George MacDonald – The Princess and the Goblin
120. The Princess and the Goblin by George MacDonald (1872)
Princess and Goblin, book 1
Length: 201 pages
Genre: Children’s Fantasy
Started: 26 September 2010
Finished: 29 September 2010
Where did it come from? Local library booksale / Free Kindle book from Amazon.
Why do I have it? I’d heard it mentioned as a childrens’ classic, and an early exemplar of fantasy novels, and since I’d never encountered it as a child, I thought I’d give it a try.
How long has it been on my TBR pile? Since 20 October 2007.
Goblins are plotting
nasty things; can a miner
help save the princess?
Summary: Princess Irene lives a happy life in her father’s castle, but she is never allowed outside after dark. She doesn’t know it, but the mountain on which she lives is not only mined by humans, but also by a colony of goblins. One afternoon, Irene finds a secret staircase leading up from her nursery to the magical-seeming rooms of her great-great-etc-grandmother, and that is just the beginning of her adventures. Because a young miner boy named Curdie has stumbled across a plot of the Goblins – a plot that might involve the Princess!
Review: This was a charming little story, with a very classic fairy-tale feel yet with an original plot. If I’d come across it when I was seven or eight, I probably would have absolutely loved it. As an adult, I still enjoyed it quite a bit, although there were a few parts that didn’t entirely work for me. For one, the title suggests that there’s going to be a Goblin as a main character, but no goblins show up in-person (in-goblin?) until well into the book, and Irene never actually meets one. (The title “The Princess and the Goblins” might have been more accurate.) This discrepancy, plus the fact that Irene spends most of the time interacting with her great-grandmother, occasionally made me confused as to the direction and point of the story. The narration is also a bit inconsistent, occasionally speaking directly to the reader, but ignoring or forgetting this device for long swaths at a time. I also thought some of the vocabulary and sentence constructions might be unfamiliar and a little challenging for a modern child, although not prohibitively so. So, overall, while this book had some issues, and those issues may be at the root of why it’s not as well-known and widely-read as some of its contemporaries, it was a charming story, and I’ll most likely read the sequel… especially since it promises more Curdie. 3.5 out of 5 stars.
Recommendation: I’d recommend this to people who like classic children’s lit, as well as to kids and adults that like fairy tales with princesses and fairy godmothers and such, although I don’t know that I’d put it at the very top of the list.
First Line: There was once a little princess whose father was king over a great country full of mountains and valleys.
Vocab: (see the whole list)
- Location 587: ““His Majesty, unwilling to proceed to extremities, and well aware that such measures sooner or later result in violent reactions, has excogitated a more fundamental and comprehensive measure, of which I need say no more.”” – think out, plan, or devise.
- Location 933: “On her dress was no ornament whatever, neither was there a ring on her hand, or a necklace or carcanet about her neck.” – a jewelled collar or necklace.
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