(Review) Phantastes: A Faerie Romance by George MacDonald

Publisher and Publication Date: Dover Publications. Originally published in 1905. Dover edition in 2005.
Genre: Fantasy fiction.
Pages: 224.
Source: Self-purchase.
Rating: Very good.

Illustrations by Arthur Hughes.

Amazon link

George MacDonald 1824-1905

I heard about this book while reading, The Door on Half-Bald Hill by Helena Sorensen. In a Goodreads review Sorensen left about Phantastes, she remarked it is a “marvelous” book. I’ve also read other Christian writers in the 20th century were encouraged to write their own fantasy stories after reading Phantastes.
Fantasy fiction is a genre I’ve read only a few books in my lifetime. I’m working towards a change. So far I’ve read 3 books in 2021 in this genre.
I’m not sure this is technically a classic literature book choice. Unless I stand corrected I am adding this book to my list for The Classics Club.

A young man has keys delivered to him that fit a secretary desk belonging to his late father. A key opens up an unknown area of the desk. He expected to find papers letting him know more about his late father. Instead, a tiny and lovely woman reminding him of a “Greek statuette” rose to life. She greets him and grants him one wish. Later, while he ponders this strange experience, his bedroom became an oasis, a garden with a spring, it is a path to Fairy Land.

My Thoughts:
When I first started reading this story I wondered if I was missing important images that mean something deeper?
I wondered if I needed a certain mind-set for reading fantasy fiction?
I decided to relax and enjoy the experience.

Phantastes is a story reminding me of the journey of life.
For example:
~The young man is warned where to go and who not to associate with or trust. He decides to takes his chances and make his own decisions.
~He is attracted to and enticed by beauty.
~He is looking for adventure.
~He is alone at times.
~He admires courage and chivalry.
~He realizes he has lessons to learn.

Phantastes is an innocent child-like story.
It is a fantasy story about a place called Fairy Land or the Country of Faerie.
Different imaginative creatures live in the land. Some are trees who are given humanlike qualities. Some of the creatures cannot be trusted and the young man discovers this through hardship.
Phantastes has a moral lesson.
The story ends well with a sighing satisfaction.

Pen and ink illustrations by Arthur Hughes are throughout the book. They add both a charm and richness to the story.

“My spirits rose as I went deeper into the forest; but I could not regain my former elasticity of mind. I found cheerfulness to be like life itself-not to be created by any argument. Afterwards I learned, that the best way to manage some kinds of painful thoughts, is to dare them to do their worst; to let them lie and gnaw at your heart till they are tired; and you find you still have residue of life they cannot kill.” Page 59. Chapter VIII.


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