Friday, August 25, 2006

GKC on The Princess and the Goblin

It has been a while since I have posted, for I have been quite busy with work, both the employment kind and others. But my friend Enbrethiliel at Sancta Sanctis recently posted some comments about George MacDonald's fairy-tale, The Princess and the Goblin, and I had to post something as a follow-up.

It is a very wonderful story, even more so because it is a direct ancestor to works of our Uncle Gilbert Chesterton, and J. R. R. Tolkien, and has an effect even on more modern works (yes perhaps "Harry Potter" and even "Star Wars"!) If you have not yet read P&G, I strongly urge you to do so.

Chesterton wrote an introduction to the 1924 George MacDonald and His Wife, by Greville M. MacDonald, which sheds much light on P&G - and I will quote part of it here. It will tell you a little about the story, not enough to spoil it, I hope, but enough to tantalize you into wanting to read it - or read it again. There is far more in the story than is apparent on a first reading, and it will repay you to try it again.

-- Dr. Thursday

There is something not only imaginative but intimately true about the idea of the goblins being below the house and capable of besieging it from the cellars. When the evil things besieging us do appear, they do not appear outside but inside. Anyhow, that simple image of a house that is our home, that is rightly loved as our home, but of which we hardly know the best or the worst, and must always wait for the one and watch against the other, has always remained in my mind as something singularly solid and unanswerable; and was more corroborated than corrected when I came to give a more definite name to the lady watching over us from the turret, and perhaps to take a more practical view of the goblins under the floor. Since I first read that story some five alternative philosophies of the universe have come to our colleges out of Germany, blowing through the world like the east wind. But for me that castle is still standing in the mountains and the light in its tower is not put out.
["George MacDonald" in G. K. C. as M. C. (a collection of GKC's introductions to books by others)]
I find I have to add an afterword to this brief selection. There is a very strong sense of relevance to this quote - I mean in particular the idea of an invasion from inside. Compare this to GKC's vision of siege within a French church, in his "The Conscript and the Crisis":
It seemed to me that we were barricaded in this church, but we could not tell what was happening outside the church. The monstrous and terrible jewels of the windows darkened or glistened under moving shadow or light, but the nature of that light and the shapes of those shadows we did not know and hardly dared to guess. The dream began, I think, with a dim fancy that enemies were already in the town, and that the enormous oaken doors were groaning under their hammers.
[GKC, "The Conscript and the Crisis" in A Miscellany of Men; full essay is here.]
For we are still beset by enemies, the powers of darkness, whether their names are Sauron or Voldemort or the goblins below... Then let us pray for each other, to be always guided by the "light from the tower" and secure under the watchful eyes of the "old woman"...


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