I would like to find the title to a book I read a long long time ago about a boy who had an ability to tell what people were like by touching them. Instead of, say, feeling a human hand he would feel them as an animal that they were like; if they were devious, sneaky, etc., he might feel as if he had grabbed a snake or something.

Another element I seem to remember is a tower with a witch or something of the kind that was always weaving something, and he would somehow leave the tower (magically, teleport, etc.) to go to some other land for a quest or something.

I think there may have been a couple books about this same person. I would likely have read this in the late '80s or early to mid '90s, but I don't have any idea when it may have been written. Sorry this is so vague; the story has stuck with me all this time but not really in detail I guess.


1 Answer 1


This is The Princess and Curdie by George Macdonald. This is the second of two books; the first is called The Princess and the Goblin. They were written in 1872 and 1883, respectively. The "princess" (the young-old woman in the tower) grants Curdie the gift of judging a person's character by holding their hand. She demonstrates this to him by asking him to hold the hand of a creature in her care who was once human.

'Give Curdie a paw, Lina,' said the princess.

The creature rose, and, lifting a long foreleg, held up a great doglike paw to Curdie. He took it gently. But what a shudder, as of terrified delight, ran through him, when, instead of the paw of a dog, such as it seemed to his eyes, he clasped in his great mining fist the soft, neat little hand of a child! He took it in both of his, and held it as if he could not let it go. The green eyes stared at him with their yellow light, and the mouth was turned up toward him with its constant half grin; but here was the child's hand! If he could but pull the child out of the beast! His eyes sought the princess. She was watching him with evident satisfaction.

'Ma'am, here is a child's hand!' said Curdie.

'Your gift does more for you than it promised. It is yet better to perceive a hidden good than a hidden evil.'

The princess does this because she wants to send Curdie to do something about a city with a corrupt leadership.

You can read this book at Project Gutenberg.

  • 1
    In The Princess and the Goblin, the titular princess is unambiguously Irene, who is a seven-year-old child. However, in the sequel, both Irene and her immortal great-great-grandmother are referred to as princesses.
    – Buzz
    May 5, 2023 at 6:05

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