Phantastes by George MacDonald

Two rings surrounding a person on a purple background.  Two open white pages on an orange background.  A black background with a white W.  A black background with a white symbol, that has a black play symbol in the middle.  A black background with a white tentacled cat.

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That night my imagination was, in a certain sense, baptized; the rest of me[,] not unnaturally, took longer. I had not the faintest notion what I had let myself in for by buying Phantastes.” – C.S. Lewis

Phantastes (full title: Phantastes: A Faerie Romance for Men and Women) is a fantasy novel written by George MacDonald and published in 1858. It tells the story of Anodos and begins the day after his 21st birthday. After being shown a vision of Fairy Land by a fairy, he wakes the following day and finds himself in a forest of Fairy Land. There, he learns that there are good and evil creatures here. Two of the evil creatures he is advised to watch out for are the Ash Tree and the Alder Tree. Later on, he encounters another evil force: his shadow, which follows him throughout the rest of the story.

George MacDonald is an influential, although often underrated (if not forgotten) figure of fantasy literature. While he was originally minister of Trinity Congregational Church, his sermons were not well received. His salary was quickly cut and he lasted just 3 years in the position. After leaving as minister, he turned to writing fantasy in order to provide for his family. The publication of works such as Phantastes, The Princess and the Goblin, and At the Back of the North Wind have all culminated in him being considered the founding father of modern fantasy.

“I write, not for children but for the child-like, whether they be of five, or fifty, or seventy-five.” – George MacDonald

MacDonald has been influential to the great fantasy authors that followed in his footsteps: J.R.R. Tolkien, J.K. Rowling, C.S. Lewis – even Lewis Carroll, whom he helped publish his own masterpiece, Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland.

You can buy a paperback and a hardcover of the novel at the corresponding links.