Decorative Initial Phantastes describes Anados' struggle to have faith in and "imagine"--that is, use his imagination to believe in-- the existence of God, and MacDonald uses the concept of a shadow to symbolize the frequent obtrusion of doubt that ruins Anados' ability to see and imagine Fairyland. The shadow first possesses Anados after he gives in to temptation and defies the warnings of the old woman in Chapter VIII. Before the shadow takes possession of Anados in the "church of Darkness"(69), however, Anados enjoys harmony with Fairyland and can see and appreciate all the sensual beauty reserved for only those who are willing to believe and imagine:

Here I lay in delicious reverie for some time, during which all lovely forms, and colours, and sounds seemed to use my brain as a common hall, where they could come and go, unbidden and unexcused. I had never imagined that such capacity for simple happiness lay in me, as was now awakened by this assembly of forms and spiritual sensations (Ch. 5, p. 35).

Without the curse of the clinging, haunting shadow, Anados freely appreciates a "simple happiness," a pure, unquestioned faith in Fairyland, symbolic of the simple faith required to believe in God. But the shadow seizes Anados' childlike faith and dissolves his power to imagine the abstract, higher, almost divine aesthetics of Fairyland. A vague sense of horror grows within him, but soon he begins to feel a sort of complacency alongside his shadow. With a note of arrogance and condescension, he prefers knowledge of truth and reality, although grim and depresssing, to wandering ignorantly yet happily under the delusions and appearances of fairyland. Having lost faith in Fairyland, Anados looks down on those who are so illusioned and weak as to allow blind faith to glaze over their otherwise perfect, real vision of matter-of-fact life

But the most dreadful thing of all was, that I now began to feel something like satisfaction in the presence of my shadow. I began to be rather vain of my attendant, saying to myself, 'In a land like this, with so many illusions everywhere, I need his aid to disenchant the things around me. He does away with all appearances, and shows me things in their true colour and form. And I am not one to be fooled with the vanities of the common crowd. I will not see beauty where there is none. I will dare to behold things as they are. And if I live in a waste instead of a paradise, I will live knowing where I live.'" (Ch. IX/p. 61).

At this point, then, Anados cannot trust anything in Fairyland, for fear that something or someone will get the better of him--he boasts foolishly that he "dares to behold things as they are" and defiantly declares he will not be fooled easily. Even when interacting with people, Anados' shadow ruins inherent faith. In the same chapter, Anados grows to love the "sad knight" with whom he spends two days traveling, but just as he begins to tell the knight-friend his "whole sad story" and wants to "fall on his neck. . . round slid the shadow and inwrapt my friend, and I could not trust him"(60). This shadow taints Anados' perception of his friend, whom he then doubts, and in whom he has lost faith, just as on a larger scale he has lost faith in both Fairyland and in God.


Victorian Web Overview George MacDonald

Last modified 16 October 2002