When a peaceful kingdom is menaced by an army of monstrous goblins, the brave and beautiful Princess Irene joins forces with resourceful peasant boy Curdie 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.
It was made into a full-length animated film in 1992.
A sequel, The Princess and Curdie, was written in 1883.
The Princess and the Goblin novel has examples of:
- Agony of the Feet: The feet are the most sensitive part of a goblin's body, and the heroes use this to their advantage.
- Alliterative Title: The chapter, "The King and the Kiss".
- Aristocrats Are Evil: Prince Harelip (Froglip in the movie) and his parents. Averted with the King and Princess Irene, of course.
- Badass in Distress: Curdie can fend off goblins exceptionally well for a twelve year-old boy, but he gets captured at one point while sneaking around in the goblin lair, and has to be rescued by the princess.
- Brown Note: To goblins, any singing or music counts, the merrier the worse.
- 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.
- 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.
- Princess Protagonist: Lampshaded in the opening, where the narrator is interrupted to discuss why he uses princess heroines so often.
- 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.
- Textile Work Is Feminine: Princess Irene's grandmother, who is also royalty, is often found spinning at her spinning wheel.
- 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".