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The Princess and the Goblin

[The Princess and the Goblin] The Princess and the Goblin
by George MacDonald
Strahan & Co., 1872
Amazon.co.uk: hardcover, paperback
Amazon.ca: hardcover, paperback, audiobook
Amazon.com: hardcover, paperback, large print, audiobook
ChristianBook.com: hardcover, paperback
Recommended by: Greg Slade

C.S. Lewis is quoted as saying, "I have never concealed the fact that I regarded MacDonald as my master, indeed I fancy I have never written a book in which I did not quote from him." Lewis was a good emulator, because his work shares MacDonald's moral depth. In much fantasy (not just recent fantasy, but even children's fantasy written before Tolkien's Lord of the Rings made fantasy a respectable genre for adults again), the moral content is fairly simplistic, and can often be boiled down to a simple sentence starting with, "The moral of the story is..." MacDonald's writing has much more depth to it. Each character is consistent and realistic, and at the same time, holds up a slightly different example of character traits or moral choices to emulate or avoid. You don't get examples of a character acting "out of character" for the sake of moving some plot point along. Instead, each character's "character" forms part of the message. Nor do you get a simplistic division of "good guys" and "bad guys." Even the good characters make mistakes, and even the bad characters have some virtues.

This is a children's story, but like Lewis' Chronicles of Narnia, it is enjoyable for adults as well. The story follows a young princess named Irene and a young miner named Curdie, and tells of their assorted adventures, culminating in a plot by goblins against the princess, her father the king, and all the humans associated with them. In some respects, the story is reminiscent of Lewis' The Silver Chair (or, more accurately, the other way around.) There is humour, and there is adventure, but it's not too scary, and you know things must turn out right in the end, because there's a sequel. But the plot doesn't really explain the story, because MacDonald has the most amazing imagination. (February, 2003)

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