uppercase decorative letter 'I'n spite of all warnings of the fantastical Maid of Adler and her befooling dangerous beauty, the "atmosphere of dreamy undefined love and longing" (44) blurs Anodos' mind, causing him to disregard all cautions. In Chapter Six of Phantastes, his child-like obliviousness allows the beautiful Maid to lulls him into her cave only to be faced with the ghastly Ash-tree himself. As if protected by some unknown force, Anodos escapes danger when the Ash withdraws and leaves Anodos alone to weep out of humility for not heeding sensible advice. Though in a state of befuddlement, Anodos continues the voyage throughout the forest of the Fairy Land, where he comes across the abode of a kindly human family.

Anodos first encounters the woman of the house who addresses him as a boy, a title he outgrew in his younger years. Though staggered by the name, Anodos quickly becomes accepting of it as his mind is eased by her maternal nature. In a rather keen form, he tells the woman of his wild night and as if providing brief comfort to a child awaking from a nightmare, the woman responds, "It was just as I feared . . . but you are now for the night beyond reach of any of these dreadful creatures. It is no wonder they could delude a child like you" (51).

Diverging from solacing Anodos, the woman then interjects her own agenda:

But I must beg you, when my husband comes in, not to say a word about these things; for he thinks me even half crazy for believing anything of the sort. But I must believe my senses, as he cannot believe beyond his, which give him no intimation of this kind. I think he could spend the whole of Midsummer Eve in the wood and come back with the report that he saw nothing worse than himself. Indeed, good man, he would hardly find anything better than himself, if he had seven more sense given him." [51]

More than warn Anodos of her husband's hostility towards fantasy, she presents the idea that not everyone possesses the senses necessary to believe in Fairy Land. As the scene continues and her husband arrives Anodos is disenchanted "out of the realm of the ideal into that of the actual" (52) merely by the presence of the unbeliever.

The husband, here, represents a sensible man — one who seemingly never had, or outgrew, the ability to imagine a dream world. Anodos temporarily becomes much like the sensible man, questioning the actual occurrence of his journey thus far. He, however, is reassured about the existence of Fairy Land when his eyes meet those of the man's little daughter as she reads a French fairytale. His disbelief is quickly disregarded upon returning to the state of sweet oblivion, or back to "the atmosphere of dreamy undefined love and longing."

Questions

1. A few pages after the quoted passage, the wife elaborates on the beauty and ugliness of the Maid of the Adler. Why would MacDonald have the woman jump right into the disbelief of her husband and not just describe the Maid of the Adler to Anodos? Does this disjointed organization of conversation place a stronger emphasis on the idea of disbelief in fantasy?

2. Belief in fantasy is often viewed as optimistic while disbelief in fantasy is viewed as pessimistic. Can this statement be said of Phantastes? Also, why would MacDonald have the woman call Anodos "boy," despite being twenty-one years old? Does titling him a "boy" support the idea that only children have imaginations to experience fantasy?

3. Why does MacDonald give Anodos the ability to flip between the realm of the ideal and the realm of the actual so easily? Why is it so easy for Anodos to believe in the real of the ideal just after looking into the eyes of a young girl?

4. In Dickens's A Christmas Carol, the Marley's spirit asks Ebenezer Scrooge "Why do you doubt your senses?" Is it possible that, like Scrooge, the husband doubts his senses, or does he really not posses the necessary qualities to imagine fantasy?


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

Last modified 10 February 2004