27 Dec 2007

A Little Rant

Why can't children's fiction be just that? Fiction for children? Why does it have to have some other higher agenda. I'm speaking with particular disdain at all the recent hub bub of Philip Pullman's His Dark Materials trilogy - which I first read when I was about 11 or 12; I loved the heroine Lyra - her courage, her humility - and I loved Will (the hero of the 2nd book) for his idiosyncrasies and wayward style. They were good characters - in a fantastical setting of other worlds and daemon soul-mates where there were witches, and talking bears, and a valley of the dead. Pullman seemed a master of fantasy pulling from so many elements; folklore, ancient mythology etc... Recently Pullman has gone out of his way to voice his strong atheist views. As a Christian I wasn't alarmed in the slightest by "the church" portrayed in the novels - its the kind of church I think all people of faith throughout history have been scared of; a church that is so authoritarian, oppressing of personal freedom, focused on wealth and power - in other words, a church that has completely strayed from biblical teaching! And lets not start of Pullman's portrayal of God as old and withered (Pullman - like so many others conveniently leave out Jesus because lets face it he was too nice for his own good)... So as a child, and in all he years I re-read the books I didn't feel implicated by his story - it was just that... a wonderfully, imaginative story - that I could lose myself in. I guess that's why I wanted to just rant about it for a while... how upset I am that journalists and even Pullman himself are constantly writing articles about his "agenda" in the books to tear down the church of today, commenting on how disappointing the recent film is in downplaying these themes... fiction shouldn't be about that. The best fiction for kids is the kind that gets them thinking, that feeds the imagination, that is empowering in its own way; that makes them want to read more - and as much as Dawkins would disagree, trying to convince people on how wrong religion is, in my opinion, is not freedom of any kind.


  1. it's funny, i first heard of His Dark Materials at the end of last year when a well-meaning friend of mine sent me an email forward warning me of the danger of the atheist message within. it was a bit ridiculous and i have since read Northern Lights (and adored it - i know have a polar bear obsession hehe).

    i pretty much agree with everything you say. but i do remember reading a quote from Pullman somewhere (maybe his website?) where he said that he wasn't out to convince anyone of anything; that his job as the author is to present ideas and then it's the reader's job to make what they want of it. or something.

    i half suspect that Pullman gets more vehement about his atheism with every religious right anti-His Dark Materials article written!


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