- Publisher: E P Dutton (January 1900)
- ISBN-10: 0525377433
- ISBN-13: 978-0525377436
- Average Customer Review: 8 customer reviews
Princess and Curdie Hardcover – Jan 1900
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|Hardcover, Jan 1900||
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About the Author
George MacDonald (1824-1905) was a minister who was rejected by his congregation, and struggled thereafter to support his family of eleven children by writing. In his own day he was celebrated as poet, preacher, and lecturer, and as the author of numerous novels. He is best known today for his vivid children's stories. U. C. Knoepflmacher has published widely on children's literature and the Victorian period. --This text refers to the Paperback edition.
Top Customer Reviews
In the time since the defeat of the goblins, Curdie has gone back to his life as a miner. Unfortunately he also begins to stray from the pure actions he showed in the first book, pushing aside thoughts of Princess Irene's grandmother and trying to convince himself that the more supernatural events of "Goblin" were just imagination. Until he needlessly wounds a pigeon with his bow and arrow, and takes it to the stately, mysterious Grandmother.
As Curdie regains his innocence and his faith, the Lady sends him on a quest, with a weird doglike creature called Lina who was once a human. She also (by having him stick his hands into burning roses) makes his hands able to feel a person's soul when he touches them, if a person is "growing into a beast" on the inside. Now Curdie and Lina set off for the capital, where Irene's father is physically ill, and falling prey to the scheming of his sinister officials.
If the first book was Irene's, then this book is undeniably Curdie's. The focus is on him almost constantly through the book, and it's his internal struggles that we are fascinated by. Every person (well, most of them, anyway) eventually loses their childlike faith and innocence, as Curdie has begun to do at the beginning. He's naturally a more skeptical person than Irene, and so time begins to fade whatever he thought he saw; also, being "one of the guys" in the mine requires a seemingly more mature attitude. But with the loss of innocence also goes some of the faith and internal beauty, and so MacDonald brings Curdie back to the gentle, trusting kid he was in the first book.
The Lady (also known as Irene's great-great-great-grandmother, Lady of the Silver Moon, and Mother Wotherwop -- don't ask about the last one) is also a more prominent figure. She's still both maternal and supernaturally distant, very warm while also seeming to know everything. Precisely who and what she is remains a mystery, but we see more of her subtle, awe-inspiring powers here.
The writing is, as the first book was, immensely dreamy and haunting. MacDonald let rip with the surreally beautiful descriptions of the Lady's room and appearances, and of scenes like Curdie sticking his hands into the rose petals. Like in "Princess and the Goblin," the plot takes awhile to get moving, but it's so well-written that you probably won't notice.
"The Princess and Curdie" is currently harder to find than the first book, which strikes me as a little odd. (Especially since this duology is just screaming to be compiled in one book) But anyone who enjoyed the first book, or even just enjoys a gorgeously-written fantasy, will definitely want to get this sequel.
In the process of telling the story, MacDonald entertains a few curious notions rather surprising for a Christian. Especially surprising are the ideas of a mountain being bubbles of heat thrust from the center of the earth (p.2), and the earth being a cooled body that flew off the sun (p.3) ï¿½ ideas more akin to evolutionary thinking than Christian faith in the Biblical teaching about creation. This book is also somewhat different from ï¿½The Princess and the Goblinï¿½ on a literary level, because in this book MacDonaldï¿½s story-telling at times employs vocabulary and sentence structure that is overly complex for children, and at times he waxes overly philosophical.
But those weaknesses aside, itï¿½s a thrilling and captivating story of an exciting quest, enhanced by deeper underlying Christian themes. MacDonald describes the king as ï¿½a real king ï¿½ that is, one who ruled for the good of his people and not to please himself.ï¿½ (p.5). True citizens of this kingdom, such as Curdieï¿½s parents, are those who ï¿½always loved what was fair and true and right better, not than anything else, but than everything else put together.ï¿½ (p.35) In contrast there are many false citizens who have open doors but closed hearts, and who live a life of wickedness, chiefly characterized by lying, drinking, stealing and unkindness. These seeds of corruption also contain the seeds of destruction, and threaten to overthrow the kingdom. The morality is clear and solidly Christian.
Particularly fascinating is the concept that all humans are either noble human beings, or else slowly turning into animals on the inside. By putting his hands into a magical fire, Curdie is given the ability to perceive the inner layer of man by means of a handshake: ï¿½you will henceforth be able to know at once the hand of a man who is growing into a beast.ï¿½ (p.73) One cannot help but wonder if MacDonald has too much faith in human nature, since he does not spell out that it is only the regenerating Spirit that makes a heart true and noble. But the underlying truth is valid: all menï¿½s hearts are inclined to be beastly because of sin, but by the grace of God some hearts are changed to be noble and truly human. It echoes the truth of the teaching of Jesus Christ: where your heart is, there your treasure is, and ultimately you cannot serve both God and Mammon. Those who are overwhelmed by wickedness and by love of Mammon, are eventually destroyed, whereas those with a pure heart and love of God establish the kingdom of righteousness. The pessimism of the final ending raises many questions, but perhaps can be best explained as a growing wickedness among men leading to a complete and final judgment, similar to the flood and the end of the world. MacDonaldï¿½s tale is in the end very reminiscent of the Biblical pattern of the Judges and Kings: in times of wickedness, God raised up judges and kings to ensure the establishment of a kingdom where justice and righteousness reigned.
Just as in the ï¿½The Princess and the Goblinï¿½, Ireneï¿½s great-great-grandmother plays a central and decisive role. She is also known as ï¿½The Mother of Lightï¿½, ï¿½the Lady of the Silver Moonï¿½ and less affectionately as ï¿½Old Mother Wotherwopï¿½. MacDonald attributes to her both omniscience ï¿½ ï¿½I am always aboutï¿½ ï¿½ and a measure of omnipotence (p.53). She is the Light that guides the way in darkness (p.50), and she it is who commissions Curdie for his quest and ensures its success.
These timeless tales contain enduring truths, as well as delightful stories. What theyï¿½ve done for over 100 years is something that they are still doing today - pleasing imaginative children and adults with a tale of lasting significance.
Princess Irene has gone off to live with her father the King, but something is going very wrong in the kingdom. Curdie, who doubted the Princess' word about meeting her great-great-great-grandmother in the attic in the first book, has done his best to forget all about the supernatural events in that story. But, when he injures a pigeon on a whim, he remembers that pigeons belong to the Lady, and in his remorse he makes his way to that same attic to ask for help. The Lady tells him that some of the people in the kingdom are turning to beasts inside, and gives him a strange travelling companion and the ability to tell whether a person is human or beastly inside by shaking their hand. So, he sets off, and, after many adventures and some clever plans of his own, he manages to save the princess, the king, and the kingdom.
Just as with The Princess and the Goblin, the story is basically a morality tale, but MacDonald's imaginative situations and characterisations keep the book from seeming trite or shallow.