yellow light in them” (1883/1990:236); “her two green eyes flaming yellow as sunflowers and seeming to light up the dungeon..two faint spots of light cast from her eyes upon the ground” (p. 255); and, with a highly significant
choice of verb, the unusual “lamping”, Curdie “had no light but the lamping of Lina’s eyes” (p. 256). Nor is the
divine spark, which is physically manifest in Lina’s eyes, confined to her. On his journey, Curdie meets again the goblins” creatures from The Princess and the Goblin, though now, apparently, on the way towards redemption.
Lina calls them to her to help in the coming struggle, and appears
followed by forty-nine of the most grotesquely ugly, the most extravagantly abnormal animals imagination can conceive. To describe them were a hopeless task.
Nevertheless, the narrator succeeds, and Curdie names the creatures with descriptive, fairytale names; for example: the serpent with the long body, the four short legs behind, and the little wings before.... “That’s all very well for
you, Mr Legserpent!” thought Curdie.
Clearly, the creatures are no longer so out of proportion with the divine universe that description and naming of them is impossible. They are now also prepared to “obey at once” (p. 307). They help Curdie clean out the king’s house of its wicked inhabitants and other dirt, they provide wholesome food for the king’s company, and they play an important role in restoring order to the city.
Zipes (1983) entitles the chapter in which he deals with MacDonald and Wilde “Inverting and subverting the world
with hope”, hut he finds some difficulty in reconciling the ending of The Princess and Curdie with this heading:
Irene and Curdie were married. The old king died, and they were king and queen. As long as they lived Gwyntystorm was a better city, and good people grew in it. But they had no children, and when they died the people chose a king. And the new king went mining and mining in the rock under the city, and grew more and more eager after the gold, and paid less and less heed to his people.
188 The fairytale
188 The fairytale Rapidly they sunk to their old wickedness.... And so greedy was the king after gold, that...he caused the miners to reduce the pillars which Peter and they that followed him had left standing to bear the city.... One day at noon, when life was at its highest, the whole city fell with a roaring crash. The cries of men and women went up with its dust and then there was a great silence.
Where the mighty rock once towered, crowded with homes and crowned with a palace, now rushes and raves a stone-obstructed rapid of the river. All around spreads a wilderness of wild deer, and the very name of Gwyntystorm has ceased from the lips of men.
John Rowe Townsend (1965 [1990j:76?ª7) finds this conclusion disturbing and “savagely pessimistic”, and believes that it expresses MacDonald’s condemnation of “the state of civilization in his own day”. According to Zipes, it embodies a warning, but may also he evidence of MacDonald’s “sober optimism: humanity must raise
itself from a beastly state to form the Utopian society and must constantly exercise creative and moral powers to pursue the ideal society. Otherwise, there will be a return to barbarism” (1983:110). According to McGillis
(1990:xvii?ªxviii), however, this interpretation, and, by implication, Townsend’s, too, ignores MacDonald’s deeply held religious faith:
the end of The Princess and Curdie is more than a warning; it is MacDonald’s most uncompromising vision of
what he calls in Lilith (1895) “the endless ending”.... MacDonald...has the Christian’s belief...in a time no longer when all dualities are reconciled. The wilderness of wild deer and the raving river of the hook’s final paragraph are, in the age of Darwin, a sign of renewal, of new beginnings. Creation begins anew in an unpeopled world. The