George MacDonald’s Fairy Tales

  • Colin Manlove


What we shall see with MacDonald and Kingsley is something quite new in the development of Christian fantasy. We shall find both trying by literary means to show, to make us feel, that God is present in nature and this world. In earlier literature God’s existence could be assumed, but now it is necessary to prove it. And, in order to do this convincingly, one must start from the apparently empirical facts of existence, not from any biblical or quasi-biblical narrative involving a priori assumptions. Thus each presents us with an image of the baffling character of experience, through which God or the miraculous must be apprehended. This holds good even though the reality that MacDonald presents is that of the inner world of the mind, and Kingsley’s that of the physical world. The tangle of mental imagery and potential error in MacDonald’s fantastic worlds is no different in terms of mundane reality from the confusing nature of the physical world in Kingsley’s. Between them the two could be said to cover the whole area of mundane experience, inner and outer, in order to trace God’s immanence. It is remarkable that the only Christian-fantasy writers of note in the nineteenth century should form this diptych.


Fairy Tale Evil Person True Desire Mundane Reality Divine Imagination 
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  1. 1.
    George MacDonald, The Princess and Curdie, 2nd edn (London: Chatto and Windus, 1888) p. 46.Google Scholar
  2. 2.
    MacDonald, ‘The Imagination’, A Dish of Orts, Chiefly Papers on the Imagination, and on Shakspere (London: Sampson Low, 1893) p. 25.Google Scholar
  3. 6.
    C. N. Manlove, ‘The Unconscious in MacDonald’s Fairy-tales’, in Modern Fantasy: Five Studies (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1975) pp. 71–5.Google Scholar
  4. 7.
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  5. 17.
    MacDonald, At the Back of the North Wind, 2nd edn (London: Blackie and Sons, 1886) p. 77.Google Scholar
  6. 22.
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  9. 24.
    Robert Lee Wolff, The Golden Key: A Study of the Fiction of George MacDonald (New Haven, Conn.: Yale University Press, 1961) p. 166.Google Scholar
  10. 28.
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    On this see C. N. Manlove, ‘Circularity in Fantasy: George MacDonald’, in The Impulse of Fantasy Literature (London: Macmillan, 1983) pp. 74–92.Google Scholar

Copyright information

© Colin Manlove 1992

Authors and Affiliations

  • Colin Manlove
    • 1
  1. 1.University of EdinburghUK

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