The Golden Key

by George MacDonald

Other authorsRuth Sanderson (Illustrator)
Hardcover, 2016



Local notes

Fic Mac





Eerdmans Books for Young Readers (2016), 136 pages


The adventurous wanderings of a boy and girl to find the keyhole which fits the rainbow's golden key.


Original language


Original publication date


Physical description

136 p.; 6.3 inches

User reviews

LibraryThing member aulsmith
I agree with the older Tolkien, "Ill-written, incoherent, and bad, in spite of a few memorable passages."
LibraryThing member davegregg
Bewilderingly creative--almost to the point of being, as one reviewer put it: "stream of consciousness."I'm giving it three stars, not in comparison to other authors' works, but in comparison to MacDonald's. I've enjoyed other of his works more, such as "The Princess and the Goblin," "The Day Boy
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and the Night Girl," and "Gray Wolf." I enjoyed it, but not so much that I would give it a four.**UPDATE**: I read it again. My appreciation of "The Golden Key" has risen, and so has my rating: to four.
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LibraryThing member AltheaAnn
I don’t remember if I’d read this before or not. If I did, it was when I was a child. I read ‘The Princess and the Goblin’ and ‘The Light Princess’ dozens of times, and loved them. I know I also read ‘At the Back of the North Wind’ and didn’t care for it as much. I’m not at all
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sure I would’ve loved this when I was little, but I loved it now. It does feature the same Grandmother/Lady seen in ‘The Princess and the Goblin,’ with her magical baths. She has got to be one of my favorite characters in fiction, and even a brief appearance is wonderful. Plus, air-fish! I loved the air fish! (After having an Oscar in a tank for some years, I used to dream about fish ‘swimming’ around my room, through the air.)
Plot-wise, this is sort of a cross between a religious allegory and Plato’s ‘parable of the cave.’ Two innocents, one of whom finds a golden key at the end of the rainbow, go on a quest to find the ‘land from whence the (sublimely beautiful) shadows come.’
The story is odd and allusive, rather than didactic, and quite lovely.

[re-read 4/19/15]
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LibraryThing member MrsLee
This story was originally published in 1867. The story of a boy named Mossy and a girl known as Tangle, on an adventure in Fairyland. Or something. It's kind of up to the reader to decide what this story is about. Mossy finds a golden key at the end of a rainbow and together they seek to find what
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it unlocks.

Apparently, some people are quite moved by this tale. For me it was kind of "meh." What is the point of it all? No point. No interaction of the characters so to speak, no friends, no family, no adventure. Just a lot of walking, observing and listening to a few characters giving them cryptic advice. Usually I'm good at finding the obscure meanings, or connecting tales to allegory. Aside from some vague hints at "The Journey through Life" I didn't get much out of this. Maybe my imagination is broken right now.

What I absolutely loved about this book, were the illustrations. The artist managed to pull imaginative and evocative illustrations which one could study for some time, out of a very dull narrative. I will be keeping it for that alone. Ruth Sanderson seems to be channelling Arthur Rackham, one of my favorite illustrators, and I will be looking for more of her illustrated works.
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LibraryThing member yoyogod
This was an interesting, though very strange, Victorian era fantasy story. It's the sort of story that, while it is entertaining enough as a fairy tale, seems to have some sort of mystical or allegorical component that went right over my head. I think the best part had to be Ruth Sanderson's
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beautiful illustrations. They were gorgeous.
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LibraryThing member amanda4242
Truthfully, the story did little for me. I found MacDonald's story dull and lifeless, although young children will probably enjoy the fairy tale. Ruth Sanderson's illustrations, on the other hand, are splendid. Each picture is rich with detail and the decision to use scratchboard was inspired: the
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pictures are dark enough to add a hint of mystery to the tale, but not dark enough to frighten the target audience.
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LibraryThing member jnwelch
When I was young, I was spellbound by George Macdonald's fairytale books like The Princess and the Goblins, The Princess and Curdie, and At the Back of the North Wind. He has a knack for the small and beautiful - or disquieting - detail. Now illustrator Ruth Sanderso] has created a new edition of
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his The Golden Key, breaking the story into chapters and accompanying it with her enchanting illustrations.

A young boy named Mossy hears about a golden key to be found at the end of a rainbow, and determines to search for it. However, no one knows what it will open if found. Along the way, he meets a runaway girl named Tangle in an enchanted cottage, and they set out together to find the key's purpose. The somewhat simple overall story is filled with magical detail, and Sanderson has rightly gauged that an illustrated edition targeted to middle graders should find an audience. Her illustrations are terrific, and enhance the story as only the best illustrations can. If you have a young child, this would be an entrancing book to read together, and a good introduction to the tales of George MacDonald.
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LibraryThing member sstaheli
What a charming and delightful book! I thoroughly enjoyed the tale of Mossy and his adventures. In addition, the illustrations were lovely, detailed, and enhanced the storytelling of the book immensely. I'll admit that this may not be for everyone, and is definitely not told using contemporary
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methods for fairy tales, but I find that part of the charm.
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LibraryThing member ljbryant
This fairytale has always been captivating (and, in many ways, quite unusual and thought provoking), and the illustrations in this particular version are beautiful. Rather than being an afterthought, they actually add to the story.
LibraryThing member flying_monkeys
Full disclosure: The biggest reason I requested a copy of The Golden Key was Ruth Sanderson's illustrations, which, I'm happy to report, were breathtaking. Scratchboard art blows my mind; being a non-artist, I just can't wrap my brain around how artists like Ruth create such beauty by scratching
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away at solid black to reveal bit by bit a complete picture. The proportions, the balance, the fine details...beautiful!

As for George MacDonald's fairy tale, which I read in one sitting, I found it easily adaptable to the reader's interpretation and I like stories where I'm given leeway to apply my own meaning. But I can certainly see where this tale could be presented as a Christian fairy tale for those so inclined. I found Ruth's art the perfect complement to the tale, and MacDonald's Fairyland was how I always imagine it: full of creatures both light and dark.

4 stars (5 stars for the illustrations; 3 stars for the fairy tale)
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LibraryThing member mcghol
I was so excited to receive this book for review, because I'd been hearing a lot about MacDonald in things I'd been reading and couldn't wait to see what the fuss was about--plus, I've always loved Ruth Sanderson's illustrations. Unfortunately, though I did love the illustrations as expected, I was
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really disappointed with the story. I felt like there was some great symbolism I should be getting, but wasn't (and I am a well-read English major with 24 years of teaching young children and reading children's literature). I didn't feel a connection to the characters and was only mildly interested in what would happen to them next. I won't be sharing this one with my daughter; there are too many other wonderful books to read.
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LibraryThing member theresearcher
Having previously owned and read other editions of this book, I was mostly interested to read this version for the illustrations.

It's amazing what a difference Sanderson's pictures make in my experience of the story! The Sendak version features illustrations that, while lovely, are far less
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frequent and unobtrusive-- and the actual book was much smaller, which for some reason makes me think of it as intended for older readers.

In this edition, the actual volume is larger-- and the print matches. Both the scale and type size remind me of an Easy Reader style book, though the story is longer than one would expect from those.

And, of course: the illustrations: far more than mere occasional decorations, they appear at least every other page-turn, with frequent two-page spreads that invite pause and careful consideration. at other points, the pictures intrude upon and interact with the text itself, truly shaping a remarkably realistic-- and fanciful-- vision of the fairy world.

My one recommendation, which is a very picky one, would be to have a complete sentence end before each two-page illustration. Even with dissertation formatting requirements, I know how difficult it is to fit figures on the page and control widows and orphans, etc. However, I always feel rushed when turning the page mid-sentence, and I'm afraid some of the incredible illustrations will receive short shrift from readers for this reason.
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LibraryThing member stined
A slightly confusing mix of fairy tale, moral tale, and story about life and death. I found it interesting enough to keep reading, but too confusing to find meaning or purpose. While it is not important for a good book to contain some underlying statement about life, it is important for a book to
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tell a good story and I thought this fell a little short.
Probably as much as anything, the illustrations in this edition help explain and conduct the reader through the story. They are well done and add to the presentation of the story.
Would I recommend this book to others? I'm not sure. Between my confusion with the story and the interesting pictures, there is a feeling of 'don't bother' along with the feeling of 'go ahead and read it... it isn't that long'. Your choice.
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