The Wise Woman (or The Lost Princess)

I haven’t read a ton of George MacDonald, and I know this is to my shame.  I recall my parents owning Phantasies, which really didn’t thrill me.  I’m not a huge fantasy reader (Does that make me a hipster in today’s world?  😛 )

My Uncle Glenn lent me a book, and my friend Joey let me borrow a series.  They were decent.  My favorite was one about a boy named Cosmo in some sort of a castle.  I don’t remember much of the story, but I have this remaining sweet feeling in my head, like the remnants of candy on one’s tongue.  I remember loving the heart of the romance in that one.

However, it’s been many years.

Little did I know George MacDonald wrote allegories and moralistic stories.  These things usually hit me right between the eyes, and explain my spiritual state in new, exciting ways that stick with me easier than lecturing might.

My husband’s mother begged me to read her favorite: The Wise Woman (otherwise known as The Lost Princess), which my sister-in-law had previously given to me.  She said the lessons had stuck with her throughout the years, and it was a piercing pleasure to read the story again and again.  Pleasure because it was rich with insight.  Piercing because it was convicting.

How right she was.

I underlined my favorite quotes, and wanted to share them with you.  The one on loving and punishing even brought me to tears, as it helped me understand my Father in heaven better.

As time went on, this disease of self-conceit went on too, gradually devouring the good that was in her.  For there is no fault that does not bring its brothers and sisters and cousins to live with it.

But, as I have said, the wise woman had her eye upon her: she saw that something special must be done, else she would be one of those who kneel to their own shadows till feet grow on their knees; then go down on their hands till their hands grow into feet; then lay their faces on the ground till they grow into snouts; when at last they are a hideous sort of lizards, each of which believes himself the best, wisest, and loveliest being in the world, yea, the very centre of the universe.  And so they run about forever looking for their own shadows, that they may worship them, and miserable because they cannot find them, being themselves too near the ground to have any shadows; and what becomes of them at last there is but one who knows.

To be conceited of doing one’s duty is then a sign of how little one does it, and how little one sees what a contemptible thing it is not to do it.  Could any but a low creature be conceited of not being contemptible?  Until our duty becomes to us common as breathing, we are poor creatures.

One great danger is that perhaps you will think you are in (a trial) before it has really begun, and say to yourself, “Oh!  This is really nothing to me.  It may be a trial to some, but for me I am sure it is not worth mentioning.”  And then, before you know, it will be upon you, and you will fail utterly and shamefully.

“Nobody can be a real princess – do not imagine you have yet been anything more than a mock one – until she is a princess over herself… So long as any mood she is in makes her do the thing she will be sorry for when that mood is over, she is a slave, and not a princess.”

“If I had not forgiven you, I would never have taken the trouble to punish you.”

13 thoughts on “The Wise Woman (or The Lost Princess)

  1. So glad you enjoyed that. It was time well spent for me to revisit it ~ even though (as you know) I really struggle to get through fiction. About half way through, though, I knew I was getting to the meat of the matter and it drew me along quickly through that last half.

    I never did share my favorites with you. Should do that. There are so many pearls in there. The mood chamber (I’d called it a ‘reality bubble’) ~ definitely my favorite. It’s just a portrait of mortal life!


  2. OK, so I think I marked all the same passages as you did except for one (of yours). I’d also marked some additional ones like:

    People are so ready to think themselves changed when it is only their mood that is changed!

    But there is very little indeed to be done when we will not do that which we have to do.

    The poor foolish creature seemed to think that the work of one day ought to serve for the next day too! But that is nowhere the way in the whole universe.

    This one immediately precedes one you quoted:
    She had fair abilities, and were she once but made humble, would be capable not only of doing a good deal in time but of beginning at once to grow to no end. But, if she were not made humble, her growing would be to a mass of distorted shapes all huddled together.

    Father nor mother had ever by wise punishment helped her to gain a victory over herself , and do what she did not like or choose..

    But the man who will do his work in spite of his fear is a man of true courage.

    You must not imagine that you are cured. That you are ashamed of yourself now is no sign that the cause for such shame has ceased. In new circumstances, especially after you have done well for a while, you will be in danger of thinking just as much of yourself as before. So beware of yourself.

    Instead of thinking how to kill the ugly things in here heart, she was with all her might resolving to be more careful of her face, that is, to keep down the things in her heart so that they should not show in her face, she was resolving to be a hypocrite as well as a self-worshipper.


  3. (ACK! Sorry ~ I didn’t mean to post ~ that was accidental.)

    Following a lot of circumstances that the girl would have thought very wrong , very unpleasant, but at times to her approval, the wise woman (who represents God in this allegory) reports: It always is me, all the time.

    I’m glad we had so much overlap, RJ. It saved me keying in most of what you did. 😀

    Thanks for sharing that experience with me. I was truly sorry to read that you’d felt that I begged you to read it. I would not consciously have done that and hope you’ll forgive me. I really just wanted to encourage you to read what I’d thought was a very well-done story.


    • No, no! “Begged” was supposed to just be a pretty word there, to mean that you were so in love with the story that you felt that all people should read it!
      I was trying to use fancier words. I didn’t feel coerced and there is no need for an apology! How strange!
      I was very happy to read it, as I had meant to a long time ago – after Hope gave it to me – and was so glad you reminded me and made it sound like such a wonderful read.


  4. Well, it was made even better since I got to share that with you and you appreciated the edifying nature of the allegory. Fun!! And I’m glad I didn’t offend. 😀


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