Phantastes

PhantastesPhantastes by George MacDonald

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Lots of thoughts on this book. It’s not great fantasy. The plot meanders, leaves things unfulfilled and under-explained or simply unfinished. A man wanders into the land of Faerie and then wanders out again. The language at times is eye-rollingly bad. But it’s also easy to see the gems, the bits of wonder and humility, that so effected C. S. Lewis. Consider what MacDonald writes near the end, as an analogy of love for Christ:

“This . . . is a true man. I will serve him, and give him all worship, seeing in him the embodiment of what I would fain become. If I cannot be noble myself, I will yet be servant to his nobleness.”

Or later, about love:

“I knew now, that it is by loving, and not by being loved, that one can come nearest the soul of another . . . All true love will, one day, behold its own image in the eyes of the beloved, and be humbly glad.”

Here the bits that  “baptized” the imagination of Lewis, as well as the universalism that apparently got MacDonald in trouble as a minister. The conclusion of the narrator’s wanderings in Faerie, the moral for him, is given at the end:

“May the world be brighter for me, at least in those portions of it, where my darkness falls not. Thus I, who set out to find my Ideal, came back rejoicing that I had lost my Shadow.”

And the final farewell, reminiscent of Wolfe’s “good fishing” line at the end of the Short Sun books:

“A great good is coming– is coming– is coming to thee, Anodos . . . Yet I know that good is coming to me– that good is always coming; though few have at all times the simplicity and the courage to believe it.”

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