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Old 08-17-2006, 09:23 AM   #121
drigel
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hi bb

I didnt say they were hacks. I do stand corrected with regards to Pullman. I have read Moorecock. Not. a. big. fan. Profit in sales was the point being made as to motivation of craft. Everyone has an opinion, and if one gets their opinion published, then I certainly will have my opinion on it, and its subject. And having a good idea of craft, and a good idea of Moorecock's product, I think my point is valid especially in regards to the second quote of mine you put up. Not only is he not in the same ballpark, he isnt in the same country of the same ballpark. And so thus (like SPM I do appreciate all views positive and negative), I continue to wait. But I also consider the source - as in the craft, and the resulting work.


Quote:
They are all credible writers.
I didnt say the werent.
LOTR isnt the greatest work ever written, nor is it the most important. It is important to me, and of course I have my opinion. In the field of fantasy, half of SF, and fiction overall - yes - top 5 in my opinion. But the guy who brought us Elric (and whose market for that was, and is, a direct result of JRRT *insert applause from accountants here*) is critical of LOTR.... I am sorry if I am coming across as snipy. But that is an opening (self inflicted at that) that is far, far to easy to walk into. cmon - Elric???

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Reading is highly subjective. Without denigrating Tolkien, it surely must be possible to enjoy other writers.
I agree with the former, but as to the latter - (I wouldnt use the word denigrate - but the terms critical, or petulant, as M Underhill succinctly put works well for me) isnt exactly what this thread is about: A couple of authors publishing treatises or opinions that IMO go beyond the above approved terms into the realm of demeaning, trite and - worse of all - disregarded due to lack of depth. Spun Candy after all. humph

Quote:
What causes this great divide?
you either get it or you dont, much like other works that offer insights into the human condition. This isnt about the red pill or the blue pill. Nor is it about the experience of society and science.

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Umm, my understanding is that Tolkien wanted to depict a world prior to divine revelation. Perhaps I am not understanding what you mean?
Isnt that what I said? Umm well the point being that given that, one cannot exercise what I was refering to in Davem's quote:
Quote:
However for all the 'freedom' inherent in the Mannish approach there is a downside which both Pullman & Moorcock in their idealism of it cannot see.
in regards to religion in LOTR. They are forcing a round peg into a square hole. And the bad result of that (according to them) is the author's fault.

Again sorry to come across as a grump. And apologies to all the Moorecock fans out there
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Old 08-17-2006, 12:50 PM   #122
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Been scouting around & found a reference to a conversation between Tolkien & one of his collaborators referenced in Splintered Light by Verlyn Flieger:
Quote:
"Mlle. d'Ardenne recalled saying to him once, apropos his work: `You broke the veil, didn't you, and passed through?' and she adds that he `readily admitted' having done so."
Fliger comments:
Quote:
For Tolkien to admit to such an experience implies that he felt his use of the word as well as his study of it had carried him beyond imagination into a real vision of that which he wrote, that the word itself was the light by which he saw."
Now, in relation to the the whole 'spun candy' thing, what could Tolkien have meant? If Tolkien could say at one point that LotR had no inner meaning or message (LotR Foreword) & at another 'admit' that he had 'broken the veil & passed through' what was he talking about. Is this about language itself - Tolkien felt he had passed through the veil of language as mere 'words' & achieved some deeper vision of the human psyche, the language making facility? He repeatedly said that in writing the Legendarium he was attempting to find out 'what really happened' & we also have the interesting incident reported in on e of the Letters where a visitor said to him ' Of course, you don't believe you made all that up, do you?' & Tolkien responded that he didn't anymore & hadn't been able to believe so since.

But what was it a 'real vision' of? & if it was a 'real vision' of something. how could Tolkien state the story had no inner meaning or message? If Tolkien's work reveals his vision of a 'reality' beyond the veil how could it have no meaning or message? One can only assume that he meant it had no meaning or message imposed by Tolkien himself & that he was communicating 'what really happpened' - ie the 'meaning or message' was not a personal one but rather an impersonal /universal one.

So, was Tolkien wrong? If he was right then is his work really just 'spun candy
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Old 08-17-2006, 01:12 PM   #123
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Quote:
Originally Posted by davem
Now, in relation to the the whole 'spun candy' thing, what could Tolkien have meant? If Tolkien could say at one point that LotR had no inner meaning or message (LotR Foreword) & at another 'admit' that he had 'broken the veil & passed through' what was he talking about. Is this about language itself - Tolkien felt he had passed through the veil of language as mere 'words' & achieved some deeper vision of the human psyche, the language making facility? He repeatedly said that in writing the Legendarium he was attempting to find out 'what really happened' & we also have the interesting incident reported in on e of the Letters where a visitor said to him ' Of course, you don't believe you made all that up, do you?' & Tolkien responded that he didn't anymore & hadn't been able to believe so since.

But what was it a 'real vision' of? & if it was a 'real vision' of something. how could Tolkien state the story had no inner meaning or message? If Tolkien's work reveals his vision of a 'reality' beyond the veil how could it have no meaning or message? One can only assume that he meant it had no meaning or message imposed by Tolkien himself & that he was communicating 'what really happpened' - ie the 'meaning or message' was not a personal one but rather an impersonal /universal one.

So, was Tolkien wrong? If he was right then is his work really just 'spun candy
And to me, there lies the central point of why Tolkien's work is so wonderful. Reading it, it feels as though this work was not carefully constructed over a whole lifetime, as though the author never had to sweat and make hard choices. It reads as though it is real, almost as though Tolkien was merely setting down on paper a story told to him or 'found'.

Despite knowing that each name, each new word was carefully constructed, it feels natural and unforced and most of all, not silly!

So much other fantasy seems forced and false. And I have to say I get that feeling from Moorcock. It reminds me of when you're mucking about and pretending to be a cliched fantasy character, striking a pose with the broom handle and a colander on your head and yelling in a deep voice: "Rarrr, I am Krell from the Doom-mountains of Tharg and I wield the mighty Wrathslayer of Slaywarg!" I think you know what I mean there.
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Old 08-17-2006, 01:14 PM   #124
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Originally Posted by Lalwende
It reminds me of when you're mucking about and pretending to be a cliched fantasy character, striking a pose with the broom handle and a colander on your head and yelling in a deep voice: "Rarrr, I am Krell from the Doom-mountains of Tharg and I wield the mighty Wrathslayer of Slaywarg!"
She keeps doing this on the bus. Its very embarrassing (sigh)
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Old 08-17-2006, 01:23 PM   #125
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Originally Posted by davem
She keeps doing this on the bus. Its very embarrassing (sigh)
Well, it ensures I get a seat when all the twirlies get on anyway.
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Old 08-17-2006, 02:01 PM   #126
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Ive been looking for a good Wrathslayer. I wonder how much a slightly used one would be. The one I have is old and worn, so Ive renamed it Wrathhugger.
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Old 08-17-2006, 05:19 PM   #127
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Originally Posted by davem
But what was it a 'real vision' of? & if it was a 'real vision' of something. how could Tolkien state the story had no inner meaning or message? If Tolkien's work reveals his vision of a 'reality' beyond the veil how could it have no meaning or message? One can only assume that he meant it had no meaning or message imposed by Tolkien himself & that he was communicating 'what really happpened' - ie the 'meaning or message' was not a personal one but rather an impersonal /universal one.
A "real vision" could also be be written as a "vision of reality." Not everything that is real has a meaning or purpose. Like Candy (and perhaps this is where Tolkien is very much like candy.) Candy has no meaning, no nutritional value, and no real reason behind it, but that doesn't make it less real. And if you have a sweet tooth as big as mine, it can make your whole day better. Tolkien's vision was "real" like that- it doesn't have to have a meaning to be; it just is. Maybe that's why we like Tolkien and Candy so much. It's a wonderfully freeing feeling to just let something be, especially if that something is yourself.
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Old 08-18-2006, 02:54 AM   #128
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If Tolkien's work reveals his vision of a 'reality' beyond the veil how could it have no meaning or message
It seems to me (I'm forced to use this opening sentence a lot in this thread, now ain't I?) that there is no contradiction - it may be said so that LoTR has no inner message as it is a story and in itself a message. The message is in the telling. Of course, if one would dig, there one would find lot of symbols (consciously so in the revision) and implications and allusions, but from one of the possible points of you it verily may be said that all these are just parts that made up the bulk of the greater message - the story itself.
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Old 08-19-2006, 10:44 AM   #129
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I think that this essay by Pullman on Lewis puts paid to any idea that journalists are simply trying to 'bait' Pullman into making controversial statements about other writers, as this is his own willingly given opinion.

EDIT: I've just read through this transcript of a radio programme about the nature of fantasy which features Pullman and includes a lot about Tolkien. In the article, Pullman makes the comment:

Quote:
Well the aim was always to tell the story. But you don't set out to preach, you don't set out to persuade or to give a lecture or to teach, heaven forbid, don't set out to teach. You just set out to entertain, to tell a story.
Which seems very contradictory to the times when he has criticised Tolkien for being mere entertainment. Isn't he saying the same of his own work here? Refuting the claim that he set out to put a message on the page?

Bear in mind that this programme seems to have had a lot of Tolkien fans on the panel, and it may have scared him a bit. I'm also not sure of the unbiased nature of it as it is a religious programme of some sort.

EDIT AGAIN
And another interesting snippet (hey, I ought to be making the tea, but I'm on a roll here ).

Scroll down this web chat and you'll see where Pullman himself joins in and he makes the following fascinating comment:

Quote:
Fantasy and non-fantasy. Interesting! For better or worse, I've discovered, I am a fantasist. I resisted it for years, feeling that realism was a higher form, or nobler, or something. And I still enjoy reading realism much more than fantasy - most fantasy I've read is thin - I mean psychologically thin - unsatisfying. But my imagination catches fire with fantasy, and it burns fitfully and damply and with a lot of smoke and needs constant attention and fuss when I do realism. I guess I'm stuck with it. I do regret it, but it's like discovering that your daemon has turned out to be a dog and you always wanted a cat: you have to make the best of it. Whether I like it or not, I am a fantasist.

"Tell them stories ..." That was one of things I enjoyed most. When Mary sees the ghost of the old woman, the ghost says "Tell them stories," meaning of course that new ghosts have to tell the harpies their stories - true stories - in exchange for their passage back to the world. (True stories, because this is what I mean by the difference between "thin" fantasy and "rich" realism - Lyra's first, made-up story, which satisfied the people in the suburbs of the dead but which the harpies rejected brutally - whereas they listened avidly to her true story about the Oxford claybeds). The old woman's ghost says something like "Tell them true stories, and all will be well."
OK, this has got me thinking. Perhaps Pullman actually doesn't have a firm idea that he wants to get across, and this is why some of the things he says come across as contradictory and it could be why the end of HDM seems to fall apart; he has not settled what he really thinks, and so the messages are confused? Certainly Tolkien himself could be a bit like this - when we think about his work in a political context, and especially in his confusion over the symbolism of Galadriel and any religious meaning as time went by.

Some of what he says rings a bell with me. I also resist 'fantasy' as a lot of it is indeed 'thin', and yet it can be addictive. I know I'm not going to be successful, but I spend a lot of time searching out great fantasy; I'm 90% of the time disappointed. Loads of it is indeed like reading about "Krell The Cliche King from the Doom-mountains of Tharg". Hmm. But Tolkien's not like that! He is the original and his work is deep and poetic. I know that Pullman did not read Tolkien until well into adulthood, does this have a bearing on it? If you had read some vile fantasy works and then went to Tolkien you might just sigh and go "Oh God, not more ruddy Elves". I don't know. I'm sure someone here will be able to share what they felt?

Anyway, it looks as though Pullman here grudgingly (sheepishly?) admits that yes, he does like fantasy, even though much of it isn't much cop. Perhaps its that this is a different audience again to the reactionary, armchair iconoclasts and Islington types who devour the Observer on a Sunday and expect holy cows to be destroyed before their eyes?

And back to Tolkien. Its interesting his point about stories and about them being real, as I always get the sense that Tolkien's stories and characters are thoroughly real. How similar are tales of Aragorn/Arwen and Beren/Luthien to Tolkien's own experience of being separated from Edith? Sam as being like the ordinary but strong men he met in the Somme? Gollum is a mentally tormented human? Frodo's pain is like the pain of shellshock and PTSD? Eowyn's desperation to fight is like the desperation to fight of the 15 year old boys who lied in order to go to the battlefields of France? Tolkien's work is full of true stories.
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Old 08-19-2006, 06:05 PM   #130
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Lalwendë
And back to Tolkien. Its interesting his point about stories and about them being real, as I always get the sense that Tolkien's stories and characters are thoroughly real. How similar are tales of Aragorn/Arwen and Beren/Luthien to Tolkien's own experience of being separated from Edith? Sam as being like the ordinary but strong men he met in the Somme? Gollum is a mentally tormented human? Frodo's pain is like the pain of shellshock and PTSD? Eowyn's desperation to fight is like the desperation to fight of the 15 year old boys who lied in order to go to the battlefields of France? Tolkien's work is full of true stories.
Okay, I haven't had and won't have time today to read over Lal's links but I can suggest a small proviso about this bit about real stories and Edith and Tolkien being separated from her.

Most of us I think know the story that Tolkien chose the inscription for his and Edith's gravestone, reading Beren for him and Luthien for her. We don't know if Edith agreed to this or not. And the story also goes that Tolkien once watched Edith dance as Beren did Luthien.

But what if we take Smith of Wootton Major as having some autobiographical significance, as being as 'real' as these other stories in the Legendarium?

Is Smith as real as the Beren/Luthien stories? Does Smith suggest that Tolkien had to be isolated, away from, distant his family? Was it something that he experienced which his family did not share? If so, how can Edith 'be' Luthien?

Is the 'reality' of fairy that it is a gift to special individuals and not everyone? Is fairy an isolating experience?

Of course, autobiography is not the only form of realism, so perhaps these questions are not what Lal had in mind.

But, I write in haste. 'Real' stories engage me now.
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Old 08-20-2006, 04:06 AM   #131
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But what if we take Smith of Wootton Major as having some autobiographical significance, as being as 'real' as these other stories in the Legendarium?
This is the kind of thing I was trying to get at in my earlier post (no 108)

I'm not sure whether it takes us too far off topic, but perhaps it ties in whith my post on Tolkien's agreement that he had 'broken through the veil'.

We are, perhaps, not dealing here with 'relevance' to the Primary World, which Pullman places so much emphasis on, or with 'meaning' or a desire to change the world, but rather a specific experience of another 'world' or kind of 'reality'.

Tolkien seems to imply, in Smith, that Faery is a reality of a kind, a world which is open to certain individuals. Those who are permitted to enter have experiences which are perhaps denied to the rest of us - though we may experience it vicariously. Of course, it may be that the reports of those who have wandered there may open the way to others. If nothing else those accounts make us aware of that other world, that there is more going on (that there is more than one history of the world, as John Crowley put it).

It may be that, rather than Middle-earth being a feigned history of our world, is actually a true history (or one of them) of Faery.

But what is the role of these 'Elf-friends', these 'Walkers between the Worlds'? It is, certainly, a mediating role. They are a living link between this world & Faery, a bridge across a void of a kind. 'Elf-friends' in the Legendarium have high, but often tragic, destinies. Often they find they belong in neither world, usually they find it is their own world that they can no longer remain in - they pass into Faery at the end. This is true of Frodo, Bilbo, Sam, Tuor & Earendel. For others there is a final bereavement as they cannot in the end pass into Faery & must live out a lonely existence in their own world (Smith is the classic case).

It seems, perhaps, that 'Elf-friend' is a sacrificial role, & that a reward is not guaranteed. Yet Tolkien clearly feels that it is essential for the human race as a whole. (Two quotes from the Smith essay)

Quote:
'It is of course possible that they have a 'moral obligation (the sanctions of which we do nor know). It may be contained in the word 'kinship , and also he due to the fact that in the last resort the enemy for enemies) of Faery are the same as those of Men. In certainty the Elvish world as here depicted is not independent of the existence of the human world, as distinct from Men. The world known to Men as their habitation did and could exist without Men; but not Men without it. It is probable that the world of Faery could not exist* without our world, and is affected by the events in it — the reverse being also true. The 'health' of both is affected by state of the other. Men have not the power to assist the Elvenfolk in the ordering and defence of their realm; but the Elves have the power (subject to finding co-operation from within) to assist men in the protection of our world, especially in the attempt to re-direct Men when their development tends to the defacing or destruction of their world. The Elves may thus have also an enlightened self-interest in human affairs.

Quote:
They, the Elvenfolk are thus 'beneficent' with regard to Men, and are not wholly alien, though many things and creatures in Faery itself are alien to Men and even actively hostile. Their good will is seen mainly in attempting to keep or restore relationships between the two worlds, since the Elves (and still some Men) realize that this love of Faery is essential to the full and proper human development. The love of Faery is the love of love: a relationship towards all things, animate and inanimate, which includes love and respect, and removes or modifies the spirit of possession and domination. Without it even plain 'Utility' will in fact become less useful; or will turn to ruthlessness and lead only to mere power, ultimately destructive.* The Apprentice relationship in the tale is thus interesting. Men in a large part of their activities are or should be in an apprentice status as regards the Elven folk. In an attempt to rescue Wootton from its decline, the Elves reverse the situation, and the King of Faery himself comes and serves as an apprentice in the village.
The 'health' & even survival of the Elven world is dependent on the health & survival of the Human world. Hence, a connection between the worlds must be established & maintained by both sides.

Whether Tolkien thought of himself as an 'Elf-friend' is an open question, but Flieger names him as one. He did feel isolated quite often, & the simple explanation for this is the loss of his parents at an early age & the loss of his childhood friends in WWI. Yet is that the whole story? The way he gravitated to others like Lewis who also shared the same love of myth & legend (hence of Faery) perhaps can be explained by his need for people who could understand his own 'double' life.
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Old 08-21-2006, 01:55 PM   #132
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I'm not sure whether it takes us too far off topic, but perhaps it ties in whith my post on Tolkien's agreement that he had 'broken through the veil'.
Thats the way I had always viewed that quote: Going from something like the early Silm to LOTR, was going from extreme (elvish POV) 3rd person to humble (lowly hobbit) 1st person would take not only a break in the veil, but also a few years of walking around behind it.

Not sure if this had been mentioned, but I just got through reading an article about the beginning of filming the 1st of HDM. Nichole Kidman getting an invite for a role.
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Old 08-21-2006, 02:36 PM   #133
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Originally Posted by drigel
Not sure if this had been mentioned, but I just got through reading an article about the beginning of filming the 1st of HDM. Nichole Kidman getting an invite for a role.
I also note that the new Bond, Daniel Craig, is to play Lord Asriel.

'The name's Asriel. Lord Asriel. Licensed to kill (God)'

Wonder if they'll get Shirley Bassey to sing the theme song: 'Lord Asr-eel, he's the man, the man with deicidal tendencies....'

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Old 08-21-2006, 03:33 PM   #134
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Originally Posted by davem
I also note that the new Bond, Daniel Craig, is to play Lord Asriel.

'The name's Asriel. Lord Asriel. Licensed to kill (God)'

Wonder if they'll get Shirley Bassey to sing the theme song: 'Lord Asr-eel, he's the man, the man with deicide tendencies....'
I rather think that other English "B" list saviour, William Blake, might be chosen, given Pullman's great admiration for Blake. I think a version of his famous poem (well known as a hymn) might do nicely: Jerusalem , from his prophetic book Milton, another of Pullman's favourites.

Building Jerusalem on England's green and pleasant land? An early version of the republic of heaven? It is part of England's mythology that they are the descedents of the chosen people, after all.



EDIT: For those of you who might know know Blake or the history of this poem, here's some info: and did those feet in ancient times
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Old 08-24-2006, 01:52 PM   #135
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IMDB states that other wanted actors are;
Ian McShane, Jason Isaacs and Samual L Jackson. That might be just enough to suck me in. I am a big McShane fan after seeing the Deadwood series.
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Old 08-24-2006, 07:00 PM   #136
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Lalwendë
I think that this essay by Pullman on Lewis puts paid to any idea that journalists are simply trying to 'bait' Pullman into making controversial statements about other writers, as this is his own willingly given opinion.

. . . .

. . .

OK, this has got me thinking. Perhaps Pullman actually doesn't have a firm idea that he wants to get across, and this is why some of the things he says come across as contradictory and it could be why the end of HDM seems to fall apart; he has not settled what he really thinks, and so the messages are confused? Certainly Tolkien himself could be a bit like this - when we think about his work in a political context, and especially in his confusion over the symbolism of Galadriel and any religious meaning as time went by.

Some of what he says rings a bell with me. I also resist 'fantasy' as a lot of it is indeed 'thin', and yet it can be addictive. I know I'm not going to be successful, but I spend a lot of time searching out great fantasy; I'm 90% of the time disappointed. Loads of it is indeed like reading about "Krell The Cliche King from the Doom-mountains of Tharg". Hmm. But Tolkien's not like that! He is the original and his work is deep and poetic. I know that Pullman did not read Tolkien until well into adulthood, does this have a bearing on it? If you had read some vile fantasy works and then went to Tolkien you might just sigh and go "Oh God, not more ruddy Elves". I don't know. I'm sure someone here will be able to share what they felt?

Anyway, it looks as though Pullman here grudgingly (sheepishly?) admits that yes, he does like fantasy, even though much of it isn't much cop. Perhaps its that this is a different audience again to the reactionary, armchair iconoclasts and Islington types who devour the Observer on a Sunday and expect holy cows to be destroyed before their eyes?

And back to Tolkien. Its interesting his point about stories and about them being real, as I always get the sense that Tolkien's stories and characters are thoroughly real. How similar are tales of Aragorn/Arwen and Beren/Luthien to Tolkien's own experience of being separated from Edith? Sam as being like the ordinary but strong men he met in the Somme? Gollum is a mentally tormented human? Frodo's pain is like the pain of shellshock and PTSD? Eowyn's desperation to fight is like the desperation to fight of the 15 year old boys who lied in order to go to the battlefields of France? Tolkien's work is full of true stories.
Throwing this out as a 'hypothetical' for the sake of keeping the thread going. I've always read that article on the Lewis centenary as related to reading habits of today's readers. And I wonder if a little bit of this isn't involved also with Pullman's thoughts about Tolkien.

Perhaps what really gets Pullman's goat is muddled or confused reading. He begins with observing how the centenary is a marketing/merchandising event rather than a reading event. And then he continues by examining how the story treats true Christianity rather shabbily--even drawing on Tolkien to support his point. Perhaps what Pullman cannot abide is a situation in which people flock to a story without any strong sense of its consequences of its world view. He dislikes thoughtless reading and admiration for something which might be at odds with the general tenor of culture as he sees it? That is, he dislikes pop culture and would rather we pay closer attention to real story? I think I must go read again that chapter concerning Lyra's death and the harpies' reaction to her story.
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Old 08-25-2006, 02:09 AM   #137
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And then he continues by examining how the story treats true Christianity rather shabbily--even drawing on Tolkien to support his point.
I think Pullman's analysis of Christianity is a frankly a bit silly. As an athiest with an axe to grind one cannot reallly expect an unbiassed analysis from him but his statements are hardly even worth considering. Lewis' Christianity is perfectly orthodox & fairly mainstream as far as I can see. As a non-Christain myself I don't get any sense that the philosophy behind the boooks is 'life-hating' or that Lewis is saying anyone is 'better off dead'. The whole point (perfectly in line with Christian teaching) is that after death we become more alive, that death is merely a transition to a fuller life in another state. It is actually life affirming in that it sees life as so wonderful that it offers even more, even more intense life. Certainly it is hopeful - Pullman condemns Lewis for hating life, but Lewis offers the possibility of eternal life to his characters while he himself offers only disolution & nothingness after death.

I don't think he can actually claim much support from Tolkien - the quote he gives from Tolkien is not a condemnation of Lewis theology but of his playing around with myth.

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Perhaps what Pullman cannot abide is a situation in which people flock to a story without any strong sense of its consequences of its world view. He dislikes thoughtless reading and admiration for something which might be at odds with the general tenor of culture as he sees it? That is, he dislikes pop culture and would rather we pay closer attention to real story?
To quote from the interview Squatter linked to yesterday:

Quote:
He finds it surprising and pleasing that The Lord of the Rings has had such a success. It seems to him that nowadays almost any kind of fiction is mishandled, through not being sufficiently enjoyed. He thinks that there is now a tendency both to believe and teach in schools and colleges that “enjoyment” is an illiterate reaction; that if you are a serious reader, you should take the construction to pieces; find and analyse sources, dissect it into symbols, and debase it into allegory. Any idea of actually reading the book for fun is lost.

“It seems to me comparable to a man who having eaten anything, from a salad to a complete and well-planned dinner, uses an emetic, and sends the results for chemical analysis.”
Its no coincidence that Pullman was a teacher before he became a full time writer - it is clear that his approach to fiction is exactly as Tolkien describes here: "a tendency both to believe and teach in schools and colleges that “enjoyment” is an illiterate reaction; that if you are a serious reader, you should take the construction to pieces; find and analyse sources, dissect it into symbols, and debase it into allegory. Any idea of actually reading the book for fun is lost."

This is exactly what Pullman has done in his reading of LotR. The work cannot just be enjoyed, it must be taken to pieces, broken up to find its 'meaning', which 'meaning' must be analysed to see whether it is 'relevant' to 'the youth of today' or 'the man on the Clapham omnibus'. Will the reading of this book make the readers better, more constructive members of society? Will it tell them what we want them to know?
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Old 08-25-2006, 06:18 AM   #138
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Its no coincidence that Pullman was a teacher before he became a full time writer - it is clear that his approach to fiction is exactly as Tolkien describes here: "a tendency both to believe and teach in schools and colleges that “enjoyment” is an illiterate reaction; that if you are a serious reader, you should take the construction to pieces; find and analyse sources, dissect it into symbols, and debase it into allegory. Any idea of actually reading the book for fun is lost."
I'm afraid I'll have to defend Pullman on that point as I don't think he would agree with that method of reading at all. See my earlier post number 34 on this thread and The Isis Lecture for what Pullman thinks about the analytical method of teaching literature and English language. He advocates a creative approach, and is very much against the idea of too much adherence to and analysis of structure.

I still think that he 'kind of knows' what he wants to say, but he is getting his messages confused. It does seem that with his statement on 'spun candy' he would indeed advocate Structuralism and all that malarkey, but he's actually more in favour of a creative free for all and is closer to Tolkien than he dares to acknowledge. The main differences seem to lie in the moral messages (that's probably not the right term, but I can't think of the exact way of saying what I mean right now; oh, the irony!) the two wish/ed to put across.
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Old 08-25-2006, 06:59 AM   #139
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I think that there is a misunderstanding here over Pullman's approach, and that is what is leading to the assumption that his opinions are contradictory.

I have not re-read all of the materials linked to here, so I may be wrong, but the sense I get is not that Pullman "requires" a story to have a message, in the sense of preaching a particular doctrine, philosophy or worldview, but that it be "weighty" in the sense of providing material for thought.

Certainly, most of the materials here suggest that he subscribes to the Tolkienian view of the importance of a piece of fiction as entertainment, and I would agree with Lalwendë's assessment in this regard above. But it seems to me that Pullman's definition of an entertaining story is one which is (or, perhaps more correctly, which he finds to be) thought-provoking. That is not to say that he regards it necessary to pull a story apart in order to find the depth within it, the analytical approach which Tolkien disdains above. Rather, he considers that a story which provides material for thought (even if such thought occurs at a less than conscious level) is, essentially, a more entertaining one than one which does not. (The assessment of whether a particular story provides such material is, of course, a subjective one, although I am sure that we could all agree on examples of those stories which do not.)

His comments on LotR concerning its "triviality" and "spun candy" nature indicate quite clearly that he does not find such depth in LotR. This links in with the thread on Psychological Depth, which I started some time ago on the basis of a quote from Pullman. He finds that the characters lack psychological depth, that there is no "weight" to them and he cannot therefore regard them or their story as providing anything useful to say on the realities of life (as he perceives them). For him, LotR is merely the account of a series of events linked up with nice descriptions of the landscape. It has no depth. There is nothing there which "grabs" him from an intellectual or (I presume) emotinal point of view.

If I am right in my assessment of his approach, I rather agree with Pullman on many points here. I would agree that, from my perspective, a story is likely to be more entertaining if it has depth to it and provides material for thought. I would aso agree that, to an extent, many of the principal characters of LotR lack psychological depth. Where I would disagree with him is that it follows from this that LotR does not provide material for thought or, indeed, that there is no such material within it. That said, and as I have stated earlier, different people have different tastes and, if LotR does not "grab" him intellectually and emotionally in the same way that it grabs others, then no one can force him to like it.

And I would still maintain that, even though not all of Pullman's comments that we have been discussing here derive from "baiting" by journalists, LotR and (to a lesser degree) the Narnia books remain the principle peaks in the landscape within which he works and, professionally (as a writer), he is obliged to grapple with them, both within his own mind, and also publicly when discussing his works and their place within the fantasy genre.
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Old 08-25-2006, 07:37 AM   #140
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Originally Posted by Lalwendë
I'm afraid I'll have to defend Pullman on that point as I don't think he would agree with that method of reading at all. See my earlier post number 34 on this thread and The Isis Lecture for what Pullman thinks about the analytical method of teaching literature and English language. He advocates a creative approach, and is very much against the idea of too much adherence to and analysis of structure.
Well, I think there's a difference between what he says & what he actually does. He may condemn the analytical method but he still cannot resist breaking the story apart to find out what it 'means', what its 'message' is. He demands it have a message if it is to be taken seriously. He certainly cannot (it seems) enjoy a story simply as a story.

If we miss out ' that if you are a serious reader, you should take the construction to pieces' its difficult to argue that Tolkien was right about Pullman's approach:

Quote:
a tendency both to believe and teach in schools and colleges that “enjoyment” is an illiterate reaction; find and analyse sources, dissect it into symbols, and debase it into allegory. Any idea of actually reading the book for fun is lost."
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Old 08-25-2006, 08:55 AM   #141
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He may condemn the analytical method but he still cannot resist breaking the story apart to find out what it 'means', what its 'message' is.
Davem, please state your justification for this assertion, by reference to Pullman's own words.

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Originally Posted by davem
Well, I think there's a difference between what he says & what he actually does.
As I have indicated, I see no contradiction.

Pullman, like Tolkien, disdains the analytical, dissective approach and asserts that the primary aim of reading should be enjoyment. For him personally to enjoy a book, it must have some "depth" that resonates with him, which provokes thought in him. He finds no such depth in LotR. Therefore he does not enjoy LotR. Being a fantasy writer (and commentator) himself, it is inevitable that circumstances will arise in which he will be required to explain his feelings towards LotR, given the novel's stature within the fanatsy genre.

Where's the contradiction?
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Old 08-25-2006, 10:40 AM   #142
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Davem, please state your justification for this assertion, by reference to Pullman's own words.
I would think the fact that he has looked for 'meaning' in it, found none & therefore dismissed it as 'spun candy' rather than simply being able to enjoy it for what it is, not to mention that he has obviously ripped the Narnia books to bits in in order to 'critique' them would be enough to justify my statement.
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Old 08-25-2006, 01:01 PM   #143
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I would think the fact that he has looked for 'meaning' in it, found none & therefore dismissed it as 'spun candy' rather than simply being able to enjoy it for what it is ...
I disagree. He expected depth from it, found none sufficent to satisfy his personal tastes/interest and therefore did not find it entertaining.

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... not to mention that he has obviously ripped the Narnia books to bits in in order to 'critique' them ...
There is a difference between advocating the dissection and analysis of books and automatically approaching every book on this basis as a matter of course, on the one hand, and feeling obliged to do so with regard to paticular works as a de facto fantasy writer/commentator on the fantasy genre, on the other. Pullman's critique of the Narnia books is based upon the latter approach, not the former.

It appears that, in contrast to his reaction to LotR, Pullman found depth within the Narnia books, but it was based upon a philosophy/tradition with which he profoundly disagreed.

I still see no inherent contradiction in his words and nor do I see much of a basis for labelling him ignorant, other than the fact that his philosophy and tastes differ from your own.
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Old 08-25-2006, 02:17 PM   #144
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Originally Posted by The Saucepan Man
It appears that, in contrast to his reaction to LotR, Pullman found depth within the Narnia books, but it was based upon a philosophy/tradition with which he profoundly disagreed.

I still see no inherent contradiction in his words and nor do I see much of a basis for labelling him ignorant, other than the fact that his philosophy and tastes differ from your own.
I think anyone who thinks the Narnia books are 'deep' but LotR is not is a bit shallow.
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Old 08-25-2006, 02:19 PM   #145
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He expected depth from it, found none sufficent to satisfy his personal tastes/interest and therefore did not find it entertaining
Verily so, and it would have been all just right and proper, if Mr.Pullman just contented himself with mere statement of dislike. After all, it's again just right and proper to like/dislike any piece of art, and also right and proper to state one's impression.

But, and grave 'but' at that, where Mr.Pullman crosses the line and, in my opinion, deserves davem's ire (mine too), is aggresive and mean attacks he lets himself sink to. Mentor's tone does not help either, and even so his attacks would have been acceptable in proper place, say, in literary discussion on a forum like BD here - let him state his points and let us state ours, that would at least be honest. But lo - he attacks Tolkien from pulpits and places where he's the sole preacher. Irritable, to say the least.

Imagine some writer (famous enogh, that is) saying things about Pullman Pullman himself says about Tolkien, but evading direct dialogue with Pullman on the subject. I would dearly love to watch PP's reaction, now I would
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Old 08-25-2006, 02:29 PM   #146
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Have a chat with Mr Pullman:

http://www.philip-pullman.com/about_the_writing.asp
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Old 08-28-2006, 05:09 AM   #147
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But, and grave 'but' at that, where Mr.Pullman crosses the line and, in my opinion, deserves davem's ire (mine too), is aggresive and mean attacks he lets himself sink to.
You may have a point as far as Moorcock is concerned, but I think that you are rather over-stating the case with regard to Pullman. Would you bat an eyelid if he said the same things about a writer for whom your own feelings were neutral?

Quote:
Originally Posted by HerenIstarion
Mentor's tone does not help either, and even so his attacks would have been acceptable in proper place, say, in literary discussion on a forum like BD here - let him state his points and let us state ours, that would at least be honest. But lo - he attacks Tolkien from pulpits and places where he's the sole preacher.
Quite right! Let's ban all literary lectures where the lecturer dares to criticise another work ...

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Originally Posted by HerenIstarion
Imagine some writer (famous enogh, that is) saying things about Pullman Pullman himself says about Tolkien, but evading direct dialogue with Pullman on the subject.
I hardly think that Pullman evades direct dialogue on the subject of Tolkien's works. Of course, it is rather difficult for him to engage in dialogue with Tolkien himself, but I have no doubt that his public comments provoke comment from "outraged" Tolkien fans (as Jonathan Hari found out). As davem suggests, you could engage with him yourself by using the link above. You never know, he might even reply to a sensibly and courteously argued critique of his statements.
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Old 08-28-2006, 08:17 AM   #148
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You never know, he might even reply to a sensibly and courteously argued critique of his statements.
Or you could send him his own statements back but replacing 'Tolkien' & 'LotR' with 'Pullman' & 'HDM' & see if he consider's them insulting....
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Old 08-28-2006, 10:37 AM   #149
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SpM, you may have a point there too, and maybe I'm indeed overreacting, but 'literary lectures' analogy is also taking it a bit too far. Besides, I do not think that Mr.Pullman is paid for his 'critique' as any honest lecturer would, now is he?

But I do believe that davem here may have a point too (We have points all round, it seems. Let us join them and we'll have a line...). I would be mighty curious to witness PP's reaction to one of his own lectures with HDM in it instead of LoTR (provided that the lecture is relatively old so he would not recognize it )
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Old 08-28-2006, 01:04 PM   #150
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Quote:
Originally Posted by davem
Or you could send him his own statements back but replacing 'Tolkien' & 'LotR' with 'Pullman' & 'HDM' & see if he consider's them insulting....
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Originally Posted by HerenIstarion
I would be mighty curious to witness PP's reaction to one of his own lectures with HDM in it instead of LoTR (provided that the lecture is relatively old so he would not recognize it )
See, that's just the point. I think any kind of substitution would of necessity change the context of the comments. In being a substitution, it would become a different rhetorical subject--different kettle of fish. It would truly then be deceitful and mean spirited. More honest would be to address PP with new words, openly.

Honestly, I am really glad none of you guys are fundamentalists who object to cartoons or this forum would really go up in flames.
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Old 09-04-2006, 01:10 PM   #151
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I'm reading HDM again, and once again I'm finding it to be a fantastic read - it's definitely in my top ten books, if not top five. And in some ways it brings me back to the sense of excitement I once got from reading Tolkien for the first time; much of HDM is very upsetting and the story is intense.

Anyway, this brought me back to some more thoughts.

The similarities between Tolkien and Pullman are startling, not just in terms of their biographies - both losing a father at an early age, and both were brought up with a strong religious influence, in Pullman's case CofE. But other things are similar - both have an intense love of simple story and narrative, and its story that motivated Pullman to write HDM and story that tempted Tolkien out of naval-gazing personal language development and into writing proper books.

Both men seem to have an anarchic streak too. There's an obvious shared love for humour, and the sense of the silly and naughty. They also seem to want to kick against 'the man' in some way - Pullman with his comments on 'worthy' state education and Tolkien's curmudgeonly grumblings about The State. Pullman's interviews are filled with controversial statements which he later contradicts by saying something which seems to be exactly the opposite. And didn't Tolkien do just that?! His grandiose and much mis-quoted statements about 'mythologies for England' and that comment about his work being 'Catholic' which he then went on to contradict with his statements on allegory. Of course, Tolkien wasn't averse to knocking other writers himself; his more polite times probably stopped him from being so nasty. Both writers are/were stirrers of the proverbial. Perhaps Pullman has his eye on flaming debates when he's long gone and is laughing away at us from the outer reaches of the Universe.

So where's the essential difference between them? I think it lies in that Pullman admires Reason and Tolkien admires Romance. Pullman states he was deeply influenced by Blake and Milton - and interestingly that he was amused that Milton ended up making Satan look quite cool, actually (my words, not his - it was something I said at Uni that made the tutor laugh, but is similar to what Pullman thinks!). The church he depicts with hate in HDM is the church had the Reformation failed - dogmatic and untempered by Reason. I'm noting that he never once mentions Jesus and is not actually a classical Atheist, more a curious lapsed Liberal Protestant (like me). Tolkien however, certainly viewed from the perspective of Pullman, harks back to the pre-Reformation. However, viewed in isolation, I always find Tolkien to be a Modernist, not a Medievalist - bleak and moribund and forever focussing on the need for people to make an effort to make the world a decent place (and stop relying on Elves).

Infantile? Spun candy? Reading Pullman again, and looking at what he pours into HDM I have two thoughts.

Firstly, he's being unfair when he criticises Tolkien for having Elves and Hobbits and 'unreal' creatures. Erm, has he not got talking bears? Witches? (the witches have a fascinating feminist aspect but I'm not going into that) Cliff Ghasts? Mad creatures are a feature of fantasy. I think this is another example of that familiar big mouth that Pullman and Tolkien shared.

Secondly, I simply think that Pullman is missing the big ideas contained in Tolkien's work about the environment, war and mortality. Strangely, for a writer who poured so much detail into his work, Tolkien deals with his issues in a poetic way, without going into the detail. He uses a big brush. Pullman on the other hand does not shy away from things which are actually quite brave things to put into a kids' book - complicated astrophysics, complicated adult relationships, complicated political machinations. He uses detail.

Anyway, I'll no doubt think of more when I've finished reading. However, the fact remains that both writers aren't/weren't averse to a bit of stirring, and Pullman's comments on Tolkien probably ought to be taken in that light.
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Old 09-04-2006, 01:34 PM   #152
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The church he depicts with hate in HDM is the church had the Reformation failed - dogmatic and untempered by Reason. I'm noting that he never once mentions Jesus and is not actually a classical Atheist, more a curious lapsed Liberal Protestant (like me). Tolkien however, certainly viewed from the perspective of Pullman, harks back to the pre-Reformation.
I'm not sure the Church Pullman depicts in HDM bears any relation to the real Church at all. He has effectively created a twisted caricature of the Church which retains only the negative aspects & pretends the positive aspects never existed. Where are the Saints, the Mystics, the poets & artists? He fetes Milton & Blake while at the same time apparently 'ignoring' the positive aspects of Christianity which was central to their thinking. The Church (& it is the Christian Chrurch - well specifically the Catholic church - which he is attacking) is presented as cruel, ignorant & effectively 'Satanic' - which is odd in a way - by rejecting the existence of objective Evil in the form of the devil he has to turn 'God' into the devil. Effectively the death of 'God' in HDM is equivalent to the fall of Sauron in LotR (& one could compare the seperation of Will & Lyra with the seperation of Sam & Frodo in LotR).

Quote:
Strangely, for a writer who poured so much detail into his work, Tolkien deals with his issues in a poetic way, without going into the detail. He uses a big brush. Pullman on the other hand does not shy away from things which are actually quite brave things to put into a kids' book - complicated astrophysics, complicated adult relationships, complicated political machinations. He uses detail.
I find this to be the opposite of my take on Tolkien & Pullman. I find Tolkien's focus on detail - from the physical detail of plant & landscape to the complex interrelationships of races & Politics - one of the most interesting things about his work, & rather than finding Pullman's approach complicated I find it overblown.
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Old 09-04-2006, 01:37 PM   #153
The Mouth of Sauron
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Please remember that LOTR is a novel .

I am the Mouth of Sauron .
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Old 09-04-2006, 01:41 PM   #154
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Originally Posted by The Mouth of Sauron
Please remember that LOTR is a novel .

I am the Mouth of Sauron .
Technically its an epic romance....
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Old 09-04-2006, 02:08 PM   #155
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Originally Posted by davem
I'm not sure the Church Pullman depicts in HDM bears any relation to the real Church at all. He has effectively created a twisted caricature of the Church which retains only the negative aspects & pretends the positive aspects never existed. Where are the Saints, the Mystics, the poets & artists? He fetes Milton & Blake while at the same time apparently 'ignoring' the positive aspects of Christianity which was central to their thinking. The Church (& it is the Christian Chrurch - well specifically the Catholic church - which he is attacking) is presented as cruel, ignorant & effectively 'Satanic' - which is odd in a way - by rejecting the existence of objective Evil in the form of the devil he has to turn 'God' into the devil. Effectively the death of 'God' in HDM is equivalent to the fall of Sauron in LotR (& one could compare the seperation of Will & Lyra with the seperation of Sam & Frodo in LotR).
Actually, the Church depicted by Pullman is not really Catholic, its some extreme form of Calvinism where Calvin simply deposes the Papacy and replaces it with something more extreme. The Catholic Church was not the only Church with an extreme dogma in those times. Calvin had his own Inquisition and a Consistory (Consistorial Court in HDM) and set up a rigid hierarchy similar to that seen in HDM.

As I've said, HDM depicts a world where its as though the Reformation never happened, well, that's probably not entirely right, as not all traditions descending from the Reformation were necessarily Liberal and infused with Reason. And indeed, Pullman does include a lot of aspects of extremes of religions such as mentioning harm done to children in the name of religion (like the recent controversy of African families sedning children have 'demons' cast out by being beaten to death), and he also criticises the idea of 'confession' being a way of buying your way out of sin in the world of Lyra, which is indeed a criticism of Catholicism.

EDIT: and I have to add, that when I say Reformation, I have always got in mind specifically Anglicanism and the English Reformation, as its the one I know about. Possibly this is the Reformation Pullman also mentally refers to as his Grandfather was an Anglican Minister, and some notable Anglicans, including The Archbishop of Canterbury, have lauded HDM with high praise as it actually focusses on the misuse of dogma, not on Christianity being bad in itself. As I've said, Jesus isn't in HDM, there is no war against him.
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Old 08-05-2007, 03:59 AM   #156
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Is Fantasy Trash?

Rather than begin a new thread, this seems to fit here best.

There's been a new interview with Pullman where he mentions Tolkien. Note, he does not knock Tolkien, but his imitators!

Read these:
Guardian Article
Literary Review Article

And the Killer Quote:
Quote:
How much were you itching to invent alternative worlds before embarking on 'Northern Lights'?

I wasn't itching at all. It took me entirely by surprise. I always took a dim view of fantasy - still do in fact. Most of it is trash, but then most of everything is trash. It seemed to me writers of fantasy in the Tolkien tradition had this wonderful tool that could do anything and they did very little with it. They were rather like the inventors of the subtle knife who used it to steal candy when they could have done much more.

The first book I think really did what fantasy can do, besides Paradise Lost, was a book published in 1920 called The Voyage to Arcturus by David Lindsay. It's a very poorly written, clumsily constructed book which nevertheless has the force, the power, the intensity of genius. He uses fantasy to say something profound about morality - none of Tolkien's imitators do this.

Another thing about fantasy - I'm sure that far more adults have read His Dark Materials because they were published as children's books than would have done if they had been published as fantasy. Nor was I itching to write about religion. I originally wanted to write a story about a girl who goes into a room where she shouldn't be and has to hide when someone comes in and by chance overhears something she's not supposed to hear. A little later I discovered she had a daemon, that was the point at which I realised I'd got hold of a story somehow that I could use - no, you don't use a story - that I could explore, and say something about Kleist's essay which I had come across fifteen years before. The religious theme evolved as part of what Lyra has to struggle against and give up.
I have to say I agree with him. I don't like fantasy because most of it is flippin' dreadful. I like certain fantasy works - and when they are good, they are the best books it's possible to read. Pullman is right. Tolkien's imitators, writers who have attempted to follow in his tradition, have just not been up to scratch.

Pullman wrote something based on ideas of Milton and Blake; Gaiman uses forms of graphic novels and ancient fairy tales combined with modern horrors; Clarke utilises the form and tone of the 18th century novel; Rowling makes use of the traditional 'school story'. No Elves (Dyson would be pleased ). Few unconquerable Dark Lords. Ambiguity. Peril.
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Old 02-12-2020, 08:38 PM   #157
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Blast from the past

Quite by serendipity I came across this thread, now 13 years old. We had fun, didn't we?

I still enjoy Pullman, in fact, even more now than I did then. How much better I could have framed my points.

But the real purpose of my post now is simply to add some detail about Pullman. Oxford has given him an honorary degree. And in January 2019 (or was it 2018?) he was knighted for his services to literature. A knight bachelor.

The movie was terrible, as bad an adaptation as PJ's Hobbit. But the new TV serial is smashing.
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