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The Golden Key and Other Stories
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The Golden Key and Other Stories

4.09  ·  Rating Details ·  1,734 Ratings  ·  135 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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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
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
Mar 10, 2009 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?"
Nov 08, 2010 Aaron rated it did not like it
I did not get it.
Aug 30, 2012 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
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
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
Jan 10, 2013 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
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.
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
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
Krisette Spangler
Jun 05, 2013 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.

Sep 14, 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.
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.
Jill Markiewicz
May 25, 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.
Nov 24, 2015 David rated it liked it
Shelves: fiction
The Golden Key was kind of a weird short story. A young boy hears the story of the golden key and sets out to find it. Of course he enters a forest, Fairyland (Faerie), where all sorts of odd things are liable to happen. He meets up with a companion and they travel for what is years (or just seems like years?) to find a keyhole. It is fascinating to read MacDonald's work and see the same themes over and over - forests, journeys, Fairyland.

For the record, I am not sure what the "Other Stories" a
Mar 14, 2016 Christen rated it really liked it
Shelves: classics
Lots of symbolism for me to work through
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
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
Craig Riggall
I read five of the short stories in the four-volume set of stories. Three of them were difficult to understand and made for rather dull reading: The Golden Key, The Grey Wolf, and The Shadows. Two of them, on the other hand, were great fun: The Cruel Painter and The Giant's Heart. I wish I were able to know which of the others are worth my time (without having to read them in order to discover this).
Apr 20, 2015 Heila rated it it was amazing
Shelves: fiction, juvenile-mg
Well this was interesting ... and weird ... and good. I guess it's a fairytale and you just have to immerse yourself in it. Which wasn't hard to do. I was very compelled by and sucked right into it. I still don't know what it all meant. But then again, I kind of do - at a gut level. Maurice Sendak's illustrations are pretty amazing too.
Jun 14, 2015 F.j.commelin rated it it was amazing
Shelves: children-s-books
i must have read it when being in elementary school.
never discovering again what the writer was and how the strory was called later, i still have the memory of the atmosphere he created and the magical illustrations that were with it.
Karen Johnson
Aug 04, 2014 Karen Johnson rated it really liked it
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.
Debi Marheine
Mar 04, 2015 Debi Marheine rated it really liked it
I have always wanted to read George MacDonald because of his influence on C. S. Lewis.

This is a lovely fairy tale with a lot of symbolism. I am finding MacDonald's books and short stories to be very thought-provoking and I love his style of writing.
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
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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 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
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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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