“And now the witch’s care was that the child should not know darkness…. She never let him see any black, and even kept all dull colors out of his way.”
“Nycteris… the main point in which was that she never see amy light but what came from the lamp…“
These two quotes are found in the beginning of the fairy tale. The subjection of each character to an extreme living style foreshadows emotional tensions. As we see throughout the tale, Nycteris and Photogen are frightened and confused when they experience the opposite forms of light. For example, Nycteris screams and runs home when she sees the sun. As McDonald continues to build these tensions, we begin to wonder how they will interact with each other. Their bond is romantic; they are able to fill each other’s void and learn to love each other even though they are weak in certain areas.
MacDonald names the main characters Nycteris and Photogen to express things more than light and dark. Nycteris is the ancient Greek word for “night,” and Photogen is translated as “light.” According to Wikipedia, MacDonald usually uses light and dark to figuratively refer to goodness and evil respectively, but in this story, these differences are not distinctive enough. MacDonald seems to be using darkness as a way to express self-love. An example of this is when MacDonald introduces us to Nycteris’ education in her tomb, “She knew knew nothing of the world except the tomb in which she dwelt, and had some pleasure in everything she did.” He wants readers’ imagination not to center on “the self,” but rather on a world where there are companionships that could help create integrity and completeness.