The Plot

(Critical Survey of Science Fiction and Fantasy)

The story is a modern fairy tale rooted in childhood imagination. A game of make-believe becomes earnest when four children discover a ring with magical powers. Their attempts to use the ring create complications in their everyday lives, some humorous, some horrific.

Gerald, Jimmy, and Kathleen, left at school during the holidays, find a hidden entrance to the gardens of Yalding Manor, which they pretend is an enchanted castle. They discover a sleeping princess (Mabel, the housekeeper’s niece) who plays along with their game, showing them a secret treasure room containing a ring that she claims makes the wearer invisible. When she slips it on, she discovers that her claim has come true and that she has become invisible.

Invisibility confers both benefits and disadvantages. The children must cover for the absence of Mabel (and later Gerald) until the magic wears off; on the other hand, they use invisibility to raise money with a conjuring show and later to help capture some burglars. The children next discover that the ring will grant the wearers wishes; this immediately creates a problem when they perform a play before an audience of artificial people they have fashioned from household odds and ends. When Mabel wishes the painted audience alive, the animated creatures (Ugly-Wuglies) terrify their creators.

With the assistance of Yalding Manors new bailiff, the children succeed in confining the creatures to a cave in the garden,...

(The entire section is 462 words.)

Form and Content

(Survey of Young Adult Fiction)

The Enchanted Castle shares its episodic structure with many of Edith Nesbit’s other fantasies; here, as is typical of this author’s works, a group of children discovers a magic that leads them into a series of more or less self-contained adventures. These adventures are narrated with Nesbit’s customary lighthearted charm, although occasionally a more serious tone takes over.

The story begins when an outbreak of measles prevents Gerald, Kathleen, and Jimmy from spending their summer holidays at home. Instead, they are marooned at Kathleen’s school, supervised only by Mademoiselle, the French mistress—who, as Gerald observes, is unexpectedly young, pretty, and tolerant. Gerald, a well-spoken boy with a shrewd sense of what pleases adults, is able to win from her considerable freedom for himself and his brother and sister, so that the three may spend their days exploring the countryside. On their first hike, they discover the local showplace, Yalding Towers, which they decide to interpret (correctly, as readers shall see) as an “enchanted castle.” At the center of a maze on the estate, they encounter the housekeeper’s niece, Mabel, who is reenacting the story of Sleeping Beauty. Mabel attempts to persuade them that the magic in which they are pretending to believe really exists; she takes them to the castle’s treasure room, declares that a ring displayed there is a ring of invisibility, and puts it on. Much to Mabel’s...

(The entire section is 503 words.)


(Beacham's Guide to Literature for Young Adults)

The story takes place in England near the beginning of the twentieth century. Three young people, two brothers and a sister, find themselves...

(The entire section is 118 words.)

Literary Qualities

(Beacham's Guide to Literature for Young Adults)

Much more than an exciting story, The Enchanted Castle is one of the best fantasies written for young adults. The writing styles range...

(The entire section is 375 words.)

Social Sensitivity

(Beacham's Guide to Literature for Young Adults)

Nesbit is concerned with two social subjects, education and class distinction. At the very beginning of the novel, her authorial voice...

(The entire section is 375 words.)

Topics for Discussion

(Beacham's Guide to Literature for Young Adults)

1. The author occasionally interrupts the story to put in comments of her own. Do you find that the authorial voice adds to the reader's...

(The entire section is 264 words.)

Ideas for Reports and Papers

(Beacham's Guide to Literature for Young Adults)

1. There are no "villains" among the characters in this book. How does Nesbit deal with evil, or does she simply omit it from the world of...

(The entire section is 218 words.)

Related Titles / Adaptations

(Beacham's Guide to Literature for Young Adults)

Five Children and It is the first book in a trilogy dealing with magic. Four London Children, with their baby brother, while on a...

(The entire section is 384 words.)

For Further Reference

(Beacham's Guide to Literature for Young Adults)

Lochhead, Marion. Renaissance of Wonder: The Fantasy Worlds of C. S. Lewis, J. R. R. Tolkien, George Mac- Donald, E. Nesbit and...

(The entire section is 134 words.)