The Golden Compass, starring Nicole Kidman, is scheduled to open “at theaters everywhere,” this December 7th. The movie, targeted at children for the holiday season, is based on the best-selling and award-winning trilogy, His Dark Materials, by author Philip Pullman.
I read the first book in the series (The Golden Compass) about a year and a half ago at the request of a concerned parent. I found the book to be fairly innocuous and so put it down and pretty much forgot about it. More recently, I have received a firestorm of e-mails, once again from concerned parents, asking what I thought about the movie and the books. And, if you’ve seen the movie trailer, it looks pretty darn good.
Sooo, in the past two weeks I reread The Golden Compass as well as book two, The Subtle Knife and the final book, The Amber Spyglass. Let me say up front that any time an alarmist e-mail goes flying from computer to computer there’s a good chance that much of it is not true. Let me also say that it is always best to check things out for yourself before jumping on the hysteria bus.
One of the biggest concerns voiced by concerned parents is that, in the books, every adult has a personal daemon. Mr. Pullman, I would venture intentionally, uses the word to inflame concern. However, in his books, daemons have nothing to do with what most of us define as “demons.” A daemon in many other cultures and mythological stories is simply an animistic expression of a person’s true self. Consequently, if a person is evil, then their daemon will be evil. And if a person is virtuous, then their daemon will be virtuous. So let’s lay that concern to rest.
On the other hand, Mr. Pullman has done his homework when it comes to knowledge of the Bible. The story of good and evil, specific Bible characters, and the fall of humankind are cleverly woven throughout the trilogy. Unfortunately, Pullman probably knows the Bible better than many, if not most, of his readers. This is dangerous because in The Golden Compass he intentionally misquotes Scripture. And throughout the trilogy he mixes enough Biblical truth with menacing lies to be very dangerous.
One of the things that I didn’t appreciate about Pullman’s books is that you can’t read just one. There is no storyline closure at the end of each volume. If a person were to read only volume one, The Golden Compass, I would say that there would be no harm done. However, to finish the story, because of Pullman’s (I’m sure intentional) writing style, you must read all three. Unfortunately, the books become increasingly more alarming.
Pullman does several things with his series that should arouse great concern. First, he condones a lifestyle in children of deceit and lack of respect for adults. The lead character, Lyra, is praised throughout because she is such a good liar. Second, he disparages the Church. (Now, I know that we all have our issues with the Church, but let’s deal with those in adult conversation and not in blatant subversion with children). And finally, Pullman uses the last one hundred pages of his final book to propagate his own personal philosophy. A philosophy which espouses one’s own best good at the expense of any altruistic service to God.
Here’s my bottom line. Would I let my nine year old daughter read these books? No! How about when she’s thirteen? If she really wants to I would read them along with her and then discuss them together. Will I go see the movie, The Golden Compass? Probably not. I think the agenda of the author is just too insidious to support.