The Germanic and Celtic Tradition by George MacDonald

Satisfactory Essays
The Germanic and Celtic Tradition by George MacDonald

One of the most interesting things about fairytales is how the author has borrowed ideas from ancient myths and legends and kept them alive in their writings. The Princess and the Goblin is one of these fairytales. In writing this novel, George MacDonald has incorporated much of the folk tradition in his characters and plot. Specifically, his concept of goblins seem to be drawn from the tradition of dwarfs, gnomes, and kobolds of Germanic myth and the fairies, or elves, of Celtic myth.

In accordance with the Celtic and Germanic traditions, the goblins of The Princess and the Goblin dwell inside mountains, away from sunlight and especially away from those who live on the earth's surface. The Celtic story of the Green Children tells of two children who, after accidentally wandering up to the surface, had fainted under the sheer brightness of the sunlight (Curran, 129). The Germanic dwarfs only dared to venture out to the surface after nightfall, because the sunlight would turn them into stone (Kafton-Minkel, 34). Although MacDonald's goblins would not encounter the same fate as the Germanic dwarfs if they were to surface during the day, they do detest the brightness of the sun, and prefer to remain underground, surfacing infrequently and only at night (4, 61). The goblins' irregular, grotesque features are most likely a consequence of their subterranean habitat. The once humans "had greatly altered in the course of generations" (MacDonald, 4) and very much resemble the dwarfs and other mine spirits of the folk tradition. Due to the lack of sunshine and unbalanced diet, MacDonald's goblins are short and "ludicrously grotesque in face and form" (4). Their long arms, nail-less hands, and toeless feet are only some examples of their deformations. However, because of their work, digging out precious stones, tunnelling through the mountainous rock, and living hard lives in their rough and crude cavern homes (Kafton-Minkel, 35), dwarfs and goblins are not weak, but broad, stocky, and unbelievably strong. Dwarfs are known to be "stronger, craftier, and more skilful than humans" (Kafton-Minkel, 34), and this characteristic is also attributed to the goblins in The Princess and the Goblin; although the goblin queen was surrounded by "such skilful workmen" (MacDonald, 207), she still hadn't had a replacement shoe made.

Those are not the only similarities between MacDonald's goblins and the subterranean creatures of the folk tradition.
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