Thursday, April 28, 2016

Meet the Author: George MacDonald

George MacDonald with son Ronald (right) and daughter Mary (left) in 1864. Photograph by Lewis Carroll.
MacDonald in the 1860s
The stage play The Light Princess is adapted from a fairy tale that Scottish author, George MacDonald, originally published in 1864.

George MacDonald was born in 1824 in Aberdeenshire, Scotland. As a boy, he loved boxing and reading. He eventually learned to read in Dutch, English, French, German, Greek, Italian, Latin and Spanish. After graduating from university, MacDonald moved to London, where he studied theology. When his career as a preacher proved unsuccessful, he tried his hand at writing. His extensive knowledge of language and culture played an important role in his ability to paint vivid, memorable pictures in his books. Some years later, poet W.H. Auden wrote: “In his power to project his inner life into images, beings, landscapes which are valid for all, he is one of the most remarkable writers of the nineteenth century.”

MacDonald published more than 50 books over the course of four decades. While he wrote fiction, nonfiction, and poetry, he is best remembered for his fantasy and fairy tales. “I write, not for children,” he wrote, “but for the child-like, whether they be of five, or fifty, or seventy-five.” The story “The Light Princess” was originally published as part of a longer novel, Adela Cathcart, in 1864. Some of his other best known works include Phantases (1858), At the Back of the North Wind (1871), The Princess and the Goblin (1872) and The Princess and Curdie (1883).

MacDonald served as a mentor to Lewis Carroll, and encouraged him to publish Alice in Wonderland. His writings also had a substantial influence on several major 20th century fantasy authors, including C.S. Lewis (The Chronicles of Narnia), J.R.R. Tolkien (The Hobbit and The Lord of the Rings), and Madeleine L’Engle (A Wrinkle in Time). MacDonald spend the last two decades of his life living in Italy with his wife. He died in 1905, at the age of 80.

Adapted from George MacDonald: Life, Works, Legacy by Matthew Bracey

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