George Macdonald (1824-1905) was born at Huntly, Aberdeenshire, Scotland, where his father was a miller and his family Congregationalists. As a young man he was ordained a minister of the Congregational church but he resigned after a disagreement with his deacons over doctrine, and from 1853 he earned his living by lecturing and writing, often in poor health, which meant periodic travelling in search of purer air for his lungs. In 1851 he married Louisa Powell, with whom he spent a long and happy life, sadly ending in grief when three of his thirteen children died of tuberculosis and he suffered a stroke that deprived him of speech for his last five years.
He was a prolific writer, yet it is his fantasies for children that have survived. The Princess and the Goblin was the second of these, published first as a serial in Good Words for the Young, a periodical of which he became editor for a short time in 1869. About a hundred years later W.H. Auden wrote, 'To me, George MacDonald's most extraordinary, and precious, gift is his ability, in all his stories, to create an atmosphere of goodness about which there is nothing phone or moralistic. Nothing is rarer in literature.'