In The Princess and the Goblin, there are hints of religious aspects that can be found in the text. Irene’s great-great-grandmother is seen as a cross between a fairy godmother (as we see in past fairy tales such as Cinderella) and an omniscient, god-like figure. The grandmother is always willing to help Irene in times of need (following the godmother archetype), but there is a catch. She only helps Irene when she retains faith in the existence of the grandmother, thus giving her a god-like quality. Even MacDonald’s descriptions of her give her an ethereal suggestion: pale white skin, long silver hair, young yet old, wise, patient yet playful, supernatural qualities, mysterious. It seems that MacDonald attempts to slip in a Christian moral and remind the doubtful that they have to believe what they can’t see—you have to believe in order to receive.
However, I am of the opinion that the grandmother is omnipotent only to a certain degree. Though she helps others besides Irene, like Curdie’s mother, I think it is very easy to argue that she only did so that Curdie could help Irene in the future. If she knew about the flood and had the power to prevent it, why didn’t she? It seems she only cares for the true well-being of little Irene. This could in part be due to sort of loving, familial reason—as if it is to ensure that the heir to the throne and kingdom is kept away from danger. It seems as though her supernatural qualities only seek to aid her in accomplishing that goal. Why else would she choose to live so long, only to live alone where no one can find her while she sits and spins thread? In this sense, MacDonald is inventive with his merging of duel qualities of the grandmother (the god-like and the godmother), while not following the classic archetype normally presented in fairy tales.