. Young Curdie uncovers this plot and must do what he can to save the princess, though the odds are against him and the princess ends up being surprisingly resourceful on her own. Irene has been visiting with her strange and mysterious, beautiful grandmother that no one else can see, and her grandmother has equipped her with tools and the wisdom to survive anything the goblins may throw at them.
As I’ve mentioned, I love Irene as a character. She has the potential to be incredibly annoying, but MacDonald does a fantastic job of balancing precociousness and childishness with a respectable intelligence and determination. Curdie as a hero is smart and loyal, but also flawed; the princess is helping him just as much as he is helping the princess. And the fairy tale easy avoids being preachy, thought it is infused with good strong moral values for children and adults alike. The text is brilliantly easy and enjoyable to read, not at all tortured and much in the tone of someone telling a lovely story to children, with a wink for any older storylovers who may be listening.
I am a big fan of The Princess and the Goblin, which is sweet, endearing, and exciting, and it was a delight to pick it up and read it again.
Books read: 53/100.
*This is not actually the cover of the version I have; I always try to find the same cover, but I was unable to find a picture of the Watermill Classic version I have and was too lazy to take a photograph, but this cover was my favorite out of the others I could find.
And I’d like to send a big old THANK YOU! to Talin Orfali for subscribing to the blog! Welcome aboard! I’m looking forward to getting the chance to read some of your blog, too, Talin!