There’s all sorts of controversy going on right now about this book. The movie adaptation is set to release a week from today, on December 7th and there’s this little gem of an email floating around the internet about how subversive and evil this book/movie is. How it will lead our children astray from the Lord and make them hate God, Jesus, Mom, Dad, and Santa Clause.
Oh bullshit. This is a book that I grew up with. My copy of The Golden Compass is so worn, the pages have gone soft like cloth. I got this book when I was probably about ten or eleven, and I also have the two subsequent books, The Subtle Knife and the Amber Spyglass.
If my son were old enough to read, I’d make him read this trilogy. If I thought he would understand and appreciate(hopefully) the movie about to release, I would take him to see it. Instead, he’s going to grandma’s house and Daddy and I are going to see it opening night.
This is the introduction from my copy of the book, written on the first page by Terry Brooks, author of the Sword of Shannara series, Magic Kingdom for Sale, and several other well respected and admired fantasy creations.
It is a claim you have heard about other books, and it hasn’t always turned out to be true. So why should you believe it this time? What makes this such a great book? Let me give you some reasons.
It is an epic fantasy story in the tradition of such great writers as Lloyd Alexander, Madeleine L’Engle, C. S. Lewis, James Barrie, L. Frank Baum, and, of course, J. R. R. Tolkien. It sweeps and resounds. It introduces terrific characters of complexity and passion, characters you will care about deeply. It takes you to wondrous new places that are somehow just familiar enough that you think you might find your way there if you could just puzzle out the directions. It gives you a story line that keeps you turning the pages because you just can’t put it down until you find out what happens.
Not enough? Stay with me, then. This is a tale that is chock-full of the most innovative concepts in fantasy storytelling that I have come across in years. Here is a smattering of examples. Armored bears, who are invincible while clothed in their protective gear but become horribly vulnerable if that gear is stolen or lost. Daemons, small creatures who take the form of various animals and are the physical embodiments of the souls of their human owners. Gobblers, who steal children from their homes and may very well turn out to be the people you trust most.”This is the intro Terry Brooks gave this book. I mean, come on! Does that sound subversive? Does that sound anti-Christian? There are themes later on in the series that have serious religious overtones, it’s true. The last book, you find out the “truth about god” so to speak. But this vicious smear campaign is all about how the book/movie wants kids to be bad, wants them to turn against adults and parents, and to basically, Kill God.
And I call that bullshit. The book is as much, or more, about coming of age. Passing through the innocence of childhood into the understand and awareness of adulthood. Becoming aware of the world around you, and your place in it. Bringing together diverse and sometimes antagonistic people in a cause that is right and just, to protect the children of the world from the mistakes of those who came before.
It doesn’t say there is no god, it says the idea of god is much different than we thought. It’s about freeing yourself from illusions, and looking closely at those people and things around you for the truth of their substance.And it’s also damn exciting! Lyra is a main character I can get behind. She’s smart, but not too smart for her age, she makes mistakes and learns from them, but also isn’t saved from making them at the last minute. She learns from the world around her, and takes charge of her own life and existence.
The other female characters in the book are good and bad. There aren’t many main female characters, mainly two I can think of. Serafina Pekkala is the queen of a witch clan and is also smart, strong, and determined. Mrs. Coulter leads the bad guys, and is conniving, deceitful, and vicious, but also smart and strong. The other female characters are more often background noise, but then again, there aren’t many prominent male roles either. Compared to Lyra, everyone is background. Oh, and Iorek Byornison is a giant armored polar bear, and is my personal favorite character.
So, strong female characters, interesting, original, and engaging plotline and story, and a philosophical undertone are what these people have a problem with. Have they read the bible? That book is full of fanciful stories just like this. What’s the difference between riding on the back of a polar bear, and riding inside a whale? The only problem they have with it, is thatmaybe a good little Christian child will read the books and think, hey, Jesus isn’t for me.
But that child would have to be at least a teenager, because otherwise, a lot of the undercurrents are going to pass them right by. And if that’s what they don’t want to happen, then where is their faith? How can one trilogy of books that have been around less then twenty years, make someone doubt something that’s been around for a thousand or more? And it’s called fantasy for a reason. There are metaphors and symbols, yes, but itisn’t real life. And they should trust their children to understand that.
The more they try to censor and defame this movie, the more people are going to hear about it and get interested. So they’re cutting off their nose to spite their face.