This is a classic and timeless fairy tale available as a free ebook thanks to the Gutenburg Project.
“I write not for children, but for the child-like, whether they be five, or fifty, or seventy five.”
Title: The Princess and the Goblin
Author: George MacDonald
First Published: 1872
Synopsis: Young Princess Irene lives in a mountainside holding with her nurse, Lootie while her father – “king-papa” – travels the kingdom dealing with affairs and getting to know his subjects as any good king should. Deep in the mountains goblins or “cobs” exist and make trouble for their rivals, the humans. It comes down to a young miner, Curdie, to investigate the goblins schemes, and the princess led by her mysterious and elusive grandmother to remain out of their grasp and ensure the future and safety of the human kingdom.
I obtained this book as a free download on my Kobo app, and really enjoyed it. I found it to be a wonderfully creative and original fairy tale that is simplistic enough for young children, while also being sophisticated enough for an audience of any age. MacDonald is famously quoted saying “I write not for children, but for the child-like, whether they be five, or fifty, or seventy five” – a quote which truly represents the feel of this book. The story was well developed and had a fast pace, a varied vocabulary and a depth of insightfulness that made it feel truly magical. The main characters were sweet, likable and easy to imagine which gave the story a vivid feel.
I particularly liked the approach that although the goblins were the villains of the tale, they were not villainized, but instead were given personalities and a culture and history of their own. They are described as once having been human, but evolved (or devolved) in the depths of the mountains having retreated centuries ago due to some disagreement with a past king – and although they have bad tempers, love mischief and propose some truly terrible things it is made clear that they are not evil and are never cruel for cruelties sake. In a way this ties in with one of the main themes of the book, which is empathizing and understanding one another and withholding judgement simply because you do not understand the other person’s claims. This story has a unique approach to addressing belief that I haven’t seen rivaled anywhere else.
I can see why this book has been influential to some of the other great writers over the last century or so, and I truly consider it a timeless classic – and although I appreciate it’s exposure and accessibility through the Gutenburg Project, I hope to get a really nice printed copy for my own children!
It is followed up by another book titled “The Princess and Curdie” published in 1883 which is a sequel set two years later.