Happy Birthday, George MacDonald


The Rabbit Room welcomes its newest contributor.  Travis Prinzi’s first book Harry Potter & Imagination: the Way Between Two Worlds is soon to be published, and he’s the proprietor of his own popular blog The Hog’s Head. He’s a Christian who is a bit of a geek about fairy stories and J.K. Rowling, which is to say that he fits right in.  Welcome, Travis.

gmd.jpgGeorge MacDonald’s 184th birthday is this week (the 10th).  Author of many works of fantasy and theology – including The Princess and the Goblin, Phantastes, and Lilith – he was a foundational influence on Lewis, Tolkien, and L’Engle.  Along with his works fantastic fiction, he contributed an important essay on the genre, “The Fantastic Imagination.”

Here are a few excerpts which are well worth your careful consideration:

“You write as if a fairytale were a thing of importance: must it have meaning?”

It cannot help having some meaning; if it have proportion and harmony it has vitality, and vitality is truth. The beauty may be plainer in it than the truth, but without the truth the beauty could not be, and the fairytale would give no delight. Everyone, however, who feels the story, will read its meaning after his own nature and development: one man will read one meaning in it, another will read another.

“If so, how am I to assure myself that I am not reading my own meaning into it, but yours out of it?”

Why should you be so assured? It may be better that you should read your meaning into it. That may be a higher operation of your intellect than the mere reading of mine out of it: your meaning may be superior to mine.


A fairytale, like a butterfly or a bee, helps itself on all sides, sips every wholesome flower, and spoils not one. The true fairytale is, to my mind, very like the sonata. We all know that a sonata means something; and where there is the faculty of talking with suitable vagueness, and choosing metaphor sufficiently loose, mind may approach mind, in the interpretation of a sonata, with the result of a more or less contenting consciousness of sympathy. But if two or three men sat down to write each what the sonata meant to him, what approximation to definite idea would be the result? Little enough–and that little more than needful. We should find it had roused related, if not identical, feelings, but probably not one common thought. Has the sonata therefore failed? Had it undertaken to convey, or ought it to be expected to impart anything defined, anything notionally recognisable?

For the best internet resource on George MacDonald, see The Golden Key website.

See also Zossima Press’s George MacDonald materials. You can get his complete collected works on CD-ROM for $10.


  1. Lulalu

    Ohhhh yea! It’s George MacDonald’s birthday. Or, it was yesterday. I’m going to have cake and celebrate. Thanks for writing about it.

  2. kelli

    Happy Birthday, to a dear, dear mentor!

    Thanks, Travis, for bringing this to our attention and for sharing some thoughts on fairytales!

    I look forward to reading more from you!

  3. Leanne

    I must have realized at some point that my oldest daughter shares a birthday with George MacDonald (since I am a big MacDonald fan) but it slipped my mind sometime along the way. I think they call that phenomenon “momnesia.” 🙂

    I just read a little poem about King Cole by MacDonald in a Christmas Story Collection, and it was simple but with a sweet message of loving the poor. Good stuff!

    Fun to see you here, Travis!

  4. Mike

    One of my favorite quotes by mcdonald

    “Nothing is inexorable but love. For Love loves unto purity. Love has ever in view the absolute loveliness of that which it beholds. Therefore all that is not beautiful in the beloved, all that comes between and is not of love’s kind must be destroyed. And ‘our God is a consuming fire.’ It is the nature of God so terribly pure that it destroys all that is not pure as fire. He will have purity. It is not that the fire will burn us until we worship thus, if we do not worship God, but that the fire will burn us until we worship thus, but as the highest consciousness of life, the presence of God. In the outer darkness, where the worst sinners dwell, God hath withdrawn himself, but not lost his hold. His face is turned away, but his hand is laid upon him still. His heart has ceased to beat into the man’s heart, but he keeps him alive by his fire. And that fire will go searching and burning on in him, as in the highest saint who is not yet pure as he is pure. But at length, O God, wilt thou not cast death and hell into the lake of fire even into thine own consuming self? Death shall then die everlastingly, and hell itself will pass away, and leave her dolorous mansions to the peering day. Then indeed will thou be all in all. For then our poor brothers and sisters, every one,-O God, we trust in thee, the consuming fire, shall have been burnt clean and brought home.”

    George McDonald

  5. Mark Nikirk

    Congratulations on the book, and on you new place at the Rabbit room. Looking forward to hearing more about myth and the like.

  6. Roger Wagner

    A Prayer
    by George MacDonald

    When I look back upon my life nigh spent,
    Nigh spent, although the stream as yet flows on,
    I more of follies than of sins repent,
    Less for offence than Love’s shortcomings moan.
    With self, O Father, leave me not alone—
    Leave not with the beguiler the beguiled;
    Besmirched and ragged, Lord, take back thine own:
    A fool I bring thee to be made a child.

    From The Poetical Works of George MacDonald,1893

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