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The Princess and the Goblin

by George MacDonald

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Student Question

How does George Macdonald's theology influence or reveal itself in his children's works like The Princess and the Goblin and The Princess and Curdie?

Expert Answers

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As to subtlety, MacDonald starts out with an allusion to fallen angels and their equivalent in fallen people: the goblins who live in the subterranean caves and live to make trouble for the dwellers "who lived in the open-air storey above them." There is not a great deal of subtlety here. On the other hand, Aslan of Narnia is not a subtle character, nor is he meant to be. But consider the creatures peopling the land that is always in Winter but never has Christmas. As a Classicist scholar and tutor (professor) at Oxford and Cambridge, C.S. Lewis made his career out of knowing creatures of Classical mythology, and in Narnia he uses them in a most subtle way. In Lewis's aesthetic, the centaurs and satyrs and others represent paganism's final bow before Christianity: Christianity has won and Paganism is conquered, according to Lewis's aesthetic. This is indeed subtle to children and parents alike (Classical scholars may of course see it as readily as Lewis might). I think subtlety compared will have varying results depending upon which allusions, symbols and allegories a reader or teacher is versed in: the more knowledge of theology and classicism, the more of the subtle parts in each will be recognized and understood.

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I agree with the ideas brought up by litteacher. Many texts show a fight between good and evil. Over the course of the text, the fight (typically) is won by good. Given MacDonald's ideology, engaged readers should be well aware of the concept of good equalling Christian thought.

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The concept of good versus evil is certainly a Christian influence.  The world is not really that simple.  Some people have a little good and some a little evil.  Everyone has  a mix of both to some extent.  The other aspect at work here is that there are things we cannot describe that we have to take on faith. 

Grandmother worries about her princess’s soul.  The idea of “why should their shoes have soles” when “they’ve got no souls” (p. 107).  Grandmother is able to protect Irene and help her rescue Curie.

“But,” said Irene, still puzzled, “won’t the thread get in somebody’s way and be broken…?” (p. 88)

The princess has to act on faith—her faith in her grandmother, and her faith in God.  The idea of acting on faith, when you cannot see what you doing, is a perfect Christian metaphor.

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