George MacDonald was a Scottish writer and poet of the mid-nineteenth century. He is heralded as one of the fathers of fantasy writing. In the following passage from Phantastes, MacDonald's protagonist Anodos has just witnessed a scene of tender healing of a young girl. The healer is the knight to whom Anodos has sworn service, the lover of Adonos' white lady. Anodos and the knight are having a conversation about the self and more broadly, the path to happiness, which is a major theme in Phantastes.

"Somehow or other," said he, "notwithstanding the beauty of this country of Faerie, in which we are, there is much that is wrong in it. If there are great splendours, there are corresponding horrors; heights and depths; beautiful women and awful fiends; noble men and weaklings. All a man has to do, is to better what he can. And if he will settle it with himself, that even renown and success are in themselves of no great value, and be content to be defeated, if so be that the fault is not his; and so go to his work with a cool brain and a strong will, he will get it done; and fare none the worse in the end, that he was not burdened with provision and precaution."

"But he will not always come off well," I ventured to say.

"Perhaps not," rejoined the knight, "in the individual act; but the result of his lifetime will content him."

"So it will fare with you, doubtless," thought I; "but for me --" [170-171]


1. Could the description of Fairy Land also be a description of the human soul?

2. The knight states the achievement of the ideal comes from forgetting one's self and working to improve the world around one little by little. Is there strong Christian undertones in this passage and the book as a whole?

3. Is the knight the epitome of the ideal? Could the knight represent a Jesus figure?

4. If Anodos loves him so, why does he not automatically accept the knight's counsel?


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

Last modified 7 February 2004