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Creator / George MacDonald

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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.

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He is not George MacDonald Fraser.

Works 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: Frequently Always.
  • 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.
  • 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.
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  • 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.
  • 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.
  • 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:


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