12 Enlightening Facts About His Dark Materials
In 1995, British author Philip Pullman published The Golden Compass (or Northern Lights, as it was called in most countries outside the U.S.), the first book in the fantasy trilogy collectively known as His Dark Materials.
The series' name referred to John Milton's Paradise Lost, a heady reference for what were ostensibly books for teens. And indeed, each of the books"1995's The Golden Compass, 1997's The Subtle Knife, and 2000's The Amber Spyglass"grappled with questions about philosophy and science, and courted controversy with its critical eye toward organized religion.
Yet the series, far from being prohibitively dense, is highly readable and contains all the elements of a spirited fantasy, including armored polar bears, witches, and a Texas gunslinger who flies a hot air balloon.
Here are a few things you might not know about Pullman's books"which HBO and the BBC have turned into a series starring Lin-Manuel Miranda that will debut in 2019"and the controversy surrounding them.
1. HIS DARK MATERIALS IS A RETELLING OF PARADISE LOST.
6. PULLMAN HASN'T SHIED AWAY FROM THE CRITICISM.
In numerous speeches, Pullman, who has described himself alternately as an "atheist" and an "agnostic atheist," maintains that his books are more about the dangers of rigid theological doctrine and institutions than they are anti-God or anti-faith. He also argues that his books are a testament to storytelling's ability to impart morals to children. "'Thou shalt not' might reach the head, but it takes Once upon a time' to reach the heart," he wrote in a newspaper column.
7. THE FORMER ARCHBISHOP OF CANTERBURY ENDORSED IT.
Rowan Williams called the books instructive, saying they are in fact about the death of a false God and the upholding of true Christian values. He and Pullman had a lively public conversation back in 2004, a transcript of which you can read here. Williams even went so far as to say that Pullman's series should be taught in schools. Fundamentalists, needless to say, did not agree.