I haven’t read any other works by George MacDonald before; this novel has been on my reading list for a while. The Princess and the Goblin is a children’s fantasy novel. It is like a classic fairytale. The story is about an isolated 8-year-old princess, Irene, who accidentally discovers a magical world.
Irene is an 8-year-old princess who lives in isolation away from her parents. She is sent to live in the countryside while her mother recovers from an illness, but even after her mother passes away, Irene continues living there. Her father is away, quite a lot for work. The only company she has is her nurse, Lootie. One time, when Lootie leaves Irene alone in her room, she sneaks out to explore the place and gets lost. When she is crying and upset that she can’t find her way, she meets her great great great grandmother. The grandmother consoles her and shows her the way. Irene tells Lootie all about her grandmother, but Lootie doesn’t believe her.
Lootie cannot see the grandmother, and this troubles, Irene. The grandmother gives Irene an invisible thread that will always help Irene find her way. Irene is unaware of the world below her, where the goblins live. They sleep during the day and are awake at night. They have chosen to live below the grounds due to disagreements with the king. It alludes that their appearance has become grotesque because of them never getting sunlight.
Irene and Lootie stay out one evening later than usual, unwittingly going further than ever before. As the sun sets, the goblins arise and scare both of them. Curdie, a twelve-year-old goblin, helps them find their way, saving them from the goblins. Curdie overhears some goblins discussing plans, and he realizes something dangerous is about to happen. When he tries to snoop more, he gets caught. Irene, with her thread, is able to find Curdie and save him. He can’t see her grandmother. Although, together, they put an end to the evil plans and save everyone.
I thought the main theme of the story is pretty classic fairytale-like, good vs. evil. Both the kids, Irene and Curdie fall into something they didn’t expect. By the end, their characters show growth. Irene has to learn to trust herself and be patient when Curdie and Lootie don’t believe her about the grandmother. I think one of the main themes reinforced throughout the novel is belief or faith, I would say. I tried finding out more about it to see if I was right but didn’t find anything too substantial. Surprisingly, the gender role is reversed. Not only does Curdie save Irene, but she also saves him, and without her, they wouldn’t have been able to stop the evil plans. This is different than the fairy tales of that age, and the novel was originally published in 1872.
The fantasy element comes into play rather quickly with the grandmother. Especially once you realize that not everyone can see her. After this, the workings of the world are established, and it is as new for the reader as it is for Irene. The descriptions throughout the novel help you visualize the setting and understand it. The world created in the novel is set up beautifully by the author. I read that George MacDonald’s writing has influenced the likes of C. S Lewis and Tolkien; it does make sense, especially how this world is described and set, and does bore some similarities.
I enjoyed reading this children’s fantasy novel. I wasn’t sure if I’ll like it before I started. But once I started the story, it caught my interest from the first chapter. It doesn’t drag out or feel overly complicated with the world it creates. It is an interesting fantasy novel.
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