The Princess and the Goblin (Everyman's Library Children's Classics)

by George MacDonald

Hardcover, 1993



Local notes

Fic Mac




Everyman's Library (1993), Edition: Reprint, 240 pages. $12.95.


A little princess is protected by her friend Curdie from the goblin miners who live beneath the castle.


Original language


Original publication date


Physical description

240 p.; 6.36 inches


0679428100 / 9780679428107



User reviews

LibraryThing member atimco
George MacDonald is one of those authors I've long felt guilty for not reading more of. The only book of his that I had read before was The Wise Woman, given to me by a friend as a joke on my username. It was so-so, a bit too heavy on the moralizing for my taste, and ultimately very predictable (but aren't all morality stories that way?). So I never really understood why so many fellow readers praise MacDonald's fantasy stories so highly.

After reading The Princess and the Goblin, I think I understand a bit better, though I will probably never have the same love for MacDonald as those who recommend him to me. He caught me too old; if I were younger I could have swallowed the coldness of the story probably without noticing it. Despite MacDonald's grandfatherly asides to his young readers, there is something disconnected at the core of the story, and it makes itself felt to me. Little things bother me... in the title, which goblin is being mentioned? Is it Harelip? Or is it the Goblin Queen? Or King? It just feels like MacDonald went with the coolest-sounding title without worrying overmuch about it making sense.

But having made these complaints, I do have some good things to say for MacDonald. First off, thank goodness he wrote at all, because he influenced C. S. Lewis' creation of Narnia! I noticed some distinct resemblances. There is a scene where the Princess rescues Curdie from the Goblin dungeon without even meaning to find him; she was following the thread between the ring her grandmother had given her and her grandmother's rooms. Her grandmother even warned her that the thread might take her on what would seem a roundabout path, but she would never be led astray by it. But Curdie cannot see or feel the thread that the Princess is following so surely — just like when Lucy compels the others to follow her as she follows the Aslan they cannot see in Prince Caspian.

Another very similar scene occurs where the Princess takes Curdie to see her grandmother in the upper part of the castle, and Curdie can't see anything but a bare floor and walls — while the Princess is reveling in the rich furnishings and wonderful presence of the old woman. This, and the conversation that Curdie has with his parents about it, reminds me so much of the part in The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe when Lucy tries to take the others to see Narnia and they are confronted with the smooth blank panel of the back of the wardrobe. Later the Professor challenges their assumption that if things are real, they are there all the time. Big ideas for little heads! But the best children's authors always trust their audience.

I don't know the extent of Lewis' debt to MacDonald, and of course I haven't read MacDonald's other books. I do know that Lewis actually uses MacDonald as a character in The Great Divorce, and his main purpose there is to talk about his belief that everyone will eventually be saved. Lewis comes to the incredibly unsatisfying conclusion that universalism is correct, but it doesn't do to speak of it much. Okay — ? Perhaps it is this theological disconnect that leaves me cold to MacDonald in general.

I remember reading some of MacDonald's historical romances as a young reader; they were lying around the house and when you can't get a ride to the library, you must make do with what you can find. I didn't care for them much at the time, thinking them sentimental and boring. Just yesterday I was helping catalog my church's library and was entering two of those when a friend swooped down and said she'd been bothered by them when she read them years ago. Apparently there was a bit more than sentimental nonsense going on in these books; MacDonald is using them to make a theological statement, attacking positions he didn't agree with. Unfortunately some of the doctrines he attacks are part of biblical Christianity, and as a biblical Christian, I can't go along with that. But I read The Princess and Curdie the night before hearing all this, and had already noted how disconnected I felt from MacDonald. I ended up taking those titles home with me; the church library didn't want them and perhaps some day I'll be moved to read and critique them. Maybe.

There are some lovely descriptions here. I will remember the fire shaped like roses, heavy and nodding, and the Goblin Queen's granite shoes. Curdie's nonsense poetry was fun (I wonder if Tolkien read anything by MacDonald, and if it influenced his hobbit poetry). I thought the character of Lootie, the nurse, was quite interesting. She truly does care for the Princess, but there is something lacking in her, and she will never be able to see the grandmother, or follow a silky thread into the darkest caverns.

I'm glad I read this book in one sitting. It probably would not have tempted me strongly to pick it up again if I hadn't. I'm thankful, for Narnia's sake, that MacDonald wrote fantasy for children; it's just a pity that his work is so flawed.
… (more)
LibraryThing member ncgraham
It is probably inaccurate to refer to George MacDonald as an “acquired taste.” On reflection, I don’t think you can acquire a taste for his books—it’s more like something you have to be born with. There is something weird and fantastical to his writing that some will thrill to, finding a responding call in their own hearts, while to others its mysteries will remain impenetrable. The Princess and the Goblin (which really should have been The Princess and the Goblins) is one of his more straightforward books, and probably would be a good one to start with, especially if you are reading aloud to children.

The story is set in, under, and around a mountain in a far-away kingdom. There is a great manor-house halfway up (“half castle, half farmhouse”) where the king leaves his little daughter, the Princess Irene, while he rides about the land. One rainy day Irene sets out to explore the manor, and comes across a mysterious old lady in a tower room who turns out to be her great-great-grandmother. While Irene tries to convince herself and her nurse of this lady’s existence, whom apparently only she is allowed to see, the miner boy Curdie is hard at work within the mountain, spying on the hideous goblins who live under it and seem to be up to some great mischief.

An friend once commented that there was something “disconnected” at the heart of this story. In a way, this is true, and I can very much understand how it could be off-putting at times. But I think it also hints at what makes MacDonald unique as an early fantasy author. In all of his books, there are things beneath the surface—a wildness, a remoteness, a sadness, a danger—that we may only catch glimpses of. In this simple children’s book, there is more of the sadness and less of the danger.

I can see this merely in the setting. The wild, bare mountainside where the princess lives in her manor-house, the fact that the king must be away from her, all the abandoned passageways between the princess’ nursery and her great-great-grandmother’s tower room—there’s a profound sense of loneliness here, even if none of the characters ever evinces that emotion. And then there is the scene between Irene and her “king-papa,” where his grief at losing his wife is touched on briefly but touchingly. The king is my favorite character in the book; he seems to represent the cares and concerns of an adult world.

MacDonald is often referred to as a precursor to C. S. Lewis, but perhaps it would be better to think of him as a successor to Hans Christian Anderson, who wrote fairytales that were also sadder than one might expect them to be. For The Princess and the Goblin is really more like a fairytale than a contemporary fantasy novel.

I will say this: MacDonald is no prose master. There’s a certain awkwardness that I noticed when I was reading aloud. Words seemed often to be misplaced, though I’m convinced that in a few cases these were merely typos. Also, MacDonald’s characters don’t always act like real people, and the children certainly don’t act their age.

Another friend, upon learning I was reading this, referred to it as an “allegory.” I confess, I never thought of it that way as a child, but now I’m older I can definitely see it. The thing is, sometimes MacDonald is so obscure that I can’t see what he’s getting at. At other times he is didactic to the point that the story begins to lose its mystique. When Irene’s great-great-grandmother tells her that the ability to see her lamp is a gift that she hopes everybody will have someday, I suddenly knew that MacDonald was talking about the “doctrine” of universal salvation. This was a major turn-off for me, and I had to set the book aside for several days as a result.

I do think I have the inborn taste for MacDonald. There’s certainly a reason I’ve come back to this book, and I’m sure I will do so again. But this time around was frustrating for me, as I found the book both like and unlike my childhood memories of it. Recommended, but only to the select few.
… (more)
LibraryThing member The_Hibernator
This classic fairy-tale-style story is set in a land where the Goblins and Humans have had a "cold war" for many, many years. Long ago, the Goblins threatened that some day they will steal a princess...and their day finally comes when Princess Irene's nurse accidentally keeps the Princess out after sunset. Luckily, they are rescued by a miner's boy, Curdie - but now the Goblins know where the Princess lives and what she looks like. When the Goblins hatch a devious plot, Curdie and Irene become fast-friends as they act in turn as heroes. First and foremost, this is a fairy-tale. But it is also an allegory about faith. Princess Irene has a great-great-grandmother - a mysterious and heavenly woman that only she can see. Irene's very-great grandmother gives the Princess a magical string and tells her to follow the string whenever she's afraid - never doubting it or deviating from it, regardless of where it may take her. Irene must learn to have faith even when she thinks that the string has led her astray. And Curdie must learn to have faith in a very-great grandmother that he has never seen. This is a sweet story, nice for reading aloud to young children.… (more)
LibraryThing member mberg
George MacDonald's The Princess and the Goblin while quite obviously not a fairy tale (as the story is over 200 pages) nonetheless has that fairy tale feel to it. This charming story was first published in book form in 1871. It is considered to be "the first truly successful combination of entertainment with moral instruction in children's literature" (Peter Glassman) but the moral instruction is so well hidden you could miss it completely. It also strongly influenced many authors including Rubyard Kipling and J.R.R. Tolkien.

Princess Irene lives in a little castle set against a mountain range with only a small set of servants. The story begins with Princes Irene losing her way within her little castle and discovering her mysterious great grandmother who lives in the attic. Next the reader is introduced to Curdie, a boy who works in the mines where the goblins live. As the story continues Curdie tries to discover what the goblins are up to and what it has to do with Princess Irene. From this story come many surprises including a magical fire, a thread that guides a person to safety but that seems to be near invisible, and the biggest surprise of all the Queen Goblin who has six toes!

This is a story about the battle between good and evil but also a story about faith, as Irene tells Curdie when he can't see her huge great grandmother "you must believe without seeing". The writing at times is a little awkward but that is only because of when it was written. Overall this is a marvelous book that I would recommend to anyone young or old.
… (more)
LibraryThing member fyrefly98
Summary: Princess Irene lives a happy life in her father's castle, but she is never allowed outside after dark. She doesn't know it, but the mountain on which she lives is not only mined by humans, but also by a colony of goblins. One afternoon, Irene finds a secret staircase leading up from her nursery to the magical-seeming rooms of her great-great-etc-grandmother, and that is just the beginning of her adventures. Because a young miner boy named Curdie has stumbled across a plot of the Goblins - a plot that might involve the Princess!

Review: This was a charming little story, with a very classic fairy-tale feel yet with an original plot. If I'd come across it when I was seven or eight, I probably would have absolutely loved it. As an adult, I still enjoyed it quite a bit, although there were a few parts that didn't entirely work for me. For one, the title suggests that there's going to be a Goblin as a main character, but no goblins show up in-person (in-goblin?) until well into the book, and Irene never actually meets one. (The title "The Princess and the Goblins" might have been more accurate.) This discrepancy, plus the fact that Irene spends most of the time interacting with her great-grandmother, occasionally made me confused as to the direction and point of the story. The narration is also a bit inconsistent, occasionally speaking directly to the reader, but ignoring or forgetting this device for long swaths at a time. I also thought some of the vocabulary and sentence constructions might be unfamiliar and a little challenging for a modern child, although not prohibitively so. So, overall, while this book had some issues, and those issues may be at the root of why it's not as well-known and widely-read as some of its contemporaries, it was a charming story, and I'll most likely read the sequel... especially since it promises more Curdie. 3.5 out of 5 stars.

Recommendation: I'd recommend this to people who like classic children's lit, as well as to kids and adults that like fairy tales with princesses and fairy godmothers and such, although I don't know that I'd put it at the very top of the list.
… (more)
LibraryThing member TeresaInTexas
I was 8 years old when I picked up this book at the library and it completely enchanted me then as it does now. As a young reader, I think I probably skipped a lot of the descriptive passages, but there is enough action and dialogue to keep young readers and listeners attentive. I can't say the same for the sequel, The Princess and Curdie. I don't think I've ever been able to finish that book. But The Princess and the Goblin is a worthy predecessor to the Lord of the Rings and other fable/fantasies.… (more)
LibraryThing member jllwlsh
I had never read this story as a child, and absolutely loved reading it as an adult. It is bizzare and whimsical, and kept me engaged the entire time. For a young reader, this book could act as an escape. What could be better then a world of princess and magic, where children go on exciting adventures to essentially save the world. This is a great book to read aloud nightly, or to have in one's collection for the older reader.… (more)
LibraryThing member RRHowell
A MacDonald book that I thoroughly enjoyed reading to my children. Not deep, but filled with a delight in goodness.
LibraryThing member 1morechapter
This is a delightful story about eight year old Princess Irene, her great-great-great-great grandmother, and a miner boy named Curdie. Together they fight to foil the goblins' sinister schemes. Little Irene is a true princess and acts like a little lady, while Curdy is a very brave and heroic boy.

Highly recommended for all ages. I will try to read the sequel, The Princess and Curdie, sometime this year as well. I am also set to read Phantastes by MacDonald for the Fantasy Challenge. I can't wait to get to this more "adult" fantasy tale. I really enjoyed MacDonald's writing, and I am not at all surprised that he was an inspiration to both Lewis and Tolkien.… (more)
LibraryThing member Caroline_mlis
I haven't read this book since I was a child but I do remember loving this charming story. The description of the goblins is so vivid! This children's book was first written in the 1870s, but I think it will still charm children of all ages. It is a classic like Alice in Wonderland or Peter Pan; it is just not as famous!
LibraryThing member Homeschoolbookreview
Eight-year-old Princess Irene resides in a remote castle with her nurse Lootie and several other servants while her papa-king travels all over his kingdom. The reason that the Princess lives in seclusion is that the goblins who dwell under the mountain have sworn revenge on the king’s family. In addition, she has a mysterious and magical great-great-grandmother who is watching over her but who is seen by nobody else besides her. Also, she becomes friends with a twelve-year-old boy named Curdie who is the son of a local miner. When Irene and Lootie get lost after dark while on a walk in the mountains and are chased by goblins, they first meet Curdie who protects them from the goblins and helps to get them home safely. He pledges himself to guard the Princess.

The goblins have hatched a double plot in which they plan to steal Irene to become the wife of their Prince Harelip and to use the mines to flood the castle. While working in the mines, Curdie overhears part of their plans but is captured and imprisoned by the goblins. However, Irene’s grandmother gives her a special thread by which she is led to rescue Curdie and get both of them back home again. Curdie sneaks onto the castle grounds one night to see if he can learn more about the goblins’ plans but is mistaken for a prowler by the king’s guards and shot with an arrow. He not only is imprisoned but also becomes quite sick with a fever. It is during this very time that the goblins mount their attack. Will they be successful? Will the Princess be saved or will she become the bride of Harelip? And what will happen to Curdie?

Scottish-born author George MacDonald (1824-1905), though theologically considered a heretic, was a masterful storyteller who is often credited with inventing the genre of children’s fantasy literature and influenced such later youth fantasy writers as J. R. R. Tolkien, C. S. Lewis, and Madeline L’Engle. MacDonald began his literary career by telling fairy stories to his eleven children and then putting onplays for the poor in his neighborhood with his large family as the cast. His first such novel was At the Back of the North Wind published in 1871. The Princess and the Goblin was serialized in a journal called Good Words for the Young between 1870 and 1871 and then published in book form the following year. To be honest, this is one of the most fascinating and enjoyable books that I have ever read. The story of the Princess Irene and her friend Curdie continues in a sequel, The Princess and Curdie. I guess that I’ll just have to read it too.
… (more)
LibraryThing member Collene_Kuznicki
This story highlights the values of manners, bravery, honesty, and family love. There are many examples where the characters do what is “right”, no matter what consequences may come, and in the end their virtuosity is rewarded. It reads like a bedtime fairytale being told by a narrator who loves the story and wants us to love it equally. This is one of my favorite book reads, and I would recommend it as a novel for children of any age, because of its beautiful imagery and ideal values. It is a wonderful model of appropriate behavior, and the action of the plot is engaging but never becomes so intense or graphic that it would frighten a young reader. Periodically, there are gorgeous illustrations interspersed with the text to help the reader visualize the characters. This would make a wonderful chapter book read aloud for the classroom, to be read a little each day over the course of days or weeks.… (more)
LibraryThing member swampygirl
A rollicking children's fantasy novel written in 1872, The Princess & The Goblin by George MacDonald is fantastic! I do remember that my parents read me this book when I was a child, but since I could not remember anything else about the story – and was recently amazed by Phantastes – I decided to make this my favorite author read for August. Since it is also extremely short, I finished listening to it over the course of one long walk. The version I listened to I downloaded off of Overdrive, and was excellent, but both free versions on librivox sound very well done as well.

If you couldn't tell already, I really loved this book. Which was an interesting contrast to my recent experience listening to Around The World in 80 days, that while three-star, left a lot to be desired from an adult reader's perspective. Beyond pure personal preference, I think this difference in satisfaction comes down to two key differences. The first one is simple, the glorification of colonialism, which is hard for most adults these days to swallow. The second, somewhat more complicated reason, is that one is a book from the perspective of an adult made appropriate for all ages, and the other is a story for children from the perspective of a child. So while the goblin king and queen's plans weren't quite as complicated as Game of Thrones, who doesn't like to be reminded of how much more exciting and creative the life of a child is?

I would recommend this book to anyone who enjoys the feel of Spiderwick, Coraline, The Graveyard Book, or The House of Arden.
… (more)
LibraryThing member MaowangVater
While exploring her great house eight-year old Princess Irene gets lost; in attempting to retrace her steps she comes across a beautiful old woman who is spinning. The woman tells her that she’s Irene’s great-great-grandmother, and that her name is also Irene. She shows the princess the way to return safely to her room. But when she returns to it she gets a scolding from her irate nurse who accuses her of hiding and then making up a story about some old woman living in the attic.

The reverend MacDonald’s 1872 allegorical fairy tale of faith in a nurturing being that is not visible to everyone is very well read by Heldman whose sweet narration brings across the reassuring elements of the story. The voices that she uses for Princess Irene and the young miner Cudie are especially effective.
… (more)
LibraryThing member quondame
The goblins almost come across as an oppressed minority - or rather the king and his people are clearly oppressors of goblins. Somehow this charming tale doesn't work quite as meant when it has the goblins being taxed underground and redeemed by becoming brownies. All the verbiage of how one must behave when one is a princess (or prince?) is a bit much too. But the brisk story and the steadfastness of Curdie and Irene remain.… (more)
LibraryThing member Emackay24
A princess, her magical great-great-grandmother, and her new friend, a miner boy, work to stop the goblins that live underneath the mountain from rising up and taking over the village.
LibraryThing member marti041
MacDonald created yet another Mythical Masterpiece in The Princess and the Goblin. I disagree with previous reviews. I found it neither long nor rambling. Everything in the story was necessary for the plot. It would have help my attention as a Child just as easily as it held it now. I plan on reading this book to my children when they arrive.… (more)
LibraryThing member atreic
I read this book because Five Kids Is a Lot Of Kids (a blog that I like) had a list of '5 books I hope my children will read', and four of them were great classics that I knew well (Ender's Game, The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe, Madeline L'engle, and A Little Princess) and then there was this, which I'd never even heard of before.

But it was a list of books that she wanted her children to read. Maybe if I'd found this when I was 7 I'd have loved it, and I can see the beauty of trust and faith. However, I'm 32. The good people are beautiful, the bad people are ugly, the plot is simple. There's a weird brief mention of the politics - that the goblins ran away underground because they thought the taxes being demanded of them were too harsh - but they are played for laughs, and for the xenophobic fear that Out There lurk bad things who want to break in and steal our women. And OK, one of the big themes of the book is that Irene's trust in what others can't see is a beautiful thing that saves Curdie and others, but it is a bit of a deus ex machina to have a beautiful god-like grandmother say 'follow this string and it will take you to the right place for the next bit of the story'.

Sweet and easy to read, but I was too old and it's of its time.
… (more)
LibraryThing member Cheryl_in_CC_NV
Anything in me that is brave, honest, kind, and honourable is due in great part to the many times I read this book when I was young. I loved the characters and the adventures, and the settings of both mountain and palace (especially the mysterious dove tower).

I had forgotten other appealing aspects: the humor, and the excitingly challenging vocabulary words. And, perhaps most appealing, is a part of the story seldom mentioned in the descriptions here - Princess Irene's amazing courage. At age eight, *she* rescued Curdie from the cave where the goblins lived and plotted against the sun-people.

A couple of quotes: We are all very anxious to be understood, and it is very hard [frustrating] not to be. But there is one thing much more necessary.... To understand other people."

and, "If a true princess has done wrong, she is always uneasy until she has had an opportunity of throwing the wrongness away from her by saying, 'I did it, and I wish I had not, and I am sorry for having done it.'"

MacDonald made me feel as if I could be a true princess, as he holds much less stock in titles & lineage than in strength of character. And while he's clearly not subtle about sharing his thoughts, he's not annoyingly didactic, either.

… (more)
LibraryThing member taterzngravy
A good story to read aloud to children. And as always, it is better than the movie.
LibraryThing member ScribblingSprite
I do love a good goblin story. This was a really lovely Classic Children's novel. A bit unbelievable, but fun!
LibraryThing member quiBee
A reread of a book from my childhood.
A princess, who is raised by servants and whose father rarely visits, runs into a young miner who is very interested in some unusual goblin activity in the mountains.
A sweet story, very much from the Victorian era.
LibraryThing member charlie68
A well narrated and well written story.
LibraryThing member Adilinaria
Very cute with lovely descriptions.
LibraryThing member Venqat65
A classic fairytale where a princess rescues a miner boy from goblins with the help of a magical thread woven by her great, great grandmother. A nice escape into a fantastic world...I am looking forward to reading more by MacDonald. I definitely see the relationship between his writing style and that of CS Lewis.




(573 ratings; 4)
Page: 0.3939 seconds