Here are various mentions of the idea of story in MacDonald's fantasy. How do they combine to focus our attention on the text's chief themes, and how do they relate to one another?

1. "The fairies cry out, "Look at him! Look at him! He has begun a story without a beginning, and it will never have an end" (Chapter 4, 32-33).

2. "My unfinished story urged me on" (Chapter 4, 40). When does the speaker's story finish or end? Does it have an ending at all?

3. "Numberless histories passed through my mind of change of substance from enchantment and other causes, and of imprisonments such as this before me. I thought of the Prince of the Enchanted City, half marble and half a living man; of Ariel; of Niobe; of the Sleeping Beauty of the Wood; and many other histories" (Chapter 5, 45). What does this emphasis upon change and transformation have to do with the main concerns of this work?

4. In the tale of the Alder maid, narrative becomes equivalent to seduction and danger:

She began, and told me a strange tale, which . . . I cannot recollect; but which, at every turn and every pause, somehow or other fixed my eyes and my thoughts on her extreme beauty; seeming always to culminate in something that had a relation, revealed or hidden, but always operative, with her own loveliness. I lay entranced. It was a tale which brings back a feeling as of snows and tempests; torrents and water-sprites; lovers parted for long, and meeting at last; with a gorgeous summer night to close up the whole. I listened till she and I were blended with the tale; till she and I were the whole history. [Chapter 5, 53]

How can you relate this aspect of stories to the fact that MacDonald, after all, presents it while himself telling a story?

Last modified 16 October 2002