After spending a few hours in a sleeping world, the narrator witnesses the awakening of Fairy Land and all its fascinating creatures. As he embarks on his journey, the narrator attempts to observe every aspect of the fantastic world before him and to rationalize his experience. In very little time, he realizes that Fairy Land cannot be so easily processed through his eyes and his mind:

But it is no use trying to account for things in Fairy Land; and one who travels there soon learns to forget the very idea of doing so, and takes everything as it comes; like a child, who, being in a chronic state of wonder, is surprised at nothing. . . . [The beetles] then took the glowworm and held its luminous tail to the dark earthy pellet; when lo, it shot up into the air like a skyrocket, seldom, however, reaching the height of the highest tree. Just like a rocket too, it burst in the air and fell in a shower of most gorgeously coloured sparks of every variety of hue; golden and red, and purple and green, and blue and rosy fires crossed and intercrossed each other, beneath the shadowy heads, and between the columnar stems of the forest trees. . . .

In other parts, the whole of the immediately surrounding foliage was illuminated by the interwoven dances in the air of splendidly coloured fire-flies, which sped hither and thither, tuned twisted, crossed and recrossed, entwining every complexity of intervolved motion. Here and there, whole mighty trees glowed with an emitted phosphorescent light. You could trace the very course of the great roots in th earth by the faint light that came through; and every twig, and every vein on every leaf was a streak of pale fire. [24-25]


1. How does MacDonald use similes to describe the scene? Is his use of simile effective?

2. Why does the narrator compare his experience in Fairy Land to that of a child?

3. How does MacDonald bring this scene of fantastic creatures to life?

4. Although the narrator explains that things in Fairy Land cannot be accounted for, does he not go on to explain what he sees in human terms? Why does he define the world he sees in this way?


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

Last modified 9 February 2004