Thursday, April 14, 2011

A Review of George MacDonald’s Phantastes: A Faerie Romance for Men and Women

Warning: Some spoilers ahead

Advancing a claim that something is the “first” anything is daring a slippery slope, but saying a book is the “first fantasy” is rather like taking a leap onto a Slip and Slide greased with the gelatin exudate of Cthulhu. George MacDonald’s Phantastes: A Faerie Romance for Men and Women (1858) could be the first fantasy story … but then, what about Shakespeare’s The Tempest, or Edmund Spencer’s The Faerie Queene, or the Epic of Gilgamesh, or … you get the picture. I happen to agree with Black Gate's Matthew David Surridge that Phantastes is likely not the first pure fantasy novel, for the fact that, although it involves another world, it “never quite [leaves] the real world behind.” It’s the stuff of dreams, with a clear path back to earth.

Regardless, Phantastes is without question one of the cornerstones of the genre, and stands poised at the cusp of early works containing fantastic elements, to those that feature fully developed, independent secondary worlds.

To read the rest of this post, visit The Black Gate website.


Lagomorph Rex said...

I rather enjoyed that, I've enjoyed most of Macdonald's stuff that I've read. Certainly more than Eddison or Morris anyway..

Kent said...

Another great review. I have a hardback copy of 'A Treasury of Fantasy' in the post! There seem to be some more rare gems in that book too.

Brian Murphy said...

Lagomorph: I enjoyed it too, though I would put The Worm Ouroboros above Phantastes.

Kent: It is an interesting book...I would not have expected to find Phantastes and The Wood Beyond the World sharing space with Swords of the Purple Kingdom and The Doom That Came to Sarnath.

Lagomorph Rex said...

I found that after all the strife and death in Worm, the miserable demons simply were so cut up about not having anyone to bash they willed the Witch lords back into existence..

I don't normally care for the Marxist view of history.. but I think I'd have liked to have seen some peasants chase them all into the sea at the end..

I prefer Dunsany to all of them.

After you've read the Princess and the Goblin, you should get hold of the Animated adaption. It features the voice of Joss Ackland as the villian.. and is not all that bad..