Phantastes – a brief review

After reading George MacDonald’s “Phantastes” it is clear to me why CS Lewis chose MacDonald to be his Virgil in “The Great Divorce.”  “Phantastes” is truly one of the most remarkable works I have ever read.  Overflowing with rich imagery and lyrical finely measured prose (along with some superb longer sections of poetry) MacDonald’s book is magnificent in scope and execution.  One feels completely absorbed by Anodos’ character and his story.  Much like Anodos felt himself to be the central character in the Fairie stories he read in the Fairie Palace so I felt as if I was the central character in “Phantastes;” it wasn’t simply Anodos’ journey, it was mine.

“Phantastes” is poignant and strong, it tells the truth and brings spiritual health for it strengthens the mind and purifies the heart.  Pretty good for a book, eh?

General description of the book:

Phantastes was a tale of a young man, Anodos, who awoke to find himself in the land of Faerie on his twenty first birthday. He would spend twenty one days in this strange world which he later said felt like twenty one years. Anodos has a couple of different meanings in Greek, but in this story it clearly seems to mean “without a path”. Right away at the beginning of the story we find the young man wandering off the path. He would continue to wander off the path now and again, but always some good soul would help him get back to his proper place. Learning to stay the path and listen to the intuitive voice of God was often a matter of losing his pride which generally took on the form of a relentless shadow following him night and day, sun or no sun. It was a multifaceted story that played out the road to redemption not so very different from Pilgrim’s Progress, The Divine Comedy, or many other stories like it but few told with such Godlike mystical imagination and grace.


  1. Ariel
    Sep 23, 2008

    I love this book. Was overwhelmed in a similar way when I read it several years back.

  2. Kim
    Jun 16, 2010

    George MacDonald truly shaped the way I think about Imagination. . .his book of ‘sermons’ and writing, especially the one on Imagination, is wonderful. . .this book is so full of deep, almost disturbing, lovely imagery, as are his exceptional fairytales (Princess and Curdie, etc.). So glad to see a review of this.

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