Have you ever heard of George MacDonald? More than likely you would answer in the affirmative. When I was a child, my mother introduced me to MacDonald through her reading of The Princess and Curdie and The Princess and the Goblin (by the way, that second link is to a FREE eBook on Amazon). A bit later on, my oldest sister gave me a copy of The Light Princess (another FREE eBook link), which is still a favorite of mine to this day (you can read my review of it HERE). While browsing around on Amazon last year, I discovered another children's book by MacDonald, The Golden Key and decided to give it a try the next time I placed an order. It took several months before I finally got my hands on a copy, but once I did, I had it read in a day. It's a short book.
There are times when I like reading books that I know very little about - especially when they turn out to be a book that becomes a favorite. Examples of those kinds of stories would be books like The Light Princess or The Westing Game (REVIEW) or The Search for Delicious (REVIEW). I'm sorry to say that The Golden Key won't be added to that list. It's interesting and I'll be keeping it, but it wasn't anything like what I had expected and there's probably a good reason why I hadn't heard of it before it was linked to another book I was purchasing on Amazon. MacDonald certainly wrote better books.
GENERAL OVERVIEW: It's a fairytale about a boy - called Mossy - who is told about the Golden Key at the end of the rainbow and runs off in search of it. Along the way we meet Tangle, a young neglected girl, and we follow them around Fairyland as they search for the keyhole that fits the key. We meet an old woman of the woods who cares for Tangle and Mossy, and one night with her ages them by several years. After leaving the woman, they get separated and apart from each other they find their way to the Old Man of the Sea. He revives them in a bath of sea water and sends them on to the Old Man of the Earth. He, in turn, directs them to the Old Man of the Fire who lives in the heart of the earth and looks like a mere child - although he is the oldest of them all. In the end, they find the door at the base of the rainbow, reunite, unlock the door, and ascend into the rainbow where they are met by other beautiful people going upward. The End.
See why I'm not too sure about it? Having said that though, there were a couple of passages that resonated with me for various reasons...
Then the Old Man of the Earth stooped over the floor of the cave, raised a huge stone from it, and left it leaning. It disclosed a great hole that went plumb-down.
"That is the way," he said.
"But there are not stairs."
"You must throw yourself in. There is no other way."
She turned and looked him full in the face -- stood so for a whole minute, as she thought: it was a whole year -- then threw herself headlong into the hole. -- The Golden Key, pg. 57-58
And the other is really just one sentence - and taken out of context will probably have you scratching your head. However, it made sense to me when I read it and I felt like I had experienced the same sensation:
And now Tangle felt that there was something in her knowledge which was not in her understanding. -- The Golden Key, pg. 60
And there you have it - the general overview, my thoughts, and the two sections that made me pause while reading. If I got one thing out of this MacDonald book for children, it was that sometimes the only way to make something happen is to throw yourself in, even if you don't know what you'll hit at the bottom. And since that's a lesson that I needed to be reminded of, I'd have to give the book a 4 out of 5 rating. It's a nice little fairytale to put on your shelf with various lessons that could be plucked from it.
If you have read The Golden Key, I'd love to hear your thoughts about it. In the meantime, Happy Reading!