"My name is Irene."
"That's my name!" cried the princess.
"I know that. I let you have mine. I haven't got your name. You've got mine."
"How can that be?" asked the princess, bewildered. "I've always had my name."
"Your papa, 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."
Author: George MacDonald
Synopsis: On a dull rainy day, Princess Irene gets lost upstairs and finds a beautiful huge old great-great-grandmother who no one else will believe exists. It is well she finds her, for soon little Irene and the miner's son, Curdie, are caught up trying to prevent a horde of goblins from stealing the princess to marry their horrible prince. And despite Curdie's bravery, Irene cannot be protected without trust in and help from her great-great-grandmother.
Notes: Generally speaking, I like MacDonald's realistic tales better than his fantasies. Which is odd for me, since I tend to think stories more fun if there's an element of magic somewhere.
On the other hand, I do like the fairy tales, and I enjoyed this one. It was a quick and simple read, lighter in nature than At the Back of the North Wind or even The Light Princess, and felt more obviously directed at children than I remember either of those being (granted, it's been awhile).
Irene's innocence and Curdie's courage set each other off in good old English fairy tale style, for Irene shows her own courage and Curdie works to be innocent. The king, the wise old great-great-grandmother, fearful Lootie, and Curdie's mother all make for interesting side characters, and the queen of the goblins has her own nasty-but-humorous role to play.
MacDonald is an unquestionably gifted storyteller, and like many of his works, this story holds up well to the passing of time. Also, it has a sequel, which would have been helpful information yesterday. I'm rather curious to find out what happens next to Curdie and Irene.
Recommendation: Read it aloud to your children, or silently to your inner child. Either way, it's worth the read.