George MacDonald (10 December 1824 – 18 September 1905) was
a Scottish author, poet, and Christian minister.
for his poignant fairy tales and fantasy novels, George
MacDonald inspired many authors, such as W. H. Auden, J. R.
R. Tolkien, C. S. Lewis, E. Nesbit and Madeleine L'Engle. It
was C.S. Lewis who wrote that he regarded MacDonald as his
"master": "Picking up a copy of Phantastes one day at a
train-station bookstall, I began to read. A few hours
later," said Lewis, "I knew that I had crossed a great
frontier." G. K. Chesterton cited The Princess and the
Goblin as a book that had "made a difference to my whole
wrote of Sir Gibbie, "It moved me the way books did when, as
a child, the great gates of literature began to open and
first encounters with noble thoughts and utterances were
Even Mark Twain, who
initially disliked MacDonald, became friends with him, and
there is some evidence that Twain was influenced by
George MacDonald was born on December 10, 1824 at Huntly,
Aberdeenshire, Scotland. His father, a farmer, was one of
the MacDonalds of Glen Coe, and a direct descendant of one
of the families that suffered in the massacre of 1692. The
Doric dialect of the Aberdeenshire area appears in the
dialogue of some of his non-fantasy novels.
MacDonald grew up
influenced by his Congregational Church, with an atmosphere
of Calvinism. But MacDonald never felt comfortable with some
aspects of Calvinist doctrine; indeed, legend has it that
when the doctrine of predestination was first explained to
him, he burst into tears (although assured that he was one
of the elect). Later novels, such as Robert Falconer and
Lilith, show a distaste for the idea that God's electing
love is limited to some and denied to others.
He took his degree
at the University of Aberdeen, and then went to London,
studying at Highbury College for the Congregational
In 1850 he was
appointed pastor of Trinity Congregational Church, Arundel,
but his sermons (preaching God's universal love and the
possibility that none would, ultimately, fail to unite with
God) met with little favour and his salary was cut in half.
Later he was engaged in ministerial work in Manchester. He
left that because of poor health, and after a short sojourn
in Algiers he settled in London and taught for some time at
the University of London. MacDonald was also for a time
editor of Good Words for the Young, and lectured
successfully in the United States during 1872-1873.
His best-known works
are Phantastes, The Princess and the Goblin, At the Back of
the North Wind, and Lilith, all fantasy novels, and fairy
tales such as "The Light Princess", "The Golden Key", and
"The Wise Woman". "I write, not for children," he wrote,
"but for the child-like, whether they be of five, or fifty,
or seventy-five." MacDonald also published some volumes of
sermons, the pulpit not having proved an unreservedly
served as a mentor to Lewis Carroll (the pen-name of Rev.
Charles Lutwidge Dodgson); it was MacDonald's advice, and
the enthusiastic reception of Alice by MacDonald's many sons
and daughters, that convinced Carroll to submit Alice for
publication. Carroll, one of the finest Victorian
photographers, also created photographic portraits of
several of the MacDonald children.
MacDonald was also
friends with John Ruskin and served as a go-between in
Ruskin's long courtship with Rose la Touche.
acquainted with most of the literary luminaries of the day;
a surviving group photograph shows him with Tennyson,
Dickens, Wilkie Collins, Trollope, Ruskin, Lewes, and
Thackeray. While in America he was a friend of Longfellow
and Walt Whitman.
In 1877 he was given
a civil list pension. He died on 18 September 1905 in
Ashtead (Surrey). He was cremated and buried in Bordighera.
As hinted above,
MacDonald's use of fantasy as a literary medium for
exploring the human condition greatly influenced a
generation of such notable authors as C. S. Lewis (who
featured him as a character in his The Great Divorce), J. R.
R. Tolkien, and Madeleine L'Engle. MacDonald's non-fantasy
novels, such as Alec Forbes, had their influence as well;
they were among the first realistic Scottish novels, and as
such MacDonald has been credited with founding the "kailyard
school" of Scottish writing.
His son Greville
MacDonald became a noted medical specialist, and also wrote
numerous novels for children. Greville ensured that new
editions of his father's works were published. Another son,
Ronald MacDonald, was also a novelist. Ronald's son, Philip
MacDonald, (George MacDonald's grandson) became a very
well-known Hollywood screenwriter.
MacDonald rejected the doctrine of penal substitutionary
atonement as developed by John Calvin, which argues that
Christ has taken the place of sinners and is punished by God
in their place, believing that in turn it raised serious
questions about the character and nature of God. Instead, he
taught that Christ had come to save people from their sins,
and not from a Divine penalty for their sins. The problem
was not the need to appease a wrathful God but the disease
of cosmic evil itself. George MacDonald frequently described
the Atonement in terms similar to the Christus Victor
theory. MacDonald posed the rhetorical question, "Did he not
foil and slay evil by letting all the waves and billows of
its horrid sea break upon him, go over him, and die without
rebound—spend their rage, fall defeated, and cease? Verily,
he made atonement!"
convinced that God does not punish except to amend, and that
the sole end of His greatest anger is the amelioration of
the guilty. As the doctor uses fire and steel in certain
deep-seated diseases, so God may use hell-fire if necessary
to heal the hardened sinner. MacDonald declared, "I believe
that no hell will be lacking which would help the just mercy
of God to redeem his children." MacDonald posed the
rhetorical question, "When we say that God is Love, do we
teach men that their fear of Him is groundless?" He replied,
"No. As much as they fear will come upon them, possibly far
more. … The wrath will consume what they call themselves; so
that the selves God made shall appear."
However, true repentance, in the sense of freely chosen
moral growth, is essential to this process, and, in
MacDonald's optimistic view, inevitable for all beings. He
recognized the theoretical possibility that, bathed in the
eschatological divine light, some might perceive right and
wrong for what they are but still refuse to be transfigured
by operation of God's fires of love, but he did not think
In this theology of
divine punishment, MacDonald stands in agreement with the
Greek Church Fathers St. Clement of Alexandria, Origen, and
St. Gregory of Nyssa, although it is unknown whether
MacDonald had a working familiarity with Patristics or
Eastern Orthodox Christianity. At least an indirect
influence is likely, because F. D. Maurice who influenced
MacDonald knew the Greek Fathers, especially Clement, very
well. MacDonald states his theological views most distinctly
in the sermon Justice found in the third volume of Unspoken
In his introduction
to George MacDonald: An Anthology, C. S. Lewis speaks highly
of MacDonald's theology:
"This collection, as
I have said, was designed not to revive MacDonald's literary
reputation but to spread his religious teaching. Hence most
of my extracts are taken from the three volumes of Unspoken
Sermons. My own debt to this book is almost as great as one
man can owe to another: and nearly all serious inquirers to
whom I have introduced it acknowledge that it has given them
great help-sometimes indispensable help toward the very
acceptance of the Christian faith.
… I know hardly any other writer who seems to be closer, or
more continually close, to the Spirit of Christ Himself.
Hence his Christ-like union of tenderness and severity.
Nowhere else outside the New Testament have I found terror
and comfort so intertwined. … In making this collection I
was discharging a debt of justice. I have never concealed
the fact that I regarded him as my master; indeed I fancy I
have never written a book in which I did not quote from him.
But it has not seemed to me that those who have received my
books kindly take even now sufficient notice of the
affiliation. Honesty drives me to emphasize it."
"The Princess and the Goblin"
THE PRINCESS HAS A STORY ABOUT HER
once a little princess who—
Author, why do you always write about princesses?"
every little girl is a princess."
make them vain if you tell them that."
"Not if they
understand what I mean."
do you mean?"
"What do you
mean by a princess?"
daughter of a king."
then every little girl is a princess, and there
would be no need to say anything about it, except
that she is always in danger of forgetting her rank,
and behaving as if she had grown out of the mud. I
have seen little princesses behave like children of
thieves and lying beggars, and that is why they need
to be told they are princesses. And that is
why when I tell a story of this kind, I like to tell
it about a princess. Then I can say better what I
mean, because I can then give her every beautiful
thing I want her to have."
once a little princess whose father was king over a
great country full of mountains and valleys. His
palace was built upon one of the mountains, and was
very grand and beautiful. The princess, whose name
was Irene, was born there, but she was sent soon
after her birth, because her mother was not very
strong, to be brought up by country people in a
large house, half castle, half farmhouse, on the
side of another mountain, about half-way between its
base and its peak.
The princess was a sweet little creature, and at the
time my story begins was about eight years old, I
think, but she got older very fast. Her face was
fair and pretty, with eyes like two bits of night
sky, each with a star dissolved in the blue. Those
eyes you would have thought must have known they
came from there, so often were they turned up in
that direction. The ceiling of her nursery was
blue, with stars in it, as like the sky as they
could make it. But I doubt if ever she saw the real
sky with the stars in it, for a reason which I had
better mention at once.
mountains were full of hollow places underneath;
huge caverns, and winding ways, some with water
running through them, and some shining with all
colours of the rainbow when a light was taken in.
There would not have been much known about them, had
there not been mines there, great deep pits,
with long galleries and passages running off from
them, which had been dug to get at the ore of which
the mountains were full. In the course of digging,
the miners came upon many of these natural caverns.
A few of them had far-off openings out on the side
of a mountain, or into a ravine.
Now in these
subterranean caverns lived a strange race of beings,
called by some gnomes, by some kobolds, by some
goblins. There was a legend current in the country
that at one time they lived above ground, and were
very like other people. But for some reason or
other, concerning which there were different
legendary theories, the king had laid what they
thought too severe taxes upon them, or had required
observances of them they did not like, or had begun
to treat them with more severity, in some way or
other, and impose stricter laws; and the consequence
was that they had all disappeared from the face of
the country. According to the legend, however,
instead of going to some other country, they had all
taken refuge in the subterranean caverns, whence
they never came out but at night, and then seldom
showed themselves in any numbers, and never to
many people at once. It was only in the least
frequented and most difficult parts of the mountains
that they were said to gather even at night in the
open air. Those who had caught sight of any of them
said that they had greatly altered in the course of
generations; and no wonder, seeing they lived away
from the sun, in cold and wet and dark places. They
were now, not ordinarily ugly, but either absolutely
hideous, or ludicrously grotesque both in face and
form. There was no invention, they said, of
the most lawless imagination expressed by pen or
pencil, that could surpass the extravagance of their
appearance. But I suspect those who said so had
mistaken some of their animal companions for the
goblins themselves—of which more by and by. The
goblins themselves were not so far removed from the
human as such a description would imply. And as they
grew misshapen in body they had grown in knowledge
and cleverness, and now were able to do things no
mortal could see the possibility of. But as they
grew in cunning, they grew in mischief, and their
great delight was in every way they could think of
to annoy the people who lived in the open-air storey
above them. They had enough of affection left for
each other to preserve them from being absolutely
cruel for cruelty's sake to those that came in their
way; but still they so heartily cherished the
ancestral grudge against those who occupied their
former possessions and especially against the
descendants of the king who had caused their
expulsion, that they sought every opportunity of
tormenting them in ways that were as odd as their
inventors; and although dwarfed and misshapen, they
had strength equal to their cunning. In the process
of time they had got a king and a government of
their own, whose chief business, beyond their own
simple affairs, was to devise trouble for their
neighbours. It will now be pretty evident why
the little princess had never seen the sky at night.
They were much too afraid of the goblins to let her
out of the house then, even in company with ever so
many attendants; and they had good reason, as we
shall see by and by.
PRINCESS LOSES HERSELF
I HAVE said
the Princess Irene was about eight years old when my
story begins. And this is how it begins.
One very wet
day, when the mountain was covered with mist which
was constantly gathering itself together into
raindrops, and pouring down on the roofs of the
great old house, whence it fell in a fringe of water
from the eaves all round about it, the princess
could not of course go out. She got very tired, so
tired that even her toys could no longer amuse her.
You would wonder at that if I had time to describe
to you one half of the toys she had. But then, you
wouldn't have the toys themselves, and that makes
all the difference: you can't get tired of a thing
before you have it. It was a picture, though, worth
seeing—the princess sitting in the nursery with the
sky ceiling over her head, at a great table covered
with her toys. If the artist would like to
draw this, I should advise him not to meddle with
the toys. I am afraid of attempting to describe
them, and I think he had better not try to draw
them. He had better not. He can do a thousand things
I can't, but I don't think he could draw those toys.
No man could better make the princess herself than
he could, though—leaning with her back bowed into
the back of the chair, her head hanging down, and
her hands in her lap, very miserable as she would
say herself, not even knowing what she would like,
except it were to go out and get thoroughly wet, and
catch a particularly nice cold, and have to go to
bed and take gruel. The next moment after you see
her sitting there, her nurse goes out of the room.
Even that is
a change, and the princess wakes up a little, and
looks about her. Then she tumbles off her chair and
runs out of the door, not the same door the nurse
went out of, but one which opened at the foot of a
curious old stair of worm-eaten oak, which looked as
if never anyone had set foot upon it. She had once
before been up six steps, and that was sufficient
reason, in such a day, for trying to find out what
was at the top of it.
Up and up
she ran—such a long way it seemed to her!—until she
came to the top of the third flight. There she found
the landing was the end of a long passage. Into this
she ran. It was full of doors on each side. There
were so many that she did not care to open any, but
ran on to the end, where she turned into another
passage, also full of doors. When she had turned
twice more, and still saw doors and only doors about
her, she began to get frightened. It was so silent!
And all those doors must hide rooms with nobody in
them! That was dreadful. Also the rain made a great
trampling noise on the roof. She turned and started
at full speed, her little footsteps echoing through
the sounds of the rain—back for the stairs and her
safe nursery. So she thought, but she had lost
herself long ago. It doesn't follow that she was
lost, because she had lost herself, though.
She ran for
some distance, turned several times, and then began
to be afraid. Very soon she was sure that she had
lost the way back. Rooms everywhere, and no stair!
Her little heart beat as fast as her little feet
ran, and a lump of tears was growing in her throat.
But she was too eager and perhaps too frightened to
cry for some time. At last her hope failed her.
Nothing but passages and doors everywhere! She threw
herself on the floor, and burst into a wailing cry
broken by sobs.
She did not
cry long, however, for she was as brave as could be
expected of a princess of her age. After a good cry,
she got up, and brushed the dust from her frock. Oh,
what old dust it was! Then she wiped her eyes with
her hands, for princesses don't always have their
handkerchiefs in their pockets, any more than some
other little girls I know of. Next, like a true
princess, she resolved on going wisely to work to
find her way back: she would walk through the
passages, and look in every direction for the stair.
This she did, but without success. She went over the
same ground again an again without knowing it, for
the passages and doors were all alike. At last, in a
corner, through a half-open door, she did see a
stair. But alas! it went the wrong way: instead of
going down, it went up. Frightened as she was,
however, she could not help wishing to see where yet
further the stair could lead. It was very narrow,
and so steep that she went on like a four-legged
creature on her hands and feet.
PRINCESS AND—WE SHALL SEE WHO
came to the top, she found herself in a little
square place, with three doors, two opposite each
other, and one opposite the top of the stair. She
stood for a moment, without an idea in her little
head what to do next. But as she stood, she began to
hear a curious humming sound. Could it be the rain?
No. It was much more gentle, and even monotonous
than the sound of the rain, which now she scarcely
heard. The low sweet humming sound went on,
sometimes stopping for a little while and then
beginning again. It was more like the hum of a very
happy bee that had found a rich well of honey in
some globular flower, than anything else I can think
of at this moment. Where could it come from? She
laid her ear first to one of the doors to hearken if
it was there—then to another. When she laid her ear
against the third door, there could be no doubt
where it came from: it must be from something in
that room. What could it be? She was rather afraid,
but her curiosity was stronger than her fear, and
she opened the door very gently and peeped in. What
do you think she saw? A very old lady who sat
Editor! I know the story you are going to tell: it's
The Sleeping Beauty; only you're spinning too, and
making it longer."
it is not that story. Why should I tell one that
every properly educated child knows already? More
old ladies than one have sat spinning in a garret.
Besides, the old lady in that story was only
spinning with a spindle, and this one was spinning
with a spinning-wheel, else how could the princess
have heard the sweet noise through the door? Do you
know the difference? Did you ever see a spindle or a
spinning wheel? I daresay you never did. Well, ask
your mamma to explain to you the difference. Between
ourselves, however, I shouldn't wonder if she didn't
know much better than you. Another thing is, that
this is not a fairy story; but a goblin story. And
one thing more, this old lady spinning was not an
old nurse—but—you shall see who. I think I have now
made it quite plain that this is not that lovely
story of The Sleeping Beauty. It is quite a new one,
I assure you, and I will try to tell it as prettily
as I can."
will wonder how the princess could tell that the old
lady was an old lady, when I inform you that not
only was she beautiful, but her skin was smooth and
white. I will tell you more. Her hair was
combed back from her forehead and face, and hung
loose far down and all over her back. That is not
much like an old lady—is it? Ah! but it was white
almost as snow. And although her face was so smooth,
her eyes looked so wise that you could not have
helped seeing she must be old. The princess, though
she could not have told you why, did think her very
old indeed—quite fifty—she said to herself. But she
was rather older than that, as you shall hear.
While the princess stared bewildered, with her head
just inside the door, the old lady lifted hers, and
said, in a sweet, but old and rather shaky voice,
which mingled very pleasantly with the continued hum
of her wheel:
"Come in, my
dear; come in. I am glad to see you."
princess was a real princess you might see now quite
plainly; for she didn't hang on to the handle of the
door, and stare without moving, as I have known some
do who ought to have been princesses but were only
rather vulgar little girls. She did as she was told,
stepped inside the door at once, and shut it gently
"Come to me,
my dear," said the old lady.
again the princess did as she was told. She
approached the old lady—rather slowly, I confess,
but did not stop until she stood by her side, and
looked up in her face with her blue eyes and the two
melted stars in them.
have you been doing with your eyes, child?" asked
the old lady.
answered the princess.
couldn't find my way down again."
could find your way up."
first—not for a long time."
face is streaked like the back of a zebra. Hadn't
you a handkerchief to wipe your eyes with?"
didn't you come to me to wipe them for you?"
didn't know you were here. I will next time."
good child!" said the old lady.
stopped her wheel, and rose, and, going out of the
room, returned with a little silver basin and a soft
white towel, with which she washed and wiped the
bright little face. And the princess thought her
hands were so smooth and nice!
carried away the basin and towel, the little
princess wondered to see how straight and tall she
was, for, although she was so old, she didn't stoop
a bit. She was dressed in black velvet with thick
white heavy-looking lace about it; and on the black
dress her hair shone like silver. There was hardly
any more furniture in the room than there might have
been in that of the poorest old woman who made her
bread by her spinning. There was no carpet on the
floor—no table anywhere—nothing but the
spinning-wheel and the chair beside it. When she
came back, she sat down and without a word began her
spinning once more, while Irene, who had never seen
a spinning-wheel, stood by her side and looked on.
When the old lady had got her thread fairly going
again, she said to the princess, but without looking
"Do you know
my name, child?"
"No, I don't
know it," answered the princess.
"my name is
name!" cried the princess.
that. I let you have mine. I haven't got your name.
You've got mine."
that be?" asked the princess, bewildered. "I've
always had my name."
the king, asked me if I had any objection to your
having it; and, of course, I hadn't. I let you have
it with pleasure."
"It was very
kind of you to give me your name—and such a pretty
one," said the princess.
"Oh, not so
very kind!" said the old lady. "A name is one of
those things one can give away and keep all the
same. I have a good many such things. Wouldn't you
like to know who I am, child?"
"Yes, that I
great-great-grandmother," said the lady.
that?" asked the princess.
father's mother's father's mother."
"Oh, dear! I
can't understand that," said the princess.
"I dare say
not. I didn't expect you would. But that's no reason
why I shouldn't say it."
answered the princess.
explain it all to you when you are older," the lady
went on. "But you will be able to understand this
much now: I came here to take care of you."
"Is it long
since you came? Was it yesterday? Or was it today,
because it was so wet that I couldn't get out?"
here ever since you came yourself."
"What a long
time!" said the princess. "I don't remember it at
"But I never
saw you before."
"No. But you
shall see me again."
"Do you live
in this room always?"
sleep in it. I sleep on the opposite side of the
landing. I sit here most of the day."
like it. My nursery is much prettier. You must be a
queen too, if you are my great big grand-mother."
"Yes, I am a
your crown, then?"
like to see it."
some day—not today."
why nursie never told me."
doesn't know. She never saw me."
somebody knows that you are in the house?"
"How do you
get your dinner, then?"
poultry—of a sort."
you keep them?"
"I will show
makes the chicken broth for you?"
kill any of my chickens."
you have for breakfast this morning?" asked the
"Oh! I had
bread and milk, and an egg—I dare say you eat their
it. I eat their eggs."
what makes your hair so white?"
dear. It's old age. I am very old."
so. Are you fifty?"
"Are you a
than that. I am too old for you to guess. Come and
see my chickens."
stopped her spinning. She rose, took the princess by
the hand, led her out of the room, and opened the
door opposite the stair. The  princess expected
to see a lot of hens and chickens, but instead of
that, she saw the blue sky first, and then the roofs
of the house, with a multitude of the loveliest
pigeons, mostly white, but of all colours, walking
about, making bows to each other, and talking a
language she could not understand. She clapped her
hands with delight, and up rose such a flapping of
wings that she in her turn was startled.
frightened my poultry," said the old lady, smiling.
frightened me," said the princess, smiling too. "But
what very nice poultry! Are the eggs nice?"
small egg-spoon you must have! Wouldn't it be better
to keep hens, and get bigger eggs?"
I feed them, though?"
said the princess. "The pigeons feed themselves.
They've got wings."
"Just so. If
they couldn't fly, I couldn't eat their eggs."
"But how do
you get at the eggs? Where are their nests?"
took hold of a little loop of string in the wall at
the side of the door and, lifting a shutter, showed
a great many pigeon-holes with nests, some with
young ones and some with eggs in them. The birds
came in at the other side, and she took out the eggs
on this side. She closed it again quickly, lest the
young ones should be frightened.
"Oh, what a
nice way!" cried the princess. "Will you give me an
egg to eat? I'm rather hungry."
"I will some
day, but now you must go back, or nursie will be
miserable about you. I dare say she's looking for
here," answered the princess. "Oh, how surprised she
will be when I tell her about my great big
she will!" said the old lady with a curious smile.
"Mind you tell her all about it exactly."
will. Please will you take me back to her?"
"I can't go
all the way, but I will take you to the top of the
stair, and then you must run down quite fast into
your own room."
princess put her hand in the old lady's, who,
looking this way and that, brought her to the top of
the first stair, and thence to the bottom of the
second, and did not leave her till she saw her
half-way down the third. When she heard the cry of
her nurse's pleasure at finding her, she turned and
walked up the stairs again, very fast indeed for
such a very great grandmother, and sat down to her
spinning with another strange smile on her sweet old
spinning of hers I will tell you more another time.
she was spinning.
WHAT THE NURSE THOUGHT OF IT
can you have been, princess?" asked the nurse,
taking her in her arms. "It's very unkind of you to
hide away so long. I began to be afraid—"
you afraid of, nursie?" asked the princess.
mind," she answered. "Perhaps I will tell you
another day. Now tell me where you have been."
up a long way to see my very great, huge, old
grandmother," said the princess.
"What do you
mean by that?" asked the nurse, who thought she was
"I mean that
I've been a long way up and up to see My GREAT
grandmother. Ah, nursie, you don't know what a
beautiful mother of grand-  mothers I've got
upstairs. She is such an old lady, with such lovely
white hair—as white as my silver cup. Now, when I
think of it, I think her hair must be silver."
nonsense you are talking, princess!" said the nurse.
talking nonsense," returned Irene, rather offended.
"I will tell you all about her. She's much taller
than you, and much prettier."
"Oh, I dare
say!" remarked the nurse.
lives upon pigeons' eggs."
likely," said the nurse.
sits in an empty room, spin-spinning all day long."
"Not a doubt
of it," said the nurse.
keeps her crown in her bedroom."
course—quite the proper place to keep her crown in.
She wears it in bed, I'll be bound."
say that. And I don't think she does. That wouldn't
be comfortable—would it? I don't think my papa wears
his crown for a night-cap. Does he, nursie?"
asked him. I dare say he does."
been there ever since I came here—ever so many
could have told you that," said the nurse, who did
not believe a word Irene was saying.
you tell me, then?"
no necessity. You could make it all up for
believe me, then!" exclaimed the princess,
astonished and angry, as she well might be.
expect me to believe you, princess?" asked the nurse
coldly. "I know princesses are in the habit of
telling make-believes, but you are the first I ever
heard of who expected to have them believed," she
added, seeing that the child was strangely in
burst into tears.
must say," remarked the nurse, now thoroughly vexed
with her for crying, "it is not at all becoming in a
princess to tell stories and expect to be believed
just because she is a princess."
quite true, I tell you."
dreamt it, then, child."
didn't dream it. I went upstairs, and I lost myself,
and if I hadn't found the beautiful lady, I should
never have found myself."
"Oh, I dare
just come up with me, and see if I'm not telling the
have other work to do. It's your dinnertime, and I
won't have any more such nonsense."
wiped her eyes, and her face grew so hot that they
were soon quite dry. She sat down to her dinner, but
ate next to nothing. Not to be believed does not at
all agree with princesses: for a real princess
cannot tell a lie. So all the afternoon she did not
speak a word. Only when the nurse spoke to her, she
answered her, for a real princess is never rude—even
when she does well to be offended.
the nurse was not comfortable in her mind—not that
she suspected the least truth in Irene's story, but
that she loved her dearly, and was vexed with
herself for having been cross to her. She thought
her crossness was the cause of the princess's
unhappiness, and had no idea that she was really and
deeply hurt at not being believed. But, as it became
more and more plain during the evening in her every
motion and look, that, although she tried to amuse
herself with her toys, her heart was too vexed and
troubled to enjoy  them, her nurse's discomfort
grew and grew. When bedtime came, she undressed and
laid her down, but the child, instead of holding up
her little mouth to be kissed, turned away from her
and lay still. Then nursie's heart gave way
altogether, and she began to cry. At the sound of
her first sob the princess turned again, and held
her face to kiss her as usual. But the nurse had her
handkerchief to her eyes, and did not see the
said the princess, "why won't you believe me?"
can't believe you," said the nurse, getting angry
you can't help it," said Irene, "and I will not be
vexed with you any more. I will give you a kiss and
go to sleep."
angel!" cried the nurse, and caught her out of bed,
and walked about the room with her in her arms,
kissing and hugging her.
let me take you to see my dear old great big
grandmother, won't you?" said the princess, as she
laid her down again.
won't say I'm ugly, any more—will you, princess?"
I never said you were ugly. What can you mean?"
you didn't say it, you meant it."
"You said I
wasn't so pretty as that—"
beautiful grandmother—yes, I did say that; and I say
it again, for it's quite true."
"Then I do
think you are unkind!" said the nurse, and put her
handkerchief to her eyes again.
dear, everybody can't be as beautiful as every other
body, you know. You are very nice-looking, but if
you had been as beautiful as my grandmother—"
grandmother!" said the nurse.
that's very rude. You are not fit to be spoken to
till you can behave better."
turned away once more, and again the nurse was
ashamed of herself.
"I'm sure I
beg your pardon, princess," she said, though still
in an offended tone. But the princess let the tone
pass, and heeded only the words.
say it again, I am sure," she answered, once more
turning towards her nurse. "I was only going
to say that if you had been twice as nice-looking as
you are, some king or other would have married you,
and then what would have become of me?"
"You are an
angel!" repeated the nurse, again embracing her.
insisted Irene, "you will come and see my
grandmother - won't you?"
"I will go
with you anywhere you like, my cherub," she
answered; and in two minutes the weary little
princess was fast asleep.
PRINCESS LETS WELL ALONE
woke the next morning, the first thing she heard was
the rain still falling. Indeed, this day was so like
the last that it would have been difficult to tell
where was the use of It. The first thing she thought
of, however, was not the rain, but the lady in the
tower; and the first question that occupied her
thoughts was whether she should not ask the nurse to
fulfil her promise this very morning, and go with
her to find her grandmother as soon as she had had
her breakfast. But she came to the conclusion that
perhaps the lady would not be pleased if she took
anyone to see her without first asking leave;
especially as it was pretty evident, seeing she
lived on pigeons' eggs, and cooked them herself,
that she did not want the household to know she was
there. So the princess resolved to take the first
 opportunity of running up alone and asking
whether she might bring her nurse. She believed the
fact that she could not otherwise convince her she
was telling the truth would have much weight with
and her nurse were the best of friends all
dressing-time, and the princess in consequence ate
an enormous little breakfast.
Lootie"—that was her pet name for her nurse—"what
pigeons' eggs taste like?" she said, as she was
eating her egg - not quite a common one, for they
always picked out the pinky ones for her.
you a pigeon's egg, and you shall judge for
yourself," said the nurse.
no!" returned Irene, suddenly reflecting they might
disturb the old lady in getting it, and that even if
they did not, she would have one less in
strange creature you are," said the nurse—"first to
want a thing and then to refuse it!"
But she did
not say it crossly, and the princess never minded
any remarks that were not unfriendly.
you see, Lootie, there are reasons," she returned,
and said no more, for she did not want to bring up
the subject of their former strife, lest her nurse
should offer to go before she had had her
grandmother's permission to bring her. Of course she
could refuse to take her, but then she would believe
her less than ever.
nurse, as she said herself afterwards, could not be
every moment in the room; and as never before
yesterday had the princess given her the smallest
reason for anxiety, it had not yet come into her
head to watch her more closely. So she soon gave her
a chance, and, the very first that offered, Irene
was off and up the stairs again.
adventure, however, did not turn out like
yesterday's, although it began like it; and indeed
to- day is very seldom like yesterday, if people
would note the differences—even when it rains. The
princess ran through passage after passage, and
could not find the stair of the tower. My own
suspicion is that she had not gone up high enough,
and was searching on the second instead of the third
floor. When she turned to go back, she failed
equally in her search after the stair. She was lost
made it even worse to bear this time, and it was no
wonder that she cried again. Suddenly it occurred to
her that it was after having cried before that she
had found her grandmother's stair. She got up at
once, wiped her eyes, and started upon a fresh
quest. This time, although she did not find what she
hoped, she found what was next best: she did not
come on a stair that went up, but she came upon one
that went down. It was evidently not the stair she
 had come up, yet it was a good deal better than
none; so down she went, and was singing merrily
before she reached the bottom. There, to her
surprise, she found herself in the kitchen. Although
she was not allowed to go there alone, her nurse had
often taken her, and she was a great favourite with
the servants. So there was a general rush at her the
moment she appeared, for every one wanted to have
her; and the report of where she was soon reached
the nurse's ears. She came at once to fetch her; but
she never suspected how she had got there, and the
princess kept her own counsel.
Her failure to find the old lady not only
disappointed her, but made her very thoughtful.
Sometimes she came almost to the nurse's opinion
that she had dreamed all about her; but that fancy
never lasted very long. She wondered much whether
she should ever see her again, and thought it very
sad not to have been able to find her when she
particularly wanted her. She resolved to say nothing
more to her nurse on the subject, seeing it was so
little in her power to prove her words.
THE next day
the great cloud still hung over the mountain, and
the rain poured like water from a full sponge. The
princess was very fond of being out of doors, and
she nearly cried when she saw that the weather was
no better. But the mist was not of such a dark dingy
grey; there was light in it; and as the hours went
on it grew brighter and brighter, until it was
almost too brilliant to look at; and late in the
afternoon the sun broke out so gloriously that Irene
clapped her hands, crying:
Lootie! The sun has had his face washed. Look how
bright he is! Do get my hat, and let us go out for a
walk. Oh, dear! oh, dear! how happy I am!"
very glad to please the princess. She got her hat
and cloak, and they set out together for a walk up
the mountain; for the  road was so hard and
steep that the water could not rest upon it, and it
was always dry enough for walking a few minutes
after the rain ceased. The clouds were rolling away
in broken pieces, like great, overwoolly sheep,
whose wool the sun had bleached till it was almost
too white for the eyes to bear. Between them the sky
shone with a deeper and purer blue, because of the
rain. The trees on the roadside were hung all over
with drops, which sparkled in the sun like jewels.
The only things that were no brighter for the rain
were the brooks that ran down the mountain; they had
changed from the clearness of crystal to a muddy
brown; but what they lost in colour they gained in
sound—or at least in noise, for a brook when it is
swollen is not so musical as before. But Irene was
in raptures with the great brown streams tumbling
down everywhere; and Lootie shared in her delight,
for she too had been confined to the house for three
days. At length she observed that the sun was
getting low, and said it was time to be going back.
She made the remark again and again, but, every
time, the princess begged her to go on just a little
farther and a little farther; reminding her that it
was  much easier to go downhill, and saying that
when they did turn they would be at home in a
moment. So on and on they did go, now to look at a
group of ferns over whose tops a stream was pouring
in a watery arch, now to pick a shining stone from a
rock by the wayside, now to watch the flight of some
bird. Suddenly the shadow of a great mountain peak
came up from behind, and shot in front of them. When
the nurse saw it, she started and shook, and
catching hold of the princess's hand turned and
began to run down the hill.
the haste, nursie?" asked Irene, running alongside
"We must not
be out a moment longer."
can't help being out a good many moments longer."
It was too
true. The nurse almost cried. They were much too far
from home. It was against express orders to be out
with the princess one moment after the sun was down;
and they were nearly a mile up the mountain! If His
Majesty, Irene's papa, were to hear of it, Lootie
would certainly be dismissed; and to leave the
princess would break her heart. It was no wonder she
ran. But Irene was not in the least frightened, not
knowing anything to be frightened at. She kept on
chattering as well as she could, but it was not
Lootie! why do you run so fast? It shakes my teeth
when I talk."
talk," said Lootie.
princess went on talking. She was always saying:
"Look, look, Lootie!" but Lootie paid no more heed
to anything she said, only ran on.
Lootie! Don't you see that funny man peeping over
ran the faster. They had to pass the rock, and when
they came nearer, the princess saw it was only a
lump of the rock itself that she had taken for a
Lootie! There's such a curious creature at the foot
of that old tree. Look at it, Lootie! It's making
faces at us, I do think."
a stifled cry, and ran faster still—so fast that
Irene's little legs could not keep up with her, and
she fell with a crash. It was a hard downhill road,
and she had been running very fast—so it was
no wonder she began to cry. This put the nurse
nearly beside herself; but all she could do was to
run on, the moment she got the princess on her feet
laughing at me?" said the princess, trying to keep
in her sobs, and running too fast for her grazed
child," said the nurse, almost angrily.
instant there came a burst of coarse  tittering
from somewhere near, and a hoarse indistinct voice
that seemed to say: "Lies! lies! lies!"
the nurse with a sigh that was almost a scream, and
ran on faster than ever.
Lootie! I can't run any more. Do let us walk a bit."
"What am I
to do?" said the nurse. "Here, I will carry you."
her up; but found her much too heavy to run
with, and had to set her down again. Then she looked
wildly about her, gave a great cry, and said—
the wrong turning somewhere, and I don't know where
we are. We are lost, lost!"
she was in had quite bewildered her. It was true
enough they had lost the way. They had been running
down into a little valley in which there was no
house to be seen.
did not know what good reason there was for her
nurse's terror, for the servants had all strict
orders never to mention the goblins to her, but it
was very discomposing to see her nurse in such a
fright. Before, however, she had time to grow
thoroughly alarmed like her, she heard the sound of
whistling, and that revived her. Presently she saw a
boy coming up the road from the valley to meet them.
He was the whistler; but before they met his
whistling changed to singing. And this is something
like what he sang:
Hit and turn
puff and roar!
Thus we rive
gold can be!
lamp at mine.
goblins hold their noise."
"I wish YOU
would hold your noise," said the nurse rudely, for
the very word GOBLIN at such a time and in such a
place made her tremble. It would bring the goblins
upon them to a certainty, she thought, to defy them
in that way. But whether the boy heard her or not,
he did not stop his singing.
worth the siftin';
match, and lay't in.
Goblins in a
quiet," cried the nurse, in a whispered shriek. But
the boy, who was now close at hand, still went on.
There you go
in a hurry!
There you go
said the boy, as he stood still opposite them.
"There! that'll do for them. They can't bear
singing, and they can't stand that song. They can't
sing themselves, for they have no more voice than a
crow; and they don't like other people to sing."
The boy was
dressed in a miner's dress, with a curious cap on
his head. He was a very nice-looking boy, with eyes
as dark as the mines in which he worked and as
sparkling as the crystals in their rocks. He was
about twelve years old. His face was almost too pale
for beauty, which came of his being so little in the
open air and the sunlight—for even vegetables grown
in the dark are white; but he looked happy, merry
indeed—perhaps at the thought of having routed the
goblins; and his bearing as he stood before them had
nothing clownish or rude about it.
"I saw them," he went on, "as I came up; and
I'm very glad I did. I knew they were after
somebody, but I couldn't see who it was. They won't
touch you so long as I'm with you."
are you?" asked the nurse, offended at the freedom
with which he spoke to them.
should the goblins mind you, pray?"
don't mind them. I'm used to them."
difference does that make?"
not afraid of them, they're afraid of you. I'm not
afraid of them. That's all. But it's all that's
wanted—up here, that is. It's a different thing down
there. They won't always mind that song even, down
there. And if anyone sings it, they stand grinning
at him awfully; and if he gets frightened, and
misses a word, or says a wrong one, they—oh! don't
they give it him!"
they do to him?" asked Irene, with a trembling
frightening the princess," said the nurse.
princess!" repeated the little miner, taking off his
curious cap. "I beg your pardon; but you oughtn't to
be out so late. Everybody knows that's against the
it is!" said the nurse, beginning to cry again. "And
I shall have to suffer for it."
that matter?" said the boy. "It must be your fault.
It is the princess who will suffer for it. I hope
they didn't hear you call her the princess. If they
did, they're sure to know her again: they're awfully
Lootie!" cried the princess. "Take me home."
"Don't go on
like that," said the nurse to the boy, almost
fiercely. "How could I help it? I lost my way."
shouldn't have been out so late. You wouldn't have
lost your way if you hadn't been frightened," said
the boy. "Come along. I'll soon set you right again.
Shall I carry your little Highness?"
"Impertinence!" murmured the nurse, but she did not
say it aloud, for she thought if she made him angry
he might take his revenge by telling someone
belonging to the house, and then it would be sure to
come to the king's ears. "No, thank you," said
Irene. "I can walk very well, though I can't run so
fast as nursie. If you will give me one hand, Lootie
will give me another, and then I shall get on
had her between them, holding a hand of each.
run," said the nurse.
said the little miner. "That's the worst thing you
can do. If you hadn't run before, you would not have
lost your way. And if you run now, they will be
after you in a moment."
want to run," said Irene.
think of me," said the nurse.
"Yes, I do,
Lootie. The boy says they won't touch us if we don't
"Yes, but if
they know at the house that I've kept you out so
late I shall be turned away, and that would break my
away, Lootie! Who would turn you away?"
tell him it was all my fault. And you know it was,
mind that. I'm sure he won't."
cry, and go down on my knees to him, and beg him not
to take away my own dear Lootie."
was comforted at hearing this, and said no more.
They went on, walking pretty fast, but taking care
not to run a step.
"I want to
talk to you," said Irene to the little miner; "but
it's so awkward! I don't know your name."
Curdie, little princess."
funny name! Curdie! What more?"
Peterson. What's your name, please?"
know what more. What more is my name, Lootie?"
haven't got more than one name. They don't want it."
Curdie, you must call me just Irene and no more."
indeed," said the nurse indignantly. "He shall do no
he call me, then, Lootie?"
Highness! What's that? No, no, Lootie. I won't be
called names. I don't like them. You told me once
yourself it's only rude children that call names;
and I'm sure Curdie wouldn't be rude. Curdie, my
Irene," said Curdie, with a glance at the nurse
which showed he enjoyed teasing her; "it is very
kind of you to let me call you anything. I like your
name very much."
the nurse to interfere again; but he soon saw that
she was too frightened to speak. She was staring at
something a few yards before them in the middle of
the path, where it narrowed between rocks so that
only one could pass at a time.
"It is very
much kinder of you to go out of your way to take us
home," said Irene.
going out of my way yet," said Curdie. "It's on the
other side of those rocks the path turns off to my
wouldn't think of leaving us till we're safe home,
I'm sure," gasped the nurse.
not," said Curdie.
good, kind Curdie! I'll give you a kiss when we get
home," said the princess.
gave her a great pull by the hand she held. But at
that instant the something in the middle of the way,
which had looked like a great lump of earth brought
down by the rain, began to move. One after another
it shot out four long things, like two arms and two
legs, but it was now too dark to tell what they
were. The nurse began to tremble from head to foot.
Irene clasped Curdie's hand yet faster, and Curdie
began to sing again:
Hit and hew!
In the road!
Up and off!
uttered the last words, Curdie let go his hold of
his companion, and rushed at the thing in the road
as if he would trample it under his feet. It gave a
great spring, and ran straight up one of the rocks
like a huge spider. Curdie turned back laughing, and
took Irene's hand again. She grasped his very tight,
but said nothing till they had passed the rocks. A
few yards more and she found herself on a part of
the road she knew, and was able to speak again.
know, Curdie, I don't quite like your song: it
sounds to me rather rude," she said.
perhaps it is," answered Curdie. "I never thought of
that; it's a way we have. We do it because they
don't like it."
as we call them."
said the nurse.
"I beg you
won't. Please don't."
"Oh! if you
ask me that way, of course, I won't; though I don't
a bit know why. Look! there are the lights of your
great house down below. You'll be at home in five
happened. They reached home in safety. Nobody had
missed them, or even known they had gone out; and
they arrived at the door belonging to their part of
the house without anyone seeing them. The nurse was
rushing in with a hurried and not over-gracious good
night to Curdie; but the princess pulled her hand
from hers, and was just throwing her arms round
Curdie's neck, when she caught her again and dragged
Lootie! I promised a kiss," cried Irene.
"A princess mustn't give kisses. It's not at all
proper," said Lootie.
promised," said the princess.
occasion; he's only a miner-boy."
"He's a good
boy, and a brave boy, and he has been very kind to
us. Lootie! Lootie! I promised."
shouldn't have promised."
promised him a kiss."
Highness," said Lootie, suddenly grown very
respectful, "must come in directly."
princess must not break her word," said Irene,
drawing herself up and standing stock-still.
not know which the king might count the worst—to let
the princess be out after sunset, or to let her kiss
a miner-boy. She did not know that, being a
gentleman, as many kings have been, he would have
counted neither of them the worse. However much he
might have disliked his daughter to kiss the
miner-boy, he would not have had her break her word
for all the goblins in creation. But, as I say, the
nurse was not lady enough to understand this, and so
she was in a great difficulty, for, if she insisted,
someone might hear the princess cry and run to see,
and then all would come out. But here Curdie came
again to the rescue.
Princess Irene," he said. "You mustn't kiss me
tonight. But you shan't break your word. I will come
another time. You may be sure I will."
you, Curdie!" said the princess, and stopped crying.
Irene; good night, Lootie," said Curdie, and turned
and was out of sight in a moment.
like to see him!" muttered the nurse, as she carried
the princess to the nursery.
see him," said Irene. "You may be sure Curdie will
keep his word. He's sure to come again."
like to see him!" repeated the nurse, and said no
more. She did not want to open a new cause of strife
with the princess by saying more plainly what she
meant. Glad enough that she had succeeded both in
getting home unseen, and in keeping the princess
from kissing the miner's boy, she resolved to watch
her far better in future. Her carelessness had
already doubled the danger she was in. Formerly the
goblins were her only fear; now she had to protect
her charge from Curdie as well.
home whistling. He resolved to say nothing about the
princess for fear of getting the nurse into trouble,
for while he enjoyed teasing her because of her
absurdity, he was careful not to do her any harm. He
saw no more of the goblins, and was soon fast asleep
in his bed.
He woke in
the middle of the night, and thought he heard
curious noises outside. He sat up and listened; then
got up, and, opening the door very quietly, went
out. When he peeped round the corner, he saw, under
his own window, a group of stumpy creatures, whom he
at once recognized by their shape. Hardly, however,
had he begun his "One, two, three!" when they broke
asunder, scurried away, and were out of sight. He
returned laughing, got into bed again, and was fast
asleep in a moment.
little over the matter in the  morning, he came
to the conclusion that, as nothing of the kind had
ever happened before, they must be annoyed with him
for interfering to protect the princess. By the time
he was dressed, however, he was thinking of
something quite different, for he did not value the
enmity of the goblins in the least.
As soon as
they had had breakfast, he set off with his father
for the mine.
the hill by a natural opening under a huge rock,
where a little stream rushed out. They followed its
course for a few yards, when the passage took a
turn, and sloped steeply into the heart of the hill.
With many angles and windings and branchings-off,
and sometimes with steps where it came upon a
natural gulf, it led them deep into the hill before
they arrived at the place where they were at present
digging out the precious ore. This was of various
kinds, for the mountain was very rich in the better
sorts of metals. With flint and steel, and
tinder-box, they lighted their lamps, then fixed
them on their heads, and were soon hard at work with
their pickaxes and shovels and hammers. Father and
son were at work near each other, but not in the
 same gang—the passages out of which the ore was
dug, they called gangs—for when the lode, or vein of
ore, was small, one miner would have to dig away
alone in a passage no bigger than gave him just room
to work—sometimes in uncomfortable cramped
positions. If they stopped for a moment they could
hear everywhere around them, some nearer, some
farther off, the sounds of their companions
burrowing away in all directions in the inside of
the great mountain—some  boring holes in the
rock in order to blow it up with gunpowder, others
shovelling the broken ore into baskets to be carried
to the mouth of the mine, others hitting away with
their pickaxes. Sometimes, if the miner was in a
very lonely part, he would hear only a tap-tapping,
no louder than that of a woodpecker, for the sound
would come from a great distance off through the
solid mountain rock.
The work was hard at best, for it is very warm
underground; but it was not particularly unpleasant,
and some of the miners, when they wanted to earn a
little more money for a particular purpose, would
stop behind the rest and work all night. But you
could not tell night from day down there, except
from feeling tired and sleepy; for no light of the
sun ever came into those gloomy regions. Some who
had thus remained behind during the night, although
certain there were none of their companions at work,
would declare the next morning that they heard,
every time they halted for a moment to take breath,
a tap-tapping all about them, as if the mountain
were then more full of miners than ever it was
during the day; and some in consequence would 
never stay overnight, for all knew those were the
sounds of the goblins. They worked only at night,
for the miners' night was the goblins' day. Indeed,
the greater number of the miners were afraid of the
goblins; for there were strange stories well known
amongst them of the treatment some had received whom
the goblins had surprised at their work during the
night. The more courageous of them, however, amongst
them Peter Peterson and Curdie, who in this took
after his father, had stayed in the mine all night
again and again, and although they had several times
encountered a few stray goblins, had never yet
failed in driving them away. As I have indicated
already, the chief defence against them was verse,
for they hated verse of every kind, and some kinds
they could not endure at all. I suspect they could
not make any themselves, and that was why they
disliked it so much. At all events, those who were
most afraid of them were those who could neither
make verses themselves nor remember the verses that
other people made for them; while those who were
never afraid were those who could make verses for
themselves; for although there were certain old
rhymes which were very effectual, yet it was
well known that a new rhyme, if of the right sort,
was even more distasteful to them, and therefore
more effectual in putting them to flight.
readers may be wondering what the goblins could be
about, working all night long, seeing they never
carried up the ore and sold it; but when I have
informed them concerning what Curdie learned the
very next night, they will be able to understand.
had determined, if his father would permit him, to
remain there alone this night—and that for two
reasons: first, he wanted to get extra wages that he
might buy a very warm red petticoat for his mother,
who had begun to complain of the cold of the
mountain air sooner than usual this autumn; and
second, he had just a faint hope of finding out what
the goblins were about under his window the night
When he told
his father, he made no objection, for he had great
confidence in his boy's courage and resources.
"I'm sorry I
can't stay with you," said Peter; "but I want to go
and pay the parson a visit this evening, and besides
I've had a bit of a headache all day."
for that, father," said Curdie.
not much. You'll be sure to take care of yourself,
father; I will. I'll keep a sharp look-out, I
promise you." Curdie was the only one who remained
in the mine. About six o'clock the rest went away,
everyone bidding him good night, and telling him to
take care of himself; for he was a great favourite
with them all.
forget your rhymes," said one.
matter if he does," said another, "for he'll only
have to make a new one."
"Yes: but he
mightn't be able to make it fast enough," said
another; "and while it was cooking in his head, they
might take a mean advantage and set upon him."
"I'll do my
best," said Curdie. "I'm not afraid."
"We all know
that," they returned, and left him.
FOR some time Curdie worked away briskly, throwing
all the ore he had disengaged on one side behind
him, to be ready for carrying out in the morning. He
heard a good deal of goblin-tapping, but it all
sounded far away in the hill, and he paid it little
heed. Towards midnight he began to feel rather
hungry; so he dropped his pickaxe, got out a lump of
bread which in the morning he had laid in a damp
hole in the rock, sat down on a heap of ore, and ate
his supper. Then he leaned back for five minutes'
rest before beginning his work again, and laid his
head against the rock. He had not kept the position
for one minute before he heard something which made
him sharpen his ears. It sounded like a voice inside
the rock. After a while he heard it again. It was a
goblin voice—there could be no doubt about that—and
this time he could make out the words.
better be moving?" it said.
and deeper voice replied:
hurry. That wretched little mole won't be through
tonight, if he work ever so hard. He's not by any
means at the thinnest place."
"But you still think the lode does come through into
our house?" said the first voice.
"Yes, but a
good bit farther on than he has got to yet. If he
had struck a stroke more to the side just here,"
said the goblin, tapping the very  stone, as it
seemed to Curdie, against which his head lay, "he
would have been through; but he's a couple of yards
past it now, and if he follow the lode it will be a
week before it leads him in. You see it back there—a
long way. Still, perhaps, in case of accident it
would be as well to be getting out of this. Helfer,
you'll take the great chest. That's your business,
said a third voice. "But you must help me to get it
on my back. It's awfully heavy, you know."
isn't just a bag of smoke, I admit. But you're as
strong as a mountain, Helfer."
"You say so,
dad. I think myself I'm all right. But I could carry
ten times as much if it wasn't for my feet."
your weak point, I confess, my boy."
yours too, father?"
"Well, to be
honest, it's a goblin weakness. Why they come so
soft, I declare I haven't an idea."
when your head's so hard, you know, father."
"Yes my boy.
The goblin's glory is his head. To think how the
fellows up above there have to put on helmets
and things when they go fighting! Ha! ha!"
don't we wear shoes like them, father? I should like
it—especially when I've got a chest like that on my
see, it's not the fashion. The king never wears
that's for distinction. The first queen, you see—I
mean the king's first wife—wore shoes, of course,
because she came from upstairs; and so, when she
died, the next queen would not be inferior to her as
she called it, and would wear shoes too. It was all
pride. She is the hardest in forbidding them to the
rest of the women."
"I'm sure I
wouldn't wear them—no, not for—that I wouldn't!"
said the first voice, which was evidently that of
the mother of the family. "I can't think why either
of them should."
tell you the first was from upstairs?" said the
other. "That was the only silly thing I ever knew
His Majesty guilty of. Why should he marry an
outlandish woman like that-one of our natural
he fell in love with her."
He's just as happy now with one of his own people."
"Did she die
very soon? They didn't tease her to death, did
no! The king worshipped her very footmarks."
her die, then? Didn't the air agree with her?"
when the young prince was born."
of her! We never do that. It must have been because
she wore shoes."
"Why do they
wear shoes up there?"
that's a sensible question, and I will answer it.
But in order to do so, I must first tell you a
secret. I once saw the queen's feet."
you? How was it?"
mind how it was. She didn't know I saw them. And
what do you think!—they had toes!"
well ask! I should never have known if I had
not seen the queen's feet. just imagine! the ends of
her feet were split up into five or six thin
How could the king have fallen in love with her?"
that she wore shoes. That is just why she wore them.
That is why all the men, and women too, upstairs
wear shoes. They can't bear the sight of their own
feet without them."
"Ah! now I
understand. If ever you wish for shoes again, Helfer,
I'll hit your feet—I will."
mother; pray don't."
such a big box on my head—"
scream followed, which Curdie interpreted as in
reply to a blow from his mother upon the feet of her
"Well, I never knew so much before!" remarked a
knowledge is not universal quite yet," said the
father. "You were only fifty last month. Mind you
see to the bed and bedding. As soon as we've
finished our supper, we'll be up and going. Ha! ha!
you laughing at, husband?"
laughing to think what a mess the miners will find
themselves in—somewhere before this day ten years."
do you mean?"
you do mean something. You always do mean
than you do, then, wife."
be; but it's not more than I find out, you know."
You're a sharp one. What a mother you've got, Helfer!"
suppose I must tell you. They're all at the palace
consulting about it tonight; and as soon as we've
got away from this thin place I'm going there to
hear what night they fix upon. I should like to see
that young ruffian there on the other side,
struggling in the agonies of—"
his voice so low that Curdie could hear only a
growl. The growl went on in the low bass for a good
while, as inarticulate as if the goblin's tongue had
been a sausage; and it was not until his wife spoke
again that it rose to its former pitch.
shall we do when you are at the palace?" she asked.
"I will see
you safe in the new house I've been digging for you
for the last two months. Podge, you mind the table
and chairs. I commit them to your care. The table
has seven legs—each chair three. I shall require
them all at your hands."
arose a confused conversation about the various
household goods and their transport; and Curdie
heard nothing more that was of any importance.
He now knew
at least one of the reasons for the constant sound
of the goblin hammers and pickaxes at night. They
were making new houses for themselves, to which they
might retreat when the miners should threaten to
break into their dwellings. But he had learned two
things of far greater importance. The first was,
that some grievous calamity was preparing, and
almost ready to fall upon the heads of the miners;
the second was—the one weak point of a goblin's
body; he had not known that their feet were so
tender as he had now reason to suspect. He had heard
it said that they had no toes: he had never had
opportunity of inspecting them closely enough, in
the dusk in which they always appeared, to satisfy
himself whether it was a correct report. Indeed, he
had not been able even to satisfy himself as to
whether they had no fingers, although that also was
commonly said to be the fact. One of the miners,
indeed, who had had more schooling than the rest,
was wont to argue that such must have been the
primordial condition of humanity, and that education
and handicraft had developed both toes and
fingers—with which proposition Curdie had once heard
his father sarcastically agree, alleging in support
of it the probability that babies' gloves were a
traditional remnant of the old state of things;
while the stockings of all ages, no regard being
paid in them to the toes, pointed in the same
direction. But what was of importance was the fact
concerning the softness of the goblin feet, which he
foresaw might be useful to all miners. What he had
to do in the meantime, however, was to discover, if
possible, the special evil design the goblins had
now in their heads.
knew all the gangs and all the natural galleries
with which they communicated in the mined part of
the mountain, he had not the least idea where the
palace of the king of the gnomes was; otherwise he
would have set out at once on the enterprise of
discovering what the said design was. He judged, and
rightly, that it must lie in a farther part of the
mountain, between which and the mine there was as
yet no communication. There must be one nearly
completed, however; for it could be but a thin
partition which now separated them. If only he 
could get through in time to follow the goblins as
they retreated! A few blows would doubtless be
sufficient—just where his ear now lay; but if he
attempted to strike there with his pickaxe, he would
only hasten the departure of the family, put them on
their guard, and perhaps lose their involuntary
guidance. He therefore began to feel the wall With
his hands, and soon found that some of the stones
were loose enough to be drawn out with little noise.
of a large one with both his hands, he drew it
gently out, and let it down softly.
that noise?" said the goblin father.
out his light, lest it should shine through.
"It must be
that one miner that stayed behind the rest," said
been gone a good while. I haven't heard a blow for
an hour. Besides, it wasn't like that."
suppose it must have been a stone carried down the
will have more room by and by."
quite still. After a little while, hearing
nothing but the sounds of their preparations for
departure, mingled with an occasional word of
direction, and anxious to know whether the removal
of the stone had made an opening into the goblins'
house, he put in his hand to feel. It went in a good
way, and then came in contact with something soft.
He had but a moment to feel it over, it was so
quickly withdrawn: it was one of the toeless goblin
feet. The owner of it gave a cry of fright.
matter, Helfer?" asked his mother.
came out of the wall and licked my foot."
There are no wild beasts in our country," said his
"But it was,
father. I felt it."
say. Will you malign your native realms and reduce
them to a level with the country upstairs? That is
swarming with wild beasts of every description."
"But I did
feel it, father."
"I tell you
to hold your tongue. You are no patriot."
suppressed his laughter, and lay still as a
mouse—but no stiller, for every moment he kept
nibbling away with his fingers at the edges of the
hole. He was slowly making it bigger, for here the
rock had been very much shattered with the blasting.
to be a good many in the family, to judge from the
mass of confused talk which now and then came
through the hole; but when all were speaking
together, and just as if they had
bottle-brushes—each at least one—in their throats,
it was not easy to make out much that was said. At
length he heard once more what the father goblin was
he said, "get your bundles on your backs. Here,
Helfer, I'll help you up with your chest."
"I wish it
was my chest, father."
will come in good time enough! Make haste. I must go
to the meeting at the palace tonight. When that's
over, we can come back and clear out the last of the
things before our enemies return in the morning. Now
light your torches, and come along. What a
distinction it is, to provide our own light, instead
of being dependent on a thing hung up in the air— a
most disagreeable contrivance—intended no doubt to
blind us when we venture out under its baleful
influence! Quite glaring and vulgar, I call it,
though no doubt useful to poor creatures who haven't
the wit to make light for themselves."
hardly keep himself from calling through to know
whether they made the fire to light their torches
by. But a moment's reflection showed him that they
would have said they did, inasmuch as they struck
two stones together, and the fire came.
HALL OF THE GOBLIN PALACE
A SOUND of
many soft feet followed, but soon ceased. Then
Curdie flew at the hole like a tiger, and tore and
pulled. The sides gave way, and it was soon large
enough for him to crawl through. He would not betray
himself by rekindling his lamp, but the torches of
the retreating company, which he found departing in
a straight line up a long avenue from the door of
their cave, threw back light enough to afford him a
glance round the deserted home of the goblins. To
his surprise, he could discover nothing to
distinguish it from an ordinary natural cave in the
rock, upon many of which he had come with the rest
of the miners in the progress of their excavations.
The goblins had talked of coming back for the rest
of their household gear: he saw nothing that would
have made him suspect a family had taken shelter
there for a single night. The floor was rough
and stony; the walls full of projecting corners; the
roof in one place twenty feet high, in another
endangering his forehead; while on one side a
stream, no thicker than a needle, it is true, but
still sufficient to spread a wide dampness over the
wall, flowed down the face of the rock. But the
troop in front of him was toiling under heavy
burdens. He could distinguish Helfer now and then,
in the flickering light and shade, with his heavy
chest on his bending shoulders; while the
second brother was almost buried in what looked like
a great feather bed. "Where do they get the
feathers?" thought Curdie; but in a moment the troop
disappeared at a turn of the way, and it was now
both safe and necessary for Curdie to follow them,
lest they should be round the next turning before he
saw them again, for so he might lose them
altogether. He darted after them like a greyhound.
When he reached the corner and looked cautiously
round, he saw them again at some distance down
another long passage. None of the galleries he saw
that night bore signs of the work of man—or of
goblin either. Stalactites, far older than the
mines, hung from their roofs; and their floors were
rough with boulders and large round stones, showing
that there water must have once run. He waited again
at this corner till they had disappeared round the
next, and so followed them a long way through one
passage after another. The passages grew more and
more lofty, and were more and more covered in the
roof with shining stalactites.
It was a strange enough procession which he
followed. But the strangest part of it was the
household animals which crowded amongst the feet of
the goblins. It was true they had no wild animals
down there—at least they did not know of any; but
they had a wonderful number of tame ones. I must,
however, reserve any contributions towards the
natural history of these for a later position in my
turning a corner too abruptly, he had almost rushed
into the middle of the goblin family; for there they
had already set down all their burdens on the floor
of a cave considerably larger than that which they
had left. They were as yet too breathless to speak,
else he would have had warning of their arrest. He
started back, however, before anyone saw him, and
retreating a good way, stood watching till the
father should come out to go to the palace.
long, both he and his son Helfer appeared and kept
on in the same direction as before, while Curdie
followed them again with renewed precaution. For a
long time he heard no sound except something like
the rush of a river inside the rock; but at length
what seemed the far-off noise of a great shouting
reached his ears, which, however, presently ceased.
After advancing a good way farther, he thought he
heard a single voice. It sounded clearer and clearer
as he went on, until at last he could almost
distinguish the words. In a moment or two, keeping
after the goblins round another corner, he once more
started back—this time in amazement.
He was at
the entrance of a magnificent cavern, of an oval
shape, once probably a huge natural reservoir of
water, now the great palace hall of the goblins. It
rose to a tremendous height, but the roof was
composed of such shining materials, and the
multitude of torches carried by the goblins who
crowded the floor lighted up the place so
brilliantly, that Curdie could see to the top quite
well. But he had no idea how immense the place was
until his eyes had got accustomed to it, which was
not for a good many minutes. The rough projections
on the walls, and the shadows thrown upwards from
them by the torches, made the sides of the chamber
look as if they were crowded with statues upon
brackets and pedestals, reaching in irregular tiers
from floor to roof. The walls themselves were, in
many parts, of gloriously shining substances, some
of them gorgeously coloured besides, which
powerfully contrasted with the shadows. Curdie could
not help wondering whether his rhymes would be of
any use against such a multitude of goblins as
filled the floor of the hall, and indeed felt
considerably tempted to begin his shout of One, two,
three!, but as there was no reason for routing them
and much for endeavouring to discover their designs,
he kept himself perfectly quiet, and peering round
the edge of the doorway, listened with both his
At the other
end of the hall, high above the heads of the
multitude, was a terrace-like ledge of considerable
height, caused by the receding of the upper part of
the cavern- wall. Upon this sat the king and his
court: the king on a throne hollowed out of a huge
block of green copper ore, and his court upon lower
seats around it. The king had been making them a
speech, and the applause which followed it was what
Curdie had heard. One of the court was now
addressing the multitude. What he heard him say was
to the following effect:
appears that two plans have been for some time
together working in the strong head of His Majesty
for the deliverance of his people. Regardless
of the fact that we were the first possessors of the
regions they now inhabit; regardless equally of the
fact that we abandoned that region from the loftiest
motives; regardless also of the self-evident fact
that we excel them so far in mental ability as they
excel us in stature, they look upon us as a degraded
race and make a mockery of all our finer feelings.
But, the time has almost arrived when—thanks to His
Majesty's inventive genius—it will be in our power
to take a thorough revenge upon them once for all,
in respect of their unfriendly behaviour."
please Your Majesty—" cried a voice close by the
door, which Curdie recognized as that of the goblin
he had followed.
"Who is he
that interrupts the Chancellor?" cried another from
near the throne.
answered several voices.
"He is our
trusty subject," said the king himself, in a slow
and stately voice: "let him come forward and speak."
A lane was
parted through the crowd, and Glump, having ascended
the platform and bowed to the king, spoke as
would have held my peace, had I not known that
I only knew how near was the moment, to which the
Chancellor had just referred. In all probability,
before another day is past, the enemy will have
broken through into my house—the partition between
being even now not more than a foot in thickness."
so much," thought Curdie to himself.
evening I have had to remove my household effects;
therefore the sooner we are ready to carry out the
plan, for the execution of which His Majesty has
been making such magnificent preparations, the
better. I may just add, that within the last few
days I have perceived a small outbreak in my
dining-room, which, combined with observations upon
the course of the river escaping where the evil men
enter, has convinced me that close to the spot must
be a deep gulf in its channel. This discovery will,
I trust, add considerably to the otherwise immense
forces at His Majesty's disposal."
and the king graciously acknowledged his speech with
a bend of his head; whereupon Glump, after a bow to
His Majesty, slid down amongst the rest of the
undistinguished multitude. Then the Chancellor rose
information which the worthy Glump has given us," he
said, "might have been of considerable import at the
present moment, but for that other design already
referred to, which naturally takes precedence. His
Majesty, unwilling to proceed to extremities, and
well aware that such measures sooner or later result
in violent reactions, has excogitated a more
fundamental and comprehensive measure, of which I
need say no more. Should His Majesty be
successful—as who dares to doubt?—then a peace, all
to the advantage of the goblin kingdom, will be
established for a generation at least, rendered
absolutely secure by the pledge which His Royal
Highness the prince will have and hold for the good
behaviour of her relatives. Should His Majesty
fail—which who shall dare even to imagine in his
most secret thoughts?—then will be the time for
carrying out with rigour the design to which Glump
referred, and for which our preparations are even
now all but completed. The failure of the former
will render the latter imperative."
perceiving that the assembly was drawing to a close
and that there was little chance of either plan
being more fully discovered, now thought it prudent
to make his escape before the goblins began to
disperse, and slipped quietly away.
not much danger of meeting any goblins, for all the
men at least were left behind him in the palace; but
there was considerable danger of his taking a wrong
turning, for he had now no light, and had therefore
to depend upon his memory and his hands. After he
had left behind him the glow that issued from the
door of Glump's new abode, he was utterly without
guide, so far as his eyes were concerned.
He was most
anxious to get back through the hole before the
goblins should return to fetch the remains of their
furniture. It was not that he was in the least
afraid of them, but, as it was of the utmost
importance that he should thoroughly discover what
the plans they were cherishing were, he must not
occasion the slightest suspicion that they were
watched by a miner.
on, feeling his way along the walls of rock. Had he
not been very courageous, he must have been
very anxious, for he could not but know that if he
lost his way it would be the most difficult thing in
the world to find it again. Morning would bring no
light into these regions; and towards him least of
all, who was known as a special rhymester and
persecutor, could goblins be expected to exercise
courtesy. Well might he wish that he had brought his
lamp and tinder-box with him, of which he had not
thought when he crept so eagerly after the goblins!
He wished it all the more when, after a while, he
found his way blocked up, and could get no farther.
It was of no use to turn back, for he had not the
least idea where he had begun to go wrong.
Mechanically, however, he kept feeling about the
walls that hemmed him in. His hand came upon a place
where a tiny stream of water was running down the
face of the rock. "What a stupid I am!" he said to
himself. "I am actually at the end of my journey!
And there are the goblins coming back to fetch their
things!" he added, as the red glimmer of their
torches appeared at the end of the long avenue that
led up to the cave. In a moment he had thrown
himself on the floor, and wriggled backwards through
the hole. The floor on the other side was
several feet lower, which made it easier to get
back. It was all he could do to lift the largest
stone he had taken out of the hole, but he did
manage to shove it in again. He sat down on the
ore-heap and thought.
pretty sure that the latter plan of the goblins was
to inundate the mine by breaking outlets for the
water accumulated in the natural reservoirs of the
mountain, as well as running through portions of it.
While the part hollowed by the miners remained shut
off from that inhabited by the goblins, they had had
no opportunity of injuring them thus; but now that a
passage was broken through, and the goblins' part
proved the higher in the mountain, it was clear to
Curdie that the mine could be destroyed in an hour.
Water was always the chief danger to which the
miners were exposed. They met with a little
choke-damp sometimes, but never with the explosive
firedamp so common in coal-mines. Hence they were
careful as soon as they saw any appearance of water.
result of his reflections while the goblins were
busy in their old home, it seemed to Curdie
that it would be best to build up the whole of this
gang, filling it with stone, and clay or lie, so
that there should be no smallest channel for the
water to get into. There was not, however, any
immediate danger, for the execution of the goblins'
plan was contingent upon the failure of that unknown
design which was to take precedence of it; and he
was most anxious to keep the door of communication
open, that he might if possible discover what the
former plan was. At the same time they could not
resume their intermitted labours for the inundation
without his finding it out; when by putting all
hands to the work, the one existing outlet might in
a single night be rendered impenetrable to any
weight of water; for by filling the gang entirely
up, their embankment would be buttressed by the
sides of the mountain itself.
As soon as
he found that the goblins had again retired, he
lighted his lamp, and proceeded to fill the hole he
had made with such stones as he could withdraw when
he pleased. He then thought it better, as he might
have occasion to be up a good many nights after
this, to go home and have some sleep.
the night air felt upon the outside of the mountain
after what he had gone through in the inside of it!
He hurried up the hill without meeting a single
goblin on the way, and called and tapped at the
window until he woke his father, who soon rose and
let him in. He told him the whole story; and, just
as he had expected, his father thought it best to
work that lode no farther, but at the same time to
pretend occasionally to be at work there still in
order that the goblins might have no suspicions.
Both father and son then went to bed and slept
soundly until the morning.