Tuesday, June 29, 2010

His Dark Materials trilogy started

The Golden Compass: His Dark Materials
I've started The Golden Compass, first in the His Dark Materials series by Philip Pullman.

I've never seen the movie version of this book, and I don't know much about it. When the movie came out there was a minor media fury over whether the story contains "hidden" messages against the Catholic church. I've never really believed in hidden messages corrupting people - if you have a message to get across, you'll most likely just say it, not hide it. Also, Pullman's feelings about organized religion aren't exactly a secret.

At any rate, I'm not the kind of person who thinks that criticizing religion is a bad thing, nor do I think it's inappropriate for kids. I'm a little interested to see if these religious themes stand out to me.

I'm also seeing some reflections of Narnia in the story so far. Not just the talking animals - that sort of thing shows up in a lot of stories, and is certainly not particular to C.S. Lewis. I was just discussing The Chronicles of Narnia with a friend of mine, and how Susan was not allowed to go back to Narnia because she discovered makeup and boys. Basically, puberty, womanhood, and an interest in sex exclude her from the kingdom of heaven. This has been criticized quite a lot, by such notables as J.K. Rowling and Neil Gaiman (no link for Neil because I couldn't find this online: if you want to know more just read his story The Problem of Susan, which you can find in Fragile Things).

The hero Lyra in The Golden Compass is a tough, somewhat tomboyish girl, but is beginning to show an interest in makeup and clothes at the part that I'm reading right now. It kind of reminds me of Narnia by contrast - in the book that happens last chronologically, Susan has basically become too interested in womanly things - this is presented as something that happened because she's no longer a child. Lyra is still very young and it's very early in the story, but she's showing an interest in womanly things. This is certainly the way I remember things happening when I was young. Girls like to look womanly. It's pretty normal for girls to want to wear makeup and have nice clothes, even at an early age.

I'm not sure I want to make an anti-Narnia argument for The Golden Compass just yet. Instead, I'll just say it's been pretty good so far, and I think that in this children's story it might actually be ok for a girl to wear makeup. The storytelling is engaging and I've been reading through pretty fast. More news when I'm done!

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