decorated initial 'I' n Phantastes George MacDonald transports his main character, Anodos, from our world into that of Fairy Land. Once there, Anodos finds himself on a journey to which even he himself does not know the destination. Along his way Anodos encounters numerous people and creatures ranging from small playful fairies to large forbidding Ash and Alder trees. At one point in Anodos' travels through Fairy Land, he comes across a house to which he is drawn. Inside, he finds an old woman hunched over a book reading out loud. The woman tells him not to open a cupboard door, though this only intensifies his desire to do so. When Anodos does open it, a dark figure comes into the room. The woman tells Anodos that it is his shadow. As the story continues, his shadow follows him around, disenchanting life in Fairy Land. At one point, Anodos encounters a young woman who carries around with her a globe that she will only let him briefly touch despite his string curiosity. Encouraged by his shadow, Anodos one day grabs hold of the globe, which causes it to shatter and the woman to run away.

We travelled on together all that day. She left me when twilight came on; but next day, at noon, she met me as before, and again we travelled till evening. The third day she came once more at noon, and we walked on together. Now, though we had talked about a great many things connected with Fairy Land, and the life she had led hitherto, I had never been able to learn anything about the globe. This day, however, as we went on, the shadow glided round and inwrapt the maiden. It could not change her. But my desire to know about the globe, which in his gloom began to waver as with an inward light, and to shoot out flashes of many-coloured flame, grew irresistible. I put out both my hands and laid hold of it. It began to sound as before. The sound rapidly increased, till it grew a low tempest of harmony, and the globe trembled, and quivered, and throbbed between my hands. I had not the heart to pull it away from the maiden, though I held it in spite of her attempts to take it from me; yes, I shame to say, in spite of her prayers, and, at last, her tears. The music went on growing in, intensity and complication of tones, and the globe vibrated and heaved; till at last it burst in our hands, and a black vapour broke upwards from out of it; then turned, as if blown sideways, and enveloped the maiden, hiding even the shadow in its blackness. She held fast the fragments, which I abandoned, and fled from me into the forest in the direction whence she had come, wailing like a child, and crying, "You have broken my globe; my globe is broken — my globe is broken!"... It lies heavy on my heart to this hour. At night, ere I fall asleep, often, whatever I may be thinking about, I suddenly hear her voice, crying out, "You have broken my globe; my globe is broken; ah, my globe!"

Questions

1. Throughout Anodos' journey, MacDonald intertwines small sub stories or plots like this one with the girl and the globe. Why does she do this? What does it add to the story and Anodos' journey through Fairy Land?

2. What exactly is Anodos' shadow? What role does it play in the story?

3. Why does MacDonald use long sentences like "The music went on growing in . . . hiding even the shadow in its blackness"? What effect does this create?

4. What is the globe that the young maiden carries? Are its musical powers in any way significant?

References

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


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Last modified 9 February 2004