The Princess and the Goblin
By George MacDonald
Publisher: Puffin Classics
Genre: Fairy Tale
Princess Irene lives in a castle in a wild and lonely mountainous region. One day she discovers a steep and winding stairway leading to a bewildering labyrinth of unused passages with closed doors – and a further stairway. What lies at the top? Can the ring the princess is given protect her against the lurking menace of the boglins from under the mountain?
The Princess and the Goblin is my second You Choose, I Read selection. And it did not disappoint. Stick around to meet the wonderful reader who recommended this classic fairy tale! This is a small, but noteworthy tale. I will be keeping this review on the lighter side and encourage you to explore the story on your own.
“Seeing is not believing – it is only seeing.”
Having been originally published in 1872, I admit that I began with some trepidation. Even as an avid fan of fairy tales, I am no stranger to the challenges of reading older work. It can be easy to find yourself lost among the dated language and styles of writing. But that simply was not the case here. I welcomed the surprise of discovering that even now, this endearing story still seems to read with a certain ease and fluidity that I appreciated.
The Princess and the Goblin was not the complex, exciting sort of read we have come to expect from today’s fantasy but there was much to be admired within its simple magic and charming characters. This felt like a visit down memory lane of what I imagine must be the earlier roots or at least notable influences of the fantasy genre we have come to love presently.
“People must believe what they can, and those who believe more must not be hard upon those who believe less. I doubt if you would have believed it all yourself if you hadn’t seen some of it.”
And of course, no fairy tale is complete with a moral lesson tucked within the pages. Here we learn the importance of having faith and “The Golden Rule”. Presented through a cast that includes a lively and adventurous princess, a kind miner boy and a mysterious grandmother, all elements come together successfully in a small tale that leaves a lasting impression.
I recommend picking this up if you are a fan of fairy tales, as I feel it truly encompasses the essence of the genre. I regret not having stumbled upon this sooner so that I might have read it aloud with my own children. It is a quaint read that will be a lovely addition to any family library.
Meet The Reader Who Recommended This Book
Geoffrey Angapa is a familiar and welcomed presence here on Books, Vertigo and Tea who was kind enough to answer a few questions and share a bit more about himself with us!
Please tell everyone a little about yourself and your writing.
First of all, much thanks to Danielle for giving me this opportunity and for reading the book in question! Well, my name is Geoffrey Angapa, and I was born and raised in the city of Durban, which lies on the east coast of South Africa. (Of note in Durban are: its excellent climate; Moses Mabhida Stadium, which has a remarkable design; City Hall, which is supposedly a replica of the one in Belfast; its excellent beaches; its Zulu, English, and Indian cultures; and a great deal more.) I am a lover of all that is old and old-fashioned. Last year I self-published The Quest of the Golden Apple (which was first reviewed by Danielle). It is a sort of fairy tale, or a traditional fantasy (as I often say). The general consensus of reviewers seems to suggest that the book, though pleasant, is rather average, and I have long accepted that. Last year I also began working on the sequel, whose title is The Enchanted Shield, and its beginnings were rather slow and uncertain; but, as time progressed, the book came together more and more, and raced towards a conclusion, so much so, that by the end of March this year, I got to the end. Still, much then remained to be written: the beginning had to be written almost from scratch, and gaps throughout the narrative had to be filled. I am working on the revision at present, and much work remains to be done. Its release is still a long way off; for my methods of revision are quite slow. At any rate, I am extremely excited about the book, extremely excited to give it to the world, and I have aimed to improve upon its predecessor in every way possible. (Many things have inspired me during the work, even CPU design: the way AMD’s Zen microarchitecture and Ryzen CPU have aimed to improve so greatly over the previous design, and to knock the competition, Intel, off its throne.) One of the complaints about The Quest of the Golden Apple was its plot, whose structure was not quite right. This time round, I have expended much effort and thought on the design of the tale’s structure and plot. The setting has been greatly diversified, and there are improvements across the entire tale. As strange as it may sound, I have applied (or at least I have tried to apply) a few game design principles to the book (I am not a game designer though). One suggestion that I can offer to other writers out there is that of prototyping: even if it is only (as I did) in one’s head, try to prototype content before you write it, and through iteration on the original concept, allow it to reach critical mass of quality. I have not always done this myself in writing The Enchanted Shield, but I have at least tried (often or at times) to prototype concepts in my head a bit before writing. Still, I’ve often written after little thought! Another useful game design principle, which I haven’t properly applied myself, though I suppose I have a little, is to decouplestructure and content from art; that is, first get the structure and the content right, through iteration, and then apply surface detail and polish.
If you had to name one book that was very influential in your life, which would it be?
Many writers have influenced me, and I owe a great debt to the English writers of the past; but the book that has influenced me the most, or at least much at one time, is perhaps The Lord of the Rings. Indeed, much of Tolkien’s work has, even his essays (for example, “On Fairy Stories”). If I might cite another writer, Samuel Johnson, the great 18th century writer, is perhaps one of them; but indeed, many different writers have given me much.
Do you drink tea, and if so what is your favorite blend? 😉 (I had to ask).
Indeed, I am a tea-drinker, and have been one for a long time. I drink black tea, with milk, and no sugar. I favoured a certain brand and type of tea before; but I have become uncertain of it, and prefer not to recommend anything; for different teas can have different effects on different people.
Why did you choose to recommend The Princess and the Goblin for my latest read?
I’ve enjoyed many children’s classics, and The Princess and the Goblin is one of my favourites. It possesses an almost mythical quality at its best times, though it is perhaps a little ill written. Some motifs or sequences in the book are quite astonishing, generally all the things relating to Irene’s grandmother, or rather great-great-grandmother. The rose-fire, etc. In short, it is a delightful tale.