At the Back of the North Wind
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"At the Back of the North Wind" Summary

By George MacDonald

fantasy | 346 pages | Published in NaN

Diamond, son of a poor coachman, is swept away by the North Wind -- a radiant, maternal spirit with long, flowing hair. His life is transformed by a brief glimpse of the beautiful country -- at the back of the north wind. This Victorian fairy tale has enchanted readers for more than a hundred years, and combines a Dickensian regard for the working class of mid-19th-century England with the invention of an ethereal landscape.


Estimated read time: 5 min read

One Sentence Summary

A young boy befriends the mysterious North Wind and experiences both joy and sorrow on magical adventures.


"At the Back of the North Wind" is a classic children's novel written by George MacDonald, a Scottish author, and poet. The story, first published in 1871, follows the adventures of a young boy named Diamond as he encounters the mysterious North Wind. Filled with whimsy, magic, and valuable life lessons, the book has captivated readers for generations with its enchanting narrative and timeless themes.

Brief Synopsis

The story is set in Victorian England and centers around Diamond, a kind-hearted and imaginative boy who lives with his mother and father in a cozy little house. Diamond's life takes a fantastical turn when he befriends the enigmatic North Wind, who appears as a beautiful woman. The North Wind takes Diamond on a series of extraordinary journeys, revealing her dual nature as both a force of destruction and a source of nurturing comfort. Through these adventures, Diamond learns valuable lessons about life, death, and the nature of goodness.


The story is primarily set in Victorian England, with Diamond's humble home and the bustling city serving as the backdrop for his adventures with the North Wind. The fantastical elements of the story take Diamond to various enchanting and perilous locations, where he encounters magical creatures and experiences the awe-inspiring power of the North Wind.

Main Characters

The characters in "At the Back of the North Wind" are richly developed and contribute to the story's emotional depth and moral dilemmas.

DiamondA compassionate and curious young boy who forms a deep bond with the North Wind.
North WindA mysterious, otherworldly being who alternates between nurturing and destructive forces.
Diamond's ParentsLoving and supportive figures in Diamond's life, providing him with guidance and stability.

Story Points Over Chapters

Chapter 1-5:

Diamond meets the North Wind for the first time and is enchanted by her beauty and power. He begins to accompany her on her nightly journeys, witnessing her dual nature as both a gentle, nurturing presence and a fierce, destructive force. Diamond's encounters with the North Wind lead him to ponder the nature of goodness and the meaning of life.

Chapter 6-10:

Diamond's adventures with the North Wind take him to various magical realms, where he encounters fantastical creatures and experiences the wonders of the natural world. Through these experiences, Diamond learns important life lessons about compassion, empathy, and the interconnectedness of all living beings.

Chapter 11-15:

As Diamond continues to accompany the North Wind on her journeys, he grapples with the complexities of human suffering and mortality. He witnesses the pain and struggles of those around him, leading him to confront profound questions about the nature of death and the afterlife.

Chapter 16-20:

Diamond's bond with the North Wind deepens as he gains a deeper understanding of her dual nature. He learns to accept the inevitability of change and the cyclical nature of life, finding solace in the North Wind's comforting presence amidst life's uncertainties.

Main Events

The main events in "At the Back of the North Wind" revolve around Diamond's transformative experiences with the North Wind and the profound lessons he learns along the way. From his initial encounter with the North Wind to his journeys through magical realms and his contemplation of life, death, and goodness, each event contributes to Diamond's emotional and spiritual growth.

Themes and Insights


  • Dual Nature of Existence: The story explores the duality of life, presenting the North Wind as both a nurturing and destructive force, and prompting readers to contemplate the complexities of human nature.
  • Compassion and Empathy: Through Diamond's interactions with the North Wind and the characters he encounters, the novel emphasizes the importance of empathy, kindness, and understanding in the face of adversity.
  • Transcendence and Acceptance: Diamond's journey with the North Wind encourages readers to embrace the inevitability of change and find meaning in life's transient nature, ultimately leading to a sense of acceptance and transcendence.


The novel offers valuable insights into the human experience, inviting readers to contemplate the interconnectedness of all living beings, the enduring power of love and compassion, and the transformative nature of adversity. By delving into themes of mortality, suffering, and transcendence, "At the Back of the North Wind" provides poignant reflections on the complexities of existence.

Reader's Takeaway

Readers of "At the Back of the North Wind" are treated to a captivating and thought-provoking journey through the eyes of a young boy who discovers the profound mysteries of life and the universe. The novel's enchanting narrative, rich symbolism, and timeless themes offer readers an opportunity to reflect on the dualities of existence, the power of compassion, and the enduring resilience of the human spirit.


George MacDonald's "At the Back of the North Wind" continues to resonate with readers of all ages, captivating them with its magical storytelling and profound insights into the human experience. Through Diamond's transformative adventures with the North Wind, the novel offers a poignant exploration of life's complexities and the enduring power of love, compassion, and acceptance. As readers embark on this enchanting literary journey, they are invited to ponder life's mysteries and find solace in the enduring wisdom of the North Wind.

At the Back of the North Wind FAQ

  1. What is 'At the Back of the North Wind' about?

    The book follows the story of a young boy named Diamond who befriends the magical North Wind. Together, they embark on a series of adventures, exploring themes of life, death, and the human condition.

  2. Is 'At the Back of the North Wind' suitable for children?

    Yes, the book is considered a children's classic and is suitable for young readers. However, it also contains deeper philosophical themes that can be appreciated by adult readers.

  3. Who is the author of 'At the Back of the North Wind'?

    The book was written by George MacDonald, a Scottish author and poet known for his fairy tales and fantasy novels.

  4. Are there any supernatural elements in the story?

    Yes, the story features supernatural elements, particularly the character of the North Wind, who possesses magical powers and takes Diamond on extraordinary journeys.

  5. What lessons can be learned from 'At the Back of the North Wind'?

    The book explores themes of compassion, empathy, and the acceptance of life's challenges. It also delves into the idea of finding beauty and wonder in the world, even in the face of hardship.