Golden Compass – Murder, he wrote?

Alright, folks, this is John Christopher Week, NOT Golden Compass week….

However, there’s been discussion in the comments of another post about what exactly happens at the end of Dark Materials.

Is the Authority really God or just and Angel? Does he die or is he murdered?

I say he’s God and he’s murdered. (Or at least a fatality in Lyra’s father’s war against him.)

Since no one else seems to agree with my interpretation, I’ll turn to Pullman himself to back me up.

Pullman: “My books are about killing God.” – as quoted in Wired Magazine’s Dec. 2007 article “Dark Material: Making a blockbuster about killing God is not as easy as pie”

By the way, the article goes on to say that the director is making the Magisterium “a vaguer entity, as much political as religious…”

I’m betting this means God doesn’t die onscreen in the movie. Perhaps this could be like the African Queen, where a Hollywood ending grealty improved on the author’s original ending.

8 Responses

  1. I loved the first book, enjoyed the trilogy, but found the last book weak. Actually, the last book reminded me a bit of Kevin Smith’s movie, dogma, except Smith’s movie came from a position of belief and Pullman’s from a position of not believing. thus, in one renegade angels are about saving God; in the other, its about killing him.

    I find it rather fascinating to look at Pullman’s quotes about his work in a timeline; the killing God quote is from 03. His current quotes are much softer.

    I plan on rereading these; I think there is an argument both ways about whether or not god is killed.

    I hope to take my neice to see this film; but she is a bit young for the books.

    I think my bottom line for the works is that Pullman is a brilliant writer who did exactly what he criticizes CS Lewis and others for doing; his message interferes with his story.

  2. Liz B wrote: I think my bottom line for the works is that Pullman is a brilliant writer who did exactly what he criticizes CS Lewis and others for doing; his message interferes with his story.

    You summed up my opinion so nicely there! (something I’ve been unable to do apparently) Do you mind if I walk around saying that from now on?

  3. Feel free!

    I also think that Pullman took the church at its worst and made it even worse; but as another blogger wrote, “pullman’s church is not my Church.” (Actually, I guess I’d say that Pullman took what inidividuals did and made it what the Church did, but that’s getting too into theology etc for blog posts & comments.)

    I would hope most 12 year olds (it is a YA book, not a kids book) would recognize that its a book and should be treated as such, no more, no less. I believe that a 12 year old can intellectually handle the Pullman books, just as a 12 year old can handle Church history. Those who are getting in a huff would better serve their kids by discussing the flaws in Pullman’s arguments, rather than giving those arguments strength by banning them.

    I also continue to be amazed at how Pullman wants it both ways; his earlier interviews are much more firm on his own beliefs and the book than the recent ones. I think its an interesting thing; how much, if any, should author’s quotes and intent matter to how a book is read? Why has he changed (or softened) what he is saying?

  4. My take on the “killing God” quote is that it was a sarcastic response to the interviewer’s question. If I remember rightly, what came before was mention of the hullabaloo over Harry Potter books as glorifying witchcraft and sorcery. Pullman responded to the effect that if they think HP is bad, wait til they get hold of HDM.

    IF you buy into the Authority’s claims, and IF you see innocently releasing him from the litter as the direct cause of his dissipation, then yeah, you could argue that Pullman’s books are about killing God.

    Just like you could argue that Rowling’s agenda is to turn little kids into witches.

    You’d be a nitwit, but you’d have company.

  5. Since the Authority did not create the universes, but usurped power for corrupt rule, I’d say that he’s not God as we know (or rather, don’t know) God. And yeah, Pullman is guilty of doing exactly what he accused Lewis of doing. It was when the priest entered the mulefa world and thought about convincing them of their sinfulness that I finally said, “Pullman, while you’re at it, why don’t you just insert the rubbing of hands together and cackling while the sky cracks lightning?” Add a few “mwa ha has,” and the scene is complete.

  6. Technically, if the Authority usurped power, then that would mean that he’s portraying Lucifer as winning his rebellion, rather than God at all. Thus, the Pullman universe presented in Dark Materials would be one in which Satan succeeded in overthrowing God.

    I realize that this is a huge stretch from the text, and is therefore not really useful. Just an observation …

    My real problem is Scholastic marketing the book for ages 9-13. I would say that 13 is a starting age, at the youngest. Not even for theological reasons, but because I’m not sure about discussing who was whose lover, the killing of Will’s father in front of him at the end of “Subtle Knife,” and themes of bodily mutilation being discussed, etc..

    I’ve not yet read “Spyglass,” so I can’t comment on the end of the trilogy. Along the way, though, there has been a lot happening that I would never put in a kids’, or even young teens’, book. That, frankly, is my greatest objection — to the marketing.

  7. More great points!
    Yes, the marketing of the book/movie to younger and younger children is disturbing. Can a kid be old enough to handle the book but still want to play with a stuffed polar bear?

    And I agree, the God bit is only one of the concerns about the book. Frankly, I just found the whole thing too overwhelmingly negative to lay on a kid. Every hope crushed, love asundered, bad guys win, etc…

  8. I think age 12/13 up is on target for the book.

    As for marketing younger, its similar to the Princess Diaries; constantly, I told parents, no, this isn’t for your 7 year old, and when they returned, sputtering over unmarried parents and testicular cancer, I said, dude, (well, ok, I didn’t say dude) I said, this is a teen book, regardless of what the target group for the movie.

    What also surprised me about the ending was it seemed to end with doing what Pullman criticized Lewis for doing: giving a negative view of growing up and sex. Even arguing that all Will and Lyra did was kiss, here are these two who are so close, who kiss, and what happens? Torn apart forever, exiled back to their cold home worlds, to a cold and boring life. This is winning? I’ll take Lucy & co dying in a train crash and going to Narnia any day of the week as a better ending.

    The problem I have with the whole god wasn’t killed argument, is that then there is an ultimate Creator who basically created and then abandoned; so is it a better portrait to say, hey, fakeGod is dead, real God isnt, but real God left the universe ages ago and was powerless (and didn’t care enough) to stop all this that was happening?

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