Jump to content
Sign in to follow this  
moquist

Phillip Pullman's "His Dark Materials" trilogy

Recommended Posts

I just finished The Amber Spyglass last night, and I was greatly relieved to douse my head in my nightly Bible reading after reading Pullman's last chapter.

The phrase that gives the trilogy its name comes from Milton's Paradise Lost:

Into this wilde Abyss,

The Womb of nature and perhaps her Grave,

Of neither Sea, nor Shore, nor Air, nor Fire,

But all these in thir pregnant causes mixt

Confus'dly, and which thus must ever fight,

Unless th' Almighty Maker them ordain

His dark materials to create more Worlds,

Into this wilde Abyss the warie fiend

Stood on the brink of Hell and look'd a while,

Pondering his Voyage...

This seems to be Pullman's hint that he's retelling Paradise Lost.

I've never read Paradise Lost, but I will now, just to see how pedantic Pullman is in comparison. (The last couple of chapters not only tie up the loose ends of the narrative, they resoundingly beat the reader over the head with Pullman's disgust toward Christianity.)

BIG SPOILERS

I thought they were well-written (his prose was tight but descriptive) but poorly engaging, and I suspect that may be at least in part because he's deliberately convoluting the types that edify. His narrative and his characters glory in rebellion and successful deceit, they exult in their un-created (self-existing?), purely material nature, and the worlds of [almost all] the main characters are nasty places where the reader doesn't want to live. That doesn't really make you want to pick a book up, does it?

Pullman subverts every aspect of Christianity he can get his hands on. He rails against grace ("anything worth having is worth working for"), mercy-kills the false-creator "Authority/God", martyrs Satan, sends Satan's daughter to release all people from death (which is imposed by false-God), and establishes the Fall anew, depicted through the awakening of pubescent sexuality and the sharing of fruit. AND THEN, he concludes his trilogy with the moral that we ought to live to establish the Republic of Heaven where we are now (rather than working fruitlessly for a false Kingdom of Heaven in the hereafter).

Taken by itself, that moral should serve as a reminder to the church that right now, through us, God is bringing his kingdom to Earth, as it is in Heaven. But the people on this board already know that.

The most disappointing aspect of Pullman's work, in my view, is that he is using his God-given mini-creatorship to deny, as vehemently as possible, that he has been created.

Pullman intends his books to show that paradise hasn't been lost, but that we can work to find it together, right here and now. But to me, his books simply point up how drastic that loss can be.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

FWIW, my brief review.

moquist wrote:

: I just finished The Amber Spyglass last night, and I was greatly relieved to

: douse my head in my nightly Bible reading after reading Pullman's last chapter.

Heh.

: The last couple of chapters not only tie up the loose ends of the

: narrative, they resoundingly beat the reader over the head with

: Pullman's disgust toward Christianity.

No kidding. Even my close atheist friend was very disappointed in the last part of this trilogy, because of the way Pullman comes right out and imposes his theological agenda on the characters, rather than allow the story to unfold naturally the way a story ought to unfold. I also think the fact that the story pretty much ends with an ex-nun lecturing children on the evils of faith, and that this book sits on the juvenile literature shelves at bookstores, makes Pullman's story especially offensive.

: His narrative and his characters . . . exult in their . . . purely material nature . . .

Actually, one of the things that annoyed my atheist friend was that, as far as she could see, the book WASN'T as materialistic as everybody was claiming it was -- all that stuff about "particles of consciousness" struck her as just another dopey, New Agey kind of spirituality.

: Pullman subverts every aspect of Christianity he can get his hands on.

And yet I don't think he ever addresses the subject of, well, Christ. There's a big gaping hole in Pullman's anti-Christian screed, and I dare say it makes Pullman look almost cowardly. Is he afraid that he might LIKE Christ (the way that the folks in Monty Python discovered they actually liked a lot of what Jesus was saying when they did the research for Life of Brian)? Is he afraid that his audience thinks too highly of Christ, whatever they might think of the church, and will reject his book if he goes that route? Whatever the explanation is, I think this is a fatal flaw in Pullman's project -- if he really wants to deconstruct Christian mythology, then he had better be prepared to deal with it ALL.

: He . . . kills the false-creator "Authority/God" . . .

And in such an off-handed manner, too, almost as an afterthought -- belittling God by giving him such an accidental death, having the girl call him "the poor thing" (or words to that effect), etc.

: Taken by itself, that moral should serve as a reminder to the church that

: right now, through us, God is bringing his kingdom to Earth, as it is in

: Heaven. But the people on this board already know that.

Yup. But just to play devil's advocate, I will note that there are different kinds of kingdoms. I mean, England itself has a Queen but is also a democracy, etc. smile.gif

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Read these books last year. I can't recall ever being so mad at a book as I was at the Amber Spyglass. I had liked the first two books and was at the time only dimly aware of the controversy surrounding the books.

This seems to be Pullman's hint that he's retelling Paradise Lost.

It's been years since I read Paradise Lost, so I couldn't tell you how direct any comparisons between the two would be, but I think Milton would be pretty cranky at this retelling since it says in PL that the piece is supposed to "justify the ways of God to man." Certainly if it is a retelling, it's an upside down retelling.

I found the first two books (and especially the first book) to be very engaging. But the last one went beyond the pale, as far as I'm concerned. If you lay aside the blasephemy--a tough thing for me to do--it still becomes clear that PP is letting his message guide the story. It makes me think of much of the agenda-driven "Christian" fiction that's out there. The characters do what they do to prove a point, not because it seems to be appropriate or in character. The plot, the characters, even the narrative style took major, almost nonsensical, turns in the last book--and I think it was largely because the story was just there to serve an agenda.

And there's nothing subtle about his agenda. I know people have complained to me that the Narnia books can be tedious because they are serving a particular agenda, but the big difference I see between Lewis and Pullman here is that one would have to already have some knowledge of the Gospel and of Christian imagery to see what Lewis is doing. Is Jesus ever even mentioned in the books? It's impossble to escape Pullman's agenda if in the Amber Spyglass. The images he uses are to show that he's talking about the Christian God are just, to me, much more obvious than Lewis's.

I understand a film is in the works. I wonder if there'll be the kind of stink raised about it that we've seen raised about Harry Potter. If ever a kid's book was worthy of that kind of protest, I think this would be it. Not that I'm likely to picket a theatre--I'll just disrecommend it to everyone I know.

--Teresa

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Thanks - I'll read that later today.

Actually, one of the things that annoyed my atheist friend was that, as far as she could see, the book WASN'T as materialistic as everybody was claiming it was -- all that stuff about "particles of consciousness" struck her as just another dopey, New Agey kind of spirituality.

Yeah, that occurred to me too, but I let it slide. Materialists have some difficult metaphysical quandaries to ponder, and I let his "matter with consciousness" suffice for the questions his worldview can't answer.

: Pullman subverts every aspect of Christianity he can get his hands on.

And yet I don't think he ever addresses the subject of, well, Christ.

Heh - yeah, that was interesting to me, too. I kept waiting for him even to mention Jesus. He does, but only in passing. Maybe Lyra's anti-Christ deliverance of the captive ghosts was rich with subtlety in a way that didn't satisfy Pullman on other issues. ??

Is he afraid that his audience thinks too highly of Christ, whatever they might think of the church, and will reject his book if he goes that route?

Perhaps.

: He . . . kills the false-creator "Authority/God" . . .

And in such an off-handed manner, too, almost as an afterthought -- belittling God by giving him such an accidental death, having the girl call him "the poor thing" (or words to that effect), etc.

Perfect, for hsi purposes.

But just to play devil's advocate, I will note that there are different kinds of kingdoms. I mean, England itself has a Queen but is also a democracy, etc. smile.gif

Then whose side is the devil on? I agree with your point. smile.gif

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

It's been years since I read Paradise Lost, so I couldn't tell you how direct any comparisons between the two would be, but I think Milton would be pretty cranky at this retelling since it says in PL that the piece is supposed to "justify the ways of God to man." Certainly if it is a retelling, it's an upside down retelling.

Precisely - and that is his object. (Not being particularly familiar with Paradise Lost, I didn't pick up the importance of the Milton quote myself, either. I have Alan Jacobs, in the Mars Hill journal, to thank for that.)

it still becomes clear that PP is letting his message guide the story. It makes me think of much of the agenda-driven "Christian" fiction that's out there. The characters do what they do to prove a point, not because it seems to be appropriate or in character. The plot, the characters, even the narrative style took major, almost nonsensical, turns in the last book--and I think it was largely because the story was just there to serve an agenda.

That's why I want to compare it to Milton's work. The Narnia/Middle Earth comparison came to mind for me, too, but I realized I couldn't fault Pullman for being pedantic if the story he's retelling was also pedantic. For me, then, the litmus test seems to be Paradise Lost. If Milton told his story without the pedantry of Pullman's trilogy, I will count this as the foremost of my criticisms of Pullman's work.

And there's nothing subtle about his agenda. I know people have complained to me that the Narnia books can be tedious because they are serving a particular agenda, but the big difference I see between Lewis and Pullman here is that one would have to already have some knowledge of the Gospel and of Christian imagery to see what Lewis is doing. Is Jesus ever even mentioned in the books? It's impossble to escape Pullman's agenda if in the Amber Spyglass. The images he uses are to show that he's talking about the Christian God are just, to me, much more obvious than Lewis's.

I agree entirely. He doesn't even rely only on imagry - he also maintains a steady flow of dialogue that repeats his ideas loudly and often.

I understand a film is in the works. I wonder if there'll be the kind of stink raised about it that we've seen raised about Harry Potter.

Oh, I hope the stink is much, much greater.

Not that I'm likely to picket a theatre--I'll just disrecommend it to everyone I know.

No, I wouldn't picket, either. I would rather that Pullman's work remained just his own, however, without gaining the support of more voices.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

moquist wrote:

: Yeah, that occurred to me too, but I let it slide. Materialists have some

: difficult metaphysical quandaries to ponder, and I let his "matter with

: consciousness" suffice for the questions his worldview can't answer.

I found his theory rather interesting, actually. Though it does raise all sorts of questions and leave others unanswered.

: Maybe Lyra's anti-Christ deliverance of the captive ghosts was rich with

: subtlety in a way that didn't satisfy Pullman on other issues. ??

Heh, indeed. Actually, I believe the review in First Things, headlined 'An Almost Christian Fantasy', makes this very point. Sample quotes:

In Pullman's telling, the fate of all creation hinges, not on some difficult choice between good and evil, but merely on the moment when Will and Lyra first kiss. Somehow (and in the 1,100 pages of the trilogy there is nothing that suggests why this is of literally cosmic significance), after this kiss -- and that's as far as they go -- the Dust that had been flowing out of the universe flows back in, and an age of peace and love is suddenly possible. Because these two young teenagers are basically innocent, as the shifting of their daemons reveals, their innocent love is supposed to show that sex and things of the flesh are very good, when properly ordered. Pullman mistakenly attacks Christian asceticism when he really is rejecting only heretical Manicheism. . . .

Even the monsters in Pullman's world are attracted by innocence and truth. Even they are not beyond redemption, are in need of true stories. This passage reveals Pullman's philosophy of literature to be identical with the "true myth" philosophy of Lewis and Tolkien. And if the Christian myth actually is true, you would expect a gifted storyteller trying to tell a true story to arrive at many Christian conclusions about the nature of the world we see. . . .

As is, I can fairly characterize His Dark Materials in this fashion: imagine if at the beginning of the world Satan's rebellion had been successful, that he had reigned for two thousand years, and that a messiah was necessary to conquer lust and the spirit of domination with innocence, humility, and generous love at great personal cost. Such a story is not subversive of Christianity, it is almost Christian, even if only implicitly and imperfectly. But implicit and imperfect Christianity is often our lot in life, and Pullman has unintentionally created a marvelous depiction of many of the human ideals Christians hold dear.

: : But just to play devil's advocate, I will note that there are different

: : kinds of kingdoms. I mean, England itself has a Queen but is also a

: : democracy, etc. smile.gif

:

: Then whose side is the devil on?

Leader of Her Majesty's Loyal Opposition, maybe? One could argue that that's how the Book of Job seems to depict him, anyway. smile.gif

Or maybe he's simply French. smile.gif

: . . . I realized I couldn't fault Pullman for being pedantic if the story he's

: retelling was also pedantic. For me, then, the litmus test seems to be

: Paradise Lost. If Milton told his story without the pedantry of Pullman's

: trilogy, I will count this as the foremost of my criticisms of Pullman's work.

Ah, interesting point. FWIW, I have never read Paradise Lost either.

: teresakayep wrote:

: : I understand a film is in the works. I wonder if there'll be the kind of

: : stink raised about it that we've seen raised about Harry Potter.

:

: Oh, I hope the stink is much, much greater.

I also, but y'know, they should be making that much, much greater stink NOW. The books are out there, they're on the shelves, they're selling thousands and thousands of copies, they're winning awards that Harry Potter can only DREAM of winning, etc., etc., etc. Maybe the critics will kick into high gear once the movie goes into production, but there's really no reason to wait.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

moquist wrote:

I realized I couldn't fault Pullman for being pedantic if the story he's retelling was also pedantic. For me, then, the litmus test seems to be Paradise Lost. If Milton told his story without the pedantry of Pullman's trilogy, I will count this as the foremost of my criticisms of Pullman's work.

That is indeed a good point. I've been pondering this a bit today, and it's hard for me to decide if Milton is as pedantic as Pullman. In some ways, he is--he even sets out saying what his purpose is. However, he's writing in a different time and a different genre. Some of that would fall under the conventions of the time. It's sort of like comparing apples and oranges.

But I would be curious as to how you think the two compare. After all, Pullman could be very consciously adopting some conventions of the literature of Milton's time. Whether he does it effectively would require a reading of PL. It's been ten years since I read PL, so I couldn't make a reasonable comparison.

Peter Chattaway wrote:

: teresakayep wrote:

: : I understand a film is in the works. I wonder if there'll be the kind of

: : stink raised about it that we've seen raised about Harry Potter.

:

: Oh, I hope the stink is much, much greater.

I also, but y'know, they should be making that much, much greater stink NOW. The books are out there, they're on the shelves, they're selling thousands and thousands of copies, they're winning awards that Harry Potter can only DREAM of winning, etc., etc., etc. Maybe the critics will kick into high gear once the movie goes into production, but there's really no reason to wait.

Agreed--I'm assuming that the stink hasn't been happening because the books haven't reached the pop culture world (i.e., haven't been hyped outside the bookish community) in the way the Harry books did even before the movies. If we see an outcry, the movie will spur it along in a way the books haven't.

I'm always torn when I encounter something that offends me this deeply. I certainly don't ever want to appear to be a knee-jerk, easily offended Christian, but that's the accusation that seems to always come when people criticize something on Christian grounds. In that sense, I'm glad to have other problems with the books as well.

I, like I'm sure many other Christians who've read these books, have been telling people about my problems with them. But I do think the big media machine that will no doubt come with the film will cause the big Christian media to catch on.

Of course, then comes the problem that people will assume that the objections to the Pullman books are no different than many of the objections people have to Harry. The very presence of that kind of criticism would almost make some itch to see what the fuss is about. It's a quandry, all right.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

The disintegration of "His Dark Materials" from gorgeously written, whimsically imagined, groundbreaking fantasy, with characters I cared deeply about, into a plodding, over-long, didactic diatribe against Christianity was the most crushing and disspiriting reading experience of my life. I loved those characters. At the end they were no longer characters... merely pawns in a wicked game.

I nodded sadly when I stumbled across Amy Wellborn's review, which I quickly gained permission to re-publish at Looking Closer.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

teresakayep wrote:

: Agreed--I'm assuming that the stink hasn't been happening because the

: books haven't reached the pop culture world (i.e., haven't been hyped

: outside the bookish community) in the way the Harry books did even

: before the movies. If we see an outcry, the movie will spur it along in a

: way the books haven't.

Yeah, that's what I figure, too.

: I'm always torn when I encounter something that offends me this deeply.

: I certainly don't ever want to appear to be a knee-jerk, easily offended

: Christian, but that's the accusation that seems to always come when

: people criticize something on Christian grounds.

In this case, at least, it's plain for all to see that Philip Pullman was actively attacking the Christian faith. The Harry Potter controversy is a lot more problematic because the critics make accusations of "demonic" this and "demonic" that even though there are no demons anywhere in the story -- even Voldemort himself is just a guy who turned bad -- and the "witchcraft" of the story is a much different beast from the sort of "witchcraft" that we might encounter in real life. Christians who attack the Harry Potter books can easily be accused of missing the point -- but I don't think anyone could make that charge against Christians who critique Pullman's books; indeed, it is Pullman who made the first attack by writing them, whereas J.K. Rowling doesn't seem to be attacking ANY particular real-world group with her books.

: In that sense, I'm glad to have other problems with the books as well.

Heh.

: Of course, then comes the problem that people will assume that the

: objections to the Pullman books are no different than many of the

: objections people have to Harry.

Yeah, that's why my review of the Pullman trilogy emphasizes the need to become informed AND APPRECIATIVE critics of books like these. Being appreciative is really important to me here -- I don't just want Christians saying, "These books are bad because of this and this and this," I want Christians to be able to say, as Jeff and I and others have done, "This story was really enjoyable, and it worked for me on so many levels -- at first." I want Christian critics to say how much they enjoyed the concept of "daemons" as externalized souls, etc., and I want them to be able to say, as I have, how terrified I was when the adults decided to rip Lyra and her daemon apart -- the writing in that sequence is brilliant, suspenseful, much better than anything in Rowling's books I would say; I do not want Christian critics to say, "Oh, it's got 'daemons'! And that sounds like 'demons'! That must mean it's bad bad bad bad bad!"

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

I do not want Christian critics to say, "Oh, it's got 'daemons'! And that sounds like 'demons'! That must mean it's bad bad bad bad bad!"

I defended Pullman on that... until I realized that the name was chosen as a deliberate provocation and insult to Christians. I love the device... but I hate the motivation for it.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Jeffrey Overstreet wrote:

: : I do not want Christian critics to say, "Oh, it's got 'daemons'! And that

: : sounds like 'demons'! That must mean it's bad bad bad bad bad!"

:

: I defended Pullman on that... until I realized that the name was chosen

: as a deliberate provocation and insult to Christians. I love the device...

: but I hate the motivation for it.

You mean Pullman came up with the entire DEVICE just to provoke and insult Christians? Or is it just the NAME of those creatures that was intended to provoke and insult?

At any rate, the word "daemon" goes back well, well before Pullman, to Socrates at least, and Socrates was regarded by many early Christians as a sort of 'Christian before Christ', so I see no reason to be bothered by Pullman's use of this term, no matter what his motivations might have been.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Jeffrey Overstreet wrote:

: : I do not want Christian critics to say, "Oh, it's got 'daemons'! And that

: : sounds like 'demons'! That must mean it's bad bad bad bad bad!"

:

: I defended Pullman on that... until I realized that the name was chosen

: as a deliberate provocation and insult to Christians. I love the device...

: but I hate the motivation for it.

You mean Pullman came up with the entire DEVICE just to provoke and insult Christians? Or is it just the NAME of those creatures that was intended to provoke and insult?

I think those were both motivations, in addition to how interesting the idea inherently is. The physicality of the characters' souls is one of the important ways in which Pullman reduces everything to his Dark Materialism, and the name certainly doesn't hurt his cause.

And I'm not bothered by the term in itself, either. But I am bothered by his motivations, which are clear elsewhere, and which color his choice of the term.

Jeffrey and Peter - the reviews you posted are excellent. Both reviews capture my thoughts on the trilogy, and I especially appreciated Peter's emphasis on pursuing thoughtful interaction in favor of witch-hunting.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

FWIW, I agree with everything everyone has said on this page.

I have also read some interviews PP gave and he is even publically saying that he is trying to destroy the world that Lewis created for children and replace it with his. Somewhere out there (on my computer in another country) there is an interview where he basically bullet points where he disagrees with Lewis and why. Needless to say, he is mistaken in the extreme and uses logic which even he himself must see as flawed. I wonder what makes him tick.

By all means, read Paradise Lost. Read Paradise Regained as well while you're at it (it's not as long). HDM is in no way a retelling of PL as far as I can see. PL is quite straightforward. HDM is necessarily convoluted and as twisty and turny as a... a... twisty turny thing.

I find it ironic and even silly that PP takes for his inspiration John Milton, William Blake, and John Bunyan, among others. Men who I look up to as giants of Christian writing and spiritualism.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

PL is quite straightforward. HDM is necessarily convoluted and as twisty and turny as a... a... twisty turny thing.

I find it ironic and even silly that PP takes for his inspiration John Milton, William Blake, and John Bunyan, among others. Men who I look up to as giants of Christian writing and spiritualism.

I agree, Ross. I've scratched my head over his laughable attacks on Lewis, and his interpretation of Paradise Lost is a narrow (albeit popular) one. I'm not sure I'd say PL is straightforward... I've read a lot of debate over interpretations of it... but I do side with those who agree that Satan remains a villain in the end. Milton goes to great lengths to explore Satan's reasoning, and I can see why anti-God people are able to exploit a lot of Satan's language in the poetry, but in the end the beauty of God in PL overcomes the sniveling rants of the devil.

Any excuse to go back and read Paradise Lost, especially aloud, is a good one.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

I picked up both The Golden Compass and The Subtle Knife at our library for 25 cents each. They were in the sell-off bargain bin, and I had heard the controversy over the books from both the Christian and literary side, so I thought I should at least have some knowledge first hand of what they're about. However, I still haven't got around to reading them. Probably will do so this fall.

P.S. Post 100! Yay!

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Anders wrote:

: I picked up both The Golden Compass and The Subtle Knife at our library

: for 25 cents each. They were in the sell-off bargain bin, and I had heard

: the controversy over the books from both the Christian and literary side,

: so I thought I should at least have some knowledge first hand of what

: they're about. However, I still haven't got around to reading them.

The "controversial" elements aren't really all that pronounced in those two books -- there are a few hints, but nothing all that spectacular, not until you get to the third book, The Amber Spyglass.

I tell ya, if I had read the first book when it came out in 1995, and then the second book when it came out in 1997, I would have been begging, beggin for more, and I would have been very, very, very disappointed with the third book when it finally came out in 2000.

As it is, I didn't start reading the trilogy until after the SciFi Book Club made it available as an omnibus-collection, three-books-in-one-volume kinda thing -- so I went into the first two books with my guard up, as it were. I knew where they were going.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

I tell ya, if I had read the first book when it came out in 1995, and then the second book when it came out in 1997, I would have been begging, beggin for more, and I would have been very, very, very disappointed with the third book when it finally came out in 2000.

As it is, I didn't start reading the trilogy until after the SciFi Book Club made it available as an omnibus-collection, three-books-in-one-volume kinda thing -- so I went into the first two books with my guard up, as it were.  I knew where they were going.

This is more or less my situation, except that I did read the first book when it came out & was so impressed that I passed it on to my nephew. Then I got busy with other things and didn't manage to read the next one until I knew far too much about Pullman's agenda. But by that time, it was too late--my nephew and niece had read them all. At least they've also read Lewis, and Tolkien. As for me, I've read so much about Pullman that it will be very difficult for me to read the books themselves as anything but an analytical chore. Maybe.

In any case, it's clear to me that he's completely misinterpreted Milton, Blake, and Lewis. But he's not the first and won't be the last.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

So, the impression I get is that the first two books are worthwhile reading as long as I ready myself for the inevitable crash in book three. Should I even bother? Will the objectionable parts of book three dimish all value out of the first two?

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

So, the impression I get is that the first two books are worthwhile reading as long as I ready myself for the inevitable crash in book three. Should I even bother? Will the objectionable parts of book three dimish all value out of the first two?

Well, it did diminish most of the value for me. I can certainly look back at my experience of reading the first two and remember that I enjoyed them and even understand why I enjoyed them. But knowing that they were setting me, the reader, up for a diatribe against what I hold most dear just leaves a bad taste in my mouth regarding the whole series.

The first two books are enjoyable, but I do seem to recall that there's no sense of completion to the story at the end of book two--you'd be left hanging if you tried to stop there, I think. More so than you would if you stopped reading the Space trilogy after reading Perelandra, though not so much as you would if you stopped reading Lord of the Rings after the Two Towers.

Of course, it could be worthwhile just to have more intelligent Christians read these books and others like them just so they can discuss them intelligently with non-Christians who sometimes lump any Christian objections to literature and film together. And if you're looking to get involved in that kind of discussion, by all means read them--and do read all three. The first in particular is a great example of well-crafted complex fantasy for children.

--Teresa

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

It's only worth reading as a continuing story as the first two books are so open ended. It's all leading up to, or at least, beginning the sharp descent that leads to the crash of book three. The first two are just interesting little fantasy children's books without much theology or discussion. He really hits tht hard in the third one.

The first two books should be read by children and the third one should be read by philosophy majors.

If you just want to read for a deeper understanding, I would tentatively suggest you just dive into the third book, the first two are set-up. You're right though, I found it a bit of a chore as well.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Somebody just found my old article about the problems with Phillip Pullman's His Dark Materials trilogy and responded with this. It was such a blast of indignant opinion that I simply MUST share it with you and invite you to respond, if you feel so led...

Why are Christian people so afraid of any views

opposing their own? I suspect the answer to lie in the

fact that there is no logical basis for their own

belief, hence the blind importance of FAITH. This is a

very difficult thing to uphold in todays society with

its plethora of readily available information and

global understanding. The very fact of a theory or

question which deviates from the belief system of a

devoutly religous individual causes that person much

emotional anguish as they grapple to hold onto the

belief which has just been wrenched out-of-place in

their mind.

It's a shame that a large portion of people of

religous faith are often to afraid to question their

beliefs with more honesty. Yes it is certainly more

frightening to live in a world of uncertainties, but

would you rather lie to yourself and others all the

while ignoring the innate human nature of questioning

the world around us?

How do you cope with facts such as Christianity has

only been around for 2000 or so years while human kind

existed long before this? Did God (sic) just decide to

make people aware at that time? There were many more

religions before Christanity appeared (and snuffed out

many of them by force of the Church, what about \"Thou

Shallt Not Kill?\")? It's a strange fact that almost

every Christian Holy day takes place on and was

descended from traditional days of Pagan ritual (e.g.

Christmas taking the place of Yule), just a

coincidence I suppose? And finally the number of wars

and other attrocities commited in the name of God and

the Church are enough to make any person of sound

ethic mind and body quiver with disgust.

Philip Pullman is an excellent writer who is not

afraid to question the world around him, what's beyond

it, as well as himself, his own beliefs, and his own

work. Christian people (and people of other religions)

have immense trouble doing these things. The Christian

religion and the Catholic Church are but a tiny blip

in the history and future of human kind. Archeologists

of future generations will look upon them and their

relics with the same curiousity as those of today look

upon Paganism, Zororastrianism, the Egyptian, Greek

and Roman mythologies. They will be glad, as will I,

that humankind has moved on past these things and the

barbaric attrocities that accompanied them.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

i finally got around reading links on Jeffrey's page of Pullman's books. This topic alone is one of the reasons I jumped into this crazy place called the Promontory, because I read the books last spring and had no one to discuss them with. Reading others' thoughts has done much to clarify my own.

I struggled, because there was such beauty in the books...in particular, the idea of the daemon, the loyalty between Will and Lyra, the beauty of the Dust (regardless of what it represented) when seen through the Amber spyglass. They are creative works. I could hardly put them down. Yet so anti-church. And the more I learn of Pullman, the more I dislike him.

It is hard for me to see why anyone, no mater what their beliefs, would refuse to recognize that Pullman has an agenda and that he tells half truths in pursuing it. My brief and initial response to the quote in Jeffrey's post above is that the writer is as generalizing and stereotyping in his statements on Christianity as Pullman is regarding the church.

An Image Journal i read recently had an article that refuted well, I thought, all the problems Pullman had with Lewis' Narnia series. I'll go poke around tonight and see if I can't find that...

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

someone wrote:

: Why are Christian people so afraid of any views opposing their own?

For the same reason most people are, I would suppose.

Of course, I highly doubt that anything Jeff said in his response to Pullman's books was rooted in fear. And if there was, in fact, no fear in Jeff's response, and if, thus, this person is only imagining that Jeff is afraid of views such as his/hers, then one might ask why this person is projecting such fear onto Jeff.

: It's a shame that a large portion of people of religous faith are often to

: afraid to question their beliefs with more honesty.

'Tis indeed. And it's just as much of a shame when people of NO religious faith are similarly afraid. Indeed, it's arguably even MORE of a shame, since such people pay great lip service to honest questioning but often resort to the sort of very defensive rhetoric on display here.

: How do you cope with facts such as Christianity has only been around for

: 2000 or so years while human kind existed long before this? Did God

: (sic) just decide to make people aware at that time? There were many

: more religions before Christanity appeared . . .

And indeed, Christianity openly acknowledges that it evolved out of one of those religions, namely Judaism (or some earlier Hebrew faith out of which came both Judaism as we know it and Christianity). And many Jews and Christians will openly acknowledge that Judaism itself borrowed heavily from earlier religions, while adding something unique to the mix.

: . . . (and snuffed out many of them by force of the Church, what about

: "Thou Shallt Not Kill?")?

Hey, as a Mennonite (and thus the heir to a denomination founded by pacifists who were executed by Catholics and Protestants alike), I know all about churches snuffing out their competitors. But at the same time, I have to say it's very, very, very naive to assume that the King James translation of the 6th commandment prohibits ALL forms of killing, given that the rest of the Mosaic law also happens to stipulate the death penalty for a variety of crimes. This commandment is more accurately translated "You shall not murder" -- which, of course, would still leave many churches and Christians open to indictment.

: It's a strange fact that almost every Christian Holy day takes place on

: and was descended from traditional days of Pagan ritual (e.g. Christmas

: taking the place of Yule), just a coincidence I suppose?

Does this person think that Christianity is hiding from the fact that it has baptized a formerly pagan culture? And is this person forgetting that many Christian holy days (like Easter/Pascha and Pentecost) are actually descended from Jewish holy days?

: And finally the number of wars and other attrocities commited in the

: name of God and the Church are enough to make any person of sound

: ethic mind and body quiver with disgust.

Well, yeah. So are the wars and other atrocities committed in the name of communism and republicanism and various other God-less isms that Pullman may or may not espouse. This person's point?

: Philip Pullman is an excellent writer who is not afraid to question the

: world around him, what's beyond it, as well as himself, his own beliefs,

: and his own work.

Examples of him questioning his own beliefs, please. Particularly his beyond-rational hatred of the church.

: Archeologists of future generations will look upon them and their relics

: with the same curiousity as those of today look upon Paganism,

: Zororastrianism, the Egyptian, Greek and Roman mythologies.

Hey, I actually KNOW a few Zoroastrians; they immigrated here from Iran and one of them works with my sister at the library. It may not be a popular religion, but it does still exist.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Join the conversation

You can post now and register later. If you have an account, sign in now to post with your account.

Guest
Reply to this topic...

×   Pasted as rich text.   Paste as plain text instead

  Only 75 emoji are allowed.

×   Your link has been automatically embedded.   Display as a link instead

×   Your previous content has been restored.   Clear editor

×   You cannot paste images directly. Upload or insert images from URL.

Sign in to follow this  

×
×
  • Create New...