Saturday, March 26, 2011

Phantastes - Chapter 10

Well this one is greatly delayed due to real life stuff. I ended up quitting my job and taking on a new job at a great company, and while I'm happy with the transition it didn't leave me a lot of free time or energy for literary analysis.

Fortunately, things are settling down and now I will move on to Chapter 10 of this fantastic book!

This is a long chapter so it's hard for me to speak of it as a single thing. It is a single story, but it has several different phases. The beginning is the desert. MacDonald writes, "The shadow was in my heart as well as at my heels." In my opinion, this is emblematic of both the desert and the shadow. The hopelessness, the barrenness of life itself. I have been through a desert very like it, although I don't remember seeing the gremlins. Mine was a solitary desert.

Then the next phase is when he sees the stream. It is small, but it is not affected by the desert. It is cheerful even though it travels through a barren land, and the place where the stream goes, it brings life. A couple things I see here. First, he emphasizes the sound of the stream, that it bubbles and "sings", which is interesting because the protagonist himself is described as a singer. Singing is much of his identity. Second, the stream reminds me of the stream referenced in Ezekiel 47, where it flows from the throne of God through the Israeli desert and down to the Dead Sea (AKA the Salt Sea). Everywhere that stream goes, it brings life. It turns the salt water into fresh water.

This interplay between the protagonist and the stream continues with, "A gush of joy sprang forth in my heart, and over flowed at my eyes." Thus while the spring shared Anodos's singing, Anodos shares the spring's "gushing". Also remember that it was a spring of water, flowing from Anodos's basin, that led him into Fairy Land in the first place. This is the second time that he is guided by a stream to his destination.

When he awakes, it's like he awakes from the grief of his shadow. He is in Fairy Land "for the first time" and it's like the story resets. He is still seeking the Marble Lady, but all of the joy and sorrow of the prior events is wiped out.

The "torrent eddies of pain have hollowed a great gulf". Again I believe that MacDonald is comparing the river to Anodos, because Anodos himself finds himself entering a place of tranquility, much like the tranquility of the water in that gulf.

The third major phase of this chapter begins when Anodos rides in the boat; he identifies with the river even more, because now he moves along in the timeless flow of the river, losing himself in "the great flow of sky above... unbroken in its infinitude." He is part of the river and the river is part of him.

MacDonald similarly gives away the purpose of the entire book in this chapter, when he says "But how have I wandered into the deeper fairyland of the soul...!" So it's clear that MacDonald thinks of Fairy Land as an analogy or metaphor of soulish life. Of course, this life that we now live is but an analogy or metaphor for the true life, and how I wish I could awake into that life! That I might die in a dream, and awake into the real life, the true life, of communion with God.

The fourth phase begins when Anodos leaves the river and enters the Fairy Palace. The Fairy Palace is definitely one of the loci of this story, a focus point around which other elements revolve. I feel like the story is structured so that half of it is Anodos's journey to the Palace, and the other half is Anodos's departure from the Palace back to "normal" life. In that sense, being in the Palace is the apex of the story (but not the climax - that comes towards the end).

I find it interesting how the stream flows from the fountain into the palace. Again this reminds me of Ezekiel 47 and the river that flows from the throne of God (well, from the threshold of the temple, but in Revelation 22:1 it flows from the throne of God).

I find it very interesting that Anodos is now marked as Sir Anodos. He is both a knight and a singer, where before in this book it was treated as a juxtaposition: the knight OR the singer. Back in Chapter 6, MacDonald writes:
"I am ashamed," he said, "to appear a knight, and in such a guise; but it behoves me to tell you to take warning from me, lest the same evil, in his kind, overtake the singer that has befallen the knight."
Now Anodos is both. As he falls asleep, this long and powerful chapter ends.

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