George Macdonald (1824-1905) was a Scottish born author of fairy tales and fantasy novels. I recently picked up one of his delightful little works, The Princess and the Goblin. You can get it free on the Amazon Kindle.

The work is primarily for children (though some of the language may require the use of a dictionary for today’s children…and some adults). It tells the story of a little princess, Irene, who lived in a castle/home on the side of mountain, which housed a troop of goblins within. Through a course of events, mostly due to her curiosity, Irene meets her great great great (How many more greats?) grandmother in an upper, more deserted part of her castle. The idea is that she is really old. Her grandmother aids her on her way as Irene finds herself as the target for a goblin kidnapping.

The goblins wish to kidnap her so that they might give her to their King’s son, Prince Hairlip, as a wife. The hope is that this will bring about some peace between the “sun dwellers” and the goblins.

Along the way, however, a young miner by the name of Curdie learns of their plan and in the process is captured by the goblins, deep in the heart of the mountain. Irene rescues the prince by following a path laid out by her grandmother through the use of string. Once Curdie is found, the string leads the two out of the mountain to safety. But, Curdie does not see the string, which is an important point for the story.

As a result of saving Curdie the princess, and those who protect her, are informed of the goblin’s plan and thwart it. The princess is not entirely safe after this, as the goblins resort to plan B. They tunnel underneath her home and attempt to kidnap her by a passageway created through the cellar. Curdie comes to the rescue. Once the goblins have been defeated the princess is found missing. Curdie, somehow, finds a string, which no one else can see, and finds the princess safely at his home with his mother. All is well after this and the story has a few odds and ends to wrap up after this.

The story focuses on the belief that Irene has in her grandmother, and her ability to help her in times of distress. Curdie, who originally can’t see the string, or her grandmother (for Irene takes him to see her at one point in the story, but he sees nothing) soon finds that he believes in Irene’s Grandmother.

This is used as an object lesson, I believe, to teach young children about faith and the way that not everyone believes in God. However, as the book states, it just takes them some time to believe. This view of faith may be due to Macdonald’s rejection of substitutionary atonement and his belief that God only uses punishment to, dare I say, bend people to his will. People just need time to see God for who he is. At least, that seems to be the worldview here.


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