Saturday, June 25, 2005

The Princess and the Goblin

I just posted a review at Logres Hall of George MacDonald's The Princess and the Goblin. Here is that review, in full:

George MacDonald's The Princess and the Goblin:
A Short Review
William Chad Newsom

I just finished reading George MacDonald's book-length fairy tale for children, The Princess and the Goblin. Here at Logres Hall, we encourage regular reading of fairy tales as a way of reinforcing both the doctrine and morality of the Bible. MacDonald's book is a good example of that, especially in the way it skewers naturalism and praises faith through the character of Irene (the princess) and her relationship with her great-great-grandmother.
The problem for Irene is that no one else has seen her grandmother, nor, apparently, can they, or at least not at first. Readers of C. S. Lewis will know that Lewis called George MacDonald his "master," and said that he had probably quoted MacDonald in every book he ever wrote. Here we can see some of that influence, as The Princess and the Goblin inspires a scene in Prince Caspian, from Lewis' The Chronicles of Narnia. In the former book, Irene's friend, Curdie, cannot see her grandmother, because he is not yet "able" to see her. In the latter book, only Lucy can see Aslan at first, while the others cannot see him until they have learned to trust, and to act on that trust. And yet, both the grandmother and Aslan were really there to see, for those to whom it had been given (Luke 8:10). As Irene's grandmother puts it, "Seeing is not believing - it is only seeing."
The book also has something that every children's book should have: noble children. In this book, nobility is defined primarily by the character of the Princess, Irene, and how she behaves - one chapter is titled, "Irene Behaves Like a Princess," and we are told, by Irene herself, that "a princess must not break her word." In addition, Irene, though not perfect, is valiant, faithful, and kind, though she is sorely tested in these areas throughout the story. By instilling these virtues in the character of a princess, MacDonald is telling us that such virtues are high and noble, but not that they are only for those of high office - in the character of Curdie, the son of Peter, the miner, we also see a fierce nobility, daring courage, and a conscience sensitive to the touch of both good and evil. In their battles with the goblins, and their growing trust for one another, even when that seems to require believing what seems to be nonsense, both Irene and Curdie show a strength of character few adults possess. This book is valuable if for no other reason than that it clearly shows parents their goal: noble children who will one day be noble adults. We must resist our culture's view that such expectations are necessarily too high, that such nobility in the young is an unatttainable ideal. It is attainable - but not for those who refuse to read stories like The Princess and the Goblin to their children.
The adventures of Irene and Curdie are continued in The Princess and Curdie, which we will take a look at once I read it.

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