The Enchanted Castle, by Edith Nesbit

Posted: March 28, 2011 in Fantasy
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When looking through the public domain, I came across The Enchanted Castle, published in 1907. Having never heard of the book (nor the author for that matter), I figured it was worth a try.

As a side note: it appears that this story was adapted into a BBC TV-miniseries in 1979. Unfortunately, it has not been released to either DVD or VHS. I think it is a shame when things like this get lost in the archives.

Story overview:
Three children—Gerald, James, and Kathleen—away on holiday, discover a country estate that resembles a castle. Having believed it really was a caste, the children were fooled by an enchanted princess. The princess, Mabel, turns out to be nothing more than the housekeeper’s niece. However, while in the mist of her performance, Mabel happens across a ring. A magical ring.

At first, the children believe the ring’s only power is to turn the wearer invisible. However, as their escapades increase (including detective work, a carnival show, and scaring the maid) the ring is found out to be a wishing ring.

After wishing more trouble upon themselves than good (such as turning clothes into real people), the four children learn of the ring’s true origins and the mysteries behind the place known as The Enchanted Castle.

My thoughts:
I’m surprised that I haven’t come across this book before now. Not that it is any great masterpiece mind you, but there are markings of a classic here. At first, I was fooled into thinking this was a typical fairy tale, but was happily surprised by the modern day twist (that is, modern day for 1907). There were places where I found the plot to move slower than I like, but overall the originality and freshness of the tale had me reading to the end.

Things to consider:
As mentioned, this was published in 1907. That means it is a few years shy of being a Victorian novel. With Victorian novels comes a style of writing not seen much in modern books. However, this one happens to be written fairly clear in comparison to many of its kind. The most difficult thing for some American readers might be the use of British slang, but overall it was easy enough for me to follow. Not much in the way of questionable content. No use of foul language, sexual situations, or violence. Good for both girls and boys in their teens. Perhaps younger if a parent were to read it to them.

Opportunities for discussion:
One theme throughout the book that kept popping up was that of telling the truth. The author went out of her way to show that even when the children were trying to cover their tracks, they made sure to speak nothing that could be seen as a lie. This may be related to the Victorian era, but even so, I appreciated it. Children of today (and adults included) find it excessively easy to tell a lie in order to get their way. Share with your children this verse: Proverbs 12:19 (NAS) “Truthful lips will be established forever, But a lying tongue is only for a moment.” Ask them what they think this means, and then ask them how they feel when someone tells a lie. From there you can help them to understand what others feel when they are the ones who lie.

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