The arena of twentieth century British Christian fiction, appears to owe a great deal to George MacDonald, whose Victorian fantasy as demonstrated in "Lilith" has a primitive and dark undercurrent. Nightmarish yet optimistic, "Lilith" is possibly the most vivid life-after-death parable since Dante's Divine Comedy.
The protagonist and first-person narrator is an excitable man named Mr. Vane who lives in an old house that has been in his family for generations. One day he notices an odd creature making its way through the library; this turns out to be the birdlike Mr. Raven, who introduces him to a mysterious world beyond a magic mirror stored in the garret of the house. A more modern author might be tempted to give this world a name to distinguish it from the real one, but to MacDonald it is merely an extension of Mr. Vane's conscience.
Mr. Vane is understandably frightened of but fascinated by this world. Part of it appears to be a realm of the Dead where skeletal apparitions dance and fight as though they were still living; part a forest where stupid, brutal giants and innocent, benevolent "little ones" share their habitats; part a murky moor where leopardesses roam in search of babies to eat and enchanting women are to be found. At the center of this world, embodying its evil, commanded by an entity known as the "Shadow," is the demon princess Lilith, a direct allusion to the Assyrian goddess and to the legend of Adam's first wife.
There is also an implied notion of a library as a gateway to the imaginations of the innumerable deceased, which is a comforting thought that connotes potential immortality through the written word. If nothing else, "Lilith" functions as a bridge between two enduring traditions -- imaginative classic literature and twentieth century fantasy.
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