Natural Selection and The Princess and the Goblin

By F. O.

I  looked for  publications related to the novel The Princess and the Goblin in four different magazines and newspapers. I was looking for something related to children´s faith since faith and religion were so important for people in the Victorian Era. However, after reading the whole book, I became more interested in how Darwin´s theory was presented in it and how George MacDonald linked Darwin’s theory of natural selection with the survival and superiority of the believers. Darwin’s theory started to become popular before 1872 when The Princess and the Goblin was written. Religion still played a significant role in society; however, many people also believed in Darwin’s theory of evolution and some were able to deal with science and religion together. Natural selection and Christianity could be compatible; on the other hand, some others just changed their minds about religion or had second thoughts before believing in something that could not be proven. Continue reading

Spiritualism in The Saturday Review and The Princess and The Goblin

By T. T.


1872 was the year that George MacDonald’s published his children’s novel, The Princess and the Goblin, sparking the imaginations of both adults and children who were invited to enter a fantasy realm of subterranean creatures, fire fuelled by roses and invisible magic thread. It is no wonder then that the central emphasis in the novel is the power of believing in the seemingly unfathomable; as Princess Irene’s grandmother stresses, “seeing is not believing—it is only seeing” (MacDonald 173).

Yet, Victorians were deeply engaged in a hungry pursuit for knowledge, and scientific disciplines dependent on concrete facts were growing at an exponential rate. To satiate this hunger, Victorians turned to weekly newspapers such as The Saturday Review of Politics, Literature, Science and Art, which was noted as one of the “leading critical opinion[s]” of the time (Bevington VII). Founded in London in 1855 by A.J.B. Beresford Hope, the Saturday Review was published until 1938, and was graced with renowned contributors including Oscar Wilde, Dante Gabriel Rossetti, and George Bernard Shaw (Bevington 16). Continue reading

Song and the Supernatural: Victorian Goblins and Mermaids

By S. McF.

McFee Mermaids

“Mermaids,” a short, four-page article from the 29th volume of the Victorian periodical All The Year Round, discusses the origins of mermaids and different accounts of mermaid sightings throughout Britain. George MacDonald’s The Princess and the Goblin also addresses magical beings and their origins. The introduction of the goblins into the story, which discusses how they slowly retreated underground, serves as a short origin story. MacDonald emphasizes the physical peculiarities of the goblins, as does the anonymous author of “Mermaids.” In addition, both pieces discuss the relationship between song and the supernatural. The relations to physical abnormality and song serve as the link between Macdonald’s novel and “Mermaids”; both examine the supernatural being’s relationship to music and to the ‘natural’ human form.

Continue reading

Morality and Redemption in Orlando Furioso and The Princess and the Goblin

By L.M.

For my digital exhibit entry, I have chosen an excerpt from an 1869 issue of the Victorian periodical All the Year Round. This piece, entitled “The Wizard’s Castle,” is the fourth Canto of forty-six written by Lodovico Ariosto in his poem Orlando Furioso. “The Wizard’s Castle” describes two protagonists arriving at a castle and the battle that proceeds, with the maiden ultimately prevailing over the evil wizard. This is significant in the context of Victorian literature in how it goes along with certain characteristics of Victorian fairy tales. Even though Orlando Furioso is not from the Victorian era, the fact that it was published in All the Year Round shows it had some literary and cultural relevance. While morality and redemption play a role in both Orlando Furioso and The Princess and the Goblin, the pieces also display how much fantasy literature and fairy tales have changed over time.


Major themes in fairy tales were and still are morality and redemption. This is seen in Orlando Furioso through the resolution of love between various characters. This is also notable in how Bradamante, the main protagonist and heroine, prevails over the evil wizard. The success of protagonists against characters with lesser moral values Continue reading

Music and Spirituality in “Handel Festival” and The Princess and The Goblin

By C. Y.

Handel Festival 1

The primary source I decided to analyze is an article that was published in All the Year Round, Charles Dickens’ periodical, on June 27, 1874. The article, “Handel Festival,” seeks to address a perceived impression that the world at large believes Britain to be an unmusical nation. The article attempts to refute this fact by describing how tremendously popular worthy music is in Britain, particularly the oratorio Messiah, by the great German-born British composer Handel. By illustrating the utmost importance of both music and spirituality in British society, the article concludes that while there is an abundance of bad British music, it is not representative of the nation as a whole, as Britain is more than capable of creating great musical works of art and faith, a message that is reinforced by the themes of artistry and Christianity present in The Princess and the Goblin. Continue reading

The Perfect Princess: Victorian Childhood in Relation to the Girl of the Home

By J. S.

JS IMG_0466

The article “School Lessons in House-hold Economy,” found in the 1871 volume of Good Words, exemplifies the theme of childhood found in George MacDonald’s The Princess and The Goblin. The Christian periodical Good Words, originally published by evangelical Alexander Strahan, was published from 1860 until 1906. Its contents were firmly rooted with strong Christian ideals, and the texts within it were exceptionally traditional. A mixture of “philanthropists, ministers of the Church, pious versifiers, and the converted” authored pieces written for Good Words (Cooke “Brief Introduction”). Norman MacLeod edited this 1871 edition, which published “School Lesson in House-hold Economy,” and edited the periodical until his death in 1872. Continue reading