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With 13 children of his own clamouring for bedtime stories it isnt surprising that author George MacDonald discovered he had a gift for composing fairy tales. But these were fairy tales with a difference. At the Back of the North Wind- the first to be published- became a Victorian favourite and marked something of a milestone in childrens fiction. While owing a debt to Hans Andersen- Dickens and Kingsley- MacDonald created a distinctive imaginary world existing in parallel with the grim social realities of mid-19th-century England. A fairy tale is not al allegory- he once remarked. It is- of course- but the trick was to disguise it- to entertain the reader as well as instruct- leaving them to draw a moral if they pleased- or else simply to enjoy the fantasy. Children for over a hundred years have been enchanted and moved by the story of Nanny the crossing sweeper- her lame friend Jim- and above all Diamond- the poor coachmans son- whose life is transformed by a brief glimpse of a beautiful country at the back of the north wind. The first edition (1871) was illustrated by the pre-Raphaelite artist Thomas Hughes- whose romantic and highly individualistic drawings are reproduced in the Everyman edition.... Please click here to ask a question
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