The Princess and the Goblin
A book that inspired Tolkien
The Professor’s Bookshelf #5
Written by George MacDonald
Illustrated by Jessie Wilcox Smith.
First published 1872.
Introduced by Cecilia Dart-Thornton.
Professor J.R.R. Tolkien was a great admirer of George MacDonald’s fairy-stories. When his children were young, he used to read The Princess and the Goblin to them in the evenings, before they went to bed.
In a 1938 letter to the Observer newspaper, Tolkien stated that some ideas in The Hobbit “derived from (previously digested) epic, mythology, and fairy-story—not, however, Victorian in authorship, as a rule to which George MacDonald is the chief exception”.
Douglas A. Anderson’s book Tales Before Tolkien: The Roots of Modern Fantasy, the author writes, “Tolkien knew well MacDonald’s children’s books The Princess and the Goblin and The Princess and Curdie, both of which influenced Tolkien’s depiction of goblins in The Hobbit.
There are many reflections of MacDonald’s ‘Princess’ books in The Hobbit and The Lord of the Rings – not least, the goblins themselves. The wise, magical, prescient grandmother of the Princess Irene, seems to be a literary ancestor of Tolkien’s Galadriel; centuries old and yet looking young, a queen, a healer, a tall, beautiful, golden-haired woman associated with water and weaving.
Princess Irene has a magic ring that is associated with invisibility, being linked to a semi-visible thread. This ring aids her in an escape from the Goblin Underground, much as The One Ring aids Bilbo in The Hobbit.
The Princess and the Goblin is rich with literary treasures drawn from folk tradition. MacDonald incorporates into his tale the powerful folk theme of women who spin or weave. The princess’s faery grandmother sits and spins at a wheel. In The Lord of the Rings, Galadriel herself, along with her handmaidens, weaves the cloth of the cloaks that the Elves of Lórien give to the Company.
This edition contains the delicately beautiful illustrations of Jessie Willcox Smith; pictures that were seen by Tolkien and are much-loved by generations of children to this very day.
ISBN: 9781925110098 (paperback)
If you don’t see this book at your local bookstore, ask them to order it for you. ISBN: 9781925110098 (paperback)