Friday, January 09, 2009

A Precursor to the Mirror of Erised

I just finished reading Phantastes: A Faerie Romance by George MacDonald. It has been on my reading list for some time thanks to Dr. Veith and his book Reading Between the Lines. What got me motivated to read it though was finding (at a local bookstore) a bargain copy of The Princess and the Goblin (also by MacDonald) and reading that aloud to the kids. We are now half way through the sequel (The Princess and Curdie). I wanted more MacDonald for my own private reading time.

The copy of Phatastes that I checked out from the library has a wonderful forward by C.S. Lewis who states after reading this book that he "had crossed a great frontier". It was a turning point in his life. I'm reading along I came upon a chapter that related a story from a library book in Faerie Land. This story tells of a mirror with curious carvings around the frame. As Cosmo looks into this mirror he sees his room reflected but also a lady who, when he turns away from the mirror, is not there. He sits many a night looking and longing for his beautiful lady.

"But as he gazed on the face and form, which now possessed his whole soul, to the exclusion of all other joys and griefs, the longing to speak to her, to know that she heard him, to hear from her one word in return, became so unendurable...." p.97-98

This mirror reminded me (although it was not exact as this was an enchanted mirror that had trapped the lady) of the Mirror of Erised from the Harry Potter series.

Mirror of Erised (from the Harry Potter Lexicon)
A magnificent mirror, as high as a classroom ceiling, with an ornate gold frame, standing on two clawed feet. The inscription carved around the top reads "Erised stra ehru oyt ube cafru oyt on wohsi," which is "I show not your face but your heart's desire" written backwards (that is, in what is called 'mirror writing'). When you look into the mirror, you see the deepest, most desperate desire of your heart. The mirror has trapped people who can't bear to stop staring into it, unsure if what they see is going to actually happen.

and from Dumbledore:
"Men have wasted away before it, entranced by what they have seen, or been driven mad, not knowing if what it shows is real or even possible."


Oh...I was going to add...Here is a link if you want to listen to the book at LibriVox. It isn't all the way finished however. But that is where I went to find out how to pronounce "Phantastes".



Elephantschild said...

Hmmm. It also brings to mind the Palantir in Tolkien's books! Something glimpsed that awakens inconsolable longing. :)

Elephantschild said...

Oh, and I just recently found LibriVox, too. WOW. What a treasure that is!