uppercase decorative letter 'I' short while into his journey in Fairy Land Anodos comes upon a small cottage, the first human dwelling he has seen since entering the mystical universe. Upon deciding to enter on account of his hunger, he meets the mother of the young maiden who he had earlier beheld along the forest path. Here Anodos learns of the spiritual beings that surround him in Fairy Land, taking the shape of animals, flower fairies, and even the very trees supporting the dwelling. Most importantly, however, he learns of the wicked nature of the ash tree. In reading a book about the Knights of King Arthur's table during his stay in the cottage, Anodos reads a tale of Sir Percivale that foreshadows the exact predicament soon to befall him. The unfortunate betrayal Anodos suffers at the hands of his "white lady" leaves him distressed and questioning the existence of true beauty.

But I could not remain where I was any longer, though the daylight was hateful to me, and the thought of the great, innocent, bold sunrise unendurable. Here there was no well to cool my face, smarting with the bitterness of my own tears. Nor would I have washed in the well of that grotto, had it flowed clear as the rivers of Paradise. I rose, and feebly left the sepulchral cave. I took my way I knew not whither, but still towards the sunrise. The birds were singing; but not for me. All the creatures spoke a language of their own, with which I had nothing to do, and to which I cared not to find the key anymore. I walked listlessly along. What distressed me the 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, and traitorous; I felt, notwithstanding all this, that she was beautiful. [MacDonald 50]

The contrasting diction employed by MacDonald in describing the sunrise ("great," "innocent," "bold") and the "white lady" ("sepulcher," "faithless," "traitorous") clearly speaks to Anodos' disillusioned state at coming to the crossroads of what he considers moral and immoral. The "white lady," the epitome of beauty in his eyes, has become a mere accomplice of the ash tree, which represents the depravity of humankind. For this reason, he cannot fathom why he continues to consider her an almost angelic figure. In an attempt to explain this unwarranted feeling, the woman in the farmhouse tells Anodos:

But the chief thing that makes her beautiful is this: that, although she loves no man, she loves the love of any man; and when she finds one in her power, her desire to bewitch him and gain his love (not for the sake of his love either, but that she may be conscious anew of her own beauty, thorough the admiration he manifests), makes her very lovely — with a self-destructive beauty, though; for it is that which is constantly wearing her away within, till, at last, the decay will reach her face, and her whole front, when all the lovely mask of nothing will fall to pieces, and she be vanished for ever. [MacDonald 52]

The explanation offered suggests that Anodos continues to find the "white lady" appealing because he, like her, has flaws. In fact, prior to this ill-fated event, Fairy Land had seemed largely devoid of the evil apparent in humankind, save the ash tree. Anodos had mistaken the beauty of his "white lady" for morality and assumed her to be a goddess of sorts, an image of the unparalleled perfection unachievable for mortals.

Questions

1. How does the punctuation used towards the end of the passage spoken by Anodos serve to further engage us as readers?

2. Since we know MacDonald worked as a pastor in his early adult years, the underlying tones of Christianity found in Phantastes seem quite evident. Should a parallel be drawn between MacDonald's use of the term "Paradise" and the Garden of Eden? If so, how do the actions of the "white lady" compare to those of Eve in the story of creation? What similarities exist between the mystical nature of Fairy Land and the majesty of the Garden of Eden?

3. Why did Anodos not heed the warning of the Knight, nor the beech-tree? Could it be that he did not even associate the beautiful figure that they spoke of with his "white lady?" Did Anodos not recognize the similarity between his plight and that of Sir Percivale?

4. Physical beauty plays a large part in Anodos' love for the "white lady." How does Anodos' physical attraction to the beauty of the "white lady" compare to Jane's admiration of Mr. Rochester's physical appearance?


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Last modified 10 February 2004