I am going to try to post a book review every Thursday in March. I’m not ready to get a real schedule going, but I thought I’d try it for a month. It shouldn’t be too hard, as I love to read and I love to write, and book reviews are a combination of the two! Once again, I’ll probably fudge a little if I miss a day… or I might skip, ’cause you guys won’t be on cliff-hangers! 🙂
I read this review of The Princess and the Goblin by George MacDonald and thought it sounded interesting. I told my mom about it and stated I would like to read it. She had never read it, but she had heard of it, and said I could check it out from the library.
This book has good morals, but is also humorous and I really liked the beginning. Somewhere in the middle of it I got pretty “weirded-out” and decided it was not my style. By the end, though, I had decided I liked it again #inconsistency
To make a long story short: I liked it, but the fact that there was a pretty-much allegorical God-figure without it really being an allegory–And that that figure was a woman–and that she was biological related to Irene, but not to everyone in the story, was hard to get used to.
ANYWAY–This is a story about a princess who was sent to the country to be raised. She lives in a house in the mountains, and is looked after by her nurse.
“Why, where can you have been, princess?” asked the nurse, taking her in her arms. “It’s very unkind of you to hide away so long. I began to be afraid–” Here she checked herself. “What were you afraid of, nursie?” asked the princess. “Never mind,” she answered. “Perhaps I will tell you another day. Now tell me where you have been?” (24)
The people bringing her up are forbidden to tell the princess about the existence of the goblins that live in the caverns beneath the mountains. These goblins only come out at night, when they love to make mischief. So the people, naturally, stay inside after dark–except a few: some of the miners, who do not fear the goblins because they know what the goblins cannot stand–singing.
At all events, those who were most afraid of them were those who could neither make verses themselves, nor remember the verses that other people made for them; while those who were never afraid were those who could make verses for themselves; for although there were certain old rhymes which were very effectual, yet it was well known that a new rhyme. if of the right sort, was even more distasteful to them, and therefore more effectual in putting them to flight. (48)
Curdie Peterson happens to be one of those who can make up verses on the spot, and truly is never afraid, even when a strange turn of events places him in the kingdom of the goblins themselves (where his songs are less heeded) thanks to another goblin-weakness he discovers.
Princess Irene, in my first quote, happened to be up in the attic where she had gone exploring and gotten lost. She meets someone who happens to be up there, but I am not going into all that right now… but I will tell you it is the beginning of the princess’s many, many trips to the attic.
Irene and Curdie meet quite by mistake, and that chance meeting is the beginning of several adventures they have together–not always on the best of terms: The princess’s nurse does not approve of Curdie; nor does Curdie approve of Irene’s stories of a thread that she follows that will always lead her to safety, which he himself cannot see or feel.
I enjoyed this book, though all the ‘magic’ was handled very mysteriously, without the reader ever being given a clear explanation, which bothered me. It was more of a quiet, innocent story than what I have been reading lately, and both main characters were younger than me. But there were still some goblin parts that were downright nasty.
They had enough of affection left for each other, to preserve them from being absolutely cruel for cruelty’s sake… (12)
I believe this statement to be contradicted strongly by all goblin-appearances in the rest of the book!
Neither Irene or Curdie had siblings, but I loved their relationships with their parents: Irene did not live with her parents, but her father would come and visit her (I do not think her mother was still alive) and she would go running out and get on his horse with him before he even got off–it was so sweet!!! Curdie did live with his parents, and their love for each other was amazing! They were always working for each other and helping each other; and Curdie was very respectful, which is rather hard to find these days.
In the review I linked to above, Miss Ruth said:
C.S. Lewis and J.R.R. Tolkien read George MacDonald’s books, and the Chronicles of Narnia and the Hobbit were both influenced by his writings. Thus, however indirectly, many of the fantasy books you read today are influenced by “the Princess and the Goblin”.
So I, of course, began looking for similarities. I did not think they had a lot in common, but I found three things that reminded me of J.R.R. Tolkien’s work:
1) The goblins in Mr. MacDonald’s book have no toes (weird, weird, I know–bear with me) which might have something to do with the toeless troll in The Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the Ring.
2) Shelob and the giant spiders in Mirkwood might have been inspired by this reference to extraordinary, if not large, spiders:
It is spider-webs–of a particular kind. My pigeons bring it to me from over the great sea. There is only one forest where the spiders live who make this particular kind–the finest and strongest of any. (78)
3) These quotes do not need much explanation!
“Then you’re leaving the story unfinished, Mr. Author!” “Not more unfinished than it ought to be, I hope. If you ever knew a story finished, all I can say is, I never did. Somehow, stories won’t finish. (203)
–The Princess and the Goblin
‘Why, to think of it, we’re in the same tale still! It’s going on. Don’t the great tales never end?’ ‘No, they never end as tales.’ (697)
–The Two Towers
There is still the whole those-were-good-but-these-were-bad problem, but that has little to do with inspiration.
The only that reminded me of C.S. Lewis’s books was the unexplained-magic (^see above^).
Over-all I liked this book, and it was fun to read–which I did in one day! 🙂
“But I must confess that I have sometimes been afraid about my children–sometimes about you, Irene.” “Oh, I’m so sorry… To-night, I suppose you mean.” “Yes, a little to-night; but a good deal when you had all but made up your mind that I was a dream. (105)
Do you think my book reports are too l-o-n-g???
P.S. If you feel a little out-Middle-Earth-ed by my last two book reviews, so does everybody else whose ever talked to me. Don’t read my blog if that bothers you.