“Have you ever heard what some philosophers say--that men were all animals once?”
“It is of no consequence. But there is another thing that is of the greatest consequence—this: that all men, if they do not take care, go down the hill to the animals’ country; that many men are actually, all their lives, going to be beasts. People knew it once, but it is long since they forgot it.”
Author: George MacDonald
Synopsis: With Princess Irene gone from the country, Curdie finds himself becoming rather dull and ordinary till he nearly kills one of Irene's great-great-grandmother's pigeons. Under instruction from the old Princess, he journeys to rescue Irene and the king from a city grown beastly with corruption.
Notes: All my readerly friends told me that this book, the sequel to The Princess and the Goblin, is better than its predecessor. I’m going to have to agree. The story reads more clearly, with a more straightforward progression of events, and I found it much easier to get into.
I loved the symbolism of growing toward humanity versus beastliness. It’s very obvious, but then, this is a children’s story. Irene’s great-great grandmother (whom, I suspect, is the Princess in the title; Irene herself doesn’t show up till late in the tale) carries on her role of guide and protector in the fight against corruption, both internal and external. Between she and Curdie and the creature Lina and Princess Irene, there is strength to rid the world of much evil.
Curdie, of course, is all kinds of heroic, which makes him quite lovable. He has some downright loathsome enemies to deal with, and does so with the same spirit we remember from the first book.
Irene is a little older, a little sadder and more womanly, and she does well in the little we see from her. I would have taken more from her character, but such was the nature of the story.
I delighted in this book all the way to the last page, and then, in my opinion, it was three paragraphs too long. MacDonald gives us more of this tale’s future than I thought we needed to know. I suppose he thought we needed to know, and it’s his book, but still. Overall, though, the book was a joy to read and two hours well spent.
Recommendation: Read it with the wonder of childhood, and maybe chocolate chip cookies.