Focus on the Family

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..



Plot Summary


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.



Christian Beliefs


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.



Authority Roles


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.



Profanity/Graphic Violence


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.



Kissing/Sex/Homosexuality


Princess Irene gives Curdie a kiss in thanks for his protection and bravery. The kiss is innocent and watched by her father.



Awards


Unknown



Discussion Topics


If your children have read this book or someone has read it to them, consider these discussion topics:


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.