When I was a kid, my sister and I watched the Princess and the Goblin hundreds of times. When I thought about the movie last week, I could only recall a few scenes and an annoying song from the movie but couldn’t remember the plot or the purpose. As I re-watched it, I couldn’t believe my mother let me watch this movie at such a young age (in her defense, she claims it was a gift from a friend and that she couldn’t pry it away from us).
The movie is about a young girl named Princess Irene and her adventure into the underworld mines, which houses the goblin village. Accompanied by her only friend Turnip the cat, she is led down the mine by the magical string her dead great-great grandmother told her to follow. She meets a boy named Curdie and has to save him from the goblins the next day. They then over hear the goblins’ plans to take over the kingdom and to flood the mines. They escape back to the castle to tell the king and try to save the miners from the flood. Sounds crazy right? As a child, I never caught on to the fact that her grandmother was a ghost, and it now seems inappropriate for young impressionable children. The goblins can’t be defeated or feel pain, unless you step on their toes. This seems to imply that the people who don’t fit into society’s standards are ugly, and should live away from successful people. It is also deemed acceptable to literally “step on the toes” of socially inferior people. The goblins also hate music, and singing will ward them off. The only people that know about the goblins are the common people. The people of the castle are completely ignorant and sheltered, suggesting the government is never correctly informed. But of course, all of these messages are very subtle and almost unnoticeable.
Princess Irene’s mother is dead, she has no friends to play with, and her father is constantly leaving the castles for weeks. She is lonely. The film encourages lonely children to explore their imaginations. At the end of the movie, a public service announcement plays that flashes a support line phone number for lonely children to call where they can speak with Princess Irene, her great- great grandmother or Curdie. The use of the great-great grandmother and her watchful eye on Irene appeals to pathos. By introducing Irene to her dead grandmother, it helped her cope with her loneliness and encouraged her to gain confidence in her new discoveries. Film expert Giannetti believes that a movie should reflect “a body of ideas reflecting social needs and aspirations of an individual, group, class, or culture” (Giannetti 403).
The Princess and the Goblin reflects the standards set for children in the 1990s including the importance of family and being humble. Princess Irene’s maid Lootie doesn’t believe the stories the princess tells her. Lootie only believes what she can see. It is implied that believing only what you can see is not the right way to live life. Irene learns this concept when her grandmother gives her a ring that holds invisible string. If Irene had chosen to believe the string didn’t exist, she wouldn’t have made it through the goblin village alive. Irene’s grandmother also tells her that she will only appear when Irene needs help, reinforcing the idea that your family and friends will always be there for you. The movie also flirts with the idea that a materialistic and selfish lifestyle is not good. The goblins are overconfident, controlling and feel superior to the humans. The goblins are also sassy and disrespectful, something children can easily pick up on. The movie chooses to show the goblins in this light to further suggest the evils of people who behave similar to the goblins. The presentation of the goblins in each scene appealed to ethos. They were ugly and scary therefore, they were untrustworthy and dangerous. As Andrea Lunsford says in Everything’s an Argument, “ethos creates quick…irresistible connections between audience and arguments” (Lunsford 44). The way the film portrayed the goblins created a negative ethos that didn’t change at any point of the film.
The movie was created to appeal to younger audiences, around the ages of 5-8. The cliché messages include the importance of family and believing in oneself. The problematic messages are really about believing what you are told and what you sometimes cant see, as well as the evils of selfish and malicious goblin-esque behavior. The arguments were subtle, yet affective. There’s no way I picked up on those messages as a child unless it was subconsciously. But, as an adult, it was much clearer to see what the true purpose of the film was. The argument falls short when it comes to logos. The arguments for living a certain way of life are somewhat lost with the use of goblins and ghosts, both of which logically do not exist. It was definitely a risk to make a children’s movie involving make believe monsters and people.
The Princess and the Goblin is nothing like your average 1990s Disney movie. It was dark, creepy, and completely opposite of the fairy tale princess stories. I’d give this movie 2/3 tickets because I loved it so much as a child and now know why my mother hated it.