Author(s): George MacDonald
George MacDonald occupied a major position in the intellectual life of his Victorian contemporaries, and his dazzling fairy tales earned him the admiration of such twentieth-century writers as C. S. Lewis, J. R. R. Tolkien, and W. H. Auden. Employing paradox, play, and nonsense, like Lewis Carroll's Alice books, MacDonald's fairy tales offer an elusive yet meaningful alternative order to the dubious certitudes of everyday life. The Complete Fairy Tales brings together all eleven of George MacDonald's shorter fairy tales, including "The Light Princess" and "The Golden Key, " as well as his essay "The Fantastic Imagination." The subjects are those of traditional fantasy: fairies good and wicked, children embarking on elaborate quests, journeys into unsettling dreamworlds, life-risking labors undertaken. Though they allude to familiar tales such as "Sleeping Beauty" and "Jack the Giant-Killer, " MacDonald's stories are profoundly experimental and subversive. By questioning the concept that a childhood associated with purity, innocence, and fairy-tale "wonder" ought to be segregated from adult skepticism and disbelief, they invite adult readers to adopt the same elasticity and open-mindedness that come so naturally to a child.
George MacDonald (1824-1905) was a minister who was rejected by his congregation, and struggled thereafter to support his family of eleven children by writing. In his own day he was celebrated as poet, preacher, and lecturer, and as the author of numerous novels. He is best known today for his vivid children's stories. U. C. Knoepflmacher has published widely on children's literature and the Victorian period.