George MacDonald's The Princess and the Goblin

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George MacDonald's The Princess and the Goblin The moon has been worshipped as a female deity since the beginning of time. Not only is the moon a feminine principle, it is also a symbol of transformation due to its own monthly cycle of change. With this in mind, it is clear upon a close reading of The Princess and the Goblin by George MacDonald that the grandmother figure is a personification of the moon, and as such is a catalyzing agent for Irene's maturation and transformation through the course of the novel. Taking this a step further, the elder Irene contains the threefold aspect of the Moon Goddess. She is Artemis, Selene, and Hecate; the crescent moon, the full moon, and the dark moon; maiden, mother, and crone (Rush, 149). Due to the three-fold nature of the grandmother, one can break this story into three parts. It begins with Hecate the Dark Moon and crone, moves to Artemis the crescent moon and maiden, and ends with Selene the full moon and the mother. After interacting with each of these aspects, Irene undergoes a significant transformation which ultimately leads her to the next aspect. This tripartite structure is prevalent in folklore. Irene encounters Hecate the Dark Moon in her first two visits to her grandmother. This image of the grandmother is reinforced in two ways in Irene's encounter with her. First, her physical description matches the dark aspect, "she was dressed in black velvet with thick white heavy-looking lace about it; and on the black dress her hair shone like silver"(MacDonald, 13). Silver is the metal associated with the moon (Jobes 119). In addition, as Hecate is one of the caretakers of children (Stapleton, 89) and in the second scene with the grandmother, while she is still Hecate, she heals Irene's injured thumb. However, there is a much more subtle way in which the grandmother is developed as being Hecate. Since Hecate is the moon before, "she has risen and after she has set," (Jobes 1120) then the dark aspect of the grandmother in her first two scenes demonstrates that Irene is still in the dark period before her major transformation, before being brought into full illumination. Despite being within the dark aspect, Irene still benefits from her first encounter with her grandmother and thus undergoes a small change. Due to meeting her grandmother, Irene realizes that sometimes it is wise to keep her own counsel.
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