Upon his arrival in mystical Fairy Land following a fantastic transformation of his bedroom into this unfamiliar wilderness, Anados encounters a young maiden who warns him to beware the "ash and the alder." After her sudden disappearance, Anados continues to wander until he arrives at a clearing in the forest and spies a cottage. Here, he meets the mysterious maiden and her mother, and he partakes of a simple repast. The mother explains the world of the fairies to curious Anados. The following passage occurs during their conversation about fairies, as Anados muses upon the peculiar fairies that dwell in flowers.

I may as well mention here, that the conclusion I arrived at from the observations I was afterwards able to make, was, that the flowers die because the fairies go away; not that the fairies disappear because the flowers die. The flowers seem a sort of houses for them, or outer bodies, which they can put on or off when they please. Just as you could form some idea of the nature of a man from the kind of house he built, if he followed his own taste, so you could, without seeing the fairies, tell what any one of them is like, by looking at the flower till you feel that you understand it. For just what the flower says to you, would the face and form of the fairy say; only so much more plainly as a face and human figure can express more than a flower. For the house or the clothes, though like the inhabitant or the wearer, cannot be wrought into an equal power of utterance. Yet you would see a strange resemblance, almost oneness, between the flower and the fairy, which you could not describe, but which described itself to you. Whether all the flowers have fairies, I cannot determine, any more than I can be sure whether all men and women have souls. -- George Macdonald 's Phantastes

Discussion Questions

1. What observation does Macdonald make regarding materialism and objects (face, human figure, houses, clothing) in the Victorian world?

2. Why is the life of the flower bound to the presence of the fairy?

3. How does this concept of flower fairies relate to the ideas of Romanticism?

Last modified 5 February 2003