At the Back of the North Wind

This week I am writing about one of George MacDonald’s works, the children’s story At the Back of the North Wind. I have read George MacDonald since I was a little girl, or rather they were read to me. On Saturday mornings I would climb into bed with my dad, curl up under quilts, and he would pick up a book and begin to read. He read the Narnia books by C. S. Lewis and George MacDonald’s fairy stories to me in this way.

My favorites are The Golden Key and The Day Boy and the Night Girl.

Recently I have begun to collect MacDonald’s works and children’s stories on my Kindle. They are public domain and some are available for free at Project Gutenberg.

I have been reading At the Back of the North Wind since Christmas. I finally finished it this week. I have to confess that this was a hard book to read because it wanders quite a bit. If you choose to read it, select the shorter version edited by Elizabeth Lewis as it is true to the heart of the story. I read the original version published in 1871.

At the Back of the North Wind is a story about a boy named Diamond who meets the North Wind. She breezes into his bedroom through a crack in the wall.


Image Credit FCIT

North Wind takes Diamond on adventures, where they fly from place to place. She also can take on many forms, most often a beautiful woman when with Diamond, she can be a wolf, a bee on a flower, or her real form of a violent wind.

North Wind says this of herself,

I don’t think I am just what you fancy me to be. I have to shape myself in various ways to various people. But the heart of me is true. People call me by dreadful names, and think they know all about me. But they don’t. Sometimes they call me Bad Fortune, sometimes Evil Chance, sometimes Ruin; and they have another name for me which they think the most dreadful of all.

North Wind is Death.


Image Credit FCIT

She takes Diamond to her country, and it is a beautiful, peaceful place. However, he chooses to go back home to his mother and father, so North Wind returns him to them. We find that when Diamond arrives back home, he has been sick. He knows that he was at the back of the north wind, but his family thinks that he was dying. At the end of the story, illness finally takes him, but the author says that though other people think that Diamond died, he just went to the back of the north wind.

. . .

The children’s stories by George MacDonald are different from his works for adults as he moralizes, but does not mention faith or God.

The works of George MacDonald stretch my faith and my thinking. He was fond of challenging the accepted theology of his day, and many of the things he writes about in his adult works reflect this. The book The Curate’s Awakening is one that I enjoy the most for forcing me to ask difficult questions, and seek out the answers to them. If I want a ghost story I read The Tutor’s First Love.

Photo CC – by .imelda


4 thoughts on “At the Back of the North Wind

  1. What a wonderful memory! I love doing those little things with my kids and I can remember doing them with my grandma. I have never read “The North Wind” and now, given your description, I think that I will. I hope your Independent Learning Project is going well and is turning out to be everything you hoped it would.


  2. Thanks! If you read the book, be sure to get the edited version mentioned above. This book is pretty long and meandering. I am enjoying the project, I am reading one of the books you (and Prof. E.) suggested, “Middlemarch.” I just started it 2 days ago!


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