19th Century ClassicPhantastes: A Faerie Romance for Men and Women (1858) by George Macdonald.

In answer to a wish he didn’t realize he made, Anados’ fairy great-grandmother transports him to faerie land where he learns to see truly and serve well. The novel contains a series of seemingly unrelated adventures, but through all his failures and trial, Anados becomes a man who can obey this command: “Go, my son, and do something worth doing,”

Well that was a lovely book. I’m glad I had good guides in Thomas, Angelina, and Cindy (The Literary Life Podcast) or I’d be completely lost. I completely misunderstood a metaphor and felt like the last chapters didn’t connect with the rest of the book, but they explained what I’d missed and now the book feels whole. I’m already looking forward to reading it again! I love reading, listening to the podcast, and then reading again in a short span of time.

George Macdonald, like Chesterton and Lewis, is highly commonplace-able. I loved this vivid pro-life thought from Chapter XII:

Therefore, at certain seasons, and in certain states of the weather, according, in part, to their own fancy, the young women go out to look for children. They generally avoid seeking them, though they cannot help sometimes finding them, in places and with circumstances uncongenial to their peculiar likings. But no sooner is a child found, than its claim for protection and nurture obliterates all feeling of choice in the matter.


One of my seniors wrote her argument essay on mirrors using The Picture of Dorian Gray as a literary example. She also did copious amounts of research in to the psychology of mirrors. Because I had read her paper, references to mirrors in Phantastes stood out.

Why are all reflections lovelier than what we call the reality?—not so grand or so strong, it may be, but always lovelier? Fair as is the gliding sloop on the shining sea, the wavering, trembling, unresting sail below is fairer still. Yea, the reflecting ocean itself, reflected in the mirror, has a wondrousness about its waters that somewhat vanishes when I turn towards itself. All mirrors are magic mirrors. The commonest room is a room in a poem when I turn to the glass. (And this reminds me, while I write, of a strange story which I read in the fairy palace, and of which I will try to make a feeble memorial in its place.) In whatever way it may be accounted for, of one thing we may be sure, that this feeling is no cheat; for there is no cheating in nature and the simple unsought feelings of the soul. There must be a truth involved in it, though we may but in part lay hold of the meaning. Even the memories of past pain are beautiful; and past delights, though beheld only through clefts in the grey clouds of sorrow, are lovely as Fairy Land. But how have I wandered into the deeper fairyland of the soul, while as yet I only float towards the fairy palace of Fairy Land! The moon, which is the lovelier memory or reflex of the down-gone sun, the joyous day seen in the faint mirror of the brooding night, had rapt me away.


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