Many works of literature are seen as imaginative escapes from reality, while other pieces press into reality by clarifying on paper what the world around us means. However, to accomplish both literary objectives simultaneously is a difficult task. It is an undertaking not recommended for the faint of heart, nor for the cynic.
George MacDonald was a quiet man, neither faint-hearted nor cynical, and for me, he should be heralded as one of those rare authors who, within the pages of his works, is able to create an imaginative land to escape within and also one to learn from.
C.S. Lewis phrased it quite beautifully when he described MacDonald’s work as being a “bright shadow coming out of the book into the real world and resting there, transforming all common things and yet itself unchanged. Or, more accurately,...common things [are] drawn into the bright shadow."
Over a forty year period, MacDonald retained the wise wisdom of an elderly man and the imaginative wonder of a wide-eyed dreaming boy to complete his two-fold literary task of awakening imagination while instructing hearts and minds. Under the patronage of Lady Byron, he began his literary career in the year 1856 after resigning from the pulpit due to theological conflicts with the Church. Although a native of Aberdeenshire, Scotland, MacDonald lived most of his life in England. Throughout his career he completed forty-seven novels and some collections of poetry, but it is in his collection of fairy tales that he shines most brightly.
If you are one of the few who have heard of George MacDonald, you are probably aware of the fairy tale entitled The Lost Princess or The Wise Woman: A Double Story. Within this story a princess and a shepherd’s daughter each become separated from their families. Both girls are incredibly spoiled and their character flaws are manifested differently. On their individual journeys home, a wise woman overtakes them and works in them to magically improve their character. As their lives converge through the interference of the wise woman, you follow them along their enchanted journey and aspects of your own character are illuminated by MacDonald’s deconstruction of the characters of each young girl.
In a subtle way, MacDonald pricks the hearts and minds of his readers while delighting them with beautiful stories. His works are untapped treasures, and we are grateful for his contribution to the world of literature. Other recommended works by MacDonald are Lilith: a Romance and Phantastes: a Faerie Romance for Men and Women.