LIT 4334: The Golden Age of Children's Literature

Brave and The Princess and the Goblin: Scottish Girls with A Determination to Defy Gender Norms

on January 30, 2013 4:16pm

As I was reading George Macdonald’s The Princess and the Goblin, I couldn’t help but notice the similarities between the children’s story of 1872 and the Disney film that was released recently entitled Brave. Both young girls share a Scottish heritage and have an intense craving for adventure along with a strong sense of self. Their defying of gender roles seems very ahead of its time given that MacDonald was writing The Princess and the Goblin in the 1800s, where a woman’s abilities often went unrecognized. As Irene’s character becomes revealed, we realize that she is much more than a little Scottish girl who just so happens to be a princess, but rather she possesses a wisdom beyond her years and courage that would be limited to men in armor at the time that MacDonald was writing. In the Disney film, the female protagonist, Merida, also possesses great courage and endeavors to defy her parents’ decision to marry her off.  The peace of her father’s kingdom depends upon this marriage, but her happiness becomes her first priority so she runs away into the woods and turns her mother into a bear. A similar plot involving marriage is included in The Princess and the Goblin, in which the goblins plan for their prince Harelip to marry Irene in order to attempt “peace” between the two kingdoms against the princess’ will.  Though Irene is unaware, Curdie, the male protagonist (and her future husband) realizes their plan and saves the princess. The two girls are also very sheltered and the discovery of self often takes place in the wilderness and away from the home. These females serve as strong role models for girls and though they may not accomplish all their goals alone (we have to give Curdie some credit!), they surely do not sit idly much like the character archetype assigned to females in works of the time.

Here is a link to the trailer for the Disney film Brave:

Princess Irene and Curdie

Princess Irene and Curdie


Merida of the Disney film Brave


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