8.17.2011

Following My Thread


I love the public library system! Reading Rainbow really worked its influence on me. I mean, free books plus a time limit which forces you to read them. Beautiful!
PictureMacDonald published The Princess and the Goblin in 1872, sometime between At the Back of the North Wind and The Wise Woman. I am amazed at how much MacDonald I have not read yet. It's a very exciting prospect that there are yet more doors into his beautiful world yet to open and explore. I am once more impressed by MacDonald's ability to lay out a recognizable fairy tale format, and then quickly pass through a hidden vale into the allegorical, the hilarious, the poignant, the confusing. He takes a basic Sleeping Beauty plot and turns it on its head. The old woman in the tower is transformed from an evil witch and the cause of mindless, accidental Fate, into one of MacDonald's classic, female God-figures at once good and powerful and mysterious and daunting.
The goblins seem direct forebears of Tolkien's Misty Mountain Goblins (aside from the soft feet which Tolkien never believed in) and also a little bit of Lewis's Dufflepuds in their bickering. Their meanness stands in stark contrast to their aspirations and monkeying of royalty and government. They are also hilarious which puts them into the same difficult-to-sort-out moral category as the "evil" giant in The Giant's Heart. Eventually they destroy themselves which helps eliminate the ethical dilemma of justice against such pitiful, comical, dangerous, Gollem-like critters. 
The adventures in the cave remind me of Ariadne's ball of yarn meets Tom Sawyer and Becky. My mom likes to tell the story of me at about five years old, standing at the mouth of the Lava Tubes in Northern California, horror struck by the gaping blackness of a cave, only able to cry, "It looks like hell!" Consequently I spent the rest of the day daydreaming in the back of the car, listening to the rain on the windows. Curdie definitely has a lot of guts over me in the caves department as does Irene with the guidance of her
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This book is especially good with its examples of what it means to be a prince or a princess. No mere lineage will do. Rather to be a prince or a princess is to act, to keep your promises, to love the lowliest the best, to cry and then stop crying, to forgive, to trust. You can just see MacDonald reading this to his young children. Some would say (and have said) that this sort of moral responsibility is unreasonable and unrealistic. I think they like to take the chapter Where Irene acts like a Princess and decide that the story is all about child liberation over the omnipotent dundery of adults like Lootie. I don't really get that. Irene is overcome with the gift of holiness. She doesn't talk back to Lootie in that chapter because she needs to assert her right to think irrationally and independently. She does it because she knows what is real and who she is because of it. It doesn't come from herself, but from her Grandmother. She is the servant, the blind, naive, trusting, ridiculous servant of her Grandmother. American's don't like the idea that subservience to authority can be good. Often authority is awful. But that's why it's a fairy tale. That's why this story is beautiful and unbelievable and why I pray to God that it is true.

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