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The Golden Key

4.08 of 5 stars 4.08  ·  rating details  ·  1,304 ratings  ·  106 reviews
The adventurous wanderings of a boy and girl to find the keyhole which fits the rainbow's golden key.
Paperback, 96 pages
Published December 1st 1984 by Farrar, Straus and Giroux (BYR) (first published 1867)
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(showing 1-30 of 2,313)
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Brian James
Having long been a devoted obsessive to children's literature, and having a particular fondness for its origins in post-Romantic era England, I have to say it's a little embarrassing to have not read George MacDonald before now.

The Golden Key is the kind of spooky, symbolic fairy tale that served as the foundations of literature written for children. It follows a young boy who finds a key from fairy land, but does not know what the key opens. There begins a journey which he undertakes with a gi
Jun 17, 2007 Heather rated it 5 of 5 stars
Recommends it for: anyone who wants to be young again...
Shelves: dear-to-my-heart
this book is one of the three things that i lent to my (now) boyfriend, before we hardly knew eachother, which he says caused him to fall in love with me... this is one of those books that, if i even glance at it sitting quietly on my bookshelf, i can feel the magic that it contains inside. a beautiful, wondrous tale that will be just as potent until the end of time.
David Gregg
Bewilderingly creative--almost to the point of being, as one reviewer put it: "stream of consciousness."

I'm giving it three stars, not in comparison to other authors' works, but in comparison to MacDonald's. I've enjoyed other of his works more, such as "The Princess and the Goblin," "The Day Boy and the Night Girl," and "Gray Wolf." I enjoyed it, but not so much that I would give it a four.

**UPDATE**: I read it again. My appreciation of "The Golden Key" has risen, and so has my rating: to four.
Althea Ann
I don’t remember if I’d read this before or not. If I did, it was when I was a child. I read ‘The Princess and the Goblin’ and ‘The Light Princess’ dozens of times, and loved them. I know I also read ‘At the Back of the North Wind’ and didn’t care for it as much. I’m not at all sure I would’ve loved this when I was little, but I loved it now. It does feature the same Grandmother/Lady seen in ‘The Princess and the Goblin,’ with her magical baths. She has got to be one of my favorite characters in ...more
Mailee Pyper
This book was interesting and sweet at moments, but so strange. I really wasn't sure what was going on, or what the point was of what did occur. It ended and I thought..."is that really it?"
I did not get it.
Aug 30, 2012 Bryan rated it 2 of 5 stars
Recommends it for: Only those who like to understand the mind of G. MacDonald, and those who like poetic imagery
The book tells the account of a little boy and girl who find a golden key in fairy land and follow a trail to the door the key unlocks.

I did like one particular quote immensely. The dialogue is spoken to the little girl who at this time in the story is lost and has come far down in a cave and there she meets 'The Old Man of the Earth.'

“Then the Old Man of the Earth stooped over the floor of the cave, raised a huge stone from it, and left it leaning. It disclosed a great hole that went plumb-dow
A boy finds a golden key at the base of a rainbow in Fairyland; a girl flees home to join him on a journey in search of the key's lock. A dreamlike, numinous fairytale, The Golden Key is delicate, brief, and bold. It reminds me best of Neil Gaiman's remarkable poem "Instructions," despite the gap of years and style that separate the two works: both are boldy fantastic, freeform to the point of forgoing plot but never direction, short but evocative. It reminds me also of Catherynne M. Valente's T ...more
One of the truly great aspects to having kids is the surprising return to childhood authors long forgotten. Three exciting rediscoveries for me have been Ruth Krauss, Randall Jarrell and of course the chimerical George Macdonald. Macdonald while seldom still talked about, is an obvious precursor to the likes of Alice in Wonderland, Peter and Wendy, and Lord of the Rings.
The Golden Key is something I simply adored as a kid. While I'm quite certain much of the overall abstraction was completely
Amber the Human
I read this because Sendak illustrated it. And it was alright ... but mostly just really confusing. There's a quality to it ... almost like L'Engle. But without the point. The children just kind of go through the story ... and there are no hardships ... just strange talking fish.
This book has more metaphor and symbolism that Dylan's first four albums. I understood what many of the allusions were in this story, but can someone tell me what the hell this book is all about? This is the first of McDonald's "children's" books that I've read and I found myself wincing at parts (I won't go into detail right now about which ones) that I thought were too stilted, underdeveloped or just weird. I know "The Golden Key" is supposed to be McDonald's best (or nearly his best) "childre ...more
Krisette Spangler
I know I'm in the minority, but I really don't enjoy George MacDonald's fairy tales, except of course, The Princess and the Goblin and The Light Princess. All of the other tales I've read, the characters just plod along through an uninteresting adventure. I realize people often find great meaning and hidden symbols in these adventures, but I find them tedious.

A charming little fairy tale! Mossy and Tangle enjoy such an adventurous romp together (and aren't their names the sweetest?). Overall, it is a good bit of Christian fantasy.
J. Aleksandr Wootton
I recently read this on Tolkien's recommendation ("On Fairy Stories"), but had read enough of MacDonald previously not to have extremely high expectations of the story itself.

Don't read MacDonald for his stories, or his writing style. Read him for the curiosity of his images and the well-phrased philosophic observations he sprinkles his stories with.
Dec 15, 2007 Sarah rated it 5 of 5 stars
Shelves: love
finally read this to my kids. They loved it, just as I did, which makes me very happy. The language is archaic, but beautiful, and the story is classic G.M. fairytale... you think you understand the allegory, but sometimes feel uncertain if things are put in for meaning or for the thrill of the fantastical.
Just finished it again and am starting to read it to the twins. There is much in terms of rich imagery and provocative symbols, but nothing is quite so moving for me as their experience in the midst of the shadows.

“About the middle of the plain they sat down to rest in the heart of a heap of shadows. After sitting for a while, each, looking up, saw the other in tears: they were each longing after the country whence the shadows fell.

“We must find the country from which the shadows come,” said Mos
Just picking up this book again brought so many memories rushing forth. This story was my introduction to George MacDonald when I was in graduate school. A good friend of mine told me I needed to read it; and, in fact, he set me down and read it to me. I highly recommend hearing such a wondrous story from a good storyteller. I was captivated. And I was led on a journey that would climax with my masters thesis on the fairy tales of George MacDonald as illustrated by Arthur Hughes. A delightful co ...more
"About the middle of the plain they sat down to rest in the heart of a heap of shadows. After sitting for a while, each, looking up, saw the other in tears: they were each longing after the country whence the shadows fell.
“We MUST find the country from which the shadows come,” said Mossy.
“We must, dear Mossy,” responded Tangle. “What if your golden key should be the key to it?”
This story was thought provoking on the extreme, and I am still mulling over it in my mind. I is very symbolic and I feel in this reading I just barely scratched the surface of what MacDonald has to teach hear. It is not and easy story by any means and has many elements I appreciate only because of my experience with non-linear film. If you are looking for an easy story to just hop through then the Light Princess is a better choice from MacDonald's work, or if you're looking for a good solid sto ...more
Karen Johnson
Interesting little book. It's allegorical, but I guess I'm not deep enough to get the life journey message. The four stars is because of the beautiful writing and imagery, and because it was so different from other books I've read.
Brit West
The Golden Key is the story of a young boy, Mossy, who, after hearing a story from his grandmother, is in search of a golden key at the end of a rainbow. He later finds the daughter of a merchant a girl who is known as Tangle because of her tangled hair. The two go on an enchanting and adventurous journey in search of the keyhole which fits the rainbow's golden key.

George MacDonald is a brilliant artist, and the proof is in the writing. This story emphasized the importance of endurance, and lov
I admit it, I picked this book up mostly because it was illustrated by Maurice Sendak. (The cover illustration reminded me of his work in "Higglety Pigglety Pop".) The story here wanders around for about eighty pages, giving a tidbit of something strange and lovely every once in a while: the floating owl-headed fish in the Grandmother's cabin, the lake of shadows. The two children search for the lock to fit the Golden Key (and they age while they walk without realizing it, something that reminde ...more
A charming little story of two children's journey to . . . do something? Really full of quite lovely imagery and fanciful characters, but overall it was another one of those stories where the characters don't do things so much as have things done to them. Still, I'd read it again for the images in my mind.

Because lordy lord, the images by Sendak were uninspiring. MacDonald writes something like, "And he looked at the MOST AMAZING THING EVER which I will presently describe in GREAT DETAIL." What'
Frans Karlsson
A story about a boy that finds the key at the beginning of the rainbow and how he and a girl journey through life to find where it leads. Interesting.
Jill Markiewicz
Enticing story of an allegorical journey of refinement. My only wish is that it would have been longer to spend more time watching characters develope.
Writing: 4
Plot: 3
Characters: 1
Imagination: 4
Themes: 2
Enjoyment: 4

Overall: 3

Suitable for children and adults who enjoy true fairytales.
Jim Jones
George MacDonald was a Victorian fantasy writer who holds up pretty darn well in the post-modern era. His books are like fever dreams into which you can read all kinds of sexual & religious symbols, or Jungian archetypes. He heavily influenced writers like C.S. Lewis and Angela Carter. This is the story of a boy and girl who disappear into an alternative world where they go through various trials as they age and eventually arrive in the land of shadows--a metaphor for heaven? MacDonald was d ...more
Chloe Adeline
Beautiful and filled with evocative images and ideas, to be sure. Yet, it felt discontinuous and almost generic—a kaleidoscopic look at an encyclopedia of fairy tales.

Some might call this symbolic, allegorical, whatever. I tend to reject reading things as such unless they explicitly lead the reader to it. I think that something this hodgepodgey can only be such as a mirror for what the reader brings to it. What is solid in the book was not as interesting to me as I would have liked.

As one of my
The imagery in this book was astounding- it was hard not to draw parallels- it was the epitome of fairy tales.
Sarah Christiansen
I am not religious but i still think its a wonderful sweet story
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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 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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“Then the Old Man of the Earth stooped over the floor of the cave, raised a huge stone from it, and left it leaning. It disclosed a great hole that went plumb-down.
"That is the way," he said.
"But there are no stairs."
"You must throw yourself in. There is no other way.”
“You have tasted of death now,” said the old man. “Is it good?”
“It is good,” said Mossy. “It is better than life.”
“No,” said the old man: “it is only more life.”
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