REVIEW: The Princess and the Goblin by George MacDonald

Princess Goblin readalong
REVIEW: The Princess and the Goblin by George MacDonaldThe Princess and the Goblin (Princess Irene and Curdie #1) by George MacDonald
Published: Project Gutenberg (1872), eBook, 272pg
Source: Public Domain
Genres: Classic, Fantasy, Fiction

Princess Irene’s discovery of a secret stair to the top turret of the castle leads to a wonderful revelation. At the same time, the miner’s son Curdie overhears a fiendish plot by the goblins who live below the mountain. It will take all of their wit and courage, plus the help of Irene’s magic ring, to make sense of their separate knowledge and foil the goblins’ schemes. (from Goodreads)

It’s been about 12 years or so since I last read The Princess and the Goblin, and all I could remember was that the cover on my copy is super pretty.1 I don’t actually know where my copy IS, so I had to read the ebook version. There’s something about fairy tales– especially older ones– that makes reading them in paper format more pleasing than doing so in ebook, but we can’t have everything so whatever. Moving on!

For some reason Princess Irene’s age surprised me. Like, I know this is a children’s book and thus it (logically) stars children, but the cover makes her look about 12-14. She’s actually something like 6-8(?) and very much that perfect Victorian “innocent child” ideal that makes me want to throw up.2 I think if she’d been a bit older I wouldn’t have minded her perfectness so much; maybe I’m still getting over the Heidi horror?

the author
the author

There’s a whole thing about how every little girl can be a princess, though, not just the ones born into it, so it’s not AS annoying as it could be. It’s actually almost subversive– Irene’s not a perfect kid because she’s royalty, she’s perfect because she’s got the “princess” attitude.3 Curdie’s likewise a prince, despite being born a miner’s son.4 So that’s kinda sticking it to the people who think only the nobility can be, well, noble! Which is neat.

So, anyway: the story is basically Irene talking to her Grandmother5, Curdie beating up the goblins, and Irene’s father (the KING) neglecting to hire servants who actually know how to look after a child. Seriously, Irene has the WORST SERVANTS EVER. She sneaks out of her room at least three times and nobody notices for HOURS. She leaves through the front door once, and leaves it wide open! Where the heck’s the doorman? Where’s the butler or whatever? She’s got at least 10 servants doing stuff around the house at any one time– nobody sees her running down the hall? FIRE THEM ALREADY. SHEESH.

(Luckily her grandmother is omnescient or something. SOMEBODY’S gotta look out for the kid.)

IN CONCLUSION: super Victorian, super saccharine, and kinda boring except for the last four chapters or so. However, I must have been in a really good mood when I read it, because despite my frustrations with the servants and with Irene being a goody two-shoes, I still enjoyed reading the story. In fact, I want to read the sequel!

Maybe Curdie saved the book through being Mr. Action Hero, maybe the writing’s just THAT good, or maybe I have a secret soft spot for Victorian princesses who’re surrounded by incompetants– whatever the reason, I liked The Princess and the Goblin, and I’m glad I got a chance to reread it.

“If you ever knew a story finished, all I can say is, I never did. Somehow, stories won’t finish. I think I know why, but I won’t say that either, now.” p170/loc 2602-3

Read: January 7, 2013


  1. Also that my mom bought it for me! Right? Mom?
  2. Think Little Lord Fauntleroy. BLEH.
  3. which she’s born with? But I THINK you can also grow into a princess. Can’t exactly remember.
  4. By the way– Curdie WORKS in the mine! All day! And he stays late! He’s TWELVE. Not all that unusual in 1872, but reading it today made my jaw drop.
  5. who is an enchantress? So that’s cool.

3 thoughts on “REVIEW: The Princess and the Goblin by George MacDonald”

  1. I’m glad you enjoyed this one, even if it didn’t entirely work for you. I thought it a very charming story, and I’ve already ordered the sequel from the library!

    1. I think that sometimes I’m just a big grouch, haha! Precocious kids stories tend to be hit-or-miss with me, but luckily this one had enough faerie tale elements in it that I didn’t mind so much. Where else does a precocious kid FIT except in faerie tales, eh?

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