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The Complete Fairy Tales

4.32 of 5 stars 4.32  ·  rating details  ·  463 ratings  ·  41 reviews
George MacDonald occupied a major position in the intellectual life of his Victorian contemporaries.The Complete Fairy Talesbrings together all eleven of his shorter fairy stories as well as his essay "The Fantastic Imagination." The subjects are those of traditional fantasy: fairies good and wicked, and children journeying into unsettling dreamworlds or undertaking life-r...more
Paperback, 354 pages
Published September 1st 1999 by Penguin Classics (first published 1882)
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Community Reviews

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Emily
"How far am I from home?"
"The farther you go, the nearer home you are." (from Cross Purposes)

This was my first experience of George MacDonald's fiction (I was drawn to his writing from some of the profound quotes I'd read of his in other works) and one thing I'll say, it is totally original. His fairy tales were not like Grimm, his allegory was different than Carroll's, and his tone was forever changing from whimsy to irony to tenderness. The imagery was wonderful.

Perhaps most striking of all wa...more
Stefan Yates
Possibly the language and era in which the tales in this book was written effected my enjoyment of this book. There were some tales in it that I did like, for example, The History of Photogen and Nycteris was quite good actually. Overall however, I found most of the tales to be preachy and in effect little more than sermons dressed up as fairy tales. This makes sense since the author, George MacDonald, was a Christian minister, but understanding in this case did not increase my enjoyment.

On a p...more
D.J. Edwardson
Oct 23, 2007 D.J. Edwardson rated it 5 of 5 stars
Recommends it for: Anyone
I give this book 5 stars really on the strength of three of its stories- The Light Princess, The History of Phtogen and Nycteris, and my favorite of all, The Wise Woman or the Lost Princess. Not that the other stories are bad, but to me these three rise above the rest. The Light Princess has a great deal of Christian imagery and symbolism, but it is superficially like most fairy tales, especially Sleeping Beauty. The end is really quite moving. Photogen and Nycteris feels a bit more like classic...more
Mindy
These are basically fairy tales for adults. I am loving George MacDonald's style in many of these tales, and his inserted thoughts. He has an old-fashioned, simple, melodic way of writing, and he has that grandfatherly way of inserting little life lessons as if he were telling a story to a young grandchild on his knee.

Usually his writing is easy to understand, though some stories (like The Shadows) are more difficult to follow.

The stories have fairly simple meanings underneath, as well.

Some po...more
Stacie Kelly-Sapper
These are not Disney-like stories. They're subtle and definitely a product of their time (late 1800's.) MacDonald's fairy tales are made up of lovely images, humor, and somewhat meandering story-lines.

I'm sure not everyone would enjoy reading MacDonald's fairy tales. But for fans of Tolkien - and C.S. Lewis especially - it's interesting to read and see influences MacDonald's writing had on their work.

According to the forward of this book, C.S. Lewis called George MacDonald a master in the art...more
Surreysmum
[These notes were made in 1986:] What I like about MacDonald's fairy stories (as opposed to, say, Lewis' Narnia chronicles) is that they are not so openly allegorical nor so openly addressed to children. What I like about them - as opposed to, say, Tolien's Ring trilogy - is that the imaginative vision is not so closely linked in with a particular mythology, and thus does not lose its charm as one grows older and wiser in these things. The first of these stories, "The Light Princess," is indubit...more
An-chan
Being a collection of stories, this is one of those books you'll probably partially like and partially not like so much. For me, personally, there were three stories I didn't really enjoy, those being "Cross Purposes" and "The Giant's Heart", both of which seemed sort of incoherent and stretched out, and "The Wise Woman", which was too preachy and a little too dubious for my taste. The rest of the stories I loved. I can especially recommend "The History of Photogen and Nycteris" (the story was a...more
Matthew
I find myself disagreeing with the English professor who writes the introduction and notes to this collection -- that the first half of shorter tales are more experimental and less stilted. I guess I can see why he would say that, but I enjoyed the latter, and longer, tales, more. Another review has already commented on the moral quality and mythic feel of these longer stories (The Carasoyn; The Wise Woman, or the Lost Princess; The History of Photogen and Nycteris); perhaps a useful analogy is...more
Lucas
A very enjoyable collection of MacDonald's shorter works. Publishing them in chronological order allows you to see the progression of his work throughout his life. Be sure to read his essay at the beginning entitled The Fantastic Imagination. It is extremely helpful to understand his views and ideas about fantasy stories. It helps you to grasp some of the deeper meanings, while also giving you permission to just enjoy the stories for what they are. Any fan of fantasy (especially C.S. Lewis and...more
Molly G
Read:
"The Day Boy and the Night Girl"
"The Light Princess"
"The Giant's Heart"

Pausing midway through "The Shadows"; plan to finish after reading something of a different flavor for a while!

"Day Boy and Night Girl" is an absolute masterpiece. Even in the middle of "Light Princess", a more frivolous story, moments of incredible poetry and insight. Throughout all of them, snippets of ideas and syntax I've seen in other places—obviously directly lifted from and/or influenced by MacDonald, but he seems...more
Jessica Brown
I read these over and over, even the introduction is fabulous.
Erin
Jun 18, 2008 Erin rated it 5 of 5 stars
Recommends it for: anyone who likes fairy tales or Princess stories
I love George MacDonald's fairy tales. They are like a mirror to the individual and society. He reminds us of the beauty of kindness, self-sacrifice and doing one's duty. I can't wait to read them to my kids. I want to buy his collection of fantasy stories now, too! I especially love The Princess stories. They are not your typical Disney Princesses. They are in distress, to be sure, but the heroes are genuine and selfless. I can't stop thinking about them and have to stop myself from blurting ou...more
Polomeria
read to page 183
Shannon Cooley
What a great collection. Most of these stories are long enough that you could use one for a bedtime story several nights in a row, but if you're sitting down to read them yourself, they won't take too long. As always with MacDonald, I enjoyed the depth, even of his lighter stories (such as "The Light Princess," which was a lot of fun). I really liked "Photogen and Nycteris"; I had read it somewhere before, probably in another fairy tale collection, but I didn't remember it very well. All of them...more
Sonatajessica
Wonderful and mysterious work of fairy tales, full of fairies, princesses and witches, wickedness, journeys and triumphs. In the best moments, theses tales were honoring and mocking their big brothers Grimm at the same time.
My top 3 are "The Light Princess", "Little Daylight" and "The History of Photogen and Nycteris: A Day and Night Mährchen". A lovely introduction (The Fantastic Imagination) rounds this collection to perfection. And what an awesome book cover (my edition has an illustration b...more
Hanson Rosenquist
I was very interested in this author because he was C.S. Lewis' biggest influence and also a favorite of J.R.R. Tolkien. I started out by impulse buying everything I could find by him on Amazon and have only finished this collection thus far. I could easily see a lot of Lewis' style in these stories, but was not nearly as captivated as I was by the Space Trilogy or the, "others." Still, after a slow take-off I was really engrossed towards the end and plan on reading the rest later on.
Diane Marie
i was inspired to read macdonald's fairy tales when i discovered that novalis was a great influence on his writings...
most of the stories in here are wondrous tellings, all are rather dream-like.
i think my two most favourites, off the top of my head, were 'the golden key' and 'the history of photogen and nycteris: a day and night märchen'.
the only tale i found to be a little on the boring side was 'the wise woman, or the lost princess: a double story'.
for the most part, all were much enjoyable.....more
Melinda Jane Harrison
What can I say? Some writers are eternal and George MacDonald is one of them. I love him. I do. And his collection of fairy stories are so wonderful. I read this once again, for The Light Princess, which has themes and motifs that I love. What brilliant fiction. What a brilliant, thoughtful man George MacDonald was. I wish I had a time machine and I could go back and spend an afternoon with him. What a wonder!!!!!!!! Of all the things I have read in the last month, this has been my favorite.
Sharon
Some of these short stories have deep messages about life and death, and some are simply charming and entertaining. But all of them are beautifully written, and some of the images described will definitely stay with me. I especially like "The Golden Key."
Laura
These were some very curious tales. The more I read of MacDonald the more he puzzles me. I saw some glimpses of "The Princess and the Goblin" in here, but he tends to lose me in the longer descriptive passages. I think I'd come back to these again in a few years, to see if I feel differently. I did really enjoy the last one in the collection, "The Day Boy and the Night Girl."
Mikel
As one of the earliest writers in the fantasy genre and a sited influence of JRR Tolkien's I had to read some of his work. Full of songs and poems interweaved through out the tales this book is the heart and soul of traditional English fairytales. It was a great read to start the summer off.
Joe Dantona
This list of fairy tales is 'worth its weight in gold.' Read them, but slowly, and never all at once. They will, if you allow them, change your heart. You will find in the end that the sun and moon and stars are nothing of which you should be afraid, even if the sun burns or the night terrifies.
Lynette
It was fantastic to read the works that inspired Tolkien and Lewis. I look forward to when my nieces and nephews are old enough to read these. The language is very advanced - this is definitely more Brothers Grimm than Mother Goose (although, not as bloody as Grimm).
Rebekah
This is an excellent collection of fairy tales, I enjoyed MacDonalds writing a lot. You can really see how much of an influence his style had on CS Lewis. My favorite stories were The Wise Woman and The History of Photogen and Nycteris.
Peregrin
This book is a must-read! I first got interested in George MacDonald because C. S. Lewis spoke so highly of him; and now I see why! I've read several of his books already, and this was another that I added to my List of Really Good Books!
Bridgett
I liked his fairy tales. Previously I'd only been familiar with "The Princess and the Goblins." I don't think I had a favorite story, but I liked his vivid descriptions. The worlds described were beautiful and fantastical.
David Farel
Feb 05, 2012 David Farel rated it 3 of 5 stars
Recommended to David by: C.S. Lewis
Yes, fairy tales. Very good ones too. Some I liked, some I loved. If I rated by individual story, some would get higher ratings--"The Shadows", "The Golden Key", and "The Day Boy and the Night Girl"
Ellen
Excellent collection of fairy tales by the inimitable MacDonald. A really enjoyable read for those of us who love the old fantasy tradition. Highly recommended!
Julie
These short stories are amazing. I love the way that George MacDonald describes things, it's super magical... If you like faerie stories, give these a read.
Elizabeth
read this a long time ago and I still like to read it occasionally. They are much more creative than traditional fairy tales and therefore less boring.
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George MacDonald 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, and Madeleine L'Engle. It was C.S. Lewis that wrote that he regarded MacDonald as his "master": "Picking up a copy of Phantastes one day at a train-station bookstall, I be...more
More about George MacDonald...
The Princess and the Goblin The Princess and Curdie Phantastes At the Back of the North Wind The Light Princess

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“But a man may then imagine in your work what he pleases, what you never meant!"

Not what he pleases, but what he can.”
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