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The Princess and the Goblin

by George MacDonald

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Student Question

Why is it said that the princess in The Princess and the Goblin grew older fast?

Quick answer:

In the opening chapter of The Princess and the Goblin, we are told that the princess "got older very fast." This implies that the princess had to grow up, or mature, very quickly because of difficult and challenging circumstances that she would soon face.

Expert Answers

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In chapter 1 of The Princess and the Goblin, we are told that the eponymous princess is eight years old at the time of the story, but that she "got older very fast." This immediately implies that the princess will soon be confronted with circumstances and challenges that an eight-year-old would not ordinarily face. The implication is that she will thus have to become mature beyond her years to deal with those challenges.

This indeed proves to be the case. In the story that follows, the princess is sent to live in a secluded, lonely mountainside farmhouse. The people who are charged with looking after the princess don't let her out of the house because they are "much too afraid of the goblins" who also live in the mountains. So secluded is the princess's life that, at eight years old, she has "never seen the sky at night."

Later in the story these goblins try to abduct the princess in order to marry her to a goblin prince named Harelip. This goblin prince is a particularly evil and cruel creature, and the goblins in general are said to be "bad enough to torment [the princess] just for their own amusement." When the princess finds out about the goblins' plan to kidnap her, she exclaims "Oh, how dreadful" and shudders with fright.

Beginning the story by telling the reader that the eight-year-old princess "got older very fast" is a clever way of engaging readers. It hints that there will be lots of challenging and scary adventures ahead, and thus readers are immediately hooked into the story, as they will want to find out what those adventures are and how the young princess fares.

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