The singing woman who frees Anodos from the tower impresses him with her goodness. She has joyfully dedicated her life to helping others, epitomizing the Christian ideal of charity. Anodos recognizes her moral superiority. He realizes and accepts that "she was uplifted, by sorrow and well-doing, into a region [he] could hardly hope ever to enter (182)." His humility frees him at last of his evil and mysterious shadow.
I had now no right to the golden spurs and the resplendent mail, fitly dulled with long neglect. I might do for a squire; but I honored knighthood too highly, to call myself any longer one of the noble brotherhood. I stripped off all my armour, piled it under the tree, just where the lady had been seated, and took my unknown way, eastward through the woods. Of all my weapons, I carried only a short axe in my hand. Then first I knew the delight of being lowly; of saying to myself, "I am what I am, nothing more." "I have failed," I said, "I have lost myself — would it had been my shadow." I looked round: the shadow was nowhere to be seen. Ere long, I learned that it was not myself, but only my shadow, that I had lost. . . . In nothing was my ideal lowered, or dimmed, or grown less precious; I only saw it too plainly, to set myself for a moment beside it. Indeed, my ideal soon became my life; whereas, formerly, my life had consisted in a vain attempt to behold, if not my ideal in myself, at least myself in my ideal. 
The removal of the armor represents Anodos's realization that he does not fit his ideal. He places his armor "just where the lady had been seated," thus associating the ideal of knighthood with the nigh unreachable ideal of the lady. To his surprise, his acceptance of his "lowly" position, with the words "I am what I am, nothing more," frees him from the shadow which he had been trying to rid himself of for so long. As Jesus once said, "the meek shall inherit the Earth." Anodos frees himself from his tormentor by his fulfillment of a Christian value.
The exact nature of Anodos's shadow is never explained. The ogre says, "you call it by a different name in your world (62)," but she never says what that name is. It is clear, however, that the shadow has a psychological as well as a visible nature. As Anodos says, "the shadow was in my heart as well as at my heels (71)." So it stands to reason that its cure might be psychological as well.
1. All of the magical creatures who help Anodos in his journey are female. Why is that?
2. In phrases like, "I honored knighthood too highly, to call," MacDonald uses a comma where one would not be used in modern usage. Is this a stylistic choice, or was this use of the comma common during that period? If the former, what does MacDonald hope to achieve with these extra commas? If the latter, when, why, and how did this change?
3. This work has Christian undertones, and yet MacDonald only sometimes portrays fairies, which are pagan, negatively. Would this have been a problem for some of his audience?
4. In Ursula K. Le Guin's book The Wizard of Earthsea, the main character's pride creates an evil shadow. He later confronts this creature and finds that they both have the same "true name." How does Le Guin's shadow compare with MacDonald's?
5. Anodos is an aristocrat, but he admits to being "lowly." Does this have anything to do with the contemporary movement in Britain which was giving more political power to the "low born?"
MacDonald, George. Phantastes. Grand Rapids, Michigan: Wm. B. Eerdmans, 2000.
Last modified 10 February 2004