At the Back of the North Wind, a children's book by George MacDonald, is a fantasy centered around a boy named Diamond and his adventures with the North Wind. Diamond travels together with the mysterious Lady North Wind through the nights. Diamond is a very sweet country boy who brings joy wherever he goes, fighting despair and gloom and bringing peace to his family. One night, as he was trying to sleep in the loft, Diamond plugged up several holes in the barn wall to stop the wind from blowing in. However, he soon discovered that this was stopping the North Wind from going on her routes. Diamonds befriended her, and North Wind lets him ride on her back, taking him on several adventures. Though North Wind does goods deeds and helps people, she also does terrible things. In one of her mischievous acts, she sinks a ship. Yet everything bad leads to something good. In "At the Back of the North Wind," North Wind seems to be a representation of pain and death working according to God's will for something good. On their adventures, North Wind brings Diamond to the country she lives in, a country without pain and death. Yet, he is brought only in a shadow of the real country at the back of the North Wind. The real country is open for him only after his death. At the end of the book, Diamond dies, finally able to see the country. In "At the Back of the North Wind," MacDonald touches many theological and philosophical questions, especially concerning theodicy. Today, it is considered one of his masterpieces.
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George MacDonald (1824-1905) 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, C. S. Lewis, and Madeleine L'Engle. For instance, Lewis wrote that he regarded MacDonald as his "master": "Picking up a copy of Phantastes one day at a train-station bookstall, I began to read. A few hours later," said Lewis, "I knew that I had crossed a great frontier." G. K. Chesterton cited The Princess and the Goblin as a book that had "made a difference to my whole existence." Elizabeth Yates wrote of Sir Gibbie, "It moved me the way books did when, as a child, the great gates of literature began to open and first encounters with noble thoughts and utterances were unspeakably thrilling." Even Mark Twain, who initially disliked MacDonald, became friends with him, and there is some evidence that Twain was influenced by MacDonald.
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