At the Back of the North Wind Critical Essays

George MacDonald


(Critical Survey of Science Fiction and Fantasy)

Like many of MacDonald’s fantasy works, At the Back of the North Wind evolves organically, with many loose ends and an unexplained conclusion. As his first full-length story specifically written for children, this work embodies many small messages for the young, much like his earlier work Phantastes (1858), supposedly written for adults. If a distinction between his writings for children and those for adults is difficult to draw, this is so because, as MacDonald declared, he did “not write for children, but for the childlike, whether of five, or fifty, or seventy-five.”

Two of MacDonald’s later fantasy works for children, The Princess and the Goblin (1871) and The Princess and Curdie (1882), also proved to be popular for a time. MacDonald’s fantasy work bears some resemblance to Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland (1865) by Lewis Carroll (C. L. Dodgson), an author with whom MacDonald often corresponded.

Throughout At the Back of the North Wind, MacDonald introduces themes such as the value of kindness, cheerfulness in spite of poverty, and helping one’s parents. The North Wind introduces the little boy Diamond to the harsh realities of life and leads him to understand that a positive attitude and selfless pattern of living will help everyone to endure the hardships of life more easily. Although they are not mentioned directly, much of this book emphasizes Christian values and...

(The entire section is 460 words.)