abstract illustration of Princess Irene with a forest backdrop

The Princess and the Goblin

by George MacDonald

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1. Survey the cast of characters in the story to determine which ones believe Grandmother exists, which do not, and the reasons for their belief or disbelief.

2. MacDonald's stories are difficult to classify. "What he does best," C. S. Lewis has observed, "is fantasy—fantasy that hovers between the allegorical and the mythopoeic." Look up definitions of the terms "fantasy," "myth," "allegory," and "fairy tale." Which best applies to The Princess and the Goblin?

3. The Princess and the Goblin has many of the same characters as its sequel, The Princess and Curdie, but the stories seem quite different in tone and emphasis. Compare the two, paying particular attention to the importance of the townspeople, the reduced importance of Irene, and the ending of The Princess and Curdie.

4. The Princess and the Goblin traces a character's development from a state of immaturity to a state of maturity. Identify and discuss the major steps or phases Irene and Curdie go through in this process. In Irene's case, how do her changes relate to the visits to Grandmother?

5. Grandmother lives in three rooms containing many marvelous objects among them, a silver bath, a fire of roses, her crown, a magic lamp, and intelligent pigeons. What is the significance of each of the three rooms? Choose two or three of these magical objects and discuss their possible religious associations.

6. Both Grandmother in The Princess and the Goblin and Asian in C. S. Lewis's Narnia tales have characteristics similar to those of Christ. Compare Grandmother and Asian as Christ-figures.

7. According to a theory advanced by Sigmund Freud, the father of psychiatry, three entities make up a person's mind: the id, ego, and superego. Research Freud's theory in an encyclopedia and discuss how well the goblins, Irene, and the Grandmother represent these three mental aspects.

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