George MacDonald was a prolific author of both children's and adult books, including such classics as At the Back of the North Wind, The Princess and the Goblin, Lilith, and Phantastes. His works were the inspiration for later writers, including G. K. Chesterton, C. S. Lewis, and J. R. R. Tolkien.
A consummate Scotsman, MacDonald was born on December 10, 1824, in Huntly, Aberdeenshire. He was ordained as a congregationalist minister in 1845 and became a pastor at Arundel. This appointment did not last long, as he soon came into conflict with his parishioners and church because of his belief in purgatory and that all people eventually came into heaven, even animals.
In 1852, MacDonald married Louisa Powell, with whom he had six sons and five daughters. He was forced to resign from his church position in 1853, and after a brief sojourn in Algiers for the sake of his health, he became a freelance preacher, lecturer, and writer. His literary breakthrough came in 1855 with the publication of the narrative poem Within and Without. In the two decades that followed, he gained increasing fame and success with his children's books but was never able to earn enough money to support his family. Luckily, in 1877 he was granted a pension at the request of Queen Victoria.
MacDonald died on September 21, 1905, in Scotland.