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The Princess and the Goblin (Looking Glass Library) Hardcover – January 26, 2010
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Excerpt. © Reprinted by permission. All rights reserved.
Why the Princess Has a Story about Her
There was once a little princess whose father was king over a great country full of mountains and valleys. His palace was built upon one of the mountains and was very grand and beautiful. The princess, whose name was Irene, was born there, but she was sent soon after her birth, because her mother was not very strong, to be brought up by country people in a large house, half castle, half farmhouse, on the side of another mountain, about halfway between its base and its peak.
The princess was a sweet little creature and at the time my story begins was about eight years old, I think, but she got older very fast. Her face was fair and pretty, with eyes like two bits of night sky, each with a star dissolved in the blue. Those eyes, you would have thought, must have known they came from there, so often were they turned up in that direction. The ceiling of her nursery was blue with stars in it, as like the sky as they could make it. But I doubt if ever she saw the real sky with the stars in it, for a reason, which I had better mention at once.
These mountains were full of hollow places underneath, huge caverns and winding ways, some with water running through them and some shining with all colors of the rainbow when a light was taken in. There would not have been much known about them had there not been mines there, great deep pits, with long galleries and passages running off from them, which had been dug to get at the ore of which the mountains were full. In the course of digging the miners came upon many of these natural caverns. A few of them had far-off openings out on the side of a mountain or into a ravine.
Now in these subterranean caverns lived a strange race of beings, called by some gnomes, by some kobolds, by some goblins. There was a legend current in the country that at one time they lived above ground and were very like other people. But for some reason or other, concerning which there were different legendary theories, the king had laid what they thought too severe taxes upon them, or required observances of them they did not like, or had begun to treat them with more severity in some way or other, and to impose stricter laws; and the consequence was that they had all disappeared from the face of the country. According to the legend, however, instead of going to some other country they had all taken refuge in the subterranean caverns, whence they never came out but at night, and then seldom showed themselves in any numbers and never to many people at once. It was only in the least frequented and most difficult parts of the mountains that they were said to gather, even at night in the open air. Those who had caught sight of any of them said that they had greatly altered in the course of generations; and no wonder, seeing they lived away from the sun, in cold and wet and dark places. They were now, not ordinarily ugly, but either absolutely hideous or ludicrously grotesque both in face and form. There was no invention, they said, of the most lawless imagination expressed by pen or pencil, that could surpass the extravagance of their appearance. And as they grew misshapen in body, they had grown in knowledge and cleverness and now were able to do things no mortal could see the possibility of. But as they grew in cunning, they grew in mischief, and their great delight was in every way they could think of to annoy the people who lived in the open-air story above them. They had enough of affection left for each other to preserve them from being absolutely cruel for cruelty's sake to those that came in their way; but still they so heartily cherished the ancestral grudge against those who occupied their former possession, and especially against the descendants of the king who had caused their expulsion, that they sought every opportunity of tormenting them in ways that were as odd as their inventors; and although dwarfed and misshapen, they had strength equal to their cunning. In the process of time they had got a king and a government of their own, whose chief business, beyond their own simple affairs, was to devise trouble for their neighbors. It will now be pretty evident why the little princess had never seen the sky at night. They were much too afraid of the goblins to let her out of the house then, even in company with ever so many attendants; and they had good reason, as we shall see by and by.
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Top Customer Reviews
To me the Princess and the Goblin is a fairy tale. Unlike most fairy tales that are stories passed down through the ages George MacDonald wrote this one in 1872. While I have no doubt that he took many things from legend and lore and fairy tales it is nonetheless his own tale. In reading this story I felt that I was a child again reading a wondrous story where anything could happen. MacDonald knows magic and weaves magic in his tale. He also knows how Faerie and the realms of Faerie works. Having been a fan of Tolkien most of my life I have read many of his essays on the realm and I recognize the strange laws of the realm that are difficult to put down to paper but you recognize them even if you can't communicate them yourself.
The story flows quickly and is lively as it revolves around the adventures of a little girl, the Princess Irene and at times the humble honest and wise miner boy Curdie. As they have their misadventures with the Goblins under the mountain you become aware of the guidance of Irene's mysterious and magical Great-Great Grandmother who wields a powerful yet subtle magic. She never takes a direct hand in things in this story but like a Fairy Godmother constantly helps Irene to help herself. The story is simply delightful.Read more ›
Little Princess Irene has always been kept in ignorance of the goblins by her overprotective father and nursemaid. But one night when she and her nursemaid stay out a bit too late, they are chased by a bizarre creature... only to be rescued by a young miner boy, Curdie. Since goblins are a job hazard for the miners, Curdie tells her about the goblins and how to scare them away.
But not even singing can fend off the problems that are brewing. While mining, Curdie ends up wandering into the underground caverns where the goblins dwell, and uncovers a horrifying plot to take control of the above-ground kingdom. Meanwhile, Irene explores a mysterious tower where her magical "great-grandmother" lives, and is sent on a magical quest that leads her to Curdie... but can two children stop a goblin invasion?
"The Princess and the Goblin" is one of those novels that feels like someone dug up an old forgotten fairy tale, polished it and released it on the world -- we have goblins, monsters, a humble young hero, a brave princess and a magical goddess-like figure who bestows magical items every now and then. MacDonald balances it all out nicely, and there's a freshness to his story that steers it away from cliches.Read more ›
Young Princess Irene is a typical little girl, very curious and precocious with a big heart, although being a princess, she does not lie and is well-behaved. She makes friends with a miner boy who saves her from the goblins when she accidently stays out too late, but can he save her from their plot to kidnap her?
After reading this, I am surprised that I had never before heard of George MacDonald. I will be reading more of his works.
Fans of Narnia will clearly see the influence MacDonald had on Lewis in the book. The writing style is very similar. Moreover, one can clearly see a shared knack for bringing out key moral and doctrinal points in manner that is both natural and witty. Though it never feels like a sermon, you still come away feeling as if you've learned something.
Some major themes of the book this include the nature of both courage and faith. It's clearly implied that scary creatures (goblins) are terrified by people who aren't afraid of them. Moreover, MacDonald mocks unwarranted pride and portrays it as the goblin's fatal weakness.
Perhaps the major difference between C.S. Lewis and his master is their theology. While he was anything but conventional, Lewis was far more orthodox than MacDonald. While Lewis was a firm Complementarian, MacDonald had definite Egalitarian leanings, going so far as to make the God-figure an old lady. Interestingly enough, both of these men existed before their given doctrinal stances on this issue had been fully systematized and evaluated by church as whole. In many respects, they were both well ahead of their time on this issue, though they found themselves trailblazing in different directions.Read more ›
Most Recent Customer Reviews
Once in a while I like letting the child in me out. George MacDonald (a pastor) brings out the best of children's books. I read the follow up book also.Published 2 months ago by John M Martisch
I will read this to my children and their children! Beautiful book. C.S. Lewis's inspiration for his chronicles of narnia series.Published 2 months ago by Dillon
Beautiful book. I bought it for a friend for Christmas & she loved it.Published 4 months ago by Paula Baca
Daughter-in-law recommended the book, bought for granddaughter for Christmas.Published 5 months ago by Sharon S
George MacDonald weaves a tale of wonder throughout this children's classic. Highly recommend!Published 12 months ago by Lee E Moore
One of my favorites. I just finished reading it for the second time. MacDonald's descriptions sparkle with detail that any child of any age would like. Read morePublished 14 months ago by Marie
Heard of this as a formative work for Lewis and Tolkien. Simple, but sweet. Some solid Catholic theology behind it as well!Published 14 months ago by Tim