One Last Pullman Post

In the comments to the previous post, there have been many fierce arguments about Phillip Pullman’s His Dark Materials.

It’s great to see you all debating this so seriously. And despite the fact that some of you are getting angry and making more typos than usual, you’re actually much more respectful to each other than most adults. (If you ever glance at political sites, you’ll read far ruder things than appear here.) I’m happy to see that. I like you guys a lot, and the community we’ve created here together is important to me. Keep being nice to each other!

But keep arguing too. Debating is an important thing to learn to do, even when it’s crazy-making.

However, I want to point out one thing that keeps going missing in the debate about Pullman: At no point in His Dark Materials do the characters kill god. This rumor isn’t a “controversial” aspect of the trilogy, it’s a lie about the trilogy. And like so many lies these days, this one is spread by people forwarding emails to each other. You probably have seen this sort of thing happen with rumors in school; after all, it’s more fun to spread a nasty rumor than it is figure out the truth behind it.

But how do I know this rumor isn’t true? Well, unlike rumors about what happened at someone’s party or who kissed whom, everything in His Dark Material is written down, and you can read it to find out exactly what happens. So if you go to page 188 of the US mass market paperback of Amber Spyglass, you’ll discover that Pullman’s Authority is not the creator. He’s not god. Ogunwe says so in the following words, “It shocked some of us, too, to learn that the Authority was not the creator.”

Case closed. The Authority is a fraud. He’s a liar, just like the people who started the rumor that in His Dark Materials the characters “kill god.” In a funny way, those people are trying to pull off the same kind of trick as the Authority. Okay, they’re not exactly playing god, but they are lying to control what you read, which affects what you think, and what you believe. They are frauds. (Or VERY sloppy readers.)

Of course, as with most rumors, the vast majority of the people saying these things aren’t lying. They’re just passing the rumor on without knowing if it’s true or not. That’s not as bad, but it’s also not something you get a medal for.

By the way, there’s another place where you can see that no one “kills god” in HDM. That’s the scene where he dies. Lyra and Will find him and free him from the place the bad guys have been keeping him and using him as a symbol to help them control everyone. It turns out he’s really old. Here’s how it happens in the book:

Between them they helped the ancient of days out of his crystal cell; it wasn’t hard, for he was as light as paper, and he would have followed them everywhere, having no will of his own, and responding to simple kindness like a flower to the sun. But in the open air there was nothing to stop the wind from damaging him, and to their dismay his form began to loosen and dissolve. Only a few moments later he had vanished completely, and their last impression was of those eyes, blinking in wonder, and a sigh of the most profound and exhausted relief.

Now, come on. Does that sound like Lyra and Will are “killing” him? Could anyone actually misread that as a murder? They’re “dismayed” when he dies. It’s a sad and touching scene, not a victory lap.

So he’s not god, and Lyra and Will don’t kill him. Anyone who says otherwise a) hasn’t read it, b) can’t read, c) is lying.

Sorry to keep pointing this out, but false rumors really annoy me. Especially when they’re used to keep books out of people’s hands.

I’m not saying you all have to go read Pullman right now. Maybe you just don’t like armoured bears. But there’s one thing you really should remember: People who tell you juicy rumors, on the internet or in real life, usually aren’t trying to help you by giving you secret, important info. Very often, they’re trying to make themselves feel important, or hurt someone else, or control you in some way.

Don’t assume rumors are true, no matter how often you hear them.

193 thoughts on “One Last Pullman Post

  1. More opinions I have:

    Yep, lies are what it’s all about. To use another example that many people here might be familiar with, The Bermudez Triangle got banned in Oklahoma for, among other things, “unprotected sex,” and “reckless promiscuity.” When, in fact, no such things appeared in the book. Not anywhere. Not even close.

    This is what Pullman said in the article that Jacob quoted:
    “What I am against is organised religion of the sort which persecutes people who don’t believe. I’m against religious intolerance.”
    Maybe I missed it, but I don’t see him saying anything about undermining Christianity. And even if he did, he’s probably talking about the part of Christianity that’s trying to control other people. It’s happened before. Inquisition, anyone? But seriously. If I had to guess, I’d say that Philip Pullman doesn’t give a crap what anyone else believes, as long as they don’t use it as an excuse to mess with people.

    “Just because the author has a few problems doesn’t mean we should avoid his great book, right?!”
    Not that I think Pullman has problems, but yeah. One of my favorite authors, Orson Scott Card, has some beliefs that I definitely don’t agree with. But I still love his books.

    I just had a thought. Maybe Pullman’s books aren’t so much about undermining religion. They’re about healing it.

    And, as Scott said, HDM is also about a million other things. They’re the sort of books you can read over and over and each time find new things that you never noticed before.

    Book banning is BAD. No one can say that it’s okay to ban one book (or movie, etc.) b/c then someone else will say it’s okay to ban another book, and it just takes off from there. People have the right to read everything. You can check out Mein Kampf from the library, for crying out loud. I don’t hear anyone trying to ban that. And furthermore, I don’t think anyone should. Does that mean I agree with Hitler? Hell, no, thank you very much. Another example: I found it interesting, not too long ago, to page through the Book of Mormon. Am I Mormon? Do I believe what they believe? Not even close.

  2. This is my last post today. I promise. We’re reading A Christmas Carol in school and I want to say something:

    God bless everyone! Even those who don’t believe in God!

    Oh, and also, I think doing something controversial for good reasons is worth doing it. But doing something for the wrong reasons isn’t worth doing it.

    I wonder what people would be saying about HDM if no one had started the “killing God” email. Or if Pullman hadn’t said anything like “My books are about killing God”.

  3. Uhhh…yeah. Look, I am fully willing to admit Pullman is a master at crafting another world and developing characters and all that jazz. But writing about ‘controversial’ things detracts from the book. It destroys the symmetry of a novel and pulls the reader rather abruptly out of that state of suspended belief. If he wants to write about controversy why doesn’t he do it in an article with cold hard facts rather than mud-slinging techniques? Pullman took a bit of a cheap shot at religion in general.

  4. “um, you dont have to see it.”

    But why would anyone have to see the movie? It’s your choice whether to buy that ticket and walk into the theater. Just like it would be your choice to buy a book (of which I’m sure there are already many).

    Personally, I am not interested in seeing the movie. So I haven’t seen it. But other people might be. I’m more opposed to people making money off a tragedy so soon after it happened. But that’s my own personal belief.

  5. I think the 9/11 movie was amazing, and i lost someone in the tragedy. I think it wouldn’t have been as great if it were writen down. It’s amazing to be able to be told – and SHOWN – what happened that day. And it’s no diferent from movies about World War Two!

    Rebecca, “Maybe Pullman’s books aren’t so much about undermining religion”
    They are, for sure. Definately not in the ways some people have said, But Pullman has assured people many many times that his books are against christianity, and undermining it. He’s made that extremely clear in alot of diferent interviews.

  6. i hadn’t heard this rumor before. i’m so upset about this movie i haven’t seen (i know, i’m part of the problem) because the commercial spends so much time with people saying ‘compass’ and there isn’t even a compass in the book!

    that said, even though i agree that it’s ok for someone to have god killed in their book, it is important that if you rail against something, you don’t lie about it. unfortunatly, there are few mass railing against movements that don’t.

    i also think there needs to be a distinction made between something that is anti-god, and something that questions the authority of established religious order/power.

  7. Omg, were reading the Christmas Carol to! that is cool. Were almost done. Were on Stave 5. the Christmas Carol is boring. I usually read something else while the CD blabs away, not listening!

  8. “But writing about ‘controversial’ things detracts from the book.”

    People have to write about controversial things. That what everyone here is doing, right now, regardless of which side of the HDM debate we’re on. One of the greatest things about literature is that it can address controversies in new and unique ways, ways that have the potential to shed new light on a given issue. Take that away, and there’d be practically nothing left.

  9. it’s also interesting that there is so much discussion about the religious threads contained in hdm, and regarding the film, but not a lot of controversy has been generated about things like the portrayal of poc characters in the movie, which has very real ramifications in the real world, especially for actors of color.

  10. 1) duh. book banning = bad.
    sure, there’s a lot of crap out there, but i don’t trust ANYONE to filter it for me except me.

    2) are you saying that there shouldn’t be any press about 9/11 because it’s disrespectful? i’m sorry, but i think that’s not much of a reason. at what point is it okay? are you setting 9/11 apart from everthing else in history? are Pearl Harbor movies okay?
    i mean, it was tragic, and insensitivity in portraying things is bad, but that doesn’t mean you can’t talk about it.
    and define “the 9/11 movie”. Farenheit 9/11?

    3) i’m sorry you feel you’re being attacked for your beliefs, Bran-la. but we’re just trying to discuss things, and show our own personal beliefs. a lot of people don’t agree with you. sadly, we still have the right to our own, different opinions.

    4) see, i have to agree. organized religion has a way of getting crazy and out of hand. i’m not saying any of all of it currently is, but like any large community of people listening to leaders with incredible faith, it gets dangerous. blind following causes a lot of hurt.

    5) yes, Allie-wa, they celebrate christmas in Harry Potter. they’re all assumed to be marginally catholic, they give each other presents and get off school. the “witchcraft” is nothing like real (and i might add, harmless and benevolent, but that’s another argument) Wicca, and definitly not satan-worshipping. it’s like, we say magic word, things happen. poof. abracadabra. also, racism and intolerence are bad. come on, how do you object to that?

    okay, i’m gonna stop raving now. so many comments though…and real ones full of words too.

  11. “Rebecca, “Maybe Pullman’s books aren’t so much about undermining religion”
    They are, for sure. Definately not in the ways some people have said, But Pullman has assured people many many times that his books are against christianity, and undermining it. He’s made that extremely clear in alot of diferent interviews.”

    Can you back that up with an article or a direct quote? I’m sure I could find it myself if I searched long enough, but you have obviously already read that somewhere. So maybe you could point me to those interviews.

  12. “But writing about ‘controversial’ things detracts from the book.”

    UGLIES is about contraversial things.
    It’s about conforming with society, about everyone being exactly the same, and about the government tricking you in more ways than one.

    But it still rocks.

  13. okay, i lied. i just have to outrage once more.


    ummm….no offense, but that is…well, very very stupid. not saying you are or anything, but. if no one writes about contraversy, you’re just ignoring it, which is suprememly unhealthy.
    if you don’t write about contraversy, what are you SUPPOSED to write about?
    oopps, gotta delete my novel about the underage alchoholic oracle and start writing about puppies and unicorns living in harmony.

  14. Well, yes, Uglies was about controversial things but at least one of the the themes of the book is that they’re bad.

    Unlike in HDM, where I’ve heard (not learned for myself, I haven’t read the books), Christianity is made to be bad. Religion as a whole is made to be bad.

    ok, THIS is my last post.

  15. Rebecca, I have two quotes right from Pullman. 1) from a 2003 interview, “My book are about killing god.” That’s kind of a duh factor. 2) 2001 interview, he said his book were “trying to undermine the basis of christian belief.”

  16. serafina zane – just a correction, i agree with your points. the harry potter folks are probably not catholic, for the most part. the church of england (i think it’s called episcopalian in the US) is a protestant denomination, and the church of scotland is as well. the republic of ireland is very catholic, but i think most of the hp characters aren’t irish. I presume you meant they were christian, but catholicism if a specific sort of christianity.

  17. We are writing in a forum where all sides have the opputunity to debate and defend. His books do not ‘address’ they condemn. It’s a smear campaign against organized religions. I am saying that IN THIS INSANCE writing about THIS controversy detracts rather than adds to literature. Pullman is too polarized to “address” the controversy of religion. There is a vast difference between explaining and attacking. Pullman crossed the line. I am not saying that people aren’t allowed to be agnostic. That would be ridiculous. You can’t force someone into belief (or disbelief). What I am saying is that I do not like the books because the way that Pullman handled the debate was like the literary equivalent of, “You’re stupid.” He does not like organized religion, so he attacks it. How is that shedding new light?

  18. I AM SAYING WRITING ABOUT CONTROVERSY IN A CHILDREN’S BOOK IS STUPID!!!!! Why is he writing all this stuff when his book was originally marketed to children who would not understand any of it?!

  19. Have you read the HDM books Lauren? Because, his books don’t attack anything, definately not religion. He certainly dones, but the book don’t.

  20. I would like to point out that when Scott writes about “controversial things” he does not attack a specific group. There is no one group that can clearly and unequivocably be named from that book.

  21. “I have two quotes right from Pullman. 1) from a 2003 interview, “My book are about killing god.” That’s kind of a duh factor. 2) 2001 interview, he said his book were “trying to undermine the basis of christian belief.””

    Thanks, but can you link them, please? I’d like to read the entire articles.

  22. Uh. Yeah. I have read them. Several times. Once on my own and once in a lit. class. So after dissecting it for several hours I can tell you that he does in fact attack religion. It’s kind of like reading Animal Farm but less obvious. Well, in some parts it’s less obvious.

  23. “I would like to point out that when Scott writes about “controversial things” he does not attack a specific group. There is no one group that can clearly and unequivocably be named from that book.”

    I would argue that the same is true for Pullman’s books. Just because he uses a lot of things that draw parallels with the Catholic Church or Christianity, it doesn’t mean that he is only attacking them, or that he’s attacking the entirety of their religion. Or that he’s attacking anything at all.

  24. say wat you’d like bran-la!
    i love it when people say what they want, it gives everyone a chance to be different. i havent read the golden compass books and i am no longer sure if i should…
    i am now reading the last days….bty.

  25. a book with overt christian themes is just as controversial as one with overt anti-religious themes. it’s just that everyone accepts that christianity will be in children’s books. because as a society we pretend that christianity is universal.

  26. Well, being for something can be far less offensive than beeing against something. If your writing about what you believe is prevoces people more than writing about what you think no one should believe. I see a big difference.

  27. Can I please mention that I have no problem with Pullman “furthering the athiest agenda” or whatever nonsense is being parroted. If there had not been such strong parallels with the catholic church and christianity (which may or may not be translated as attacks) I would have agreed with the whole “shedding light on an issue” theme. I agree with Pullman in the sense that there is a danger in organized religions to “group think”. Once you get that mentality all it takes is for one dynamic leader to turn an otherwise peaceful group of people into “bad guys”.

  28. ooooooooo, I was reading through the last chapter of specials with the commentary and was reminded of something.
    I know, it’s INCREDIBLY off topic and all, but I had to say something…

    Andrew Simpson Smith.
    I’m not sure if this was on purpose or by accident… but is it just me or are those some particularly unfotunate innitials?!

  29. okay, i’m replying to this before reading any farther.
    writing about contraversy in a children’s book is bad? really? what’s the age where children are fit to understand multiple sides of an issue? i know plenty of adults who never reach that. is writing about contraversy in YA okay?
    and i wouldn’t exactly call HDM “children’s”. i haven’t read them, but they’re of considerable length and complexity, and i’ve seen them firmly and consistently shelved in the older teen section.
    i can see your point about children being influenced, yes, i get that even if i don’t totally agree.
    i just remember getting really angry as a child when people talked down to me or avoided contraversial or complex topics—and i still do.
    issues of importance shouldn’t be avoided for children. i’m not saying we should scar toddlers for life, but i don’t think avoiding contraversial topics helped anyone grow up.

    oh, yeah, that was a typo thing about the harry potter—i meant christan not catholic.

  30. oh my goodnes.
    As much as I totally adore talking to you all, I’m sick and I need to sleep. So goodnight.


  31. Last post: Writing a book geared towards 7-12 year olds (which is what the book is listed as being approriate for) and putting in what can concievably be construed as anti-religious and has offended (rightly) a group does not teach children to look at both sides of the coin. He brought up a controversy and marketed it to children who are (for the majority) not equiped to think about it critically and form their own opinions. Sure, some kids can. But the majority of children are not critical thinkers at the age of nine.

  32. yes! i totally agree al.
    “it’s just that everyone accepts that christianity will be in children’s books. because as a society we pretend that christianity is universal.”
    i tend to shy away from books with christian religious themes becauase i often don’t like their messages or preachiness. some are good, and i liked Narnia, but i think they can get just as offensive.
    and i live in a very christian community—maybe 80%, though most aren’t very devout, and i’ve heard some very clueless statements, especially on the topics of other religions (completely ignoring the girl who asked if jewish people sacrificed animals. oh how i wanted to hit her, even not being Jewish). or seperation of church and state. because they don’t recognize there are religions other than their own. but that’s a different debate.

    “Well, being for something can be far less offensive than beeing against something.”
    ummm…no offense, but i think that’s very one-sided. but (and this doesn’t nesacarily apply in this exact context) what about the people on the other side? not everyone comes from the same place you do. maybe there’s a majority, but just because it’s the main opinion doesn’t mean you should go along with it (this said from a—not to start a political debate—fifth grader who got mocked for suggesting that the war in iraq was bad by people who now are all yeah man, i hate bush when it’s suddenly a popular opinion)
    the whole point of your beliefs is that they’re your beliefs.
    i don’t think that something being religious is less contraversial than it not being religious.

  33. i just have to point out (probably last post for me too, i need sleep. or writing) that very rarely do authors “market”. it’s often not thier descision which age group a book gets placed in, and it’s often not the one they were thinking of. so i very much doubt that Pullman got up one morning and said “i’m going to set out to corrupt the youths of america today.”
    and a lot of opinion of childhood is hindsight—i remember spending most of my time annoyed that people thought kids were stupid and parroted and copied everything they saw or heard older kids and adults doing.

  34. Savvy-la loves David and scott: thanks for the links. i’m going to look into this further when i don’t have massive FINALS OF DOOM coming up. 😛 😀

    been nice debating with y’all. ‘night. 🙂

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