Book review: The Princess and the Goblin

The Princess and the Goblin


The Princess and the Goblin

The Princess and the Goblin


By George MacDonald
Read by Brooke Heldman

ISBN: 978-1-61375-653-9
Category: Fantasy, Fiction, Juvenile

Unabridged – 5.25 hours – 5 CDs
Released: Originally written in 1872.
October 2014

Publisher: Oasis Audio

Source: Received from the publisher through Audiobook Jukebox

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In full compliance with FTC Guidelines,
I received this audio book for free in exchange for a fair and honest review.
I was in no way compensated for this post as a reviewer, and the thoughts are my own.

This book counts for the following Reading Challenges:

     2015 audiobook



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A few years ago, I discovered Lilith by chance, looking for some good audiobooks for free on Librivox. I was stunned by the vastness of the book, like a major fresco. Time now to discover more works by this great master, and The Princess and The Goblin is definitely one of his most famous books. I’m grateful to Oasis Books for this superb audio-production and for allowing me to listen to it for free through the awesome Audiobook Jukebox,  a must for all audiobook lovers and reviewers.

You may think this is the all too usual fantasy fairy tale with what you know as familiar elements such as a sometimes silly and helpless princess, a useful peasant boy, and dangerous goblins. Add to it an important layer as you read it, the layer of Christian symbolism, well, you will be able to see that depth only if you received a cultural education containing Christian elements, and you may easily conclude: nothing new here, you have seen it all in C. S. Lewis and Tolkien.
But wait, did you see the date when it was first published? 1872! That is, way before these two giants, who actually did draw a lot of their inspiration from MacDonald himself.

For me, this is an extra bonus to read this incredible writer.
And you can read the story at so many levels.
First of all, be sure to just enjoy the charm of it. The neat descriptions will make you shudder while crossing the mountains and trying to avoid these dreadful goblins.

I particularly enjoyed the realism of the characters, even little Curdie, courageous, but not a fool, and not easily convinced by what his friend the princess Irene is telling him. I also enjoyed Irene’s great-great-grandmother.

It is wonderful to enjoy a few minutes of childhood awesomeness while being able to detect at the same time the pen of a master, whose message of courage is addressed to readers of all ages.

As an aside, I discovered that Sylvia Plath wrote a poem based on this book, entitled The princess and the Goblins. Here is a passage on Curdie:

Pointing toward the spindle’s cryptic whir,
she tells the greenhorn miner to bow down
and honor the great goddess of the air

suspended aloft within her planet-shine.
Laughing aloud, the dazzled boy demands
why he should kneel before a silly scene

where pigeons promenade the gable-ends
and coo quadrilles about the blighted core
in a batch of raveled apple rinds.


Audio production:
The narrator Brooke Heldman did a great job. She has a young voice that fits the traditional face of fairy tales, but she enriches it with great intonations, highlighting appropriately the carefree times and the threats. I would be ready to listen to her read to me all the famous fairy tales.

VERDICT: Great audiobook giving new life to a classic tale that can only rejoice all readers young in age or heart.


The Princess and the Goblin is the story of Princess Irene and her friend Curdie, who come face to face with the dreaded mountain goblins. This children’s fantasy novel was originally published in 1872. It uses subtle layers of symbolism to tell a story of courage and honor. [provided by Goodreads]



George MacDonald was a Scottish author, poet,
and Christian minister.
Known particularly for his poignant fairy tales and fantasy novels,
George MacDonald inspired many authors,
such as W. H. Auden, J. R. R. Tolkien, C. S. Lewis, and Madeleine L’Engle.
It was C.S. Lewis that wrote that he regarded MacDonald as his “master”:
“Picking up a copy of Phantastes one day at a train-station bookstall,
I began to read. A few hours later,” said Lewis, “I knew that I had crossed a great frontier.”
G. K. Chesterton cited The Princess and the Goblin as a book that had “made a difference to my whole existence.”
Elizabeth Yates wrote of Sir Gibbie,
“It moved me the way books did when, as a child,
the great gates of literature began to open and first encounters with noble thoughts and utterances were unspeakably thrilling.”
Even Mark Twain, who initially disliked MacDonald, became friends with him, and there is some evidence that Twain was influenced by MacDonald.


Which one is your favorite?




3 thoughts on “Book review: The Princess and the Goblin

  1. Pingback: 2015 Audio book challenge | Words And Peace

  2. Lovely review. Makes me wish to put off no longer my reading of this classic that used to enjoy much wider readership. Glad to discover this is a recognized predecessor to Lewis’s and Tolkien’s masterpieces, and shares with them some of the same aims. Sylvia Plath must have loved the story, to have created such a detailed poem in response. I wonder if MacDonald could have been influenced at all by Christina Rossetti’s poem “Goblin Market” (published 1862), even if only to write something very different and not pagan.


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