“Seldom Like Yesterday”: Situating the Novel and Film Adaptation of The Princess and the Goblin


  • Caroline LaPlue


While much Victorian literature has been adapted into films that carry an
appeal for a modern audience, the 1994 adaptation of George MacDonald’s
1872 novel The Princess and the Goblin cannot claim the same popular
triumph as other successful Victorian children’s adaptations over the past
century such as Alice in Wonderland, Black Beauty, or Treasure Island. Though
interest in MacDonald’s work fell off dramatically after his death in 1905 and
his writing has received criticism for being long-winded and didactic (though
he is certainly not the only Victorian to share those characteristics), many of
his stories contain delightful elements found regularly in popular children’s
stories: princesses, goblins, absent fathers, magic, heroism, family, and a
transferrable moral or lesson. Here, I look at József Gémes’s film alongside
MacDonald’s original novel and use comparative methodology to explain why
it did not live up to its potential. I argue that MacDonald’s imaginative world
retains potential for success in a new, well-funded and well-produced film
adaptation, given the necessary time, money, and motivation.