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Cross Purposes and The Shadows

George MacDonald

Book Overview: 

“Old Ralph Rinkelmann made his living by comic sketches, and all but lost it again by tragic poems. So he was just the man to be chosen king of the fairies…”

George MacDonald was a Scottish author, poet, and Christian minister. Though no longer well known, his works (particularly his fairy tales and fantasy novels) have inspired admiration in such notables as W. H. Auden, J. R. R. Tolkien, and Madeleine L’Engle. The Shadows is one such fairy tale. The strange Shadows spend their existence casting themselves upon the walls and forming pictures of various sorts: mimicking evil actions of those who have done wrong in the hopes of causing their repentance, playing a comic dumb-show to inspire a playwright and dancing to inspire a musician, nudging a little girl to comfort her grandfather, and playing with a sick little boy as he waits for his mother to return home. For all that their forms are black, their hearts are of the whitest.

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Book Excerpt: 
. . .y can do nothing with mortals against their will. So she floated away across the water in Richard's boat, holding her robe for a sail, and vanished, leaving the two alone in the lake.

"You have driven away my fairy!" cried Alice. "I shall never get home now. It is all your fault, you naughty young man."

"I drove away the goblin," remonstrated Richard.

"Will you please to sit on the other side of the tree? I wonder what my papa would say if he saw me talking to you!"

"Will you come to the next tree, Alice?" said Richard, after a pause.

Alice, who had been crying all the time that Richard was thinking, said "I won't." Richard, therefore, plunged into the water without her, and swam for the tree. Before he had got half-way, however, he heard Alice crying "Richard! Richard!" This was just what he wanted. So he turned back, and Alice threw herself into the water. With . . . Read More

Community Reviews

It seems like I'd read these stories before. Cross Purposes was extremely familiar. Must have been in a MacDonald collection.

Cross Purposes is a fun story about two kids stumbling into fairyland and changing because of it, and The Shadows is about the human King of fairyland's dealings with living S

Both stories fairly pleasant in tone, and have the material at hand for something quite interesting, but MacDonald seemed to not be quite sure what to do with it in either case, particularly with regard to producing an actual ending that didn't feel slapdash in nature.

Written next after Phantastes, to my tastes much better. MacDonald still has a problem with endings, but Cross Purposes is far more cohesive. Of course, it is not as long as the earlier work. It is still better written. As for The Shadows, the story has an interesting premise. The ending is fairly p

Cute little fairy tale.

George MacDonald's ability to write fantasy books with such insights is unmatched. This books was insightful for couples. Loved it!