Essay about "The Princess and the Goblin": Don't Waste Your Time

Essay about "The Princess and the Goblin": Don't Waste Your Time

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Amazingly enough, even back in the 1880s you could look at a sequel and say "Dude, the original was better." "The Princess and Curdie" is the sequel to "The Princess and the Goblin" [link]. It comes across as more moralistic and heavy-handed than the original, and lacks some of its charm. Continuing on to MacDonald's final piece of adult fantasy, "Lilith" (1895) I have come to the conclusion that his genre work took a downhill turn after "The Princess and the Goblin" and never really recovered.

"Curdie" starts out one year further on from "Goblin." Curdie is 15 now and turning into a teenager, with a bit of the angst that that entails. However, after shooting a pigeon and realizing that it belonged to the Galadriel/Grandmother figure from the first book, he sets his life back on the right path. The fairy godmother sends him on a journey to the capital of the kingdom. She grants him a few boons: the ability to tell good people from bad by holding their hands, and a big ugly monster, Lina, who is really a good person inside. As he travels to the capital he and Lina recruit more unique and ugly monsters, which will of course come in handy later.

Curdie gets to the capital, and is immediately treated badly by the corrupt and petty townsfolk. Only one old woman and her granddaughter are nice to him. He is arrested and led off to jail in a moment rather strongly recalling Christ's journey to Gethsemene. Lina finds him and they bust out of jail and into the castle. It turns out that the King is being poisoned slowly by his staff, especially the Lord Chancellor and the doctor. Princess Irene from the original book has been too naive to see any of this (which I found a bit hard to swallow, given how with-it she was back then) but i...


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...the sort of group therapy/public humiliation that fundamentalist Christians today sometimes use to try to 'cure' gay people. Adam gets her to admit that she is bad and by the end she is begging him to kill her or cut off her arm to rid herself of her own evil. Very allegorical. Very distasteful.

It's all a bit of a shame. "Phantastes" perhaps wasn't the best written or plotted story ever, but it had some fascinating vignettes that put one in mind of Kelly Link. "Princess and the Goblin" was a ton of fun, with some great female characters and a straightforward, fun adventure. Then "Princess and Curdie" took a turn for the biblical allegory and heavy-handed morality. And "Lilith" is almost nothing but that, surrounded by an incoherent plot that is never fully understood by the reader or the hero. Honestly, I wish I'd stopped reading at "Princess and the Goblin."


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