The Princess and the Goblin
A book review for parents
This fantasy adventure book by George MacDonald was originally published in 1872 by Strahan & Co. It currently is available online and is in the public domain so various publishers have re-published it.
The Princess and the Goblin is written for kids ages 8 and up. The age range reflects readability and not necessarily content appropriateness..
Eight-year-old Princess Irene lives in a society of sun dwellers (those who live above the ground) and goblins (those who live underground). Although they are all people, those who live underground have evolved into hideous looking individuals because of the lack of sun. The goblins sleep during the day and only come out at night. Because of this, sun dwellers make sure their doors are locked and they are safely inside by night. After Princess Irene meets her great-great-great grandmother (called her grandmother), she learns that few others can see her relative and most don't believe she's real even when looking at her. Princess Irene meets a 12-year-old miner named Curdie, when he rescues her from goblins after Irene and her nurse stay out on the mountain after dark. Princess Irene returns the favor and rescues Curdie after he is captured by goblins by following an almost invisible thread her grandmother made for her. Yet when Irene tries to introduce Curdie to her grandmother, Curdie cannot see her. When Curdie's parents talk to him about the incident, he feels ashamed and realizes that even if he can't see something, it doesn't mean someone else can't see it. In time, Curdie figures out that the goblins intend to kidnap Irene and force her to marry their goblin prince. Unable to warn Irene of the impending danger, Curdie, with the help of Irene's grandmother, defeats the attacking hordes and finds Irene safe in his mother's arms. He no longer doubts Irene's stories.
Although not overt, Christian principles are throughout this book. For example, the invisible thread that Irene's grandmother gives Irene helps her to walk forward in confidence at her grandmother's bidding. This is akin to the way the Holy Spirit asks us to trust His direction as we move forward in each aspect of our lives. Also, Irene's grandmother allows herself to be seen only by those who have a strong enough faith to believe that she does exist. Many spiritual applications on topics such as faith, lack of faith and belief are laced throughout the story.
The king is a wise and knowing father and ruler. He spends his time in defense of his people because he loves them and his daughter. He knows about Irene's grandmother and believes in her. Irene's nurse, Lootie, loves the princess, but she does not believe Irene's stories. Lootie is guided only by what she can see. Eventually, Irene must confront Lootie about this and threaten to tell her father. The gentlemen-at-arms are fully devoted to the king and are thus completely devoted to the princess. They live their lives to serve the royal family.
Other Belief Systems
Irene's nurse believes only in what she can see, but that is not perceived as the correct way to live life. The goblins believe in promoting themselves and getting back the respect they feel they deserve from others, by force if necessary. The weaker they are, the stronger they think they are; they also feel that everyone is inferior to them. The author lets the reader see that this materialistic way of thinking about life is not the best way to live life.
The mother goblins stomps her child's foot as a discipline measure, which causes the child to scream. In fights with the goblins, Curdie learns that their feet are soft, but the rest of their bodies are too strong to hurt them. Goblins attack and scare people, and Curdie battles them with rhymes and by stomping their feet. The goblins plan to murder the miners by flooding the mine. The gentlemen-at-arms shoot Curdie in the leg with an arrow when they think he is one of the goblins' pets.
Princess Irene gives Curdie a kiss in thanks for his protection and bravery. The kiss is innocent and watched by her father.
If your children have read this book or someone has read it to them, consider these discussion topics:
- What was Princess Irene supposed to do whenever she was scared?
Where did the thread lead her whenever she was scared?
What path did she take to reach her grandmother the first time?
What good came out of it?
What path did she take to reach her grandmother the second time?
What good came out of it?
- When did Curdie first feel the thread? Where did the thread lead him?
Why could Curdie now feel the thread when he couldn't feel it before?
- How is faith in God similar to the thread that Princess Irene and Curdie followed?
What do you use to keep you on the right path?
Have you put your trust in the one who has woven that thread for you?
- What things did the book say about the characteristics of a prince or princess, such as a true princess would never lie?
Did Irene have the qualities of a princess?
What did Curdie do that caused the author to associate prince qualities to his actions?
What prince or princess qualities do you possess?
- What scared the princess?
Was her grandmother strong enough to handle the plans of the goblins?
What scares you?
Is your God strong enough to handle situations that scare you?
Book reviews cover the content, themes and worldviews of fiction books, not their literary merit, and equip parents to decide whether a book is appropriate for their children. A book's inclusion does not constitute an endorsement by Focus on the Family.