As mentioned in my previous post, Mr. Pullman believes the fantasy writing of authors such as C.S. Lewis and J.R.R. Tolkien to be subversive to the minds of young readers, steeped as their creations were in the Judeo-Christian moral tradition. In order to save these impressionable minds from the danger of Christian inculcation, Mr. Pullman created the His Dark Materials trilogy. However, rather than attempting to create a world in which non-traditional values replace those of Christianity, Mr. Pullman also attempts to explicitly attack those values of which he does not approve. This leads to an imperfect creation, as too much text is lost in his anti-Christian polemic.

Many of the ideas that Mr. Pullman uses for the setting of his fantasy world are quite unique and interesting. Having the setting of the first novel be an alternate universe that resembles the early twentieth century of our own universe is an excellent idea, as it gives his readers a familiar setting that is still different enough to encourage excitement with the universe. Other good ideas are: daemons, Gyptians and armored bears. This last is, in fact, one of the most loved aspects of the novels (see The Golden Compass board game, in which the entire purpose of the game is to get to the fight between the bears to see which side wins). Strangely, save for the Daemons belonging to Lyra and her parents, each of these creative elements is distinctly lacking from the second and third novels. Why does Mr. Pullman not focus on the creative aspect of his work?

The answer is that he spends too much of his time giving his readers reasons to dislike Christianity in general and the Church in particular. Mr. Pullman’s polemic is mostly done through his characterization of the church and the god they serve. In these books, the villains, without exception, belong to the church. God is characterized as a tyrant who desires nothing more than slavish obedience, and to do his will he has established the church (or something like it) in every possible universe. Though Mr. Pullman never identifies Christianity specifically within his books, the ecclesiastical language that he uses leaves the reader no choice but to identify the church in Lyra’s world with the Christian Church in ours. Having offhandedly identified the Christian Church as the set-piece villains, he then gives the young reader innumerable reasons to hate it (kidnapping children, separating them from their souls, and occasionally killing them are just a few of the offenses performed by the church in Mr. Pullman’s novels).

One of the problems that this characterization creates within Mr. Pullman’s literature is that he fails to adequately supply an alternative. If Judeo-Christian values are unacceptable to Mr. Pullman, it is difficult to determine from these books what he will accept. By the end of the novels, Mr. Pullman has focused so much on destroying God and the church that the alternatives he offers seem like weak replacements (teach everyone to pursue wisdom and live in harmony together? Why? For what purpose?). Mr. Pullman should have learned his lesson from the Chronicles of Narnia, in which C.S. Lewis wastes not so much as a sentence in attacking other points of view, but instead writes page after page of Christian theology turned powerful fantasy. Instead, the effect of having Mr. Pullman’s creative energies focused on obliterating his opponents’ values rather than on extolling the virtues of his own creates a moral hinterland in which the reader finds very little substance for substantive thought.

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