Image of George MacDonald


Lifetime: 1824 - 1905 Passed: ≈ 118 years ago


Minister, Writer


England, Scotland

George MacDonald

George MacDonald (10 December 1824 – 18 September 1905) was a Scottish author, poet and Christian minister. He was a pioneering figure in the field of modern fantasy literature and the mentor of fellow writer Lewis Carroll. In addition to his fairy tales, MacDonald wrote several works of Christian theology, including several collections of sermons.

  1. S. Lewis wrote that he regarded MacDonald as his "master": "Picking up a copy of Phantastes one day at a train-station bookstall, I began to read. A few hours later", said Lewis, "I knew that I had crossed a great frontier." G. K. Chesterton cited The Princess and the Goblin as a book that had "made a difference to my whole existence".

Elizabeth Yates wrote of Sir Gibbie, "It moved me the way books did when, as a child, the great gates of literature began to open and first encounters with noble thoughts and utterances were unspeakably thrilling."

George MacDonald was born on 10 December 1824 at Huntly, Aberdeenshire, Scotland. His father, a farmer, was one of the MacDonalds of Glen Coe and a direct descendant of one of the families that suffered in the massacre of 1692.

MacDonald was appointed minister of Trinity Congregational Church, Arundel, in 1850, after briefly serving as a locum minister in Ireland. However, his sermons—which preached God's universal love and that everyone was capable of redemption —met with little favour and his salary was cut in half. In May 1853, MacDonald tendered his resignation from his pastoral duties at Arundel. Later he was engaged in ministerial work in Manchester, leaving that because of poor health. An account cited the role of Lady Byron in convincing MacDonald to travel to Algiers in 1856 with the hope that the sojourn would help turn his health around. When he got back, he settled in London and taught for some time at the University of London. MacDonald was also for a time editor of Good Words for the Young.

George MacDonald is often regarded as the founding father of modern fantasy writing. George MacDonald's best-known works are Phantastes, The Princess and the Goblin, At the Back of the North Wind, and Lilith (1895), all fantasy novels, and fairy tales such as "The Light Princess", "The Golden Key", and "The Wise Woman". "I write, not for children," he wrote, "but for the child-like, whether they be of five, or fifty, or seventy-five." MacDonald also published some volumes of sermons, the pulpit not having proved an unreservedly successful venue.

George MacDonald died on 18 September 1905 in Ashtead, Surrey, England. He was cremated in Woking, Surrey, England and his ashes were buried in Bordighera, in the English cemetery, along with his wife Louisa and daughters Lilia and Grace.

MacDonald married Louisa Powell in Hackney in 1851, with whom he raised a family of eleven children: Lilia Scott (1852), Mary Josephine (1853-1878), Caroline Grace (1854), Greville Matheson (1856-1944), Irene (1857), Winifred Louise (1858), Ronald (1860–1933), Robert Falconer (1862–1913), Maurice (1864), Bernard Powell (1865–1928), and George Mackay (1867–1909).

Books by George MacDonald

The Princess and the Goblin Cover image

The Princess and the Goblin

Fantasy Novel
Children's Literature Legend Myths

The Princess and the Goblin is a children's fantasy novel by George MacDonald. It was published in 1872 by Strahan & Co., with black-and-white illustrations by Arthur Hughes. Strahan had published the story and illustrations as a serial in the monthl...

At the Back of the North Wind Cover image

At the Back of the North Wind

Fantasy Fiction Novel
Children's Literature

At the Back of the North Wind is a children's book written by Scottish author George MacDonald. It was serialized in the children's magazine Good Words for the Young beginning in 1868 and was published in book form in 1871. It is a fantasy centered o...

Lilith Cover image


Fantasy Novel
Death Salvation Life

Lilith is a fantasy novel by Scottish writer George MacDonald, first published in 1895. It was reprinted in paperback by Ballantine Books as the fifth volume of the Ballantine Adult Fantasy series in September 1969. Lilith is considered among the da...

The Day Boy and the Night Girl Cover image

The Day Boy and the Night Girl

Fiction Fairy Tale
Children's Literature Short Stories

The Day Boy and Night Girl, also referred to as The Romance of Photogen and Nycteris, is an 1882 fairy tale novel by George MacDonald. A version of this story appeared in Harper's Young People as a series beginning on 2 December 1879 and completing o...

Ranald Bannerman's Boyhood Cover image

Ranald Bannerman's Boyhood

Fiction Novel
Realism Children's Literature

Ranald Bannerman's Boyhood is a realistic, largely autobiographical, novel by George MacDonald. It was first published in 1871. The original edition was illustrated by Arthur Hughes.

Unspoken Sermons Cover image

Unspoken Sermons

Non-Fiction Religion
Faith Justice Sermons

George MacDonald was a Scottish author, poet, and Christian minister. In his day he was considered one of the great Victorian authors on par with Dickens, Thackeray, Kipling and the like. His reputation as an author, however, has not fared as well la...

The Shadows Cover image

The Shadows

Fiction Fairy Tale
Children's Literature Fantastique Myths Legends

The Shadows is a fairy tale by George MacDonald.

The Princess and Curdie Cover image

The Princess and Curdie

Fantasy Novel
Children's Literature Myths Legends

The Princess and Curdie is a children's classic fantasy novel by George MacDonald from late 1883. The book is the sequel to The Princess and the Goblin. The adventure continues with Princess Irene and Curdie a year or two older. They must overthrow...

David Elginbrod Cover image

David Elginbrod

Fiction Novel
Pastoral Realism

David Elginbrod is an 1863 novel by George MacDonald. It is MacDonald's first realistic novel.

The Miracles of Our Lord Cover image

The Miracles of Our Lord

Non-Fiction Religion
Christianity Jesus

Actions, it is often said, speak louder than words. But in the life of Christ - as George MacDonald shows - both spoke with an equal volume. Much attention is often devoted to what Jesus said while He was on earth, but many in our modern age are puzz...

The Wise Woman Cover image

The Wise Woman

Fiction Novel
Children's Literature Myths Legends

The Lost Princess: A Double Story, first published in 1875 as The Wise Woman: A Parable, is a fairy tale novel by George MacDonald. The story describes how a woman of mysterious powers pays visits to two very different young girls: one a princes...

Robert Falconer Cover image

Robert Falconer

Fiction Novel
Victorian Christian Literature

A Victorian novel devoted to beloved character first introduced to readers in MacDonald's David Elginbrod.

The Annals of a Quiet Neighbourhood Cover image

The Annals of a Quiet Neighbourhood

Romance Fiction
Pastoral Christian Literature Countryside

This delightful story begins in a little town called Marshmallows, where a young man, the new vicar, Harry Walton, has just arrived. As he begins his work Harry realizes that everything is not quite 'right' in his little parish and it all seems to ce...

The Cruel Painter  Cover image

The Cruel Painter

Adventure Action
Short Story Love Gothic Vampire Romance Cruelty Dark

A story about a man who falls in love with the daughter of a cruel painter.

Diary of an Old Soul  Cover image

Diary of an Old Soul

Poetry Non-Fiction
Literature Poems Devotional Christianity Religious Spirituality British

A Book of Strife, in the form of the Diary of an Old Soul. I doubt MacDonald ever expected more than his family to read this work, much less review it. In these verses, he wrestles (strives?) with himself, with God or his understanding of Him, with t...

The Light Princess Cover image

The Light Princess

Fairy Tale
Marriage Children Death Kingdom Suffering

A king and queen, after some time, have a daughter. The king invites everyone to the christening, except his sister Princess Makemnoit, a spiteful and sour woman. She arrives without an invitation and curses the princess to have no gravity. Whenever...

Mary Marston Cover image

Mary Marston

Love Mystery Christianity Life God

It is a story of a woman who loves a man, and teaches him to change. Not out of his love for her, but simply because it was the right thing to do.

The Hope of the Gospel  Cover image

The Hope of the Gospel

Philosophy Religion
Explore Philosophical Christianity Religious Commentary Hope

In The Hope of the Gospel, with his ever sagely style, MacDonald explores the essential heart of the gospel that is so often overlooked, both in his day and ours. Dissatisfied with cheap and hasty interpretations of Scripture, MacDonald invites us be...

Phantastes  Cover image


Young Dream Idealism Adventure Myths Legends

The story concerns a young man who is pulled into a dreamlike world and there hunts for his ideal of female beauty, embodied by the "Marble Lady". Anodos lives through many adventures and temptations while in the other world, until he is finally read...

The Light Princess and Other Fairy Tales  Cover image

The Light Princess and Other Fairy Tales

Fairy Tale
Children Myths Childhood Legends Fantastic Fiction

The Light Princess is a Scottish fairy tale by George MacDonald. It was published in 1864 as a story within the larger story Adela Cathcart. Drawing on inspiration from "Sleeping Beauty", it tells the story of a princess afflicted by a constant weigh...

Thomas Wingfold, Curate  Cover image

Thomas Wingfold, Curate

Fiction Biography
Young Faith Journey Christianity Life Spirituality Emotion

A young man (Thomas Wingfold) "enters the church" through no real faith and only for want of something to do. After an encounter with a brash young atheist, he is thrown into an emotional, spiritual, and vocational crisis. Through his own doubts and...

The Elect Lady Cover image

The Elect Lady

Love Animal Childhood Beliefs Jesus

One of MacDonald's shorter and lesser-known novels, "The Elect Lady" yet contains wonderfully endearing characters, plot twists, love, and life lessons. As always, read with discernment as MacDonald's controversial (sometimes unbiblical) beliefs are...

A Dish of Orts: Chiefly Papers on the Imagination, and on Shakespeare Cover image

A Dish of Orts: Chiefly Papers on the Imagination, and on Shakespeare

Nature Theology Literary Criticism Short Works Meditation Imagination

A Dish of Orts: Chiefly Papers on the Imagination, and on Shakespeare is a book by George MacDonald, a 19th-century Scottish author, poet, and Christian minister. The book is a collection of essays and lectures on literature and the imagination, with...

Paul Faber, Surgeon Cover image

Paul Faber, Surgeon

Love Morality Young Redemption Faith Struggle Relationships

The book tells the story of a young surgeon named Paul Faber, who moves to a small town to start a new life and becomes embroiled in a complicated love triangle. The book is set in the mid-19th century and explores themes of love, faith, and redempt...

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