The Light Princess: my review
August 8, 2009
Geoge MacDonald’s The Light Princess is the book I recently read aloud to my older daughters. I highly recommend this book as a read-aloud for children. It is funny and light-hearted (no pun intended) but MacDonald masterfully slips in an amazing story of self-sacrifice, love, and redemption.
It’s the classic tale of a princess born who gets enchanted by an evil witch at her baptism, in this case removing the princess’ gravity. In a clever twist of imagination, all her gravity is removed – both physical and emotional/spiritual. She floats around and is in constant danger of being swept away, and she has a hilarity which causes her to never be sad. She is always laughing and nothing is serious to her. But her laughter is disturbing, because, as MacDonald puts it, ” in her laugh there was something missing. What it was, I find myself unable to describe. I think it was a certain tone, depending upon the possibility of sorrow.”
The princess finds a bit of respite for her gravity-less state in the water. She loves to swim, and adores the lake near her papa’s castle. She is more calm and less hysterically-inclined to laugh while she is swimming, “perhaps…because a great pleasure spoils laughing.” One evening in the lake she meets a prince who thinks she is drowning and jumps in to save her. Of course, he falls in love with her and they enjoy a nightly swim together for some time, until the crisis of the story occurs: the lake is being drained of its’ water. The evil witch who cursed her as a baby is behind this mischief; she has bewitched a hole to be made in the under-cavern of the lake. The whole nation begins to suffer a drought and everyone’s health is threatened. Most urgent is the princess’ life, as she is pining away without her beloved water in which to swim. The witch reveals what will allow the lake to be replenished… “the body of a living man can alone stanch the flow. The man must give himself of his own will; and the lake must take his life as it fills…”
The prince steps forward resolutely, and the account of his willing self-sacrifice before the very eyes of the Light Princess is a tender tale, indeed. I will not give away the ending, but it is very satisfying.
The girls loved it. I tried not to be too preachy after I finished it, because I think it is so crucial for the story to tell its own tale, based on what is in the heart of the listener. Suffice it to say, though, that Lucy said, “This would be a great story for a Literature Circle at school, because I think there is a lot to think about and talk about with it.” And Phoebe said, “I think it sort of teaches a lesson, that if something needs to be done, it is right to be the one to step up and do it, even if it is scary.”
I nodded and smiled. And I encouraged them to think of the story and its meaning as they went to sleep last night. I may ask in a day or so what thoughts they came up with. In the meantime, I’m thinking George MacDonald is pretty awesome, and am wondering if The Golden Key might be a good one to start tonight.