The Origins and Purpose of the Goblin Queen in George MacDonald´s the Princess and the Goblin

The Origins and Purpose of the Goblin Queen in George MacDonald´s the Princess and the Goblin

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The Origins and Purpose of the Goblin Queen in George MacDonald´s the Princess and the Goblin


Whatever the purpose of a story may be, whether the tale is a philosophical, moralizing or merely entertaining one, an assortment of characters with sufficient depth, notability and believability is vital to shoulder the burden of the author’s intent. George MacDonald, in one of his most famous novels, The Princess and the Goblin, displays an acute awareness of this fact, presenting us with some of the most colorful and unforgettable characters seen in children’s literature. When considering the exceptional imagination MacDonald infused into his story and characters, it is little wonder that The Princess and the Goblin is considered to be one of the pioneering novels that gave birth to the immense genre of modern fantasy.

Of the two worlds introduced to us by MacDonald in his novel, that of the surface world, a land of sunlight, castles upon rolling hills, and princesses, and that of the underworld, a realm of darkness, stone, and, of course, goblins, it is definitely the latter that is more bereft of significant characters. On the surface, Lootie, Curdie, Princess Irene and her mysterious, powerful grandmother are all key characters with a prominent role in advancing the plot, yet in the dark goblin world, we are given an impression of a teeming, faceless mass of bizarre creatures, with no real sense of individualism. Of the few underworld characters we do meet, the goblin queen is the most prominent, and indeed, she is one of the memorable and distinctive characters in the entire novel. Her impact on the reader is greater reinforced by her embodiment of many elements of folklore and fairytale on top of the already ancient t...


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...ons that MacDonald collected, converged, and ultimately made his own. Or perhaps she represented for MacDonald some female presence in his own life, an overaggressive figure deserving of the author’s fearsome representation in his novel. This remains unknown, but the goblin queen nevertheless represents one of the few truly menacing figures in the story; despite many goblins, also presumably the king and his son, we do not feel that the goblin threat has been truly removed until we see her lifeless form, and, with relief, bid her farewell, as Hamlet once said: “Wretched Queen, adieu!”

Works Cited

Keightley, Thomas. Fairy Mythology. New York: AMS press, 1968.

MacDonald, George. The Princess and the Goblin. New York: Dell Publishing, 1986.

Mark Morris. Of Goblins and Dwarves. 5 Nov. 2002
< http://www.humanities.ualberta.ca/mmorris/388/goblins.htm/>.

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