Unearthing the Hidden Sage: George MacDonald

a photo of George MacDonald

Let me introduce through the aging pages of literature, and poetic fantasy to one of the hidden sages of our time, George MacDonald (1824-1905). George was a Scottish native (HuntlyAberdeenshire, Scotland) and lived in England throughout his life.  “It was C. S. Lewis who wrote that he regarded MacDonald as his “master”: “Picking up a copy of Phantastes one day at a train-station bookstall, I began to read. A few hours later,” said Lewis, ‘I knew that I had crossed a great frontier.’ ” Here is a man who was a father,  who lived from the heart and spirit of God. This man’s works like Diary of an Old Soul, Phantasees, Sir Gibbie, and At the Back of the North Wind create a open door for readers to walk in through Christ to explore the treasures of the unseen world. He is considered the father of fantasy and his words will take you into the child likeness that sees into the heavenly realm. These aging writings connect us to the human condition with joy, and compassion, and inspire us to laugh, cry and smile from a depth of being that we have yet to experience.

Let’s pop the cork off these treasured writings and drink in wisdom, and the richness of a man who lived so deeply from source of Creator God.

Treasures from Sir Gibbie (Sir Gibbie is an 1879 novel. It is notable for its Doric dialogue, and shares the story of one remarkable young man who was born into rags but lived from the riches of life):

“Between the gables of two houses, a ray fell upon the pavement and the gutter. It lay there a very type of purity, so pure that, rest where it might, it destroyed every shadow of defilement that sought to mingle with it. […] The sunbeams he (Gibbie) sought came down through the smoky air like a Jacob’s ladder, and he stood at the foot of it like  a little prodigal angel that wanted to go home again, but feared it was too much inclined for him to manage the ascent in the present condition of his wings.”

“The floor was of flags, fresh sanded; the counter was of deal, scrubbed as white almost as flour; on the shelves where heaped the loaves of  the morning’s baking, along with a large store of scones and rolls and baps–the last, tje best  bread in the world–bisquits hard and soft, and those brown discs of delicate flaky pie-crust known as buns. And the smell that came through the very glass, it seemed to the child (Gibbie), was as that of the tree of life in the Paradise of which he had never heard.”

“There is at least one powerful bond, thought it may not always awake sympathy, between mudlark and monarch–that of hunger. No one has yet written the poetry of hunger–has built up in verse its stairs of grand ascent–from such hunger as Gibbie’s for a penny-loaf-up–no, no not to an alderman’s fest; that is the way down the mouldy cellar-stair-but up the white marble scale to the hunger after righteousness whose very longings are bliss.”

“The sun was hot for an hour or two in the middle of the day, but even then in the shadow dwelt a cold breathe–of the winter, or of death–of something that humanity felt unfriendly. To Gibbie, however, bare-legged, bare-footed, almost bare-bodied as he was, sun or shadow made small difference, except as one of the musical intervals of life that make the melody of existence…Hardy through hardship, he knew nothing better than a constant good-humored sparring with nature and circumstance for the privilege of being, enjoyed what came to him thoroughly, never mourned over what he had not, and, like the animals, was at peace. For the bliss of the animals lies in this, that, on their lower level, they shadow the bliss of those–few at any moment on the earth–who do not “look before and after, and pine for what is not,” but live in the holy carelessness of the eternal now.”

“Even the poet, greatly wise in virtue of his sympathy, will scarcely understand a given human condition so well as the man whose vital tentacles have been in contact with it for years.”


George MacdonaldHere are links to  free online readings of Sir Gibbie and Diary of an Old Soul and Phantasees although I recommend getting your hands on the old copies of these books, pure ecstasy holding them, reading them, and drinking them in! (Read more on George and his novel Sir Gibbie in the comment section below).

There will definately be more to come from this sage, and literary wonder!







4 thoughts on “Unearthing the Hidden Sage: George MacDonald

  1. Here’s bit from wikipedia:

    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 many authors, such as W. H. Auden, J. R. R. Tolkien, C. S. Lewis, E. Nesbit and Madeleine L’Engle.[1] … G. K. Chesterton cited The Princess and the Goblin as a book that had “made a difference to my whole existence.”

    Elizabeth Yates wrote of Sir Gibbie, “It moved me the way books did when, as a child, the great gates of literature began to open and first encounters with noble thoughts and utterances were unspeakably thrilling.”[2]

    MacDonald also served as a mentor to Lewis Carroll (the pen-name of Rev. Charles Lutwidge Dodgson); it was MacDonald’s advice, and the enthusiastic reception of Alice by MacDonald’s many sons and daughters, that convinced Carroll to submit Alice for publication.

    Even Mark Twain, who initially disliked MacDonald, became friends with him, and there is some evidence that Twain was influenced by MacDonald.[3]

  2. A bit on the novel Sir Gibbie: “Scottish author George MacDonald wrote Sir Gibbie in 1879, and though the novel is less well-known than his popular fantasy stories Lillith and Phantases, it is cited as his best work by many fans. MacDonald was an inspiration for writer of children’s fiction such as C.S. Lewis, J.R.R. Tolkein, Madeline L’Engle, Lewis Carroll, and even Mark Twain. Lovers of Narnia and Alice will appreciate the genuine characters and moral lessons of Sir Gibbie, a compelling story of an impoverished, mute boy in Scotland. Raised by an abusive and alcoholic father, Gibbie is a kind-hearted youngster handed a tough lot. He copes beautifully, though, with help from his friend Janet, and in the end performs an act of genuine forgiveness. Sir Gibbie will expose children (and parents) to the cruelty of the world while simultaneously presenting them with a role model of mercy and grace. This powerful book is considered by many a great literary triumph and a powerful example of a heroic character who is truly good.” Written by Abby Zwart CCEL Staff Writer.

  3. never have i come across an author who has such an ability to portray the most mundane tasks as entirely sacred and full of mysterious beauty. MacDonald has a way of leading the soul of a reader into i deep spiritual truth via the imaginative process that otherwise could never have been arrived at through the rational process or the platonic reasoning that seems to be the main platform of thought in our western world. Prepare to be refreshed and allow your imagination to be baptized by the spirit of God that has saturated his writings, you will soon find yourself in a a wonderland of worship as your perception of reality comes closer to that of the Father’s.

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