I just finished reading the Princess and the Goblin and the Princess and Curdie written by George MacDonald, a prolific author of Childrens books and a congregationalist minister (albeit not one enamored with Calvinism) whose writing greatly influenced Chesterton and the works of Tolkien.

In reading the Princess and Curdie, and to a lesser extent, the Princess and the Goblin, I got the feeling that the Great Huge Grandma in the Princess and Curdie was a lot like a precursor to Lewis' Aslan as used as allegory. The Old Princess shows up in unexpected forms, sends help from above, changes bad into good with fire etc..

My question is, however regarding MacDonald, is there anything in his use of allegory that is contrary to Catholic doctrine? I could always pick the good parts and avoid the bad parts, but I'd rather take the whole thing. I'm reading the books to my kids right now and have just left them as books (which I believe to be the proper thing to do, just plant the seed of goodness in them through allegory). But if there are any themes to revisit in the future, I'd like to know.

  1. Is it OK, in allegory to make God an old woman (even a very strong old woman)?
  2. Does an allegory of God require a death and resurrection, ala Stone Table (and not just a coming and going of old age)?
  • FYI, CS Lewis explicitly calls out MacDonald as his guide in The Great Divorce. Oct 7, 2012 at 3:08

1 Answer 1


Well, I'm a reformed guy, so I can't give the Roman Catholic view but I'll try to give a catholic one.

I didn't take the Great Grandmother as a God-character so much, but rather as Lady Wisdom, who instructs and guides. This is a theme MacDonald employs in a number of his other short stories as well, such as The Lost Princess or The Wise Woman, At the Back of the North Wind, and The Golden Key. I have found his fairy tales and Unspoken Sermons very helpful, though I don't agree with all of his theology (most notably his universalism). As with anything man-made, it must be compared to scripture to see where it matches and where it diverges. It's work, but it's worth it.

God portrayed as a woman

As far as I can tell, scripture nowhere casts God in the feminine. God is masculine - the creator, the initiator. The creation (and most specifically the church) is feminine - the suitable helper, the receiver. God is the Father, the Elder Brother, The Son. The Church is the Daughter, the Sister, the Bride.

Death and Resurrection

Death and resurrection plays a hugely important part in scripture. There is almost no story in scripture that doesn't have some kind of death and resurrection theme. Adam is put into a death sleep and his bride is built from his side. Israel is in slavery to death and is brought out as a new nation, and so on.

I see the Grandmother guiding the children through this as Lady Wisdom. Curdie is brave but foolish, immature at first. He must be tried, worked over, before he is willing and able to cling to wisdom. When Grandmother sends Curdie through the fire, this can be seen as a death and resurrection. The old man is put to death, and he receives a glorified fire-body (fire-hands anyway).

  • 1
    Nice answer, and welcome to Christianity! I know of at least one place where God's love is cast in the feminine, Isaiah 49:15. It's great to find someone else who enjoys his books too! And I do agree, I just kind of saw the Grandmother as a sort of proto-Aslan and then a lot of things sort of clicked, but I think you're probably right too.
    – Peter Turner
    Oct 7, 2012 at 2:10
  • err Welcome to the Christianity Stack Exchange, that is.
    – Peter Turner
    Oct 7, 2012 at 2:11
  • 1
    "welcome to Christianity!" - Haha. Thank you. Regarding Isaiah 49, I see that His love for Zion is compared to a mother's love, but God Himself isn't characterized in the feminine. In the same way, David's expression of love for Jonathan "passing the love of women (2 Sam 1:26)" doesn't mean that David or Jonathan were feminine or in any way sexually involved. This doesn't rule out the fact that the man and woman together were made in the image of God, just that God relates to and interacts with His creation as masculine to feminine.
    – Sticmann
    Oct 8, 2012 at 19:16

You must log in to answer this question.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged .