he concepts of redemption and rebirth link together thematically in MacDonald's Phantastes and allow Anodos to finally overcome his own human follies of pride and self-interest. After a valiant fight, Anodos meets death in the magical realm of the faerie land. Instead of sorrowing over his demise, however, he reflects upon the wisdom of love he has gained during his odyssey:
The moon came gliding up with all the past in her wan face. She changed my couch into a ghostly pallor, and threw all the earth below as to the bottom of a pale sea of dreams. But she could not make me sad. I knew now, that it is by loving, and not by being loved, that one can come nearest the soul of another; yea, that, where two love, it is the loving of each other, and not the being loved by each other, that originates and perfects and assures their blessedness. I knew that love gives to him that loveth, power over any soul beloved, even if that soul know him not, bringing him inwardly close to that spirit; a power that cannot be but for good; for in proportion as selfishness intrudes, the love ceases, and the power which springs therefrom dies. Yet all love will, one day, meet with its return. All true love will, one day, behold its own image in the eyes of the beloved, and be humbly glad. This is possible in the realms of lofty Death. [313-14]
While Anodos reaches this epiphany, he goes on to acknowledge that his fellow human beings have not come to the same conclusion as he because they have not yet ventured on this spiritual journey:
Even yet, I find myself looking round sometimes with anxiety, to see whether my shadow falls right away from the sun or no. I have never yet discovered any inclination to either side. And if I am not unfrequently sad, I yet cast no more of a shade on the earth, than most men who have lived in it as long as I. I have a strange feeling sometimes, that I am a ghost, sent into the world to minister to my fellow men, or, rather, to repair the wrongs I have already done. May the world be brighter for me, at least in those portions of it, where my darkness falls not.
For this reason, Anodos must return to the human world of the living. He recognizes that his new goal ought to be to help other people achieve peace of self and personify the content that accompanies it. Anodos becomes a savior for humankind by means of his death in the fantastical realm. Even though he returns to the world of the living, he achieves a rebirth of the soul that allows him to return to earth and live out his new life as a saved soul. He is both redeemed and the redemptive figure.
1. MacDonald refers to many terrestrial and celestial entities, such as the earth and moon, as female beings. Does this (albeit common) word choice indicate that Anodos has finally united with the maternal and romantic woman in his death?
2. "Rabbi Ben Ezra" also features a protagonist who desires to help other people find inner-peace. However, Browning's character reveals no information on how he acquired his wisdom, whereas Anodos's adventure clearly inspired his change. The reader can presumably trust both of them, but does experiencing the latter's journey lend more credence to his message, or do both tales relate their message equally?
3. Can the reader equate the faerie realm with a sort of heaven because of its fantasy elements, or would it be more accurate to consider it the embodiment of human trials and ordeals? Is perhaps neither appropriate?
4. Science and religion did not tend to conflict with each other in Victorian Britain. Since the religious connections in Phantastes materialize clearly, in what ways (if any) did MacDonald incorporate an acceptance of science into his work?
Last modified 10 February 2004