Goodreads helps you keep track of books you want to read.
Start by marking “The Golden Key and Other Stories” as Want to Read:
The Golden Key and Other Stories
Enlarge cover
Rate this book
Clear rating
Open Preview

The Golden Key and Other Stories

4.1  ·  Rating Details ·  1,781 Ratings  ·  141 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)
More Details... edit details

Friend Reviews

To see what your friends thought of this book, please sign up.

Community Reviews

(showing 1-30)
filter  |  sort: default (?)  |  Rating Details
Jun 17, 2007 Heather rated it it was amazing
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.
Brian James
Nov 20, 2012 Brian James rated it really liked it
Shelves: ru
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
Seth Holler
Nov 03, 2016 Seth Holler rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Read only the title story for the older kids' bedtime. It held their attention for forty straight pages. Wonderful images and symbols, a strange and attractive plot, and a deeply Christian ethic and myth below the surface. Will read more.
Nov 16, 2009 Rebecca rated it it was amazing
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
David Gregg
Dec 29, 2008 David Gregg rated it really liked it
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.
Deborah O'Carroll
The Golden Key. What can I say. I CAN’T EVEN DESCRIBE THIS STORY. But it's AH-MAY-ZING. It’s a fantasy story, quite short actually, and… I don’t even know. I just know I loved it and felt like it was probably really deep and meaningful but I couldn’t… quite… REACH it if you know what I mean. I love books that are like that. Deep with things running under the surface that make it even more interesting. Anyways it’s like this fairytale thing and I adored it and need to read it again. <3
Dec 15, 2007 Sarah rated it it was amazing
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.
Mailee Pyper
Apr 14, 2014 Mailee Pyper rated it it was ok
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?"
Oct 29, 2010 Aaron rated it did not like it
I did not get it.
The fantasy stories of George MacDonald (1824-1905) served as a source of inspiration to Lewis Carroll, J.R.R. Tolkien, C.S. Lewis, and Madeleine l'Engle. Lewis said that MacDonald did allegorical/mythopoeic fantasy 'better than any man', and that quote alone was enough to arouse my interest. I'm glad it did, because I would have missed out on something good if I had not discovered MacDonald. While I'm not sure I'd call him the greatest fantasy author ever, he definitely was a master of allegory ...more
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
Aug 28, 2011 Bryan rated it it was ok
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
Jan 14, 2010 Brett rated it really liked it
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
Aug 03, 2008 Jeremiah rated it liked it
Shelves: fantasy
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
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.
Krisette Spangler
Aug 19, 2010 Krisette Spangler rated it it was ok
Shelves: fairy-tales
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.

Amber the Human
Sep 27, 2014 Amber the Human rated it it was ok
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.
Jill Markiewicz
May 22, 2014 Jill Markiewicz rated it really liked it
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.
Apr 10, 2013 Christen rated it really liked it
Shelves: classics
Lots of symbolism for me to work through
Sep 11, 2014 Tarissa rated it really liked it
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.
Nov 14, 2016 Jenny rated it it was amazing
This is a very imaginative tale, and I love its ability to envelope you and allow you to be lost in it. MacDonald is wonderful.
Anne Snyder
George MacDonald can write some heart-touching fairy tales.
Cheryl Gatling
My version of "The Golden Key and Other Stories," a yellowed paperback from the seventies, contained these four stories: "The Golden Key," "The Light Princess," "Little Daylight," and "The Day Boy and the Night Girl," (which is the story of Photogen and Nycteris under a different name). This is some different from the version everyone else is reading, illustrated by Maurice Sendak.

Of these four stories, I enjoyed "The Light Princess," and "Little Daylight" the best, as they were the most traditi
Eleanor Toland
The Golden Key collects four short stories about shadows, light and darkness, and the meaning of suffering. The first three stories, "The Golden Key", "The History of Photogen and Nycteris" and "The Shadows" are all clearly inspired by Plato's idea of this world as a mere shadow of a more solid, beautiful,
ideal world - an idea later popularised in the fiction of C.S. Lewis, who called George MacDonald his master.

These fantasies are very, very Christian, which may alienate some readers. Another
Feb 05, 2016 Michael rated it it was amazing
A beautiful short story about death and the longing for life, a common theme in the author's corpus, but nowhere expressed in a more captivating way; this may indeed be MacDonald's best short story. It is filled with a deep and piercing longing that cannot be sated on this earth or even in the wondrous realm of Fairyland. "You must jump in. There is no other way," says a character, hinting at the real nature of the story. "You have tasted of death," says another. "Is it good?" "Yes," he is answe ...more
Apr 09, 2008 Shauna rated it really liked it
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
Brit West
Nov 26, 2011 Brit West rated it really liked it
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
Chloe Adeline
Dec 21, 2011 Chloe Adeline rated it liked it
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
« previous 1 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 next »
There are no discussion topics on this book yet. Be the first to start one »
  • All Hallows' Eve
  • The Wood Beyond the World
  • The Yellow Fairy Book
  • Freddy the Detective
  • The Song
  • Shadow Castle
  • The Red Fairy Book
  • Kate Greenaway's Mother Goose
  • Smith of Wootton Major
  • The Secret of Father Brown (Father Brown, #4)
  • Higglety Pigglety Pop!: Or There Must Be More to Life
  • The Griffin and the Minor Canon
  • The Whisper of Glocken (The Minnipins, #2)
  • Black and Blue Magic
  • The Magic City
  • The Iron Sceptre (Archives of Anthropos #4)
  • The Juniper Tree and Other Tales from Grimm
  • The Wonder Clock or, Four and Twenty Marvelous Tales
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 G.K. Chesterton, W. H. Auden, J.R.R. Tolkien, C. S. Lewis, and Madeleine L'Engle. Lewis that wrote that he regarded MacDonald as his "master": "Picking up a copy of Phantastes one day at a train-station bookstall, I
More about George MacDonald...

Share This Book

“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.”
More quotes…