One does not simply behold the beauty of fairy land with one's eyes, but one can hear its lovely, sad music, feel its sun and moonbeams, smell sweet flowers, and absorb with all of oneself the entire beauty of the land. All five senses are required to really appreciate fairy land, and MacDonald describes these five senses in depth. Trees are not simply trees; they represent people in fact, the Beech being a beautiful woman and the Ash being very disagreeable and selfish. Besides simply seeing the trees, Anodos feels the Beech's "arms" around him. Other supposed inanimate objects are brought to life through metaphors like the river twisting and twining "like a silver snake" (66). It is almost as if not only Anodos is taking a journey through this fantastic land, but the reader is brought into its wonder and glory as well.

There must be a truth involved in it, though we may but in part [123/124] lay hold of the meaning. Even the memories of past pain are beautiful; and past delights, though beheld only through clefts in the grey clouds of sorrow, are lovely as Fairy Land. But how have I wandered into the deeper fairyland of the soul, while as yet I only float towards the fairy palace of Fairy Land! The moon, which is the lovelier memory or reflex of the down-gone sun, the joyous day seen in the faint mirror of the brooding night, had rapt me away.

I sat up in the boat. Gigantic forest trees were about me; through which, like a silver snake, twisted and twined the great river. The little waves, when I moved in the boat, heaved and fell with a plash as of molten silver, breaking the image of the moon into a thousand morsels, fusing again into one, as the ripples of laughter die into the still face of joy. The sleeping woods, in undefined massiveness; the water that flowed in its sleep; and, above all, the enchantress moon, which had cast them all, with her pale eye, into the charmed slumber, sank into my soul, and I felt as if I had died in a dream, and should never more awake.

From this I was partly aroused by a glimmering of white, that, through the trees on the left, vaguely crossed my vision, as I gazed upwards. But the trees again hid the object; and at the moment, some strange melodious bird took up its song, and sang, not an ordinary bird-song, with constant [124/126] repetitions of the same melody, but what sounded like a continuous strain, in which one thought was expressed, deepening in intensity as evolved in progress. It sounded like a welcome already overshadowed with the coming farewell. As in all sweetest music, a tinge of sadness was in every note. Nor do we know how much of the pleasures even of life we owe to the intermingled sorrows. Joy cannot unfold the deepest truths, although deepest truth must be deepest joy. Cometh white-robed Sorrow, stooping and wan, and flingeth wide the doors she may not enter. Almost we linger with Sorrow for very love. [66-67]

Questions

1. Examine the elements of the fantastic in George MacDonald's Phantastes and McCaffrey's Dragonsong. In Dragonsong, one almost needs to search for fantastic elements in the real society that McCaffrey sets up; in Phantastes , the reader might struggle to see any real characteristics because Anodos becomes so involved in his fantasy. How does this factor make it different from any work of fiction or realism?

2. Flowers symbolize fairies in that they will die if the fairies leave. However, this is contrasted with the juxtaposition of our perception of fairies being somewhat cute, mystical, and pretty creatures and the fairy Pocket's nasty characteristics. Look at pages 20-21. What's the significance of juxtaposing something of a sweet connotation such as fairy with such evil qualities?

3. Juxtaposition is also used in putting together such contrasts as light and shadow, dying and light ("die of light of her eyes" [64]), goblin fairies (64), memories of past pain and beauty, past delights beheld through clouds of gray, sweet music having a tinge of sadness in every note (67), and wondrous caves with grotesque pinnacles. Is there a significance of constantly placing these opposing elements together?

4. In this passage as well as the rest of the fantasy, does any specific language create the image of darkness or lightness to you? What are the different effects of the sun and moon?

References

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


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Last modified 9 February 2004