George MacDonald was born and raised in a farming community in northeastern Scotland in 1824. He was a good student with a keen interest in the physical sciences. But soon after earning a Masters degree in both Chemistry and Physics, he underwent a spiritual transformation. He decided he would be a Christian preacher, and he gave that profession a fair try after his ordination in 1845. That didn’t last long, however. He was quickly removed from his ministry because of his mystical orientation and unorthodox views on salvation. His congregation did not want to hear him preaching that everyone, including heathens and unrepentant sinners, would be saved.
Although his sermons cost him his pulpit, nothing would change his vocation. He remained a preacher until his death in 1905, but as an author of sermons, essays, novels and short stories. He made a good living as an author, primarily by way of his twenty-nine realistic novels. Though popular in his era, they were creatively unremarkable and ladened with heavy doses of straight-forward moral messaging. Consequently, his realistic novels are now almost entirely forgotten.
But not so his imaginative fiction! It remains highly relevant and popular to this day. MacDonald has made a lasting impact as author-moralist in both long and short fantasies for adults, adolescents, and children, and is known as the grandfather of modern fantasy fiction. Many people, including noted fantasy writers C.S. Lewis and J.R.R Tolkien, believe that his fairy-tales are the best ever written. And remarkably, this holds true regardless of his intended audience. His gift for imaginative, symbolic fiction was so great that his tales generally transcend the ages of his readers. Whether written with adults, adolescents, or children in mind, most of his fairy-tales appeal to all.
MacDonald was the single greatest influence on C.S. Lewis (author of The Chronicles of Narnia), who wrote “I have never concealed the fact that I regarded him as my master; indeed, I fancy I have never written a book in which I did not quote from him.” In addition, albeit indirectly, MacDonald has also gifted all readers, young and old, by way of his children. Lewis Carroll, intimate family friend, had them read his manuscript of Alice in Wonderland, then decided to publish it when they told him how much they loved it. Thank you, children!