What with the coming movie, there’s a new controversy in Ontario over The Golden Compass, with some Catholic schools pulling it off the shelves. I tend to think that though there are some solid theological moves in the series — particularly the harrowing of hell in the third book — the overarching theological scheme is merely another stale attack on Western religion.  Let me just point out that this is the story of two kids who save the world by (a) killing God, and (b) having sex.  Oh, and that the representatives of the church and synagogue end up falling into a bottomless pit locked in an eternal struggle.  Ho hum.

The problem isn’t so much the books themselves, which read along like a shot and contain lots of provocative ideas. The problem comes up once you start to interpret the symbols. The results are flat, naive, and presumptuous.


4 thoughts on “Pullman

  1. Just so. They really are the anti-Narnia.

    The thing I don’t get is why Pullman would *want* to write a series that is as flat, naive, and presumptuous as Lewis’s.

  2. Not safe sex, certainly. An anathema to what is safe, tame, or domesticated is probably something Lewis and Pullman share — and a corresponding respect for what is wild and natural. But for Pullman it’s the church that’s to blame for taking us away from nature and from our true natures. So the church, and particularly its notion of original sin, have to be done away with. And a fresh beginning made, in which the kids are the new Adam and Eve.

    As to the rest, I’m not sure. The sex is symbolically procreative, but it’s not clear that Lyra is actually pregnant or has to be. Or is it? I forget how the book ends exactly, except that there will now be a Republic in heaven rather than an Authority. (Hah! How naively early modern — or American — to think that getting rid of the monarch and instituting a republic means you’ve solved the problem of authority and its relation to coercion.) What I forget is the relation between the demise of the church and the idea of sin. It is possible that what Will and Lyra have is the first non-sinful sex. Something like that.

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