I love the fact that the needle of a compass points north. Well, not true north, they say, but pretty darn near true north. I love north. I love saying the word north! It reminds me of the high and lofty, the cold and unreachable, the North Star, the cap of the world, Mount Everest, stuff like that. Growing up, when July would roll around, my brother and I would always look forward to heading north to Maine. Once the old gray Chevy truck (affectionately known as the Babe) was loaded up, the very act of turning off of the back roads of Browns Mills and slipping onto the ramp that led to 95 North brought a certain rush of excitement. For us, heading north meant a journey into clarity, and a certain clearing of the head; to clearer paths of unspoiled wilderness and open fields.
But what happens when your compass is broken, or worse, the needle twisted, and the signs intentionally switched by another hand? What if 95 North read 95 South, and instead of the cool, clear, balsam-scented forests of New England, we ended up in the hot, swarmy, mosquito invested swamps of Florida! (no offense, Floridians. Hey, my Nana lives in Florida!)
Well, that would not be nice, now would it?
Enter, The Golden Compass. It's the first book of Philip Pullman’s trilogy “His Dark Materials” (The Golden Compass, The Subtle Knife, and The Amber Spyglass). A slicked up movie version of The Golden Compass starring Nicole Kidman and Daniel Craig is due for release on December 7th. What's it about? Well, think of the beauty and mystery and appeal of the Chronicles of Narnia and the Lord of the Rings as classic tales of good versus evil that lead us to God, to the True, the Good, and the Beautiful, and then turn it completely upside down.
Pullman is a militant atheist who has said “I hate the Narnia books, and I hate them with a deep and bitter passion. . . .” In the conclusion of the Chronicles of Narnia, when Aslan the Lion (the Christ figure) brings the true and faithful Narnians to Heaven, Pullman is repulsed and has called it “one of the most vile moments in the whole of children’s literature.” Narnia, and the Lord of the Rings he claims, are "propaganda in the service of a life-hating ideology.” He's also said “Harry Potter’s been taking all the flak. Meanwhile, I’ve been flying under the radar, saying things that are far more subversive than anything poor old Harry has said.”
Tonight on the Heart of Things radio show (800AM or http://www.catholicinternetradio.com/) my guest will be Ms. Sandra Miesel. Sandra holds masters’ degrees in biochemistry and medieval history from the University of Illinois. She has written hundreds of articles for the Catholic press, chiefly on history, art, and hagiography. Outside the Catholic sphere, she has also written, analyzed, and edited fiction. We'll be talking about the ramifications of "The Golden Compass" from 5 to 6 pm tonight (EST).
PS - Sandra Miesel has a brand new book coming out!
Pied Piper of Atheism: Philip Pullman and Children's Fantasy
You can pre-order it now at www.ignatius.com
Here's the write up from Ignatius:
"British author Philip Pullman is widely acclaimed by critics and readers for his best-selling, award-winning trilogy, His Dark Materials. But he has been criticized by some for attacking Christianity and promoting atheism. What is the truth about Pullman and his books? What does he believe about God, religion, the Catholic Church, and atheism? What does he hope his books will accomplish? Why does he express such strong disdain for the fiction of C.S. Lewis and J.R.R. Tolkien? Should children be reading the His Dark Materials trilogy, or watching the film version of The Golden Compass, the first book of the trilogy?
These are just some of the many important questions addressed by Pete Vere and Sandra Miesel in their accessible, concise, and thoroughly-researched analysis of Pullman's fiction and beliefs. The authors provide a literary critique of His Dark Materials and reveal the many premises, and often surprising literary and philosophical sources of that popular work, as well as explain the symbolism present throughout. They also compare Pullman's fiction to The Chronicles of Narnia, the Harry Potter books, and other famous works of children's fiction. And they examine the metaphysical premises and moral propositions found throughout His Dark Materials, and point out the many objectionable aspects of the books—including violence and sensuality—about which every concerned parent should know. Readers looking for a fair, firm, and non-sensational critique of His Dark Materials will find it in Pied Piper of Atheism."