The Plot

(Critical Survey of Science Fiction and Fantasy)

The final version of Lilith: A Romance, published in 1895, was the result of George MacDonald’s extensive revision of a draft written in 1890 that was one-third as long and less elaborate in symbolism. The novel concerns the adventures of Mr. Vane, who has returned home from studying the physical sciences at Oxford to manage the family estate he has inherited. One day he follows a ghost-librarian, named Mr. Raven (who at times actually takes on the form of a raven), into a parallel world where he must wander, after having rejected Mr. and Mrs. Raven’s invitation to join the countless people sleeping off the effects of earthly suffering in their vault. Mr. Vane is soon forced into bondage by some loutish Bad Giants but is kept company by the guileless Little Ones, who have never grown up because in this desiccated world there is no water for them to cry tears. Lona, the oldest of the Little Ones, informs him that they turn into Bad Giants if they become greedy.

Mr. Vane escapes so that he can travel to Bulika, where he hopes to find out how to be of service to the Little Ones. On his way he meets the compassionate Mara, whose face is muffled and whom the Little Ones call the “cat-woman” because of her all-white leopard companion (who seems to have been responsible for retrieving the infant Little Ones from the corrupt city of Bulika). He subsequently saves the life of a vampirish woman with his own blood. After she proudly scorns his love,...

(The entire section is 565 words.)