Methinks Phillip Pullman doth protest too much. The critically acclaimed author of the “three-volume fantasy and mythical series” (Donelson & Crowe) His Dark Materials, denied that his trilogy was pure fantasy, referring to it rather as “stark realism” (Weich, par. 7). In a similar fashion,
At his own website,
In response to readers’ sense of verisimilitude about dæmons, “as if they’ve got a dæmon themselves”
Pullman’s accomplishment with His Dark Materials, whether he likes it or not, is the creation of what Tolkien called a “Secondary World”, a place where a “green sun will be credible” (1975:51). By the end of The Amber Spyglass, readers have been introduced to a host of creatures inhabiting a handful of the “uncountable billions of parallel worlds” (1995:330). Pullman’s masterful prose allows the reader to treat creatures such as cliff ghasts “with leathery wings and hooked claws” (281), armoured bears of the panserbjørne, soul-stealing Specters, Lilliputian-like Gallivespians, “armed and shining” angels (1997: 133), harpy-like creatures who guard the land of the dead, and the extremely alien Mulefa, who possess wheels as appendages, all as credible within the Secondary World he has created.
In an interview at Amazon.com,
Pullman has had much to say about the “propaganda” (Ezard, par. 6) of C.S. Lewis’ Narnia chronicles, while he himself has been the purveyor of his own polemic propaganda, since the “preach factor is equally high in both” (McSporran, par. 27). In an interview with Amazon.com,
As Lyra is drawn further into Asriel’s machinations, it only makes sense that the narrative will turn to addressing the nature of the Authority and his forces, but by the third book entire chapters are built around lengthy metaphysical and moral discourses. Whereas writers like Lewis and George McDonald made allusions to their faith
Further, though Pullman excels at writing deep, multifaceted characters such as Mrs. Coulter, whom readers alternately love or hate depending on which chapter they’re reading, Pullman’s depiction of the Church in Lyra’s world is decidedly uniform, for “every church is the same” (1997: 50), despite Mary Malone’s estimation that “people are too complicated to have simple labels” (2000: 447). Mrs. Coulter’s description of them as “a body of men with a feverish obsession with sexuality” (326) coupled with her earlier estimation that “Killing is not difficult for them…” (205) encompasses the caricature
It would seem to me that Philip Pullman, despite all his protesting, has created a tale which not only draws upon traditional elements of fantasy, which serves to dispense his own opinion concerning religion, but refuses to acknowledge that the books do so. In short,
Donelson, Ken, and Crowe, Chris. Rev. of The Amber Spyglass/The Golden Compass/The Subtle Knife, by Phillip Pullman. English Journal Nov. 2001: 118.
Ezard, John. “Narnia books attacked as racist and sexist.” Guardian Unlimited.
McSporran, Cathy. “The
McSporran, Cathy. “The
Pullman, Phillip. Interview with Dave Weich. “Philip Pullman Reaches the Garden.” Powells.com. 2000. 28 Mar. 2006 <http://www.powells.com/authors/pullman.html>.
---, Interview with Huw Spanner. “Heat and Dust.”
---, Interview. “About the Writing” Phillip-Pullman.com. 2006.
---, The Amber Spyglass.
---, The Subtle Knife.
---, The Golden Compass.
Tolkien, J.R.R. Tree and leaf; Smith of Wootton Major; The homecoming of Beorhtnoth, Beorhthelm’s son.