George MacDonald (10 December 1824 18 September 1905) was a Victorian Era Scottish writer who's chiefly known for his fantasy works, which were read by such authors as G. K. Chesterton, J. R. R. Tolkien, and C. S. Lewis. They include At the Back of the North Wind, Lilith, Phantastes, The Princess and the Goblin, The Princess and Curdie, and The Light Princess. He also wrote a fair number of non-fantasy works, primarily concerned with romance, suffering and adventure in the Highlands, which are generally passed over for some reason.
Other writers who cited MacDonald as an influence include W. H. Auden, Roger Lancelyn Green, Madeleine L'Engle, E. Nesbit, and Elizabeth Yates. Essentially, he is the grandfather of nearly the entire modern genre of fantasy. Appropriately enough, he sported a pretty impressive Wizard Beard.
He is not George MacDonald Fraser.
Works by George MacDonald with their own trope pages include:
- At the Back of the North Wind
- The Light Princess
- The Princess and the Goblin
- The Princess and Curdie
Short stories by George MacDonald with their own trope pages include:
His other works provide examples of:
- An Aesop: Often to the level of Writer on Board (see below).
- Bittersweet Ending:
- Cool Old Lady: Fairy grandmothers often appear, and are always awesome.
- Determinator: Many of his child characters, especially the virtuous ones. Occasionally crosses over into Badass Adorable.
- Death of the Author: Applied this idea to his own works in his essay "The Fantastic Imagination". When readers asked him what meanings he put in his fairy tales, he assured them it was much more valuable for them to think for themselves and find their own meanings, rather than him having to explain."A genuine work of art must mean many things; the truer its art, the more things it will mean. If my drawing, on the other hand, is so far from being a work of art that it needs THIS IS A HORSE written under it, what can it matter that neither you nor your child should know what it means? It is there not so much to convey a meaning as to wake a meaning."
- Died Happily Ever After
- Died in Your Arms Tonight:
- In one of the stories in Phantastes, Cosmo von Wehrstahl dies in the arms of the Princess von Honenweiess he has released from the mirror she has been enchanted in, but she finds him too late and cradles him as he dies in her arms.
- Dreaming the Truth: In "Port In A Storm", it's how he finds the port.
- Everything's Better with Rainbows: In The Golden Key
- Fairytale Motifs
- First-Name Basis: In "Port in a Storm", the father stops his story to comment that he and their mother were on first name basis already at this point in the story.
- Funetik Aksent: Just in case you ever forgot you were in Scotland.
- Great Big Library of Everything: Mentioned in Phantastes, Lilith, Alec Forbes... This is a recurring image throughout MacDonald's fiction, probably inspired by a year MacDonald spent as a youth cataloging books in a large house in Scotland.
- Such places tend to be more of a Magical Library at heart.
- Held Gaze: The supernatural variant of the trope, in which case it fills the two gazers with such longing that they are so consumed with love that they depart from each other and die, being reborn as children.
- The Hero Dies
- Littlest Cancer Patient: They appear with some regularity in his non-fantasy works, dying of Victorian Novel Disease rather than cancer. (Three of MacDonald's thirteen children died of tuberculosis.)
- Living Shadow: In "The Shadows", living shadows cast themselves on walls to comfort the bereaved, amuse children, inspire musicians, and confront guilty parties with their misdeeds.
- Love Redeems: Central to arguably all of MacDonald's work.
- Mythopoeia: C. S. Lewis cited him as a Trope Maker.
- Orphan's Ordeal: A Rough Shaking.
- The Power of Love
- The Promise: In "Port in a Storm", the narrator got his uncle to not interfere with his wooing the uncle's wealthy niece, despite the appearance of trying to get at her money, by bringing him port to drink during a storm and collecting this as his reward.
- Public Domain Character: All of his characters, as he has been dead for over 100 years.
- The Speechless: Wee Sir Gibbie in... Sir Gibbie.
- Story Within a Story: Has one in several of his works.
- Trope Codifier: Being one of the major creators of modern fantasy literature, MacDonald had a huge hand in establishing the tropes now prominent throughout that genre.
- Writer on Board: An example that even this trope is not bad. C. S. Lewis observed of MacDonald's non-fantasy novels, "Sometimes they diverge into direct and prolonged preachments which would be intolerable if a man were reading for the story, but which are in fact welcome because the author... is a supreme preacher."
George MacDonald in fiction:
- C. S. Lewis was particularly moved after reading Phantastes, and much of Lewis' writing reflect the themes that MacDonald used. Accordingly, in The Great Divorce, Lewis used MacDonald as a guiding character in the same way that Dante had used Virgil in The Divine Comedy.