After reading so much new stuff, I thought I would try something old. Or at least, sort of old. I decided to try out “The Princess and the Goblin” by George MacDonald.
I haven’t read the book before, but I’m certainly familiar with the old movie:
My sisters and I loved this movie (maybe more my sisters than I), although I’ll fully admit it’s kind of a terrible movie. We were young. It had a princess. And singing. What more can I say?
Anyway, I decided to read the book out of a sense of nostalgia. The film differs from the book in several key points – including the climax, from what I can remember of the movie. The book is much less dramatic! Apparently though, The Princess and the Goblin was first published in 1872. When I found that out, the book made a whole lot more sense. It’s a children’s book but it’s definitely written in an archaic style which tends to ramble. I felt like it had many long sentences that didn’t really get you anywhere at all. I have to forgive the writing style for being so old-fashioned though, since it IS a really old story!
The Princess and the Goblin follows Princess Irene, who is eight years old and lives in an old farmhouse/castle in the mountains in her father’s kingdom. Her King-papa (as she calls him) is constantly traveling about the kingdom and so she is being raised at this tucked away house/castle.
Unfortunately for Irene, her home rests on a mountain inhabited by Goblins (or “cobs” as the locals call them). There is a mine nearby, and the miners can sometimes hear the goblins going about their work.
Irene must trust in her many-times-great grandmother, (who appears to her at the top of a tower) and Curdie, a miner-boy she meets after accidentally staying out past sunset. This Grandmother is clearly magic (example: Curdie can’t see her) and helps protect Irene from the evil Goblin’s plotting.
There is some singing and some fighting and the day is saved rather easily (in contrast to the movie).
I wouldn’t really recommend this book as a pleasure-read, but it’s certainly an interesting look at “Children’s literature” from a different style than our modern-day books.
I was curious enough by the concluding line (which has something to the effect of “but that’s a story for another book” that I looked it up and discovered that there is a sequel!
So I decided to read The Princess and Curdie. It’s very similar in style to the first book (no surprise there) but I felt like it was a little more … fanciful? Lofty? The language felt less down-to-earth and there was a great deal more moralizing in the book. The book definitely showed immoral behaviour and made sure to punish it thoroughly. In such, it was less believable (well, I guess not that the first one was really believable) than The Princess in the Goblin. I guess more like a lecture and less like a story.
This sequel follows Curdie, as he meets Irene’s (many greats) old grandmother (the “old princess”) and is tasked with helping her out. This leads him to the city of Gwyntystorm, where Irene has gone to live with her father. He must help the King and Princess Irene out of the predicament they find themselves in (and thus save the kingdom!). Curdie is assisted by gifts from the old princess, including a strange companion (some sort of beast-creature) and a special kind of “talent”.
Anyway, the climax was more satisfying, so that’s good. I also had to laugh a little bit at the happily-ever-after-oh-wait-let’s-punish-bad-people-some-more ending.
I would probably give both books a 3/5. Interesting reads, but definitely something that would be difficult for a kid to wade through. (Also it’s a bit too moralizing for my taste!)