The Princess and Curdie, George MacDonald, 1883, Book Review

MMGM is a weekly meme hosted by middle grade author, Shannon Messenger. (Finally! A meme that fits perfectly with my content!)

princess and curdie

If you have never read The Princess and the Goblin, I’d recommend starting with my review of that book. This is the sequel, and nearly as good as the first.

George MacDonald wrote in the Victorian era, when books created specifically for children were a new phenomenon. Most sought to dictate morality to children. Lewis Carroll, however, author of Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland and a friend and contemporary of MacDonald, is credited with writing for pure entertainment. MacDonald beautifully combines fun and morality, rather like C.S. Lewis does in Narnia. (In fact, Lewis cites MacDonald as a powerful influence.) The result is rich storytelling complete with moral fiber, a combination I love.

After his adventures rescuing Princess Irene from the goblins and gaining the trust of the king in book one, Curdie returns to being a silver miner with his father. But after a year or two, his parents notice he is less and less the son they hoped for. “As he grew…he was getting rather stupid…he believed less and less in things he had never seen.” Not long after, he has his own encounter with Irene’s Great-Great-Grandmother, a magical, fairy godmother-type figure representative of God. She assigns him the task of overthrowing the evil plot to dethrone the good king. To do so, he is given the magical ability to discern a man’s true nature. Curdie comes away from the encounter a changed man and displays great strength of character as he carries out his duties.

This book draws very clear distinctions between good and evil, selfishness and selflessness, right and wrong, truth and lies. It celebrates honor, friendship, loyalty, and the fortitude to do what’s right despite what others may say. It also explores trust, judgment, rewards, and true beauty. It never becomes preachy, as so many Victorian stories are, but there are elements of faith beneath the surface of the plot, much like in Narnia.

I did like The Princess and the Goblin a bit better. That story better disguises the moral points MacDonald is trying to impart. The first half of this book deals primarily with Curdie and his development. It doesn’t drag, really, but I was eager to see the princess again. She doesn’t enter the story until the second half, when Curdie’s quest gets rolling. But I really liked the new character of Lina. And I always enjoy MacDonald’s ability to paint settings and personalities so clearly. It has the same fairy tale feel of book one that young children can relate to so well. Though it is somewhat antiquated, the language is still easy enough for them to understand. I would recommend it as a read-aloud, however. A free Kindle version is available on Amazon.

10 thoughts on “The Princess and Curdie, George MacDonald, 1883, Book Review

  1. I like what you say about the first book, over the second. It feels strange that he saves the princess in the first book, and then goes back to working in a mine. He supported the king in the first and turns on him in the second just for adventure and fame. Guess, I’d have to read the books to fully grasp everything. I’m sure though, kids will enjoy the series.

    1. The first book is better, as is often the case. He went back to being a miner because the king and the princess left the castle (a summer home). While the king was gone, there arose a plot to dethrone him. Curdie was assigned to take out these troublemakers, not the king. He comes to the rescue again. It’s cute, but it’s a sequel.

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