Beyond the Golden Stair Critical Essays

Wayne Woodard


(Critical Survey of Science Fiction and Fantasy)

An adventure and a love story, Beyond the Golden Stair, though relatively unknown, remains one of the most appealing novels in the genre, strongly resonating with A. Merritt’s The Moon Pool (1919) and H. Rider Haggard’s The People of the Mist (1894). Of particular interest is the creation of Khoire, a world populated by beings who have advanced far beyond human civilization, both technologically and philosophically, yet who remain compassionate toward humanity and its failings. Unfortunately, humanity has only superstitious and legendary glimmerings of the Khoireans. The Fountain of Youth, El Dorado, Jacob’s Ladder, Ra the sun god, and Usipatra Vana all are mythical touchstones connecting human culture with that of Khoire.

Hannes Bok’s greatest achievement lies in his charming rendition of the Cinderella myth. Hibbert is a weak, puny man, but he is also a courageous soul who is ultimately rewarded for his gallantry, his inner strength, and his love. Because Khoire strips away all pretensions and secrets, revealing the true self, physical appearance conforms to the depth of spiritual insight. As a result, Hibbert can overcome his physical deformities in Khoire and be transformed into the appropriate object of Mareth’s desire. Hibbert’s metamorphosis and his subsequent exile from Khoire represent the capacity, whatever the difficulties, to fulfill a dream that has haunted, perplexed, and maddened one’s everyday life.