After giving himself up to the ocean waters, Anados drifts to an island on which sits a cottage. Entering, he encounters a mysterious ancient woman, who appears to be MacDonald's notion of the singer of songs, primal mother, possibly the spirit of Earth, and also apparently the divine, for in Phantastes God is a woman:]

I knocked, and the sweetest voice I had ever heard said, "Come in." I entered. A bright fire was burning on a hearth in the centre of the earthern floor. . . Over the fire hung a little pot, and over the pot bent a woman-face, the most wonderful, I thouht, that I had ever beheld. For it was older than any countenace I had ever looked upon. There was not a spot in which a wrinkle could lie, where a wrinkle lay not. And the skin was ancient and brown, like a parchment. The woman's form was tall and spare: and when she stood up to welcome me, I saw that she was straight as an arrow, Could that voice of sweetness have issued from those lips of age? . . . But the moment I saw her eyes, I no longer wondered at her voice: they were anbsolutely young — those of a woman of five-and-twenty, large, and of a clear gray. Wrinkles had beset them all about; the eyelids themselves were old, and heavy, and worn; but the eyes were the very incarnations of soft light. She held out her hand to me, and the voice of sweetness again greeted me, with the single word, "Welcome." She set an ols wooden chair for me, near the fire, and went on with her cooking. A windrous sense of refuge and repose came upon me. I felt like a boy who has got home from school, miles across the hills, through a heavy storm of wind and snow. . . . I could not help laying my head on her bosom, and bursting into happy tears. She put her head on my bosom, saying, "Poor child; poor child!"

As I continued to weep, she gently disengaged herself; and, taking a spoon, put some of the food (I did not know what it was) to my lips, entreating me most endearingly to swallow it. To please her I made an effirt, and succeeded. She went on feeding me like a baby, with one arm around me, till I looked up in her face and smiled: then she gave me the spoon, and told me to eat, for it would do me good. I obeyed her, and found myself wonderfully refreshed. Then she drew near the fire an old-fashioned couch that was int he cottage, and making me lie down upon it, sat at my feet, and began to sing. Amazing store of old ballads rippled from her lips, over the pebbles of ancient tunes. . . The songs were almost all sad, but with a sound of comfort. . . .While she sung, I was in Elysium, with the sense of a rich soul upholding, embracing, and overhanging mine, full of all plenty and bounty. (Chapter 19)

If the old woman is in fact the author's notion of divinity, with what kind of Protestantism would he have most in common?


Victorian Web Overview George MacDonald

Last modified 16 October 2002