So, I’m taking this Survey of Children’s Lit course, which is awesome because A., I already owned six of the eight texts, and B., who doesn’t want to go re-read all their old favorites FOR SCHOOL CREDIT? Dude.
The downsides are as follows: We tend to hold our childhood favorites very near and dear to our hearts. Since I am not currently twelve, I obviously read the Harry Potter books and Philip Pullman’s Dark Materials as an adult which doesn’t mean that I love them less, just that I love them with something a little further from mindless infatuation. Unfortunately, I will have to discuss books like The Princess and the Goblin with people who lack said mindless infatuation, and who might SEE SOMETHING WRONG WITH THEM! And I’m not sure I can handle that.
Also, I will be reading two children’s books (as in Little Women, not as in Don’t Let the Pigeon Drive the Bus) a week, which means you will have to read about two children’s books a week. because I’m not sure I can keep up my usual break-neck pace. You love it.
H’ok, so. The Princess and the Goblin is a fairy tale of sorts, in that there is a princess and some goblins and a great-great-great-grandmother, and a magic ring and some doves and a spinning wheel. The Princess Irene (who is about eight) lives in a grand old castle with her servants and nurse and men-at-arms, etc. because her king-papa is always off surveying his kingdom (but because this is a fairy tale, and fathers in fairy tales are always good, if a bit weak in the spine, we don’t think ill of king-papa for this). One night she meets Curdie, achingly brave-and-good miner, son of an achingly brave-and-good miner and his achingly brave-and-good wife. Even though Curdie is achingly brave-and-good, he’s a bit of a skeptic, which causes some problems later regarding Irene’s great-great-great-grandmother who lives in the top of the castle (though no one ever sees her but Irene). Also, there are goblins, and they have a devious plan. Curdie susses out the plan, the great-great-great-grandmother helps him thwart it, Irene and the king-papa are duly grateful, and *spoiler!* they all live happily ever after. Le sigh.
We owned zero movies as children and, like, ten books, so I read the ones we had over and over. We had a massive hard-cover illustrated copy of The Princess and the Goblin that we’d gotten second-hand, but seven or eight pages were ripped out at a very crucial point. One minute, Princess Irene is in the mountain talking to Curdie, who’s trapped behind a pile of rocks, and the next minute they’re traipsing down the path in the sunshine. HOW DID THEY GET OUT!?! THERE ARE GOBLINS! It wasn’t until maybe four or five years ago that I found an old paperback copy in a thrift store and ah! It was a magic thread got them out. Brilliant.
I love a book like this for children. I understand that at some point they have to learn about shades of grey, but until then I want good and noble princesses who never lie or go back on their promises, and evil goblin queens who wear granite shoes and lock small boys up in caves. Curdie’s skepticism and about three minutes of rudeness (for which he is immediately vexed with himself) make him the most three-dimensional character, and that just barely. I’m not even bothered by the occasional moralizing because hey, if children are going to absorb something from their reading I’d rather it be that they should never lie and never go back on their promise (even if that promise is to kiss a miner-boy. Bleuch!).