LIT 4334: The Golden Age of Children's Literature

The Princess and the Puppet: Contrasts in Presentation

on February 7, 2013 1:25pm


In both The Princess and the Goblin and The Adventure of Pinocchio, the authors present the audience with moral lessons and values. These lessons, sometimes subtle and sometimes not, and are designed to instruct and develop children into responsible and respectable adults. While both MacDonald and Collodi present these lessons, one big difference in these stories is the method of delivery; the polite and courageous Irene and Curdie stand in stark contrast to the frustratingly mischievous Pinocchio in providing examples to children. MacDonald presents the reader with Curdie and Irene, both excellent examples of nobility, honor, courage and humility to stress these values and to teach the audience his moral lessons. Collodi on the other hand gives the audience Pinocchio, the character who teaches us everything not to do while stumbling from bad decision to bad decision. While the development is more evident when the character starts with a lack of virtue – as Pinocchio clearly did – both strategies can yield the desired effect of teaching kids how to be good. Both authors tie in the lessons to their stories and both stories have a relatively clear moral imperative that is rather accessible and clear. The dueling delivery styles are not mutually exclusive however, as The Princess and the Goblin showed with characters like Harelip and the Goblin Queen and as The Adventures of Pinocchio demonstrated with the blue-haired fairy. These characters served to create dynamic contrast between the characters; whether to highlight the virtuous Princess Irene and Curdie or to emphasize the failings of Pinocchio, these supporting roles were important in developing stronger protagonists and helped refine and guide them on their quests. In the end, both stories deliver potent lessons important in the development of children into adults; whether learned from the strong examples set by the characters in The Princess and the Goblin or acquired in the trials and tribulations that Collodi puts his characters through in The Adventures of Pinocchio.


One response to “The Princess and the Puppet: Contrasts in Presentation

  1. bgugliemino says:

    One way I think we can view the contrast between the way that the lessons of each novel are presented is through the idea of a character children can relate to versus a character children would want to emulate. In The Adventures of Pinocchio, as you point out, the lessons are taught as we watch Pinocchio “stumbling from bad decision to bad decision.” Pinocchio is perhaps a more relatable character for children (or at least for children in the period when the novel was written), and because readers would be able to identify with Pinocchio and some of the situations he encounters (not wanting to go to school, not wanting to work, etc.) they would be able to learn the lessons alongside him as the story progresses. Princess Irene, on the other hand, already has many of the qualities that Pinocchio has to learn. Instead of learning along with Irene as the story progresses, readers instead could see her as a role model and strive to act more like her so that they too can be princes and princesses. This method reminds me of the argument made by Kelly Hager in “Betsy and the Canon,” that by showing characters reading certain books, readers who wanted to be like those characters would then read those same books. In The Princess and the Goblin, this same method is applied not to canon formation but to teaching young girls how they should behave. Also, as you pointed out, characters such as Harelip and the Goblin Queen provide a stark contrast with Irene. The actions of these characters give Irene an opportunity to showcase her “nobility, honor, courage and humility,” thus highlighting these characteristics for readers. I think it will be interesting as we continue in the class to see which method of instruction is more favored by other children’s authors.

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