Literature / The Princess and the Goblin

The Princess and the Goblin is a children's fantasy novel written by George MacDonald in 1872. It was made into a full-length animated film in 1992 by József Gémes, and was jointly animated in Hungary and Wales.

When a peaceful kingdom is menaced by an army of monstrous goblins, the brave and beautiful Princess Irene joins forces with resourceful peasant boy Curtie to rescue the noble king and all his people. The lucky pair must battle the evil power of the wicked goblin prince armed only with the gift of song, the miracle of love, and a magical shimmering thread.

As the novel is in the public domain it can be read for free here. A sequel, The Princess and Curdie, was written in 1883, and can be read here.

The Princess and the Goblin novel has examples of:

  • Damsel in Distress: Played straight and later averted. Near the beginning, Curdie rescues Irene from some goblins after she has gotten lost on the mountain. Later on, when the goblins have invaded the king's house, everyone thinks Irene has been captured by them, but she had already gotten out of danger with the help of her grandmother's magic thread.
  • Everything's Better with Princesses: Lampshaded in the opening, where the narrator is interrupted to discuss why he uses princess heroines so often.
  • Fairy Tale Motifs: In spades, played with George MacDonald's usual finesse.
  • The Good King: Irene's father, who is described as the wisest man in the country. And in The Princess and Curdie, it says that "he was a real king - that is, one who ruled for the good of his people and not to please himself."
  • Hoist by His Own Petard: Most of the goblins are drowned when they try to flood the miners' tunnels, because the miners had found out about their plan and blocked their tunnels, causing the water to flood the goblins' own dwellings.
  • I Gave My Word: Irene explains to her father about her promise and finally fulfills it.
  • Missing Mom: Irene's dead mother.
  • Mix-and-Match Critters: The creatures that the goblins have bred underground are described this way.
  • One Steve Limit: Averted; the princess and her great-great grandmother are both named Irene. (Justified because the princess was named after her.)
  • Our Goblins Are Different: The goblins have incredibly tough skin, to the point that boulders falling on their head don't bother them and swords bend when they strike. They're incapacitated by even light blows to their feet though, and cheerful singing repels them.
  • Powerful Pick: Curdie's weapon of choice is his miner's mattock.
  • The Promise: Irene's promise to kiss Curdie.
  • Song of Courage: Curdie's rhymes are used to both repel goblins and embolden the heroes. "A Spark Inside Us" in the film.
  • Weaksauce Weakness: The goblins, as stated before, hate cheerful singing and being hit on the feet.
  • Weirdness Censor: Curdie doesn't believe in Irene's grandmother, so he sees her attic room as bare. It's mentioned that he would have seen her if she'd been in her workroom, but Lootie (who has much less imagination) "would rub her eyes, forget the half she saw, and call the other half nonsense".

The Princess and Curdie novel has examples of:

  • Aesop Amnesia: At the beginning, Curdie has forgotten that he did believe in Irene's grandmother, and has convinced himself it was all a dream.
  • Babies Ever After: Averted; it is stated they never had any children.
  • Bittersweet Ending: Curdie and his allies defeat the traitors and restore the rightful king's rule, and Curdie finds gold under the city to restore the king's treasury, and then later Curdie marries Princess Irene and becomes king. But after they die, the kingdom degenerates again, people become greedy and selfish once more, and the new king continues mining under the city so much that the city collapses, killing everyone.
  • Comes Great Responsibility: Irene's grandmother warns Curdie against using his new Detect Evil power for personal gain.
  • Detect Evil: Irene's grandmother gives Curdie the ability to touch someone and feel what kind of animal they are on the inside (e.g., pig, snake, dog, etc.). This reflects what kind of temperament and moral values the person has, which is handy for identifying traitors.
  • Dude, Where's My Respect?: Curdie is treated badly by most of the people he meets in his travels, despite saving the princess, almost single-handedly defeating the goblins, and being personally honored by the king in the previous book. Even his miner co-workers treat him as just one of the guys.
  • Evil Chancellor: Not just the chancellor, but apparently the king's entire court has plotted against him.
  • Feathered Fiend: Curdie is attacked by some evil birds after he unwittingly travels through a Forbidden Zone.
  • Loyal Animal Companion: Lina is a hideous-looking, but very friendly, vaguely dog-like creature who follows Curdie around and proves very useful in his quest.

The movie also has examples of

  • Action Girl: The Queen goblin is the toughest character in the film.
  • Adaptation Name Change: Harelip to Froglip.
  • Adults Are Useless:
    • The amount of creatures the guards manage to prevent getting into the castle can be counted on one hand, including Curdie. Not to mention Lootie constantly loses Irene, and nobody believes her about her great-grandmother or the goblins.
    • Except the King, who trusts his daughter´s judgement.
  • Badass Boast: Froglip gets one.
    Froglip: I want to have them eating the dirt from under my FINGERNAILLLLLLLLLLLTHPTHPTTH!
  • Bad Is Good and Good Is Bad: The goblins.
    Froglip: Above ground, we were forced to obey...laws. To help others. To be friendly to people! [Laughs] Impossible!
  • Captain Obvious
    Curdie: It's like a village... a goblin village. Whoa... this must be where the goblins live!
  • Card-Carrying Villain: Froglip.
  • Cats Are Mean: Completely averted by Irene's cat, Turnip, who is one of her most loyal companions, but played straight by one of the goblin's pets, a fork-tailed demonic cat creature.
  • Cute Kitten
  • Disney Villain Death: Froglip, and a good number of other goblins via the Inevitable Waterfall.
  • Dub Name Change: The hungarian dub renamed Irene to Angelica, Curdie to Kófic and Prince Froglip to Prince Varangy (=Toad). Turnip's name was directly translated.
  • Gainaxing: The Goblin Queen.
  • Genius Bruiser: The goblin Queen is not only a badass but she covers her Weak Point. Considering no other goblin does that she definetly qualifies
  • Getting Crap Past the Radar: When the goblins invade, many of the servants (including Lootie) are obviously drunk. Also, once of the goblins licks Lootie when they capture the servants.
    • Also, when Curdie tells Irene to stay in her room while he deals with the goblins, she locks herself in, only to realise Froglip managed to sneak in. He jumps at her, she screams and the camera fades to black. When Curdie returns to Irene's room, the place is utterly trashed and there's no trace of her.
    • Froglip pleading with his mother to let him deal with Curdie when the goblins capture him involve him saying, "I could do such nasty things to him!"
  • Incessant Chorus: "A Spark Inside Us" in the movie, various playful poems in the book. It's a song about singing, but it helps that singing is a highly effective weapon.
  • Inevitable Waterfall: One is formed after the castle is flooded.
  • Large Ham: Prince Froglip. Being voiced by Rik Mayall, this was bound to happen.
  • Made of Iron: Curdie can survive falling down a cave without a scratch, but when he falls down the stairs he's unconscious.
  • Momma's Boy: The Goblin Prince is constantly doted and praised by his goulish mother.
  • Princesses Prefer Pink: Irene.
  • Reasonable Authority Figure: The King instantly believes Irene about the goblins.
  • Speech Impediment: The Goblin prince has a wet lisp who sprays saliva over everyone.
  • Staircase Tumble: How Curdie hurts his leg. (In the book he's hit by a crossbow.)
  • The Guards Must Be Crazy: The few guards that defend the castle are so grossly incompetent that it makes one wonder how the kingdom has managed to last so long under their protection.
  • Too Dumb to Live: Despite the fact that their feet are their weak spot, only one goblin in the entire film ever thinks to wear shoes.
  • Took a Level in Badass: Curdie grabbing a sword and joining the guards to fight the goblins, and Irene going to the caves to rescue Curdie by herself.
  • Weaksauce Weakness: The Goblins hate and are utterly repelled by singing (even their pets), and this allows the humans to drive back their forces.
  • You Didn't Ask: After narrowly escaping the tunnels full of evil goblins, Irene wants to kiss Curdie to thank him for saving her life, but they are interrupted by Lootie.
    Lootie: (hollering insistently from the castle grounds) Princess Irene!!!
    Curdie: "Princess?!" You didn't tell me you were a princess!
    Irene: You didn't ask.

Alternative Title(s): The Princess And The Goblin, The Princess And Curdie