CCLE Book Review: The Light Princess by George MacDonald (1864)

Wednesday, January 1, 2014

"One day he lost sight of his retinue in a great forest. These forests are very useful in delivering princes from their courtiers, like a sieve that keeps back the bran. Then the princes get away to follow their fortunes."

- George MacDonald, The Light Princess

It is January once again, and like last January, I am participating in the Classic Children's Literature Event! If you want even more details about the event, just visit Amanda at Simpler Pastimes. :)

On to the book!

This is The Light Princess by George MacDonald, the author of The Princess & the Goblin and The Princess & Curdie along with a myriad other books. He was a Christian minister in addition to being a writer, which is why his work is more than simple fairy stories. If you wanted to read The Light Princess in an equally light vein, then you certainly could. No one will stop you or correct you. But, it is also possible to pick out the intended allegory of the story, and while allegory is not my strongest suit, I shall try my hand at interpreting.

There was once a king who wanted children. He and his queen were barren for many years until good fortune smiled on them and a daughter was born, a sweet and lovely princess. Unfortunately, when the king sent out invitations to the christening, he forgot to invite his sister who was not just a princess, but also a witch. Said sister arrives on the scene anyway and curses the baby princess that she will be lighter than air. Or rather:

"Light of spirit, by my charms,
Light of body, every part,
Never weary human arms - 
Only crush thy parents' heart!"
In other words, the princess is an airhead without a serious thought, and at the slightest breath of a breeze could inadvertently float out of a window. The king and queen are astounded, and their princess grows into a young woman of the silliest mind in all the land. It is by pure happenstance that the princess discovers her love of water. In water she actually has weight, and she is not quite so silly as she is on dry land, and so she spends her days floating and swimming in the lake outside of her castle, attended by her family and the court.

Enters our prince, one fine evening, when he quite literally stumbles upon her. It takes awhile, but love blossoms, except how is it possible for an airborne princess and a grounded prince to wed?

I shall try not to give away too much of the story from here on out. Only know that there must be a resolution to the princess's predicament, especially since she and the prince have found true love. George MacDonald, being the fine author that he is, incorporated allegory into his tale. This princess lacks gravity, both in weight but also in spirit. She takes nothing seriously and cares very little for the people around her. She is very foolish, and until she learns to take herself and others seriously, she will continue to be lighter than air, defying gravity.

The Light Princess is a delightful little tale. I love MacDonald, but this is the first time I've ever read this book. It's a short little fantasy, published in 1864. MacDonald wrote for both children and adults, but this one is obviously a fairy tale for children. It was such fun to read out loud to my sister, just for kicks, and she loved it equally as much as I did.


  1. This has been on my reading list for a while...I may or may not have just forgotten about it, though. Need to finally bite the bullet and read it, especially considering how much my family and I loved "The Princess and the Goblin," and "The Princess and Curdie!"

    The story line reminds me ever so slightly of "Melisande" by Edith Nesbit (illustrated by P.J. Lynch,) with the exception of the princess being cursed a little differently. It's interesting to think about the common thread of princesses being cursed by cranky fairies or witches at their christenings, with both "The Light Princess" and "Melisande," as well as "Sleeping Beauty." I almost can't help but think there's some deeper allegory at work here that I just can't quite put my finger on. Could all be coincidence, of course; but symbolism theories are much more fun. ^.^

    Thanks for the lovely reminder of this book! George MacDonald always deserves more recognition. (Love the new blog design, by the way!)

    1. It's a really, really quick read. I read it out-loud to my sister in a little under 2 hours so if you were reading it silently it might take as little as an hour.

      About the allegory, I know what you mean! I can pick out allegory when it's pretty clear, but sometimes, the meanings are just too vague for me to connect spiritual dots. I try, and it just slips on through my fingers.

      Thanks for the compliment on my blog design! I finally found one that is undoubtedly me! :D

  2. Ooh, this sounds really cute! I'm going to have to add it to my reading list for this year!

    (P. S., Bloglovin' is giving me a missing link for a Tauriel and Kili post that looks really interesting. What happened to it? I would love to read it! =) )

    1. Hi, Lizzie! Hope you had an awesome Christmas!

      Err, I decided to be nice to the Kiliel fans instead of puncturing that relationship like a balloon. I was torn over whether I should keep the post up or not, and, well, decided it might be a little too mean-spirited even though I find that relationship absurd beyond all measure of believability.

    2. I sure did, Carissa! I hope you did, too. I wasn't ready for it to end already, but that's how it goes... it was lovely while it was here!

      Aw, okay. My sister got to read it before it disappeared, and she didn't think it was too mean. But then she's not a "Kiliel fan." I thought it was a very odd little fling, but I didn't see it as something that would be considered a relationship (yet), although I definitely see how they might turn it into something more in the next movie. I'd still love to read it, maybe if you don't mind you could email it to me? My email is in my blogger profile. =)

  3. Somehow I never came across this title in my children's classics research, even though I looked at other MacDonald titles. This one sounds delightful--I will have to remember it for the future.


Thank you for your kind comments, which I adore!