As Anodos is wandering about the forest, he comes upon a small cavern in which he finds water to drink and moss upon which to rest. As he takes in the scene, he begins to feel a sense of calm and pleasure at being in such a pure and simple environment:

A little well of the clearest water filled a mossy hollow in one corner. I drank, and felt as if I knew what the elixir of life must be; then threw myself on a mossy mound that lay like a couch along the inner end. Here I lay in a 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, which yet were far too vague to admit of being translated into any shape common to my own and another mind. [p.65]

Questions

1. In this passage, Anodos feels a sense of harmony that he has never before experienced in his own world. Yet is the "secondary world" that MacDonald has created in Phantastes intended to be some sort of utopia? If so, how can one explain the evil presence of the ash tree as well as the beech tree's longing to become a woman?

2. Clearly, the reader must suspend his or her belief in order to embrace the imaginary world that MacDonald has crafted. Yet it seems that the reader must also suspend belief when it comes to understanding a character like Anodos. Why is he not frightened (besides his fear of the ash tree) of the "secondary world" that he has suddenly dropped into? He has no mission or goal, yet he seems to be driven to press forward? Where is this motivation coming from?

3. How is the fantasy world that MacDonald creates in Phantastes different or the same from the one Carroll creates in Alice in Wonderland? Which world has more elements of realism? How do the sexual connotations in Phantastes compare with the innocence of Alice in Wonderland?


Victorian Web Overview George MacDonald George MacDonald's Phantastes Leading Questions

Last modified 3 February 2003