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Phantastes

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3.96  ·  Rating details ·  6,314 Ratings  ·  525 Reviews
"I was dead, and right content," the narrator says in the penultimate chapter of Phantastes. C.S. Lewis said that upon reading this astonishing 19th-century fairy tale he "had crossed a great frontier," and numerous others both before and since have felt similarly. In MacDonald's fairy tales, both those for children and (like this one) those for adults, the "fairy land" cl ...more
Hardcover, 325 pages
Published October 1st 1994 by Johannesen Printing & Publishing (first published 1858)
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Cindy Rollins
Sep 26, 2015 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: 2015
The first time I read this I was a newly married 18 yo. My husband was taking a class at college titled Oxford Christians and I may as well have taken the class myself because I read every single life-changing book Dr. Kay Ludwigson assigned. And of all the books by all those wonderful Inklings and hangers-on, this book, Phantastes, captured my imagination and began my love of George MacDonald in a unique way.

I loved this book. Ordo Amoris.

They say the brain has definite patterns of nostalgia
...more
Susan Budd
It’s like a dream: You just
find yourself somewhere
and you wander on.
Not like a quest,
with a destination
and obstacles along the way.
No. You just find yourself walking
without a destination
and when you get somewhere
someone was expecting you,
someone who had sent you somewhere,
although you don’t know
why or where or how
and it doesn’t bother you much
that you don’t know.
El
I like a good faerie story, a nice romp in fairy lands. I especially like reading older fantasy novels to help this graph I have in my head showing the progression and evolution of fantasy in literature. MacDonald's book here, published in 1857, seemed like a good one to pick up - it's an early fantasy novel with an introduction by C.S. Lewis, possibly the world's first MacDonald fanboy (and OMG he drooled all over MacDonald in that introduction), and this MacDonald guy inspired not only Lewis, ...more
Douglas Wilson
I know that I read this once before, many moons ago. But my only recollection of it consisted in the fact that I had read it. I recently decided to read it again because of the impact it had on Lewis. Having done so, I can only conclude that Lewis saw a great deal more in it than I was able to, although I did enjoy it -- particularly the last third. There are some great moments. But it struck me as kind of a fairy land hodge podge, only with the hodge parts and the podge parts packed closely tog ...more
Werner
May 07, 2011 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: Fantasy fans who don't mind Victorian diction
Shelves: fantasy
While I read this book several years ago (the 2006 date is a "best guess"), I'd actually started it back in 1990 and didn't finish it at that time. It gets off to kind of a slow start, and one element in the storyline was initially off-putting to me (but no spoilers here!). However, I'm glad I decided to give it a second and fairer chance; it proved to be a solid three-star fantasy that I enjoyed. Basically, it's a coming-of-age tale in a fantasy setting; and it's perhaps the first example in th ...more
Amber
Aug 22, 2015 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: librarybooks
On his twenty-first birthday, Anodos entered his father's study and opens a drawer where a little woman that claims to be his grandmother grants his wish to go to fairy-land. With many tests to pass, will he pass them all to make it into Fairy-land or is all just a fantasy? Read on and find out for yourself.

This was a pretty good read and my first ever read by George Macdonald. It was full of action, adventure, prose and was a very whimsical fantasy. Look for this book at your local library and
...more
John
Jan 17, 2009 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: fiction
Very good. Now if only I could understand more of the symbolism....
Heideblume
Atmosfere ottocentesce, romantiche, evocative, oniriche. Molte descrizioni e poca azione. Molta “esperienza sentimentale” e poche avventure.
Le idee ci sono (Es. metaletteratura: la fiction permette di sperimentare e immedesimarsi in situazioni che non abbiamo vissuto in prima persona nella vita reale ma che comunque ci hanno trasmesso-insegnato qualcosa), gli sviluppi un po' meno. E' una materia acerba, ma già si sapeva - l'autore è diventato famoso con altri romanzi. In compenso questo libro h
...more
matthew
Jul 24, 2009 rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
This is an interesting book. C.S. Lewis cites MacDonald as his guru of types (note his role in the book "The Great Divorce"). Lewis further said that Phantastes "baptized [his:] imagination". Those are strong words and citations from an author that I love reading. So I decided to try out Phantastes. It is a "fairy romance", but really it is in the vein of Bunyan's "Pilgrim's Progress"--an extended allegory about life and philosophy. Except, in this version, none of the characters are explicitly ...more
Larissa
Like many of the other reviewers, I am certain that a second reading would reveal much more of this story to me. Many times throughtout the reading I wished I could just jump into MacDonalds mind and find the key to much that I am sure is allegorical! This book is so beautiful it almost hurts. I loved and was confused by it. I know now why C.S. Lewis thought him a master; if Lewis loooked up to him you know that most of the rest of us would see him as brilliant!

The story begins with this young
...more
Cora
Apr 02, 2007 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: fiction
A friend and I decided to have "family story time" each evening as a new bedtime routine to help us fall asleep more calmly in the midst of interpersonal and academic stress. We chose this classic tale, picked up by C.S. Lewis at a train station (he later said that it influenced his writing greatly).. it's a fabulous read-aloud story because the writing is just so darn good, especially in the introductory chapters. We have at least a dozen notecards with quotes from the book scattered about the ...more
Joaquin Garza
A veces pienso en las canciones que, por sus letras, me remiten de inmediato a mi idea central de lo que es la fantasía. Algún día diré cuál es el top de esas canciones, pero me voy a quedar con la que es mi favorita:

'Ahorra una pequeña vela: guarda algo de luz para mí
Hay figuras allá delante, moviéndose por entre los árboles
piel blanca cubierta de lino, perfume en mi muñeca
y la luna llena que cuelga por sobre los sueños entre la bruma'
(...)
'Es capa y espada, puede ser primavera o verano
camino s
...more
Oria
Apr 30, 2011 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
“But Love is such a Mystery
I cannot find it out:
For when I think I’m best resolv’d,
I then am in most doubt.”
(Sir John Suckling)

I have just finished Phantastes and was immediately compelled to put my thoughts to paper. What attracted me to the book was, beside the title, the blurb at the back which said the story is a “fairy tale for adults” and I needed no more persuasion.

The book relates the story of Anodos, a young wealthy man who, on his 21st birthday receives the keys to a mysterious secreta
...more
Jacob Aitken
Aug 04, 2011 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: beauty, fantasy, inklings
In many ways this really isn't a good book. The style borders on choppy and dense. The story doesn't always flow. MacDonald routinely makes excurses without telling you. But...



The "mythopoeic" prose is its redeeming quality. MaDonald bathed the book in sacramentality. Every leaf, grove, and spring refleted redemption--and MacDonald is a talented enough artist that he can show redemption without telling you redemption (usually).



The story line is simple enough. The protagonists finds himself in "
...more
Jeslyn
Nov 03, 2009 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Lyrical, mesmerizing "faerie romance for men and women", thus far this story focuses on Anodos and his epic journey through the dreamlike Fairy Land - but if the reader is looking for tiny winged creatures, he will find them only briefly; Fairy Land is populated with numerous inhabitants who are in fact human, and others appear so but with supernatural qualities. Though society (and rampant marketing) have oversold the idea of a benign parallel world of beauty and frolicking sprites, make no mis ...more
Megan Fritts
Jan 21, 2011 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: favorites
Absolutely the most incredible book I've ever read. I'm pretty sure it will stay my favorite forever. You know those things in life (books/paintings/scenery/etc) that are just so beautiful that you know you couldn't accurately describe them? That is what this book was, to me. I know that you're not supposed to "over-sell" books, because then everyone's expectations will be high, or whatever. I don't care. This book changed how I view the world. C.S. Lewis was spot-on in his opinion of MacDonald, ...more
Chad Gibbons
Jul 25, 2011 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
What an excellent book. This is my favorite George MacDonald book by far. There is a palpable sense of danger as the narrator Anodos tells of his travels in Fairy-Land. Along his journey, he encounters sinister Ash trees, mischievous kobolds, women who only appear in the reflection of mirrors, Sir Galahad, and a host of other fairy-folk. It's written in the classic George MacDonald surrealist tone, which at times will make you gape with wonder and at others cringe in horror. If you take any deli ...more
Michaela
Aug 09, 2013 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Sometimes it seems like because we’re kept in suspense throughout a book and we’re still excited and caught up in the story when we finish the last chapter, we immediately give it five stars just for that, and then we either forget about it, or later realize it wasn’t all that good after all. In other words, it was fun while it lasted, but not worth a second read or even a second thought.

And then there are those that seem slower while we’re actually reading them, we’re tempted to quit halfway th
...more
Alex
Mar 19, 2013 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: fantasy geeks
This is a neat little book. It's a bit episodic, and a little flowery, but it's really vivid; there's some terrific imagery in here.

It's the story of some dude who goes to fairy land and wanders around mooning after some lady. There are giants and goblins. It's considered one of the first fantasy novels, and a big influence on CS Lewis and Tolkien. It makes for a nice bridge between medieval fantasy precursors like Morte D'Arthur and Beowulf* and the later official fantasy genre.

* what? There a
...more
Laurel Hicks
Fantasy in water colors by the great maker of myth.
Kay An P.
Aug 14, 2017 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: fantasy-classics
It really surprised me. I did get confused here and there, but wow, such a powerful imagination (this was written in 1858 if I'm not mistaken).
MacDonald certainly is the grandpa of worldbuilding. My grandpa <3
Nick
Oct 07, 2016 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: adult-fiction, own
This is one of those books that I wanted to love. There are portions of it that I really enjoyed, and I like the overall tone of the book. It is high and poetic, but this is also where I get lost. As I read it, I felt like there was a lot going over my head. I might need to get some sort of commentary on this book or reread it with some people that are smarter than me. I will definitely have to tackle this again in the future.
Melinda
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Kevin Finelli
Apr 13, 2013 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: fantasy
I enjoyed Phantastes on several levels. At the surface, it is an enjoyable fantasy store or fairy tale about a young man who wakes up in the fairy world one day. The story is infused throughout with poetry, including a quote at the beginning of each chapter, and many songs and poems sung or spoken by the characters themselves. For me personally, hearing rather than reading helped me enjoy the poetry, which I probably would have skimmed through otherwise.

Beyond this, Phantastes is an allegory, th
...more
Hákon Gunnarsson
I read this because of my interest in fantasy, and this is a pre-J.R.R. Tolkien fantasy. In short my reaction to it can be summed up like this: it is a book that took me a very, very long time to get through it. There is something about the writing style that made it a sloooow read for me. I can't say I liked it that much, but I found some interesting things in it, so in some sense I'm glad I read it.
Marcella
Jun 26, 2017 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: fantasy, 2017
Had to read this for a school assignment and though it was old english, it was actually quite good! A lot of thinking. A spiritual journey the character Anados takes to find his identity.
This author was C.S. Lewis' biggest inspiration and I saw how Lewis incorporated some of this story into Narnia.

Not my typical book that's for sure but very interesting!
Vivian
Feb 11, 2013 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: novels
The beginning narrative hooked me. On the occasion of his 21st birthday, young Anodos is given the key to his deceased father's desk. But it is what he finds in the desk that opens the door to the rest of the tale. And what a tale it is.

This reader (moi)wondered how the writer was able to contrive this epic journey through who-knows-where for who-knows-what. This work is something of a shake-up of Rousseau, Defoe, Baum, and C.S. Lewis. In fact, Lewis names MacDonald as a spiritual mentor, thoug
...more
Philip
C.S. Lewis: (from the blurb on the back of the book): "I have never concealed the fact that I regarded MacDonald as my master, indeed I fancy I have never written a book in which I did not quote from him."

I might add to that quote, "..., or which I did not simply steal his ideas outright."

I mean, the portal to a magical fairy-land in Phantastes is a wooden desk. The portal in Narnia is a wooden wardrobe. Talking trees, enchanted palaces, both books read leaving one the feeling of being locked in
...more
Skye
Mar 12, 2017 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I highly recommend reading the annotated edition.
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modern re-telling 1 3 Jan 06, 2017 09:09PM  
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George MacDonald was a Scottish author, poet, and Christian minister.

Known particularly for his poignant fairy tales and fantasy novels, George MacDonald inspired many authors, such as G.K. Chesterton, W. H. Auden, J.R.R. Tolkien, C. S. Lewis, and Madeleine L'Engle. Lewis that wrote that he regarded MacDonald as his "master": "Picking up a copy of Phantastes one day at a train-station bookstall, I
...more
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“It is by loving, and not by being loved, that one can come nearest the soul of another; yea, that, where two love, it is the loving of each other, that originates and perfects and assures their blessedness. I knew that love gives to him that loveth, power over over any soul be loved, even if that soul know him not, bringing him inwardly close to that spirit; a power that cannot be but for good; for in proportion as selfishness intrudes, the love ceases, and the power which springs therefrom dies. Yet all love will, one day, meet with its return. ” 147 likes
“Past tears are present strength.” 55 likes
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