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Lilith (1895)

by George MacDonald

Other authors: See the other authors section.

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1,502138,569 (3.79)40
Introduction by C. S. Lewis "Lilith is equal if not superior to the best of Poe,” wrote W. H. Auden in his introduction to the 1954 reprint of George MacDonald’s Lilith, which was first published in 1895. It is the story of Mr. Vane, an orphan and heir to a large house -- a house in which he has a vision that leads him through a large old mirror into another world. In chronicling the five trips Mr. Vane makes to this other world, MacDonald hauntingly explores the ultimate mystery of evil.… (more)
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Mystical Christian Quest Fantasy
Review of the Allison and Bubsy Ltd. paperback edition (1989) of the 1895 original

Scottish author and minister George MacDonald (1824-1905) is considered by many to be the founder on modern fantasy fiction. He mentored Lewis Carroll and influenced and inspired authors such as W. H. Auden, C. S. Lewis, J. R. R. Tolkien, Walter de la Mare, E. Nesbit, G.K. Chesterton and Madeleine L'Engle. You can also spot a hint of J.M. Barrie's "Peter Pan and the Lost Boys" in MacDonald's Lilith in the characters of the "Little Ones' who never grow up.

Lilith (1895) is MacDonald's final major work and it is a much more serious Christian mysticism fantasy as opposed to earlier lighter fare such as the popular The Princess and the Goblin (1872). The plot is rather complex and involves the lead character passing back and forth between our world and another dimension via a mirror in his attic. There is a good summary of the plot at Wikipedia if you are interested, which you can read (with Spoilers obviously) here.

As the above plot summary reveals, the main quest of the piece involves the salvation of Adam's first wife Lilith who has become an evil sorceress princess ruling the city of Bulika. Lilith is a character that originates in Jewish mythology, but who has been excised from the Christian Bible except for an oblique reference in Genesis 1:27 which implies that there was originally a woman created at the same time as Adam, and not from his rib (as occurs later in Genesis 2:23). A lot of this is heavy going of course, but it is still fascinating to read if mythology and fantasy is of interest to you. The novel can still be read for its lighter parts involving the "Little Ones" and their mobilization with a herd of horses and elephants to conquer the kingdom.

My thanks to Liisa and Martin & family for this lovely rare edition gift!

Trivia and Link
Lilith (1895) is out of copyright protection, so it is available to read for free in various eBook formats at Project Gutenberg. ( )
  alanteder | Aug 19, 2020 |
What to say about this book? Well, it's the darker companion to [b:Phantastes|174948|Phantastes|George MacDonald|https://images.gr-assets.com/books/1327629648s/174948.jpg|2206809]. It's an immersive fantasy dream-experience that transcends plot (though it has one). It's a Christian exhortation to the reader: die to self if you would live forever. It is by turns odd, humorous, witty, sweet, downright chilling, and glorious. It's often a blend of [b:The Pilgrim's Progress|29797|The Pilgrim's Progress|John Bunyan|https://images.gr-assets.com/books/1405982367s/29797.jpg|1960084] and [b:Alice in Wonderland|13023|Alice in Wonderland (Alice's Adventures in Wonderland, #1)|Lewis Carroll|https://images.gr-assets.com/books/1391458382s/13023.jpg|2933712], but I love it more than both those books put together.

Lilith begins as a man called Vane steps through a mirror into a vividly detailed fantasy world. His guide is an old librarian who, in the alternate realm, appears as a raven and offers him both practical advice and spiritual challenges (and their arguments on metaphysics, not without wordplay, leave no doubt as to MacDonald's influence on [a:Lewis Carroll|8164|Lewis Carroll|https://images.gr-assets.com/authors/1192735053p2/8164.jpg]). Midway through the book, Vane's path crosses that of Lilith--yes, the same Lilith who, in Jewish mythology, was the rebellious first wife of Adam, replaced with Eve.

As anyone who knows MacDonald will expect, the journeys of Vane and Lilith each illustrate the Christian's journey to redemption. He writes said journey with so many layers--of justice, mercy, sorrow, love for fellow man, willful sin vs. ignorant sin, mysteries vs. revelations of God. If all that sounds preachy, well, I never found the book to be so. I walked in the protagonist's footprints, saw the fantasy realm as he saw it, felt the pricking of his heart in my own.

MacDonald wrote with a profound awareness of eternity I've never found in any other writer (except perhaps in the song lyrics of Rich Mullins). That bright and beautiful view is perhaps at its most resplendent in Lilith. ( )
1 vote AmandaGStevens | Mar 2, 2019 |
A Portrait of the Other Side

This book is not for everyone, but if you find yourself longing for a mystical place that at one time you might have called home, you have something in common with the protagonist of this story. It is not fast paced by today's standards, but I never got bored with it. I would recommend it for the spiritual inclined. ( )
1 vote shedthenegative | Jul 19, 2017 |
Both C.S. Lewis and J.R.R. Tolkien list MacDonald as one of their influences and it is certainly apparent in his story telling. This book has shades of Narnia and Middle Earth both in it. It is a good story, but it was originally written in 1895 so the syntax and grammar make it a bit cumbersome to read. Still it is worth the read if one can wade through that aspect of it - the story is both dark and haunting and offers insights into MacDonald's theology (he was preacher and theologian as well as a writer) and understandings of the Divine as Mr. Vane (the main character) struggles to understand what it means to be alive, to love, and to be in relationship. ( )
1 vote Al-G | Dec 14, 2016 |
I've loved several books by MacDonald, but the descriptions for this mentioned 'evil' and 'horror' - and sure enough when I started to read it was very darkly mysterious. Not to mention allegorical beyond my abilities to decipher. I did read more than 20% before giving up. Oh well. This edition (at least my copy, which is available to you) has small print but is in a crisp font on bright white paper.
  Cheryl_in_CC_NV | Jun 5, 2016 |
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» Add other authors (12 possible)

Author nameRoleType of authorWork?Status
George MacDonaldprimary authorall editionscalculated
Carter, LinIntroductionsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Gallardo, GervasioCover artistsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Knopper, HelenTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Lamb, JimCover Artistsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
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Epigraph
"Off, Lilith!"

--The Kabala
Dedication
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I had just finished my studies at Oxford, and was taking a brief holiday from work before assuming definitely the management of the estate.
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(Click to show. Warning: May contain spoilers.)
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Introduction by C. S. Lewis "Lilith is equal if not superior to the best of Poe,” wrote W. H. Auden in his introduction to the 1954 reprint of George MacDonald’s Lilith, which was first published in 1895. It is the story of Mr. Vane, an orphan and heir to a large house -- a house in which he has a vision that leads him through a large old mirror into another world. In chronicling the five trips Mr. Vane makes to this other world, MacDonald hauntingly explores the ultimate mystery of evil.

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