Originally published on June 4, 2020
By Joel Mitchell
A Review of The Princess and the Goblin & The Princess and Curdie
A couple of months ago, I started my review of the The Chronicles of Narnia with this quote by C. S. Lewis: “A children’s story that can only be enjoyed by children is not a good children’s story in the slightest.” I like to think that Lewis learned this from reading George MacDonald. I know that both Lewis and J. R. R. Tolkien admired (and were influenced by) his works, including the two Curdie books I will be reviewing here. Echoes from these two books sound in The Lord of the Rings and Narnia: hostile goblins living in mines, a hero who comes singing to frighten away baddies in the old forest, and a character who embodies the guidance and care of God Himself (more on her in a minute).
Each story is so full of symbolism and clever little nuggets of wisdom that the relatively simple fairytale plots sparkle with wonder. Here are just two examples that jumped out at me from The Princess and the Goblin:
Advertisements - Click the Speaker Icon for Audio
“It was foolish indeed – thus to run farther and farther from all who could help her, as if she had been seeking a fit spot for the goblin creature to eat her in at his leisure; but that is the way fear serves us: it always sides with the thing we are afraid of.”
“‘That’s all nonsense,’ said Curdie. ‘I don’t know what you mean.’
‘Then if you don’t know what I mean, what right have you to call it nonsense?’”
In The Princess and the Goblin, the unseen goblin threat and Princess Irene’s mysterious great-great-grandmother provide opportunities for the princess and the miner boy, Curdie, to exercise trust and belief in things they cannot clearly see or fully understand. In The Princess and Curdie, Curdie, sent and empowered by the great-great-Grandmother, must confront corruption in the King’s capital, discovering inner character and true beauty.
Occasionally Princess Irene borders on being a little too big-eyed and simpering sweet, and Curdie can be irritatingly dim, but the author never allows them to become too annoying. The character who really shines is the mysterious great-great-Grandmother. In many ways she beautifully symbolizes the ministry of the Holy Spirit; not in the direct way that Aslan = Jesus in the Narnia books, but by powerfully fulfilling many of the Spirit’s roles (convicting, comforting, guiding, empowering, etc.)…and she is frequently associated with white pigeons just in case you miss the connection.
These children’s books are well worth reading for people of all ages. George MacDonald himself recognized the importance of keeping a childlike spirit in some areas of life, and I will wrap up with one of his bits of wisdom from The Princess and Curdie: “The boy should enclose and keep, as his life, the old child at the heart of him, and never let it go. He must still, to be a right man, be his mother’s darling, and more, his father’s pride, and more. The child is not meant to die, but to be forever fresh born.”
This article was originally published on October 18, 2018.