The unique blend of fairy tale atmosphere and social realism in this novel laid the groundwork for modern fantasy literature. In the novel, Little Diamond, a kind and precocious boy living in poverty, is befriended by the mysterious North Wind, who takes him on her nightly adventures. Written in intensely poetic language, At the Back of the North Wind transcends the genres of children’s book or fairy tale.
Appendices include essays on childhood by contemporaries such as John Ruskin and Charles Dickens, as well as contextualizing selections from Victorian fantasy and fairy tales.
Roderick McGillis is Professor of English at the University of Calgary.
John Pennington is Professor of English at St. Norbert College, Wisconsin.
“This is a remarkable edition, situating a fascinating text in a number of provocative contexts. The annotations provide informative social and historical background while also following textual traces to other MacDonald texts, and to the varied sources used by this highly eclectic Victorian author. The edition pays particular attention to Arthur Hughes’s marvellous illustrations, which are not only reproduced but fully contextualized by original essays appended to the edition. The full apparatus gives us the text but also its worlds, from the streets of London to the imaginary vistas of myth and fairy tale. As an added treat, the eminent literary critic Stephen Prickett has furnished a rich and densely suggestive Preface.” — Doug Thorpe, University of Saskatchewan
“Broadview Editions’ new edition of George MacDonald’s 1871 fairy tale is an excellent and enlightening look at this significant event in children’s literature. With an abundance of supporting material, this volume is veritably a course in the Victorian fairy tale, setting the story in context with nineteenth-century Britain, anticipating the reader’s questions, and addressing the controversies. There is much to be learned from this work.” — George Bodmer, Indiana University Northwest
“This eagerly awaited edition of a major children’s classic of the Victorian era wonderfully fulfills its ambitious aims. Not only do McGillis and Pennington validate the cultural importance once held by At the Back of the North Wind, but also manage to highlight this hybrid fantasy-book’s appeal to readers in the Age of Harry Potter. Appendices that place the book into different kinds of contexts; the careful textual annotations; and, above all, the attention paid to visual matters—Arthur Hughes’s illustrations, as well as other cartoons, maps, and anatomies—make this a truly indispensable item.” — Ulrich Knoepflmacher, Professor Emeritus, Princeton University