George MacDonald occupied a major position in the intellectual life of his Victorian contemporaries. 'The complete fairy tales' brings together all eleven of his shorter fairy stories as well as his essay 'The fantastic imagination'. The subjects are those of traditional fantasy - fairies good and wicked, and children journeying into unsettling dreamworlds or undertaking life-risking labours. But though they allude to familiar tales such as 'Sleeping beauty' and 'Jack the Giant-Killer', MacDonald's stories are profoundly experimental and subversive. By questioning the concept that a childhood associated with purity, innocence, and fairy-tale 'wonder' ought to be segregated from adult scepticism and disbelief, they invite adult readers to adopt the same elasticity and open-mindedness that come so naturally to a child. Enlisting paradox, play, and nonsense much like Lewis Carroll's Alice books, these fictions challenge us to question and rethink our assumptions, and offer an elusive yet meaningful alternative order to the dubious certitudes of everyday life.