Sunday, July 19, 2015

At The Back of the North Wind (1871)

At The Back of the North Wind. George MacDonald. 1871. 346 pages. [Source: Bought]

I HAVE been asked to tell you about the back of the north wind.

Do you enjoy reading children's classics? Or enjoy reading children's fantasy novels? There's a chance that you may love George MacDonald's At The Back of the North Wind. I won't lie. It is a good, old-fashioned story packed with morals and symbolism. So maybe it won't satisfy every single reader. Still there is something about it, even if it is is too wholesome for some.

At The Back of the North Wind is Diamond's story. Diamond is a young boy who is completely good and rather odd because of it. He is a bit of an angel, always doing the right thing, always saying the right thing. His intentions are always as pure as can be. But he isn't smug or arrogant. And he does genuinely care for others. So I do not personally see him as being self-righteous or obnoxious. One of Diamond's friends is the North Wind. The first half of the book focuses on this dream-like relationship. At night, he sometimes accompanies her on her journeys. Eventually, he does find his way to the back of the North Wind. The second half of the book focuses on Diamond's family and his personal relationships with his family and friends. The family situation definitely changes throughout the novel. And Diamond's life isn't an easy one. He is an optimist, a dreamer. But the family's struggle is very real and a definite concern to him.

One of Diamond's friends is the kind-hearted Mr. Raymond. Mr. Raymond has a heart for children, especially for poor ones, and he does what he can to help everyone. He is also a story-teller. I LOVED, LOVED, LOVED Mr. Raymond's story called "Little Daylight." Even if you're not interested in reading the whole novel, even if it doesn't sound like your kind of book, you should make time to read this one stand-alone chapter. Especially if you LOVE fairy tales. (And who doesn't love fairy tales?!) I think Little Daylight would make a lovely picture book adaptation.

So I definitely enjoyed this one. Perhaps not as much as The Light Princess. But at least as much as the two Princess books (Princess and the Curdie, Princess and the Goblin).

At the same moment, a peal of thunder which shook Diamond's heart against the sides of his bosom hurtled out of the heavens: I cannot say out of the sky, for there was no sky. Diamond had not seen the lightning, for he had been intent on finding the face of North Wind. Every moment the folds of her garment would sweep across his eyes and blind him, but between, he could just persuade himself that he saw great glories of woman's eyes looking down through rifts in the mountainous clouds over his head.
He trembled so at the thunder, that his knees failed him, and he sunk down at North Wind's feet, and clasped her round the column of her ankle. She instantly stooped, lifted him from the roof—up—up into her bosom, and held him there, saying, as if to an inconsolable child—
"Diamond, dear, this will never do."
"Oh yes, it will," answered Diamond. "I am all right now—quite comfortable, I assure you, dear North Wind. If you will only let me stay here, I shall be all right indeed."
"But you will feel the wind here, Diamond."
"I don't mind that a bit, so long as I feel your arms through it," answered Diamond, nestling closer to her grand bosom.
"Brave boy!" returned North Wind, pressing him closer.
"No," said Diamond, "I don't see that. It's not courage at all, so long as I feel you there."
"But hadn't you better get into my hair? Then you would not feel the wind; you will here."
"Ah, but, dear North Wind, you don't know how nice it is to feel your arms about me. It is a thousand times better to have them and the wind together, than to have only your hair and the back of your neck and no wind at all."
"But it is surely more comfortable there?"
"Well, perhaps; but I begin to think there are better things than being comfortable."
"Yes, indeed there are. Well, I will keep you in front of me. You will feel the wind, but not too much. I shall only want one arm to take care of you; the other will be quite enough to sink the ship."

"You never made that song, Diamond," said his mother.
"No, mother. I wish I had. No, I don't. That would be to take it from somebody else. But it's mine for all that."
"What makes it yours?"
"I love it so."
"Does loving a thing make it yours?"
"I think so, mother—at least more than anything else can. If I didn't love baby (which couldn't be, you know) she wouldn't be mine a bit. But I do love baby, and baby is my very own Dulcimer."
"The baby's mine, Diamond."
"That makes her the more mine, mother."
"How do you make that out?"
"Because you're mine, mother."
"Is that because you love me?"
"Yes, just because. Love makes the only myness," said Diamond.
"What are you reading?" I said, and spoke suddenly, with the hope of seeing a startled little face look round at me. Diamond turned his head as quietly as if he were only obeying his mother's voice, and the calmness of his face rebuked my unkind desire and made me ashamed of it.
"I am reading the story of the Little Lady and the Goblin Prince," said Diamond.
"I am sorry I don't know the story," I returned. "Who is it by?"
"Mr. Raymond made it."
"Is he your uncle?" I asked at a guess.
"No. He's my master."
"What do you do for him?" I asked respectfully.
"Anything he wishes me to do," he answered. "I am busy for him now. He gave me this story to read. He wants my opinion upon it."
"Don't you find it rather hard to make up your mind?"
"Oh dear no! Any story always tells me itself what I'm to think about it. Mr. Raymond doesn't want me to say whether it is a clever story or not, but whether I like it, and why I like it. I never can tell what they call clever from what they call silly, but I always know whether I like a story or not."
"And can you always tell why you like it or not?" "No. Very often I can't at all. Sometimes I can. I always know, but I can't always tell why.

© 2015 Becky Laney of Becky's Book Reviews

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