The Ugly Princess and Other Fairy Stories

by George MacDonald
Reviewed by Aslan's Lamb

Beautiful story, elegantly told.


An evil fairy bestows a curse on a baby princess: she deprives her of gravity. As the princess grows up, she doesn't mind her weightless state. She says that she likes floating through the air. But the thing that brings her the most joy is going swimming, because while she is in water, she has gravity and becomes like everybody else. Scholars of the kingdom say that if she could cry, the water might help her regain gravity completely. But the princess never cries, only laughs. As MacDonald says, "It would have been good for her to fall in love, but how a person with no gravity could fall into anything is a difficulty."

When the evil fairy tries to destroy all the lakes in the kingdom, can a person be found who will save the kingdom and the princess?


Characters are sometimes rude to each other. The author discusses their behavior with the reader, sometimes with disapproval, sometimes making excuses for them.

The princess is cruel to the man who loves her, but that's rather the point of the tale. The question of whether she can learn to love is interconnected with the question of her gravity. And the story is really about unconditional love and sacrifice.

Spiritual Content

Although not an allegory, there are certainly some Christian parallels. And the morality is distinctly Christian, as mentioned above.


One character watches another drown in the lake.

Drug and Alcohol Content

There is enchanted water.

Sexual Content

Princess and prince swim in the lake together at night. Some might see the lake as a metaphor for something else but that's open to interpretation.

Crude or Profane Language or Content



MacDonald's writing is delightful, full of humor and wordplay. The intricate plot, the symbolism, and the themes make this worth reading several times.

Fun Score: 5
Values Score: 5
Written for Age: 11-12

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