Two George MacDonald Fantasy

In Novel on November 10, 2004 at 2:48 am

princessgoblin-thumb.jpgThe Princess and the Goblin (1871)
by George MacDonald

I found these expensive luxury UK import Children books on bargain at a bookstore for only $5 each. They’re all richly cloth bound with very nice paper and printing. Inside are classic illustrations from the 19th century edition. So I picked up two that I’ve always wanted to read, which are two victorian children Fantasy novels by George MacDonald, who’s known to be one of the first and most influencial Fantasy writers from the 19th century. The Princess and the Goblins was also known to be Tolkien and C.S. Lewis childhood favorite; I can definitely see the influences.

The story is about the feud between human and goblins, who were onced human but were driven to live in the caves and became monster-like creatures over the centuries (Gollum? ^^;;). The goblins had a scheming plan regarding the Princess, and it’s up to a young minor Boy Curdie who found out their schemes to prevent it and save the day. The Princess also met a mysterious beautiful woman who called herself the princess’s grandmother, whose magical power into play a role later on. The two main characters, the princess and minor boy are definitely perfect “role model” for boys and girls: brave + noble + dignified, kind-hearted = kind of boring ^^;;; (and as usual, all the adults around them are utter incompetent idiots). The story is a bit too moral for my taste, the last part is almost moral lesson-like. Nothing wrong with that but it was done a bit too blunt too obvious. I enjoy reading Curdie’s suspenseful adventure in the caves and encounters with the goblins the most (reminds me a bit of the Hobbit and LOTR). The mystery part with the grandmom character was interesting too. There’s a sequel to the story…seems to be out of print/hard to find?

atbacknorth-thumb.jpgAt the Back of the North Wind (1871)
by George MacDonald

I like this one more than The Princess and the Goblins because it’s more emotional and engaging. It is set in the Victorian era about a poor kid who encountered this mysterious maternal female spirit called “North Wind.” She took him to journey across England. He witnessed her “works” (ex: sinking a ship in the ocean, which setup a twist later on in the story). One time she took him on a magical trip to this beautiful country called at the back of the north wind, a heaven-like peaceful place. After the boy came out of it he became a rather changed person, as if he reached “nirvana” or something (^^;;). His angelic attitude toward life helped him facing various hardships in life, as well as influencing the lives of people around him. At the end we learn the real identity of North Wind (which I’m sure most readers would guess it right already in midway), it ties in well with the philosophical message of the story. The ending is quite sad in fact. Overall the book is beautifully written, many of the description of “North Wind” are quite imaginative. I find the 2nd half of the book more engaging (after the boy came back) when it dealt with social issues like poverty and abuse. But there are some “stories within stories” that’re quite out of place as they don’t really have much to do with the main story line, I tend to skip the “poems” too.

George MacDonald’s more “grown up” novel Lilith was also known to be the first Fantasy fiction ever. I gotta check it out someday! (but seems to be hard to find?)

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