Today I take a flight to Aberdeen and will have dinner with a theolgy student named Liam. I will also be staying at the student accomodation of the Uni of Aberdeen, where one of my heros George MacDonald attended school last century. George studied theology here and then moved south to England where he was a Congregational minister in Arundel for a few years and then wrote some superb fantasy and fairy tales, inspired by the German Novalis and other Romantic writers. Lewis Carroll (not his real name) was a contemporary and friend, and gave a copy of Alice in Wonderland to GeorgeMacDonald to see if it was worth publishing.
George MacDonald has been called the father of modern fantasy. His writing marks a turning point from straight up fiction a’la Pilgrims Progress (Bunyan) to a complex world of superimposition, compositon, and narrative layering that is now the basis for many movies, fantasy genres, and computer games. He was a huge influence on Tolkein (you can spot MacDonald themes in LOTR) and on W.H. Auden, Madaleine L’Engle, and of course, CS Lewis, who wrote an autobiography of MacDonald and called him his “Mentor”. George MacDonald died, if i remember correctly, in 1905. Perhaps we should do something special this year for the 100th anniversary of his death.
Many of MacDonald’s books (52?) are available as free downloads from Johannesen.org – The Johannesen family are actually friends of ours from the Redwoods in California. Best bets for reading George MacDonald? I feel strongly that Lilith is by far his greatest book and it is a crime that no one has made a movie out of it yet. You really have to read it. “Phantastes” is also great, although, like most of his books, far more ‘preachy’ and less subtle than CS Lewis. As well as his two fantasy books, MacDonald wrote fairy tales -My favourite is “At the Back of the North Wind”.The theme is similar to “The Wise Woman” in which he uses superb imagery of the Holy Spirit as a woman – sometimes cranky, sometimes nice, easily greived, full of wisdom. “The Portent” has shades of Harry Potter and is worth reading. Hope you have fun with those downloads – i have bought a few of the MacDonald books from Johannesens – they are printed exactly the same way as the originals – very cool.
Tomorrow i am off to London and then Frankfurt for a conference with the 4-Square Mission. Talk to you later.