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Phantastes

by George MacDonald
197 pages, Fantasy
Reviewed by Kristi

An interesting look into the origins of mythopoeic storytelling.

Plot

When he turns twenty-one and inherits the key to his father's old desk, Anodos is visited by a fairy woman who tells him that the next day he will find the path into Fairy Land.

Awaking the next morning to find that his room has turned forest-like, Anodos heads off into the woods to see what he may discover. He encounters a world filled with strange and mythical beings: good and evil trees, a marble statue that awakes at his song, and brave knights and princes ready to fight to the death for their people. Within these tales is woven a deeper tale, of the value of loving another, whether or not the love is returned, of the cost of pride, and of the weight of melancholy Anodos carries with him.

Morality

Most of the characters behave in a morally consistent manner. When Anodos fails to follow rules or advice, it is always to his detriment.

At one point, frustrated in his search for his marble "white lady', Anodos attempts to commit suicide, throwing himself into the sea in an effort to meet death head-on rather than be overwhelmed by despair.

Spiritual Content

One of the stories Anodos reads in the library of the fairy palace involves a species of beings in another world who, once they die there, are reborn into our own world. The author refers a few times to mother earth.

In one tale Anodos reads in the library of the Fairy Palace, a man owns books of magick by Albertus Magnus and Cornelius Agrippa, and later performs incantations involving the drawing of a magic circle. Demons are also mentioned in this tale.

A poem tells a story of a man who nightly is visited by his 'ghostly wife'. Their dead child is watched over by St. John, who plays with it in the local church.

Toward the end of the tale, Anodos observes a ritual in which human sacrifices are forced into a chamber.

Violence

Anodos fights with several creatures, including a giant and an enormous wolf. Other knightly battles are mentioned, as well as attacks from the evil ash which inhabits the wood.

Drug and Alcohol Content

None.

Sexual Content

Some kisses.

Crude or Profane Language or Content

"h--l".

Conclusion

I found myself more drawn to some of the tales Anodos found within the Fairy Library, particularly the story of Cosmo and the mirror, than I did to the tale of Anodos himself. In truth I found MacDonald's style a bit wordy, and too often philosophical, where it would have served as well to let the tale tell the lesson without the author expounding on it. That said, there is much beauty to be found here, and a deep truth that love given to another is of greater value than love received to oneself.

Fun Score: 4
Values Score: 4
Written for Age: adult

Review Rating:

Average rating: 5 stars
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