Wise, Beautiful Fantasy

Related imageTitles: The Princess and the Goblin / The Princess and Curdie
Author: George MacDonald
Genre: Classic Children’s Fantasy
Pages: 256 each
Ratings: 4.5 of 5 (both of them)

“A children’s story that can only be enjoyed by children is not a good children’s story in the slightest” – C. S. Lewis

I like to think that Lewis learned this from reading George MacDonald…I know that both he and J. R. R. Tolkien admired (and were influenced by) his works, including the two Curdie books. Echoes from these two books sound in The Lord of the Rings and Narnia: hostile goblins living in mines, a hero who comes singing to frighten away that baddies in the old forest, and a character who embodies the guidance and care of God Himself (more on her in a minute).

Each story is so full of symbolism and clever little nuggets of wisdom that the relatively simple plots sparkle with wonder. In The Princess and the Goblin, the unseen goblin threat and Princess Irene’s mysterious great-great-grandmother provide opportunities for the princess and the miner boy, Curdie, to exercise trust and belief. In The Princess and Curdie, Curdie, sent and empowered by the great-great-Grandmother, must confront corruption in the King’s capital, discovering inner character and true beauty.

Occasionally Princess Irene borders on being a little too big-eyed and sweet (think Lucy Pevensie in Narnia), and Curdie can be irritatingly dim, but the author never allows them to become too annoying. The character who really shines is the mysterious great-great-Grandmother. In many ways she beautifully symbolizes the ministry of the Holy Spirit; not in the direct way that Aslan = Jesus in the Narnia books, but by powerfully fulfilling many of the Spirit’s roles (convicting, comforting, guiding, empowering)…and she’s frequently associated with white pigeons just in case you miss the connection.

Another C. S. Lewis quote provides a perfect summary of these sparkling fantasy gems: “No book is really worth reading at the age of ten which is not equally – and often far more – worth reading at the age of fifty and beyond.”