Study Guide

At the Back of the North Wind

by George MacDonald

At the Back of the North Wind Analysis

The Plot (Critical Survey of Science Fiction and Fantasy)

At the Back of the North Wind was first published in installments, with the first appearing in November, 1868, and others from November, 1869, to October, 1870. This work, George MacDonald’s first full-length children’s story, has been reasonably popular.

The story begins with a little boy named Diamond who is growing up in poverty. He is the son of a gracious coachman named Joseph, who is married to a kindly woman named Martha. Joseph works for the Colemans, who are kind enough in manners but not very generous in paying their employees, who live meagerly in the weatherbeaten room above the coach house. Mr. Coleman’s speculation in questionable business matters eventually leads to his ruin and descent into near poverty. This state of hardship improves Mr. Coleman’s character but makes life even more difficult for Diamond and his family.

Diamond’s family goes through many trials as he is befriended by the North Wind and goes on adventures with her. She first meets him while he is sleeping in his bed in the hayloft. She coaxes him to join her for flights into the night. Diamond is often uncertain whether he has actually been outside during the night or has only been dreaming. On these trips with the North Wind, he meets a little girl named Nanny whom he befriends and later helps.

Diamond learns that the North Wind destroys ships and chimneys as well as rescuing people. He is troubled by her seeming dual nature but...

(The entire section is 526 words.)