Wednesday, May 20, 2009

The Princess and the Goblin by George MacDonald

I have long been a fan of George MacDonald, and The Princess and the Goblin, a simple little fairy tale for children and adults alike, reminded me why. He has such an ability to weave good moral lessons and sound theology (usually) into engaging narratives with beautiful descriptions. Here are a few samples:

"She turned and started at full speed, her little footsteps echoing through the sounds of the rain - back for the stairs and her safe nursery. So she thought, but she had lost herself long ago. It doesn't follow that she was lost, because she had lost herself, though." (Chapter 2)

"'Oh, dear! I can't understand that,' said the princess. 'I dare say not. I didn't expect you would. But that's no reason why I shouldn't say it.'" (Chapter 3)

"Not to be believed does not at all agree with princesses: for a real princess cannot tell a lie. . .Only when the nurse spoke to her, she answered her, for a real princess is never rude - even when she does well to be offended." (Chapter 4)

"A long dark beard, streaked with silvery lines, flowed from his mouth almost to his waist, and as Irene sat on the saddle and hid her glad face upon his bosom it mingled with the golden hair which her mother had given her, and the two together were like a cloud with streaks of the sun woven through it. " (Chapter 10)

"True, her hands were hard and chapped and large, but it was with work for them; and therefore, in the sight of the angels, her hands were so much the more beautiful. And if Curdie worked hard to get her a petticoat, she worked hard every day to get him comforts which he would have missed much more than she would a new petticoat even in winter. Not that she and Curdie ever thought of how much they worked for each other: that would have spoiled everything." (Chapter 12)

"If all the long-legged cats in the world had come rushing at her then she would not have been afraid of them for a moment. How this was she could not tell - she only knew there was no fear in her, and everything was so right and safe that it could not get in." (Chapter 15)

"But you must understand that no one ever gives anything to another properly and really without keeping it. That ball is yours...Of one thing you may be sure, that while you hold it, I hold it too." (Chapter 15)

". . .it is so silly of people to fancy that old age means crookedness and witheredness and feebleness and sticks and spectacles and rheumatism and forgetfulness! It is so silly! Old age has nothing whatever to do with all that. The right old age means strength and beauty and mirth and courage and clear eyes and strong painless limbs." (Chapter 15)

"'But in the meantime you must be content, I say, to be misunderstood for a while. We are all very anxious to be understood, and it is very hard not to be. But there is one thing much more necessary.' 'What is that, grandmother?' 'To understand other people.' 'Yes, grandmother. I must be fair - for if I'm not fair to other people, I'm not worth being understood myself. I see. So as Curdie can't help it, I will not be vexed with him, but just wait.'" (Chapter 22)

This was the first book I have read entirely online (available here), which was a convenient option since my copy from childhood is in a box in a truck in another state! If it weren't for the extenuating circumstances, however, I'd much prefer turning pages to scrolling and clicking.

It was a joy to reread this tale after many years (we won't go into details on how many years), and I look forward to reading The Princess and Curdie in the next few days and discussing both stories at the new book club I've found in Indiana.

I also intend to read this aloud to my daughter in the near future. Princess Irene is such a better role model than Disney Princesses, whose glamour seems to overshadow their goodness too often. And what little girl doesn't love a princess story?!

1 comment:

hopeinbrazil said...

Great review of a great book.