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George MacDonald – The Princess and the Goblin

October 20, 2010

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.

This Review on LibraryThing | This Book on LibraryThing | This Book on Amazon

Other Reviews: 5 Minutes for Books, Books I Done Read, Stacked, Things Mean a Lot
Have you reviewed this book? Leave a comment with the link and I’ll add it in.

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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17 Comments leave one →
  1. October 20, 2010 3:29 am

    I need to get my hands on the sequel as well! Curdie was the best.

    • October 21, 2010 8:44 am

      Nymeth – It’s old enough that it’s available for free download if you have an e-reader (or are willing to read on your computer.)

  2. October 20, 2010 7:43 am

    Sometimes you just have to wonder how they come up with the title of a book.

    • October 21, 2010 8:45 am

      bermudaonion – Yeah, I don’t know. If MacDonald (or his publishers? I don’t know who did the naming back then) was trying to pick the two most important elements of his book, I think he missed.

  3. October 20, 2010 8:57 am

    I’m always interested in pre-Tolkien fantasy, so this sounds quite interesting. I’ll have to look into MacDonald some more–apparently Lewis counted him as an inspiration.

    • October 21, 2010 8:47 am

      Omni – I didn’t know that about Lewis, although I can see it now that you mention it. We call it fantasy, but it really feels more like a fairy tale to me (which is of course a subset of fantasy, and now we’re into arguing picky details of classification again.)

  4. October 20, 2010 10:29 am

    I discovered The Princess and the Curdie as an adult too, and liked it well enough, but didn’t love it, the way that I thought I might have if I’d discovered it as a younger reader. I still have his Lilith in mind, though, as it’s reputed to be such a significant work, and it does sound intriguing.

    • October 21, 2010 8:48 am

      BIP – I’ve not heard of Lilith before… I’ll have to check it out!

  5. October 20, 2010 1:29 pm

    Will have to look into this one.

  6. October 20, 2010 6:28 pm

    A confession: I want to read these books just because there’s a character named Curdie. Curdie is way too much fun to say.

    • October 21, 2010 8:49 am

      Memory – I’ve read books for sillier reasons.

      Curdie Curdie Curdie!

  7. novelinsights permalink
    October 21, 2010 9:45 am

    I used to listen to this repeatedly on tape from the library when I was a kid and loved it so much. Glad you enjoyed it. I may have to revisit!

    • October 22, 2010 9:24 am

      novel – Ahhh, I loved books on tape as a kid (still do.) I can see how this one would have been great!

  8. October 21, 2010 6:37 pm

    I picked this up when I started this year fascinated with fairy tales. I have YET to read it. But it’s on my shelf. Just waiting. LOL.

    • October 22, 2010 9:25 am

      christina – Well, it’s waited what, a hundred thirty eight years for you to read it? I’m sure it can handle another month or two. :)

Trackbacks

  1. REVIEW: The Princess and the Goblin by George MacDonald » Birdbrain(ed) Book Blog
  2. Neil Gaiman – Unnatural Creatures | Fyrefly's Book Blog

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