The title of The Princess and the Goblin fails to mention the hero, Curdie, son of an honest, hardworking miner, and suggests only one goblin, whereas there is a whole tribe of them living under the mountains around the castle where the princess lives. The goblins and their deformed animals emerge only at night from their lairs, frightening passersby but not Curdie or the miners.
The queen being dead, the princess is looked after by her nurse, Lootie. In reality, there is a much more powerful guardian, her great-great-grandmother, who shares the name Irene with the princess. Princess Irene discovers the old lady at the very top of the castle, but no one else believes in her existence, apart from the king, whose occasional visits punctuate the story. The princess is enchanted by the timeless beauty of the woman, who asks to be referred to as her grandmother, and the two form a bond. The grandmother gives the princess a magic ball of thread with a ring attached. It is to be used, she tells the girl, at times of danger.
While working in the mines, Curdie breaks into the goblin quarters and becomes aware of their evil plans. In trying to discover more, he is captured. Irene awakens frightened and follows the thread, which leads her to Curdie. She rescues him, though he believes neither her story about the thread nor that about her grandmother. His mother rebukes him later for his disbelief.
Curdie realizes that the goblins are plotting to kidnap Irene and force her to marry the goblin prince. In trying to trace their tunneling, he is wounded and captured by the castle guards, and his message of the impending invasion is not believed. The grandmother appears to Curdie in prison, healing and releasing him in time to repel the...
(The entire section is 723 words.)