Anodos cannot leave Fairy-land until he learns to cast aside his youthful pride and selfishness and become a mature, humble man. One major step in this process is when Anodos leaves behind his suit of armor and his position as a knight to become the squire of another knight he deems far greater than himself. After watching that knight act so nobly and lovingly toward a poor family, and later watching him attempt to nurse their daughter back to health, Anodos is truly in awe of his unwavering kindness and humility. He begins to realize that this man represents all that a person could wish to be:
"This," I said to myself, "is a true man. I will serve him, and give him all worship, seeing in him the imbodiment of what I would fain become. If I cannot be noble myself, I will yet be servant to his nobleness." He, in return, soon showed me such signs of friendship and respect, as made my heart glad; and I felt that, after all, mine would be no lost life, if I might wait on him to the world's end, although no smile but his should greet me, and no one but him should say, "Well done! he was a good servant!" at last.
Anodos' devotion to the knight is similar to that of a religious worshipper. He treats this knight as his God, saying he will "Give him all worship." He desires no other outward praise beyond that of his knight, just as Christians are taught to act only for the glory of God. He has gained humility and learned that being a servant to a higher faith is better than any title or status in society. Because Anodos realizes that there is something more important than himself, he is able to sacrifice his life to save the knight and hundreds of other people in the mystical ceremony he later witnesses. After his death in Fairy-land, Anodos further displays his selflessness when he muses on his love for the White Lady:
I knew now, that 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, and not the being loved by each other, that originates and perfects and assures their blessedness. I knew that love gives to him that loveth, power over any soul beloved, 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 [313/314] ceases, and the power which springs therefrom dies. Yet all love will, one day, meet with its return. All true love will, one day, behold its own image in the eyes of the beloved, and be humbly glad. This is possible in the realms of lofty Death. "Ah! my friends," thought I, "how I will tend you, and wait upon you, and haunt you with my love."
Anodos has recognized that he does not need to capture and win a woman to have succeeded in loving her. The simple act of loving another human being is the highest good there is, regardless of whether the feelings are mutual, and loving another creature should bring one great happiness. He is not jealous of the knight for being loved by the White Lady. Instead, he desires to do both of them as much good as possible and "haunt them with my love." Anodos is now preaching against selfishness, saying that it kills the power of love. He has been transformed from a naive, selfish youth to a selfless man in the course of his 21 days in Fairy-land, and is now finally able to return to the real world.
Questions for Discussion
1. Both Jane Eyre and The Phantastes can be seen as coming of age stories for Jane and Anodos, respectively. Do each of them have to learn similar lessons? How do the teachings of Christianity affect their decisions and experiences?
2. Anodos realizes that serving someone who is better than oneself can lead to happiness and fulfillment. When he returns home however, it seems that he enjoys a position of prominence and wealth in his society. How will he be able to lead his life of humility and selflessness in such a position?
3. Anodos believes he is the better for loving the White Lady, even though she doesn't return his feelings. By the end of Anodos' time in Fairy-land, is his love for her still romantic, or is it simply platonic?
MacDonald, George. Phantastes. Grand Rapids, Michigan: Wm. B. Eerdmans, 2000.
Last modified 22 February 2010