Explanation, n. An account of a situation which does not threaten the
In George MacDonald's The Princess and the Goblin, princess Irene gets
lost in her mountain home and finds a mysterious grandmother, who
gives her a silver ring attached to an invisibly fine strand of
spider-silk, and tells her that if she follows the thread Irene will
find her grandmother's room. One time, Irene gets lost and follows the
thread out of the house, in and out of all kinds of dark and
unfamiliar caverns deep inside a goblin-infested mountain. She finds
the imprisoned miner-boy Curdie and brings him to her grandmother.
Curdie follows along, but cannot believe her strange account: even in
the room where Irene claims to be speaking with her grandmother,
Curdie sees only a dark and dirty garret. A bitter argument ensues,
and Curdie returns home, vexed.
His mother coaxes the explanation out of him:
Then Curdie made a clean breast of it, and told them everything.
They all sat silent for some time, pondering the strange tale. At
last Curdie's mother spoke.
"You confess, my boy," she said, "there is something about the
whole affair you do not understand?"
"Yes, of course, mother," he answered. "I cannot understand how a
child knowing nothing about the mountain, or even that I was shut
up in it, should come all that way alone, straight to where I was;
and then, after getting me out of the hole, lead me out of the
mountain too, where I should not have known a step of the way if it
had been as light as in the open air."
"Then you have no right to say what she told you was not true. She
did not take you out, and she must have had something to guide her:
why not a thread as well as a rope, or anything else? There is
something you cannot explain, and her explanation may be the right
"It's no explanation at all, Mother; and I can't believe it.
Darwinism is the only game in town."
- -- Hayward's Unabridged Dictionary