After letting loose his shadow from the closet at the ogress's house, our narrator wanders aimlessly about Fairy Land, his shadow disfiguring those he sees and haunting his experiences. Finally, he comes to a little stream while traveling through the desert, and turns to follow its course. Gradually, the stream widens to a river, and as the narrator continues on his journey downstream, he finds a little boat which takes him down the river and to the castle of the queen of the fairies. Once comfortably accommodated in the castle, the narrator proceeds to explore his beautiful but mysterious surroundings. On the third day, he discovered the library and was immediately enchanted with the stories in the ancient books. One such story, about a young man named Cosmo and a mirror that shows the most beautiful woman, he recounts to the reader. In this passage, the narrator describes Cosmo's life before he purchased the mirror.

His mind had never yet been filled with an absorbing passion; but it lay like a still twilight open to any wind, whether the low breath that wafts but odours, or the storm that bows the great trees till they strain and creak. He saw everything as through a rose-coloured glass. When he looked from his window on the street below, not a maiden passed but she moved as in a story, and drew his thoughts after her till she disappeared in the vista. When he walked in the streets, he always felt as if reading a tale, into which he sought to weave every face of interest that went by; and every sweet voice swept his soul as with the wing of a passing angel. He was in fact a poet without words; the more absorbed and endangered, that the springing-waters were dammed back into his soul, where, finding no utterance, they grew, and swelled, and undermined. He used to lie on his hard couch, and read a tale or a poem, till the book dropped from his hand; but he dreamed on, he knew not whether awake or asleep, until the opposite roof grew upon his sense, and turned golden in the sunrise. Then he arose too; and the impulses of vigorous youth kept him ever active, either in study or in sport, until again the close of the day left him free; and the world of night, which had lain drowned in the cataract of the day, rose up in his soul, with all its stars, and dim-seen phantom shapes. But this could hardly last long. Some one form must sooner or later step within the charmed circle, enter the house of life, and compel the bewildered magician to kneel and worship.

One afternoon, towards dusk, he was wandering dreamily in one of the principal streets, when a fellow student roused him by a slap on the shoulder, and asked him to accompany him into a little back alley to look at some old armour which he had taken a fancy to possess. [86]

Questions

1. Overall, this passage has a very dreamy, almost blissful quality. How does the author create this serene vision of Cosmo's life for the reader?

2. Does this passage depict something that is a fantastic reality or life-like fantasy? How can you tell, and is there a difference between the two?

3. Does this (and if so, how) telling of Cosmo's view of the life around him parallel that of the narrator's view of Fairy Land?

4. The last two sentences of the first paragraph are clearly foreshadowing some event in Cosmo's near future. Could the previous part of this passage also be interpreted as foreshadowing? Why or why not?

5. How does the final sentence ("One afternoon, towards dusk, he was wandering dreamily in one of the principal streets, when a fellow student roused him by a slap on the shoulder, and asked him to accompany him into a little back alley to look at some old armour which he had taken a fancy to possess") and more specifically the word "slap," change the tone of this passage?

References

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


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Last modified 7 February 2004