Friday, July 1, 2011

Phantastes - Chapter 23

In this chapter, the protagonist becomes a squire. This seems very fitting to me, although as a turn of events it is also rather peculiar and perhaps unpredictable. Yet, it is fitting with the new burst of humility. Throughout the entire book, from the very beginning in the protagonist's castle, when he inherited his father's estate, to when he stayed in the Fairy Palace in his own room, to when he was knighted by his father the king, he was always the one being served by others. Of course, he was often in the need of service, but yet he always received it.

So it seems fitting, now that he is seeking humility and the death of self, that he would now for the first time in this writing be the servant of another. It certainly gives the book a very different character now that he takes orders from another, now that he is not serving himself but he has to maintain the interests of his lord above his own. Even the simple act of walking behind the mounted knight denotes a humility and sacrifice that he would choose a dishonored position.

And even then, all he sees is the honor and the strength, courage and love of the knight whom he serves. And this act, of seeing greatness in another, is also a testament to the growing humility in his heart. For it is from a position of humility that one can see the greatness of others.

On another note, in case you're confused as I was, the beggar-girl referenced in this chapter was very briefly mentioned when the protagonist saw a vision of the Marble Lady with this Knight during his stay at the old woman's hut. It was mentioned that the Knight, as he returned, was coming back from being "taken away" by the beggar-girl for some purpose.

I think the story of the butterfly girl is incredibly cool, but I don't see any particular allegory in it. If anyone else has thoughts on some interpretation, I'd be interested to hear it.

And next, when they come upon the temple of trees and the throne. I won't recount all of the details, except for what sticks out to me. First, I again question whether there is an allegory here. I think the answer is probably yes, but not of a very direct sort. For one thing, he mentions the rotten wood of the throne when he tears it. So that signifies decay from within (much like the Alder tree witch). In this case, due to the religiosity of the descriptions, I get a sense that he is making a subtle criticism of somehow decayed or corrupted religion. Again there is a reference to pride with the carved figure on the throne gazing down upon his followers, and there is the priestcraft that conspires to kill innocents as part of their ritual.

The entire premise of the murder is that it is deceitful and while it is performed openly for all to see, the destructive aspects are too far away for people to see. If they were more perceptive (like the protagonist) they would see the fear of the victims and rise up against it.

But whether the author is speaking of Catholicism or Protestantism or Islam or whatever is non-obvious and perhaps in that sense he is not interested in targeting some particular sect at all.

At the very end is the death of the protagonist, which again I simply did not predict as this doesn't seem to follow any sort of "standard storyline" as told by other books. In that sense, this is yet another reason why I love this book because the author seems to have no problem changing directions suddenly and often.

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