My Boys LOVE this book!!
It is the second time we have read it this year and they could read it again. We originally discovered THIS illustrated version for kids on a bookshelf of a friend who lent it to us for a time. The pictures are so engaging, and gruesome due to the goblins it really brought this wonderful fairy tale to life for them.
George MacDonald's The Princess and the Goblin while quite obviously not a short fairy tale (as the story is over 200 pages) nonetheless it has that fairy tale feel to it all the way through. This charming story was first published in book form in 1871. Though a successful fairy tale, 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.
The story line goes like this….
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!
Often when reading to the boys I too learn something of great value. In this story I was really struck by the wonderful picture the thread gives of our life with God ….a life of faith which like the thread often leads us where we would not expect it to go and on an adventure knowing who asks us to go, but not seeing the thread. Here is an excerpt from Chapter 15 "Woven and spun" which describes how Irene receives the gift of the ring and the thread.....
'There, Irene; there is my work for you!' the great great Grandmother said, holding out the ball to the princess.
She took it in her hand, and looked at it all over. It sparkled a little, and shone here and there, but not much. It was of a sort of grey-whiteness, something like spun glass.
'Is this all your spinning, grandmother?' she asked.
'All since you came to the house. There is more there than you think.'
'How pretty it is! What am I to do with it, please?'
'That I will now explain to you,' answered the lady, turning from her and going to her cabinet. She came back with a small ring in her hand. Then she took the ball from Irene's, and did something with the ring—Irene could not tell what.
'Give me your hand,' she said. Irene held up her right hand.
'Yes, that is the hand I want,' said the lady, and put the ring on the forefinger of it.
'What a beautiful ring!' said Irene. 'What is the stone called?'
'It is a fire-opal.' 'Please, am I to keep it?'
'Always.' 'Oh, thank you, grandmother! It's prettier than anything I ever saw, except those—of all colours-in your—Please, is that your crown?'
'Yes, it is my crown. The stone in your ring is of the same sort—only not so good. It has only red, but mine have all colours, you see.'
'Yes, grandmother. I will take such care of it! But—' she added, hesitating.
'But what?' asked her grandmother.
'What am I to say when Lootie asks me where I got it?'
'You will ask her where you got it,' answered the lady smiling.
'I don't see how I can do that.'
'You will, though.'
'Of course I will, if you say so. But, you know, I can't pretend not to know.'
'Of course not. But don't trouble yourself about it. You will see when the time comes.'
So saying, the lady turned, and threw the little ball into the rose fire.
'Oh, grandmother!' exclaimed Irene; 'I thought you had spun it for me.'
'So I did, my child. And you've got it.'
'No; it's burnt in the fire!'
The lady put her hand in the fire, brought out the ball, glimmering as before, and held it towards her. Irene stretched out her hand to take it, but the lady turned and, going to her cabinet, opened a drawer, and laid the ball in it.
'Have I done anything to vex you, grandmother?' said Irene pitifully.
'No, my darling. But you must understand that no one ever gives anything to another properly and really without keeping it. That ball is yours.'
'Oh! I'm not to take it with me! You are going to keep it for me!'
'You are to take it with you. I've fastened the end of it to the ring on your finger.'
Irene looked at the ring.
'I can't see it there, grandmother,' she said.
'Feel—a little way from the ring—towards the cabinet,' said the lady.
'Oh! I do feel it!' exclaimed the princess. 'But I can't see it,' she added, looking close to her outstretched hand.
'No. The thread is too fine for you to see it. You can only feel it. Now you can fancy how much spinning that took, although it does seem such a little ball.'
'But what use can I make of it, if it lies in your cabinet?'
'That is what I will explain to you. It would be of no use to you—it wouldn't be yours at all if it did not lie in my cabinet. Now listen. If ever you find yourself in any danger—such, for example, as you were in this same evening—you must take off your ring and put it under the pillow of your bed. Then you must lay your finger, the same that wore the ring, upon the thread, and follow the thread wherever it leads you.'
In the next few chapters Irene finds the thread and thinks it is leading her to visit her great great grandmother again so she jumps up and dresses to folow it with great delight! But it doesn't lead her where she is thinking it will right away. The thread leads her out of her house and up the mountain straight into the caverens where the Goblins live. There she finds Curdie and has a very dangerous adventure as they both flee from the goblins to safety.
What totally surprises me in the story is how the great great grandmother the picture of a guardian angel leads her straight into the house of the very ones seeking to capture her all the while keeping her safe. At different times Irene must follow the thread into darkness, odd places, apparently into no where and then onto rugged paths frought with danger. Never does she completely understand where she is going or for what reason, but her trust in the great great grandmother keeps her following faithfully the path the thread creates.
This is such a beautiful picture of the trust it takes to walk with God in the paths his threads lead us in our own lives. Rarely do I see the thread, rarely do I understand the ramafications of my obedience as I go....however in hindsight I have always marveled at his perfect timing and perfect plans. Such a view encourages me about who My God is! Remembering the deeds He has done in the past, I have less trouble in the present to just follow the thread more certain He knows just where it will lead me.
"Commit thy way unto the LORD; trust also in him;
and he shall bring it to pass."