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George MacDonald

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George MacDonald
Biographical information
Born[December 10
Died18 September 1905
EducationKing's College, Aberdeen
Highbury Theological College
OccupationAuthor, poet, minister

George MacDonald (10 December 1824 – 18 September 1905) was a Scottish author, poet, and Christian minister. Known particularly for his poignant fairy tales and fantasy novels, George MacDonald inspired authors such as W.H. Auden, C.S. Lewis , J.R.R. Tolkien, G.K. Chesterton and Charles Williams. He is therefore often referred to as the "grandfather" of the Inklings.[1]


Tolkien and MacDonald

Early admiration

Humphrey Carpenter wrote that the stories of MacDonald were Tolkien's "childhood favourites", especially being fond of The Princess and the Goblin and The Princess and Curdie.[2] Tolkien also introduced The Princess and the Goblin to his children.[3]


  1. Fairy-tales:...
  2. Orcs and goblins:...
  3. Ents:...

Later criticism

In 1964, Tolkien was asked to write a preface to an American edition of MacDonald's short story "The Golden Key". While accepting the commission, for the reason that he thinks "well of this story of his", Tolkien never finished the preface, and wrote in a letter to the publishers that "I am not as warm an admirer of George MacDonald as C.S. Lewis was".[4]

Wayne G. Hammond and Christina Scull have argued that Tolkien, when re-reading "The Golden Key" and other of MacDonald's works, apparently reconsidered his former admiration on the grounds that the stories often contained a narrator's voice and too much of moral lecturing reminding of the literary style of The Hobbit (a style which Tolkien regretted later in life). Hammond and Scull further quote from a manuscript, held at the Bodleian Library, where Tolkien writes that "a highly selective memory had retained only a few impressions of things that moved me, and re-reading G[eorge] M[acDonald] critically filled with me distaste".[5]

Bibliography, selected

External links


  1. Gisela Kreglinger, "MacDonald, George (1824–1905)", in J.R.R. Tolkien Encyclopedia: Scholarship and Critical Assessment
  2. Humphrey Carpenter, J.R.R. Tolkien: A Biography
  3. J.R.R. Tolkien; Verlyn Flieger, Douglas A. Anderson (eds.), On Fairy-stories (expanded edition)
  4. J.R.R. Tolkien; Humphrey Carpenter, Christopher Tolkien (eds.), The Letters of J.R.R. Tolkien, Letter 262, (dated 7 September 1964)
  5. Wayne G. Hammond and Christina Scull, The J.R.R. Tolkien Companion and Guide: Reader's Guide, pp.570-1