Thursday, July 21, 2011

The Light Princess

The Light Princess. George MacDonald. 1864. 110 pages.

Once upon a time, so long ago that I have quite forgotten the date, there lived a king and queen who had no children. And the king said to himself, "All the queens of my acquaintance have children, some three, some seven, and some as many as twelve; and my queen has not one. I feel ill-used." So he made up his mind to be cross with his wife about it. But she bore it all like a good patient queen as she was. Then the king grew very cross indeed. But the queen pretended to take it all as a joke, and a very good one too.
"Why don't you have any daughters, at least?" said he. "I don't say sons; that might be too much to expect." 
"I am sure, dear king, I am very sorry," said the queen.
"So you ought to be," retorted the king; "you are not going to make a virtue of that, surely."
But he was not an ill-tempered king, and in any matter of less moment would have let the queen have her own way with all his heart. This, however, was an affair of state. The queen smiled. 
"You must have patience with a lady, you know, dear king," said she.
She was, indeed, a very nice queen, and heartily sorry that she could not oblige the king immediately. (1-2)

The Light Princess is such a DELIGHTFUL book. It seems obvious in a way to call it delightful and charming and oh-so-magical. But it's true. There are no other words that could do it justice. It's the story of what happens when this childless king and queen have a baby girl of their own. It's the story of what happens when one of the princesses (who is also a witch) is NOT invited to the christening.
The king tried to have patience, but he succeeded very badly. It was more than he deserved, therefore, when, at last, the queen gave him a daughter--as lovely a little princess as ever cried.
The day drew near when the infant must be christened. The king wrote all the invitations with his own hand. Of course somebody was forgotten.
Now it does not generally matter if somebody is forgotten, only you must mind who. Unfortunately, the king forgot without intending to forget; and so the chance fell upon the Princess Makemnoit, which was awkward. For the princess was the king's own sister; and he ought not to have forgotten her. But she had made herself so disagreeable to the old king, their father, that he had forgotten her in making his will; and so it was no wonder that her brother forgot her in writing his invitations. But poor relations don't do anything to keep you in mind of them. Why don't they? The king could not see into the garret she lived in, could he?
She was a sour, spiteful creature. The wrinkles of contempt crossed the wrinkles of peevishness, and made her face as full of wrinkles as a pat of butter. If ever a king could be justified in forgetting anybody, this king was justified in forgetting his sister, even at a christening. She looked very odd, too. Her forehead was as large as all the rest of her face, and projected over it like a precipice. When she was angry, her little eyes flashed blue. When she hated anybody, they shone yellow and green. What they looked like when she loved anybody, I do not know; for I never heard of her loving anybody but herself, and I do not think she could have managed that if she had not somehow got used to herself. But what made it highly imprudent in the king to forget her was--that she was awfully clever. In fact, she was a witch; and when she bewitched anybody, he very soon had enough of it; for she beat all the wicked fairies in wickedness, and all the clever ones in cleverness. (3-5)
Of course, the uninvited guest comes, and of course they bring an unwelcome gift. In this case, the princess-witch deprived the baby of gravity. So from the day of the christening on, she floated. The king and queen tried to find some positive aspects to it, but, really what could they do when their apologies failed? Just go on loving their daughter as she was with all their hearts.

But their daughter was different in another way too. She had no gravity in matters of the heart and mind too. She could not take anything seriously. Her reaction to life--to all of life--was laughter. Which is just as serious a curse as the other, in my opinion. For there was an emptiness in all her emotions, her actions.

The Light Princess is the story of what happens when she meets a prince. Will the young woman incapable of falling, be capable of falling in love?

I loved this one. I really loved it. It was charming, delightful, and witty. I loved the writing. Some of the descriptions just had me at hello. Like this one, "The wrinkles of contempt crossed the wrinkles of peevishness, and made her face as full of wrinkles as a pat of butter." To any reader who likes fairy tales, this one is a must!!! It's a beautiful, sweet story. And it's such a quick read. You can easily read it in one sitting.

© 2011 Becky Laney of Becky's Book Reviews


Phillip said...

Sounds like a fairy tale where the fairy/witch casts a 100 year sleep on the princess and her kingdom.

Kailana said...

Wow, I read this book so long ago I forgot about it! I did love it at the time, though. :)

hopeinbrazil said...

This is one of my favorite Gge McDonald stories. Loved your review!

Cindy Swanson said...

This needs to go on my to-read list! I think I've read only one of McDonald's books.

Great review as always. Becky, your sheer reading voraciousness never ceases to amaze me! :)

Cindy @ Cindy's Book Club
and Notes in the Key of Life

Beth said...

We are going to be reading a couple of George MacDonald books for our next school year. I am going to add this to my daughter's free read list, since I think she would really enjoy it.