abstract illustration of Princess Irene with a forest backdrop

The Princess and the Goblin

by George MacDonald

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Topics for Discussion

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1. Lootie, the nurse, is responsible for taking care of Irene. Describe their relationship and explain why MacDonald included Lootie's character in the story.

2. In the big battle scene, the goblins almost capture Lootie rather than Irene, their intended victim. What is the significance of this?

3. Besides Lootie, the other adult female in the story is Curdie's mother. Compare the function of Curdie's mother in the story to that of Lootie and Grandmother.

4. Though the goblins are ruthless, they are also clever and even witty. Why does MacDonald give them this combination of characteristics? Does their wittiness make them less forceful as villains?

5. Besides the goblins' wit, what other examples of humor are there in the story? Is such humor appropriate in a story that has a serious theme?

6. Very few, if any, truly horrifying incidents occur in the story, even though it has potentially scary material, such as night-stalking goblins. Did Mac- Donald fail to take full advantage of his material?

7. Irene and Curdie have two enemies: the goblins and their own inner weaknesses. Which of the two forces is their greatest enemy?

8. By chance Curdie lays his head against a thin section of a cave wall, allowing him to overhear the goblins' plans. Do coincidences like this one make the story less compelling? Are there too many coincidences in the plot? Will readers accept a greater, lesser, or an equal amount of coincidence in a fantasy story, compared to a realistic story?

9. Discuss why Grandmother is called "Grandmother" and not "fairy godmother," which is what this type of character is often called in fairy tales.

10. Several times Irene wonders if her visits to Grandmother were all a dream. While reading the story did you wonder whether the meetings were not simply dreams? Is this important to the story?

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