Sunday, June 25, 2006

The Princess stories - George MacDonald

I've just re-read George MacDonald's The Princess and the Goblin and The Princess and Curdie for the first time since I started writing about children's literature. Unfortunately, I could only get hold of the second book by borrowing a copy from the library, and I didn't know (until the book arrived) that it was an abridged version. Apparently, all the "moral homilies" had been left out because "modern" children won't accept them !

If anyone wants to read the full text, you'll find them at the excellent Page By Page Books website that offers hundreds of classic books free of charge: The Princess and the Goblin and The Princess and Curdie.

The Princess and the Goblin is the story of Princess Irene and a miner boy named Curdie, and their adventures with the goblins. It is actually two stories with narratives that cross every now and then. Princess Irene's adventures include the discovery that she has a great-great-grandmother living in the secluded house on the mountain where her father, the King, has sent her. One evening she meets Curdie when she and her nurse Lootie are out too late on their walk and find themselves chased by goblins. Curdie scares them away with a rhyme (since the goblins hate verse), and in return Irene promises him a kiss, but Lootie will not let her kiss a mere miner boy. Later Irene meets her great-great-grandmother several times and on one occasions she is given a very special ring. Curdie's adventures, in the meantime, involve the discovery of the goblins' plot to get rid of all the people who live above ground. He has many adventures and misadventures in the tunnels under the mountain and learns much important information.

Following on from The Princess and the Goblin is The Princess and Curdie in which Curdie is sent (by Irene's great-great-grandmother) to Gwyntystorm, the city i n which Irene now lives with her father. He is given the task of dealing with whatever he finds in the capital city, and is given a most unusual magical power to help him in this task; however he is told he may never use the power in his own self-interest. During his journey to Gwyntystorm he meets a number of ugly and fearful monster-beasts who become his companions and help him in his task.

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