Throughout Anados's trip through Fairyland, he encounters many creatures whose appearance differs from their true nature. He naively trusts beauty, believing that outer beauty can only signify some deeper splendor, thus unwittingly trusting creatures that turn out to be his greatest foes. When fooled by a beautiful lady who betrays his trust and turns him over to the ash tree, Anados marvels at how such contradicting features can exist simultaneously within a single being.

What distressed me most — more even than my own folly — was the perplexing question, How can beauty and ugliness dwell so near? Even with her altered complexion and her face of dislike; disenchanted of the belief that clung around her; known for a living, walking sepulcher, faithless, deluding, traitorous; I felt, notwithstanding all this, that she was beautiful. [50]

As his journey continues, Anados continues to face this same issue over and over again. He finds the old lady underground who transforms herself into a beautiful woman, the dragon whose body is at ones of "so many gorgeous colours, so many curving lines, and such beautiful things as wings and hair and scales"(185) and that of a "horrible creature, intense in ugliness" (185). Beauty, Anados eventually learns, is not necessarily a marker of kindness. Beautiful beings can prove the most evil, while the ugliest beings may be the most wonderful. Indeed, the most comforting character to him throughout the book is a woman whose face is wrinkled, such that "there was not a spot in which a wrinkle could like, where a wrinkle lay not"(141), and the skin was worn to the point that it was "ancient and brown, like old parchment"(141). Yet this kind old woman provides great support for Anados, and by this point in his journey he has learned to sense inner beauty, such that, to him, her face is "the most wonderful" and her voice is a "voice of sweetness"(141). As both his reaction to the old lady and to the dragon show, Anados now better understands that although personal merit and physical appearance may sometimes contradict each other, the keen eye can spot true inner beauty and see its physical manifestations in the most unlikely ways.

Questions

1. How do Anados's descriptions of the various creatures he encounters fool the reader into making the same faulty assumptions he makes and eventually guide the reader towards the more appropriate assumptions?

2. How does Anados's White Lady fit into a story where beauty and evil are so often juxtaposed within a character?

3. How do Bront&eauml; and MacDonald's messages about first impressions similar or different and how does each other convey this message to their readers?

4. Although most of the images of beauty throughout the book are of women, Anados also encounters a knight whom, from the beginning, he admires. How is his relationship with this man different from that with the women he encounters? What about the princes Anados works and fights with? Is MacDonald trying to impart a similar message with the male figures as with the female figures?

References

MacDonald, George. Phantastes. Grand Rapids, Michigan: Wm. B. Eerdmans, 2000.


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Last modified 10 February 2004