1981 paperback edition
|Publisher||Chatto and Windus|
|Media type||Print (Hardback & Paperback)|
Lilith is a fantasy novel written by Scottish writer George MacDonald and first published in 1895. Its importance was recognized in its later revival in paperback by Ballantine Books as the fifth volume of the celebrated Ballantine Adult Fantasy series in September 1969.
Lilith is considered among the darkest of MacDonald's works, and among the most profound. It is a story concerning the nature of life, death, and salvation. In the story, MacDonald mentions a cosmic sleep that heals tortured souls, preceding the salvation of all. MacDonald was a Christian universalist, believing that all will eventually be saved. However, in this story, divine punishment is not taken lightly, and salvation is hard-won.
Mr. Vane, the protagonist of Lilith, owns a library that seems to be haunted by the former librarian, who looks much like a raven from the brief glimpses he catches of the wraith. After finally encountering the supposed ghost, the mysterious Mr. Raven, Vane learns that Raven had known his father; indeed, Vane's father had visited the strange parallel universe from which Raven comes and goes and now resides therein. Vane follows Raven into the world through a mirror (this symbolistic realm is described as "the region of the seven dimensions", a term taken from Jacob Boehme).
Inside the world, Vane learns of a house of beds where the dreamers sleep until the end of the world in death: a good death, in which life is found. Vane's grandfather refused to sleep there and is, instead, forced to do battle with skeletons in a haunted wood. After a treacherous journey through a valley (where the moon is the only thing to keep him safe), Mr. Vane meets the Little Ones, children who never grow up, remaining pure children or becoming selfish and getting bigger and dumber, turning into "bags" or bad giants. After conversing with Lona, the eldest of the children, Mr. Vane decides to help them, and sets off to gather more information, although the Raven (who is also Adam) has warned Mr. Vane that he needs to sleep along with the dreamers before he can really help them.
While on his journey, he meets Lilith, Adam's first wife and the princess of Bulika. C.S Lewis pays tribute to MacDonald in describing the central villain of "The Lion the Witch and the Wardrobe", the White Witch, as descended from Lilith the first wife of Adam. Vane, although nearly blinded by Lilith's beauty and charms, eventually leads the Little Ones in a battle against Bulika. Lona, Vane's love, turns out to be Lilith's daughter, and is killed by her own mother. Lilith, however, is captured and brought to Adam and Eve at the house of death, where they struggle to make her open her hand, fused shut, in which she holds the water the Little Ones need to grow. Only when she gives it up can Lilith join the sleepers in blissful dreams, free of sin. After a long struggle Lilith bids Adam cut her hand from her body; it is done, Lilith sleeps, and Vane is sent to bury the hand; water flows from the hole and washes the land over. Vane is then allowed to join the Little Ones, already asleep, in their dreaming. He takes his bed, next to Lona's, and finds true life in death.
James Blish ranked Lilith as "one of the great originals," saying that its "allegory is far from obtrusive, and the story proper both tense and decidedly eerie." E. F. Bleiler described it as "a long parabolic narrative heavily laden with Victorian Christian symbolism" and noted that critical opinion of the novel was sharply divided: "Some critics regard it highly for its fine images and verbal flashes", while others regard it as a most unpleasant work with an unpalatable message."
- 1895, UK, Chatto and Windus OCLC 27718781, Pub date 1895, Hardback, reprinted 1896
- 1895, USA, Dodd, Mead and Company OCLC 27718786, Pub date 1895, Hardback, reprinted 1896
- 1924, UK, Allen & Unwin OCLC 8458175, Pub date 1924, Hardback
- 1925, USA, E. P. Dutton OCLC 6941443, Pub date 1925, Hardback
- 1954, USA, Eerdmans, Pub date 1954, Hardback, with Phantastes in The Visionary Novels of George MacDonald, reprinted 1964
- 1969, USA, Ballantine Books OCLC 220455361, Pub date September 1969, Paperback, as part of the Ballantine Adult Fantasy series
- 1981, USA, Eerdmans ISBN 0-8028-6061-3, Re-Published date 2000, Paperback, reprinted 2002
- 1986, UK, Allison & Busby ISBN 0-85031-626-X, Pub date October 1986, Paperback, reprinted 1987
- 1986, UK, Lion ISBN 0-85648-342-7, Pub date October 1986, Paperback
- 1994, UK, Johannesen ISBN 1-881084-27-2, Pub date October 1994, Hardcover, omnibus with a first draft as Lilith: A Duplex
- MacDonald, George (September 1969). "About Lilith and George MacDonald: The Land Beyond the Hidden Door, by Lin Carter (introduction)". Lilith. New York: Ballantine Books. pp. v–x. OCLC 220455361.
- "Books," F&SF, April 1970, p. 51-2
- Bleiler, E. F. (1983). The Guide to Supernatural Fiction. Kent, Ohio: Kent State UP. p. 332.
- Bleiler, Everett (1948). The Checklist of Fantastic Literature. Chicago: Shasta Publishers. p. 187.
- Brown, Charles N.; William G. Contento. "The Locus Index to Science Fiction (1984-1998)". Retrieved 2008-04-25.
- Brown, Charles N.; William G. Contento. "The Locus Index to Science Fiction (2002)". Retrieved 2008-04-25.
- Carter, Lin (1973). Imaginary Worlds. New York: Ballantine Books. p. 270. ISBN 345-03309-4 Check
- MacDonald, George. Lilith. Grand Rapids, Michigan: Eerdmans Publishing Company, 2000.
- Tuck, Donald H. (1978). The Encyclopedia of Science Fiction and Fantasy. Chicago: Advent. p. 288. ISBN 0-911682-22-8.
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