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Old 07-30-2006, 09:44 PM   #41
Bęthberry
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Tolkien

As most of you can suspect from reading my posts on this thread, I am fascinated by the virulence of Pullman's attitude towards Tolkien, particularly since many of the journalists who interview him report qualities and traits to which Tolkien would not be adverse. And I am equally fascinated by the links davem provided which suggest that the central facet of the difference lies in differing perspectives of the nature of fantasy.

How very fitting for a solidly materialistic attitude towards realism for Pullman to have his story begin with Lyra discovering that, while her wardrobe is bigger than she first thought, it has but one way of exit, while for Lewis' Lucy, her wardrobe is, as Esty has noted, bigger on the inside than the out and has an alternate route. Lyra, boxed in her wardrobe, has no way to go but forward, as Pullman notes--not a loose plank nor a wobbly floorboard for the taking. What a perfect metaphor for his book! (Note too who pilfers some leaf in that first chapter. )

What a sad fate, that all that remains is to study in hopes of recovering a greater form of wisdom than first-grace. Not only is Pullman wrong about the sharp clarity of good and evil in Tolkien, as Mister Underhill suggests--yet powerful misreadings are often grounds for new creative endeavours--he is also, it seems to me, labouring under a sorry misconception that in adulthood and adult wisdom there is no metaphor, no imagination. Even more sad, I suspect he thinks that in science there is no metaphor. He labours under the old C.P. Snow division of two cultures, yet that characterisation has, I think, become a historical relic long left behind by theorists of science.

I am even more surprised by his great allusions to Blake. What manner of misreading Blake must he have to be such a determined materialist?

I find myself agreeing with Child's preference for Tolkien's civility while enjoying Pullman's inventiveness as Lal does. Yet all this bit about embarassment, self-consciousness, irony, it suggests a need for distance. But doesn't Tolkien himself have this distance in his humour? Tolkien had a very mischievous sense of humour. I wonder, does Pullman?

Some years ago, a philosophy professor told us all a story about meeting a world famous philosopher (he did not name the felon). The two, caught up in a moment of high hijinks late at night, decided to roll toilet paper out the window of the men's room. They were interrupted by the arrival of the janitor, a straight sort of fellow who recognised the eminent men and sputtered at them that people had reported someone rolling toilet paper out the window of the men's room. In reply, the eminent philosopher, caught one would think red-handed, agreed with the janitor that the actions were untoward. "I know, it's terrible," my professor claimed the philosopher said, "will you help us? We are trying to roll it back in." Now there's a fly-on-the-wall story for Tevildo!

I can't help but think that Tolkien would have relished that story.
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Old 07-31-2006, 01:56 AM   #42
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Mister Underhill
I daresay that this is too simplistic. A key theme of Tolkien's is of a desire to do good which ends in evil, great or small. You have the characters who are obviously deluding themselves, like Saruman, but then you also have Sam snapping at Gollum at a critical moment -- to help Frodo, but perhaps with the ultimate effect of tilting Gollum away from redemption forever. Good and evil are not so clear in Tolkien as Pullman would like to think they are.
I agree. At one level, our omnipotent level as the Reader, we can see what is good and evil in Middle-earth. We can see the goal, and we can see what types of behaviour will make the goal unreachable, more or less. We also have the Silmarillion and knowledge of Eru and Light and the ordered cosmos.

However, bringng this down to the level of say a Dunlending living in Middle-earth, do they have that knowledge? And even if they did, we have to look at their circumstances. Tolkien does not have a writerly wrath or rain of fire and brimstone on those who do not follow the 'correct' path as we see it. They do more or less get some kind of comeuppance at the end (that's a part of high fantasy, that the 'bad guy' gets a thrashing ), but Tolkien does this with a sense of sadness - e.g. the ends of Denethor, Gollum, Grima, even Saruman are all quite touching. He even has the Rohirrim treat those who died in the assault on Helm's Deep with the greatest respect.

Even the 'good guys' can go very, very wrong, such as Boromir, Aragorn's displays of arrogance, Sam's distrust of Gollum, Frodo's failure to resist the Ring, Galadriel's lust for power, Gandalf's temper etc. Now there's an interesting thing. Tolkien has lots of flawed characters, just like real world people! Some go the right way, some not. The characters do struggle over what is right and wrong. Frodo does, Sam does, Aragorn spends most of his time going down the Anduin worrying about what's the right thing to do.

I think Pullman is someone else who has let autobiographical details about Tolkien overshadow the actual text. He has seen the big red words Catholic! Christian! and has decided that of course, this must be a proselytising work. Hmm, interesting when many (most?) readers are not devout.

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I can't remember anything in The Lord of the Rings, in all that vast epic of heroic battles and ancient magic, that titanic struggle between good and evil, that even begins to approach the ethical power and the sheer moral shock of the scene in Jane Austen's Emma when Mr Knightley reproaches the heroine for her thoughtless treatment of poor Miss Bates. Emma's mortification is one of those eye-opening moments after which nothing is the same. Emma will grow up now, and if we pay attention to what's happening in the scene, so will we. That's what realistic fiction can do, and what fantasy of the Tolkien sort doesn't. ...
This is not correct as any of us will know! How many truly shocking moments are there in the book?! Gollum's fall, Frodo's failure, Boromir's betrayal, Gandalf's fall (and return), and Eowyn's unrequited love? That last one, of all of them, really is shocking, and transcends traditional fantasy 'shock tactics', harking back to older myths, and touching on what ordinary people might experience.

I mean though, what's all this about 'growing up'? Is this the only issue that concerns any of us?!
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Old 07-31-2006, 03:45 AM   #43
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I find myself wondering if Pullman's fans take from the novel what he wants them to take? How many of them read it fro its 'undermining' of Fantasy, & how many for the same reason as they read Tolkien – for 'Escape'. It strikes me now that Pullman sees the ending of HDM as 'positive', even upbeat – people are liberated from an oppressive religious order, & can now make the world in their own image. Pullman wants his readers to close the book with positive feelings, but I suspect most of them don't. They end, perhaps, feeling exactly the way readers of LotR do – sad at the loss of Magic, in the knowledge that all there is now is the 'ordinary'. They long for what has been taken from them when what Pullman actually wants is for them to feel liberated.

I suspect that as many readers of Pullman as of Tolkien 'desire Dragons with a profound desire', & do not wish them only to 'serve reality'. One of the cruellest things Pullman does in HDM is have Lyra attacked by the Harpies for 'lying' in the world of the Dead. This is an attack on the human capacity for creative fantasy. Pullman is actually attempting to terrify his readers – particularly his child readers – into rejecting fantasy. In short he is telling them 'Always tell the absolute truth, state only the FACTS, or you'll go to hell & stay there. Fantasy is WRONG because it is not 'true' (ie it does not depict the world as being the way 'science' says it is).

What I find fascinating is that he sees Fantasy/the Imagination as an enemy, something that has to be controlled, beaten into submission, made to serve REALITY. Tolkien's philosophy seems much more about creating something beautiful simply for the sake of it (or as he would probably have put it as an act of 'worship'). One creates because one is created but also one creates for sheer joy of creating. Pullman's approach is much more puritanical – what we create must serve a practical purpose. Pullman offers us 'liberation' from an oppressive Church merely so that we can forget all that 'mumbo-jumbo' & get some bloody work done!.
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Old 07-31-2006, 04:50 AM   #44
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So Pullman is putting forward the Protestant Work Ethic?

I suppose this is the danger of trying to get across a complex message in a clever way. People just might not get it. Or else they'll grossly misinterpret or even choose to ignore it.

I 'got' that he was having a pop at the Catholic church, but not having a pop at christianity/spirituality as a whole. Forming a 'Republic' of Heaven seems a bit Unitarian to me to be honest, in that it aimed to allow people to make their own choices rather than have them imposed by birth (by parents' religions), culture or by having to follow the rules to be included as part of a religion. Not so bad a concept in my view, though poorly articulated I thought. Blake does that kind of idea much better!

If he was trying to get young readers to reject fantasy then that badly misfired. He created some horribly evil and repellent adult characters, just the sort of people that children might find they need to retreat into childhood and childhood pursuits or indeed, fantasy, to escape.

He also created the Daemons, which while they might be read as physical manifestations of the Anima/Animus to some older readers, kids would read as simply really cool, amazing little cuddly friends. In the scenes where the scientists try to separate Daemon from child, i detect Pullman is making the point that kids should not be separated from fantasy and dreams at a young age. But by showing the adults who work there as almost zombie like with their obedient terrier like Daemons, who have actually been through some kind of 'separation process' he makes an odd point. Does he mean that the chruch makes adults like that by separating them from dreams/fantasy and filling their heads with notions of 'sin'?

It's all far too contradictory.
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Old 08-01-2006, 12:32 PM   #45
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Lalwendë
It's all far too contradictory.
Or contrived?

Quote:
Originally Posted by Pullman 2000
Embarrassment is often a sign that something important is happening: some revelation is taking place. The revelation is often signalled with red, the most alarming of colours: we blush. Darwin was fascinated by that: "Blushing," he said, "is the most peculiar and the most human of all expressions." He believed that it has a social function, that it signals to other people that the individual who blushes is not to be trusted, because he or she has violated the mores of the group, or has even committed some crime.

And of course embarrassment was the very first consequence of the Fall in the third chapter of Genesis: "she took of the fruit thereof, and did eat, and gave also unto her husband with her; and he did eat. And the eyes of them both were opened, and they knew that they were naked; and they sewed fig leaves together, and made themselves aprons."
Such social Darwinism! I wonder if Pullman, who seems to favour science, has checked out any current medical or psychological research in personality theory.
And, frankly, I thought it was shame (a strong sense of ignomy, dishonour, unworthiness, disgrace) that drove Adam and Eve to clothe themselves, not simply embarassment or self-concsciousness/ill at easeness.

Quote:
Originally Posted by Pullman 2002
Where literature is concerned, if you can make yourself look at things as calmly as you can, you eventually realise that phrases such as "he said" are actually a very good way of indicating who said what, and that the past tense is the natural storytelling tense, and that the business of writing narrative consists of thinking of some interesting events, putting them in the most effective order, and relating them as clearly as you can; and that the best place for the narrator is outside the story, telling it, and not inside the story drawing attention to his own self-consciousness.
Suuure. And so when he first describes an abduction of a child in HDM (Tony Makarios'), what is he doing when he resorts to the present tense? Or is he attempting to make that present tense conditional or subjunctive with the opener, "It would happen like this"?

It's quite amazing. The more I read Pullman's non-fiction prose, the less I like his fiction prose. And this is the opposite of my reading of Tolkien's non-fiction prose. Fascinating.
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Old 08-01-2006, 01:00 PM   #46
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I can't help wondering whether Pullman is attempting to make his fiction fit with his 'philosophy'. Its as if while writing he allows his imagination free reign, but when he 'analyses' it, he sees things in it which aren't actually there, or even imposes an opposing meaning on it.

His work doesn't seem to mean what he says it means. Many of his condemnations of Tolkien could be applied to his own work. I have to say that the essay was by another writer we couldn't take it seriously as an analysis of HDM. As I said, his position is hardly shared by most of his readers, as far as I can see, & it seems it is not shared by his 'Muse' - which is oddest of all. It seems that it is in the first volume that he allows his muse free rein, & that is by far the most successful (& absorbing) of the trilogy. It is in the final volume where he seems to have been able to impose his philosophy on the work, & that is the one that most readers find least convincing or entertaining. I can't help wondering if something happened half way through - even if that was simply that his imagination gave out. I note there was a long gap between the second & third volumes.

Whatever. It seems that what we see in Pullman is a clever writer of children's fiction who found his work being read (praised) by adults & started to take himself too seriously in response.

Whether he likes it or not HDM is read as a fantasy novel, & is being made into a fantasy film. We're told that the attack on organised religion is being toned down for the movie, the Death of God being turned into the end of an oppressive regime - in other words, the elements of HDM that Pullman plays up in his speeches & lectures will be pushed into the background in favour of what he considers the 'trivialities' (armoured bears & witches, etc). And guess what - none of his 'fans' will care as long as those 'trivialities' make it to the screen.
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Old 08-01-2006, 08:24 PM   #47
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Some years ago, a philosophy professor told us all a story about meeting a world famous philosopher (he did not name the felon). The two, caught up in a moment of high hijinks late at night, decided to roll toilet paper out the window of the men's room. They were interrupted by the arrival of the janitor, a straight sort of fellow who recognised the eminent men and sputtered at them that people had reported someone rolling toilet paper out the window of the men's room. In reply, the eminent philosopher, caught one would think red-handed, agreed with the janitor that the actions were untoward. "I know, it's terrible," my professor claimed the philosopher said, "will you help us? We are trying to roll it back in." Now there's a fly-on-the-wall story for Tevildo!
Bethberry,

That is a great story!

I am wondering about something Davem said.

Quote:
It seems that it is in the first volume that he allows his muse free rein, & that is by far the most successful (& absorbing) of the trilogy. It is in the final volume where he seems to have been able to impose his philosophy on the work, & that is the one that most readers find least convincing or entertaining.
I agree, but this brings up another issue. Despite the quote at the beginning of this thread, Pullman definitely spent more time complaining about Lewis than Tolkien. If you google "Pullman and Lewis", you get pages of intense argument with many Inklings backers going tooth and nail at Pullman. You don't see that same pattern if you google "Tolkien and Pullman". Pullman doesn't like Tolkien, but he is at least more "genteel" in his criticism.

In some ways, Pullman and Lewis can be accused of representing two sides of one coin... putting their personal philosophy ahead of the story itself. It is their similarity of method that makes them such natural "enemies", especially given that their views on religion are so different. I do like both authors and don't want to "bash" either of them (though I admittedly feel more comfortable with Lewis's argument than Pullman's).

Yet if there is some kind of continuum in place here, I see Pullman and Lewis on one end and Tolkien on the other. Lewis and Pullman insist on contemporary meaning -- there is no pure history or faery that does not carry a lesson. They must necessarily reduce or subordinate much of their world to that particular message. Tolkien, by contrast, is the one who can appreciate what is most "worthless" and "messy" and at the same time most glorious -- art that mirrors beauty and nature and the intricacies of the soul, with the lessons present but still secondary to the enormous complexities of life.

So who is actually more "realistic"--the writer who glories in the intricacies of a subcreated world, or the one whose empasis on a message (even if I agree with that message) necessarily simplifies what he sees and tells?
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Old 08-02-2006, 04:17 AM   #48
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Perhaps the difference between Pullman & Tolkien is in their view of the Universe itself. For Pullman it is a fantastic, awesome 'problem' to be solved, a mess to be tidied up & put in order (ie 'The Universe?'), whereas for Tolkien it is a fantastic, awesome work of (Divine) Art (ie 'The Universe!').

Pullman thinks he has the answer to the question – or at least knows the way to find the answer. Tolkien isn't even looking for an 'answer' because to him the Universe is not a 'problem'. It simply is. Tolkien is like a painter who sets down on canvas a wild meadow full of flowers. Pullman is the landscape gardener who comes along, sees the same meadow, & decides it should all be organised & made 'useful' by putting in flower beds, an ornamental fountain & a little café with swings & slides for the children. Fantasy must 'serve' reality, & 'reality' must 'serve' man.

Or perhaps we're dealing with something more like the incident in Leaf by Niggle, where the Inspector tells Niggle that he should have used his paint & canvas to repair Parish's roof, rather than painting silly pictures.
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Old 08-02-2006, 06:11 PM   #49
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What balderdash. (Pullman.) He is entitled not to like Tolkien, but these continued pathetic attempts at discrediteding Tolkien and convincing people that he should not be enjoyed are just silly.

Back up a ways there was mentioned the Oedipal complex of Pullman wanting to kill his "father" in Tolkien, and wondering what then the "mother" he wanted to possess would be. Seems pretty clear the "mother" is the reading public. Pullman wants everyone to see things his way and the fact that Tolkien (who has different beliefs about the universe and different ways of putting together a story) is still very influential galls him.

That, or his arrogance is simply such that if he dislikes something he has to discredit it because heaven forbid anything he dislikes or disagrees with should be allowed to have merit. (Someone mentioned above that the reason he prefers Lewis is that he feels he could debate with Lewis but is at a loss when it comes to Tolkien -- and I think that's spot on.)

Either way, if I were to get a chance to speak to Pullman I'd tell him to bloody well get over it and get on with his life.

The fact of the matter is that Tolkien/LotR is not a bad author/book and not the be all end all, either. Tolkien's method is not the only good or right method, just as whatever method Pullman prefers is not the only and the right. The fact that many, many, many people have found depth and worth in Tolkien's books means there IS something there. It's not the same as "if everyone does it, it must be right" or "if all your friends jumped off a cliff, would you too?" It's not, because we have reasonable, logical proof that there is depth, in the many intelligent, indepent-thinking human beings who can explain what depths they find. There are books exploring meanings, there are oodles of threads here and in other internet locations of people discussing the books and the characters. If Tolkien offered nothing of substance, we fans must be making it all up. Even then, the fact that he created a framework that fans can expound on so deeply speaks in his favor.

I also believe in the flip side of this coin, that sometimes Tolkien is over-analyzed and too much is read into it, or that it's glorified a bit too much, but all this really has more to do with reader approach than the book itself. Whatever other people think/thought of the books, I know that I enjoyed them a great deal, found them satisfying, etc. I find it rather insulting, really, that Pullman would try to convince me I was wrong to enjoy them, or that it was mindless of me to enjoy them. But then, there are a lot of things about Pullman's apparent worldview that I don't agree with and couldn't be persuaded to agree with, so that's another matter altogether.

I do know that all this makes me quite sure I never want to waste my time on HDM.
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Old 08-02-2006, 07:21 PM   #50
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I do know that all this makes me quite sure I never want to waste my time on HDM.
Word. If Pullman is, at least in part, playing to some supposed audience with his Tolkien-bashing, then I ain't it. Like others in this thread, I'm fascinated by the burr he has under his saddle about the prof. You'd think he would rather be known for his creative work than for being a Tolkien pundit -- but then again maybe it just goes to show that his creative work is only a means for furthering his agenda rather than an end in itself.
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Old 08-03-2006, 09:23 AM   #51
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I've spent quite some time over the last couple of days reading through the various dark materials that Philip Pullman links to on his site. It's interesting that he never voluntarily speaks about Tolkien at all, and about Lewis only when prompted. My guess is that, armed with the basic knowledge that Tolkien was a committed Christian and that Pullman is a determined agnostic with atheistic leanings, poor journalists see the opportunity to set two authors up against one another in the sort of childish war of words so beloved of the gutter press. I would have thought that Pullman was sufficiently sophisticated and intelligent to spot the obvious manipulation, but it's often hard to suppress the desire to say something quotable about something one doesn't like.

The grand irony is, of course, that much of what Pullman says about stories, particularly children's stories, sounds much as though Tolkien had said it. The same professorial false modesty that begins Tolkien's English and Welsh is evident in Pullman's lecture Miss Goddard's Grave, and they agree that no people are entirely good or evil. Aside from religious belief, the two men are really separated by false distinctions, which are all the more strictly enforced by Pullman because of his fear of being too like Tolkien. For example, in an obscure section of his rather pompous and self-important FAQ, he explains his statement that he was not writing fantasy but stark reality thus: "What I mean by it was roughly this: that the story I was trying to write was about real people, not beings that don't exist like elves or hobbits." This is the only voluntary reference to Tolkien that I could find on his site, and it's basically a nonsense. Armoured bears and witches don't exist either, indeed in many ways Elves and Dwarves, which have a literary existence independent of Tolkien, are more grounded in reality than Iorek Bymison. Obviously His Dark Materials isn't actually about those characters, but neither is The Lord of the Rings purely about Hobbits. Speaking of warrior bears, I have my suspicions about the kinship between King Iorek and Tolkien's Beorn, but I can't be certain that they don't simply share a common inspiration. At any rate, both authors believed that a character who was all or part bear should have something of the ursine about him.

So, what does Philip Pullman really think? Who knows? He admits in one published interview to making at least one comment just to be provocative; we know that journalists thrive on conflict, denunciation and indignation and we know that deep down Pullman is more like Tolkien than he might either realise or like to admit. That's a pretty good mixture of reasons why a man who doesn't seem to be particularly hung up on the issue is often quoted on it, particularly as controversy sells books. Big Read or no, His Dark Materials would have passed me by without notice had I not known that its author disagreed with me about Tolkien, and no doubt Random House are well aware of that effect. Then again, no author worth their salt wants to be 'the new Tolkien' or even 'the new Virgil'. A good author, when he thinks about public opinion at all, wants to be thought of as the original of himself. It's useful when seeking that end to express a violent antipathy towards the name most likely to be compared with one's own. In the end it's a form of rebellion, and Pullman is one of many people who likes Milton's portrayal of the arch-rebel Satan. I think that he has a problem with authority of any kind.

Almost certainly Philip Pullman genuinely doesn't like Tolkien, but I think that most of his dislike centres largely on those peripheral issues that always crop up in newspapers. It's not necessary to believe in God to appreciate the moral message of Tolkien's novels, nor is it necessary to believe in absolute monarchy or unimpeachable spiritual authority. Then again, I thought that Pullman's own fantasy hit failed to capture me because of its atheism and republicanism. Clearly there can be no Republic of Heaven, because Heaven is a concept which presupposes the existence and pre-eminence of God. Remove God and automatically one needs a different word for the world of the righteous dead. When the aim of the characters is an oxymoron, it's very hard to take the quest seriously. However, I've no doubt that Pullman thinks much the same of a quest to destroy the chief weapon of embodied evil.

Such niggling aside, I agree with a lot of what Philip Pullman says about a great many things, particularly about education and storytelling. I suspect that Tolkien would have agreed with him as well, and that's probably why it irks me so much to see these comments in print. He may be an agnostic, but Pullman's morals are Anglican morals; he may not believe in kings, but he believes in a good story. Tolkien also believed in the power of good stories. He also believed in intellectual freedom and the value of education. There is not really much to choose between them, with the exception that Pullman has an infinite capacity to bore me. It's a capacity that C.S. Lewis sometimes has, where the moral or message of the story has become apparent in the third paragraph or so, and the rest seems to belabour the point unnecessarily. When the message takes over, it's harder just to follow the story, and if one disagrees with the message then it becomes almost impossible to keep reading. It took me weeks to force my way through The Amber Spyglass, far longer than it normally takes me to read LR, because I was constantly in rebellion against the overpowering message that you can obtain Heaven by force or design it by committee.

Any suggestion of religious disagreement presupposes that Pullman has read enough Tolkien to be familiar with the religious undertones of his work, but I feel that with Pullman as with so many literary commentators, it's really the window-dressing to which he takes exception. Lots of things that don't exist appear in Middle-earth, including the worst faux pas of all, a physical embodiment of evil, and a lot of people feel that this is too simplistic an approach to moral questions. I assume that Pullman's experience of Tolkien was a single reading of all or some of The Lord of the Rings about four decades ago, and he's entitled not to think much of it. I think it's a shame that he allows himself to be quoted talking such rubbish about it, but journalists can be very clever at making someone say what they want them to say, and alcohol is always a useful tool on that sordid quest. There are more reasons than one for taking a fantasy author to the Eagle and Child.
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Old 08-03-2006, 09:53 AM   #52
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Pullman's an over-rated and pretensious middlebrow who likes to insult better writers in order to appear as though he has something profound to say.

Camille Paglia has made a career of such twattle, and she's more entertaining.
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Old 08-03-2006, 02:22 PM   #53
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Originally Posted by Fordim Hedgethistle
Pullman's an over-rated and pretensious middlebrow who likes to insult better writers in order to appear as though he has something profound to say.

Camille Paglia has made a career of such twattle, and she's more entertaining.
If only he could do a Thomas Pynchon and keep himself locked away and quiet.

HDM is, and I'll say it again, an amazing series of books, even if it does go astray at the end of the final volume. Why on earth he does what he does only he can say, and even then he does not explain or justify it very well. It's telling that the writers of Doctor Who took up a similar theme in the last series and then created the kind of ending that Pullman could/should have done.

Sadly its a common thing in modern fiction, the cruddy ending. I've got a lot of books I loved until I read the endings whihc were clumsy or drawn out or just plain anticlimaxes. A bit ironic really, considering the ill-judged criticism sometimes aimed at Tolkien that LotR was over long.
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Old 08-04-2006, 03:08 PM   #54
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I've been reading the Extended Edition of Smith of Wootton Major, with comments and additional material, including a letter Tolkien wrote concerning a fairy tale by G. MacDonald. He did not appreciate the story much, though he did not say so publicly. What he said reminded me immediately of this discussion, and I would like to quote one sentence here:
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It is better anyway to preach by example than by criticism of others.
It seems to me that it would have been wise for Pullmann to take that advice to heart...
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Old 08-05-2006, 08:36 AM   #55
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Yet if there is some kind of continuum in place here, I see Pullman and Lewis on one end and Tolkien on the other. Lewis and Pullman insist on contemporary meaning -- there is no pure history or faery that does not carry a lesson. They must necessarily reduce or subordinate much of their world to that particular message. Tolkien, by contrast, is the one who can appreciate what is most "worthless" and "messy" and at the same time most glorious -- art that mirrors beauty and nature and the intricacies of the soul, with the lessons present but still secondary to the enormous complexities of life.
However, Lewis never (to my knowledge) spoke against Tolkien's style. Nor did he ever insist that fantasy be a mere tool for conveying lessons; it was simply the path he took. Nor did he ever state that someone not using his method was wrong.


Pullman's reactions to Tolkien may be creating the opposite effect of his desire. As an analogy:

When the Iron Curtain fell in Russia and Communism's hold started to weaken, evangelists from many different religions went pouring into the country. For the most part, they expected a lot of resistance from a people who had been taught everyday in school that God did not exist. The evangelists were surprised when the people of Russia were eager to hear everything they had to say. When some remarked on this, the people replied that becuase the government tried so hard to convince them that Gid did not exist, then he must be real, or else they wouldn't have tried so hard. After all, if he wasn't real, why did the government keep bringing it up?

Perhaps Pullman is aware of the real nature and depth of Tolkien's work, but because it isn't used to answer a question, he doesn't want people to think of it as good fantasy, but as "spun candy" so that his own style will look better by comparison. After all, if Tolkien is just a candy fantasy, why would Pullman care?
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Old 08-05-2006, 09:45 AM   #56
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Originally Posted by Roa_Aoife
Perhaps Pullman is aware of the real nature and depth of Tolkien's work, but because it isn't used to answer a question, he doesn't want people to think of it as good fantasy, but as "spun candy" so that his own style will look better by comparison. After all, if Tolkien is just a candy fantasy, why would Pullman care?
It seems clear that Pullman has thought about Tolkien's work & feels it important to be able to define the differences between his own & Tolkien's work. I'm not sure that he has actually understood Tolkien's approach. For Pullman, it seems, for literature to be important it must serve some kind of didactic purpose. His dismissal of Tolkien seems to be down to the fact that Tolkien is not 'preaching' any kind of message. Yet this is odd in itself as part of his attack seems to be that in Tolkien's world there is a deity who defines Good & Evil & that the struggle the characters have is 'only' in finding the inner strength to do Good & not succumb to Evil. So, Tolkien's work is trivial because it has no message, no lesson to teach its readers, & at the same time it is 'wrong' because it has a clear moral structure.

It seems that for Pullman, as for all writers of fantasy, Tolkien is there . You have to respond to Tolkien in some way because you can't ignore him. What Pullman cannot do is pretend Tolkien doesn't exist. Perhaps that's why Pullman seeks to play down the fantastic elements of his own work & align himself with writers of 'serious' literature.

It seems that Pullman is trying to escape being classed with Tolkien & Lewis because he doesn't want to be associated with their (Christian) worldview. Yet he has written a novel in which God & the Church play a central role. Perhaps another interesting question, along the lines of 'Why does Pullman not simply ignore Tolkien & Lewis if he has no time for them?' would be 'Why does he not simply ignore God if he has no time for Him?'. I suspect the answer is that, whatever his personal feelings about Tolkien & about God, neither can be ignored, & some acknowledgement of, & response to, them is necessary.
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Old 08-05-2006, 01:04 PM   #57
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Great thread.

I love Pullman. Church, sex, beauty - he stirs the elements in quite nicely. He's a cranky provocateur who believes that the world is going to the Dark Age-dogs of fanaticism, and I agree, at least partially.

Having said that, I think Pullman misses out on the brooding lyricism of Tolkien, a roomy style of writing that elicits the most startling emotional/intellectual responses. Tolkien's visions are large, considering the way they inspire hardcore Christians, faerie-seekers, and even hedonistic pleasure-readers.

You gotta give credit where credit is due, but I think Pullman has struggled so much with his own art that he's not at that point yet. Maybe I'm projecting onto Pullman, who knows. I adore the guy. I put him on a pedestal and fetishize his style, I'm going to admit that now so nobody accuses me of solipsism later on.

Oh, and this is slightly off-topic, but

Quote:
When the Iron Curtain fell in Russia and Communism's hold started to weaken, evangelists from many different religions went pouring into the country. For the most part, they expected a lot of resistance from a people who had been taught everyday in school that God did not exist. The evangelists were surprised when the people of Russia were eager to hear everything they had to say. When some remarked on this, the people replied that becuase the government tried so hard to convince them that Gid did not exist, then he must be real, or else they wouldn't have tried so hard. After all, if he wasn't real, why did the government keep bringing it up?
That's too rosy a picture. The Eastern Orthodox Church is a millennia-old institution, and when the Curtain came down, the local denizens of faith were vehemently set against any sort of foreign evangelicals. There was a conflict there about the True God, and it still rages on. Even dancing dervishes are considered some sort of "cult" by the Moscow Patriarchate (am not sure about Ukraine's Filaret & Co., or anyone else, I think they're a little less hardcore though).

People who agreed there is no God, or no True Religion sat back and laughed while the faith-based groups duked it out. Freedom of religion isn't any easier on the Former Soviet Empire, although it might seem so at the outset.

So maybe Pullman isn't interested in proving anything, maybe he just watches religious folk struggle against each other and laughing into his fist.
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Old 08-05-2006, 01:30 PM   #58
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That's too rosy a picture. The Eastern Orthodox Church is a millennia-old institution, and when the Curtain came down, the local denizens of faith were vehemently set against any sort of foreign evangelicals. There was a conflict there about the True God, and it still rages on. Even dancing dervishes are considered some sort of "cult" by the Moscow Patriarchate (am not sure about Ukraine's Filaret & Co., or anyone else, I think they're a little less hardcore though).
Both pictures are correct. Your picture is depressing, mine is rosy- combine and we have the actuality. That wasn't really the point though. I was using an anology, not a history lesson.

Quote:
So maybe Pullman isn't interested in proving anything, maybe he just watches religious folk struggle against each other and laughing into his fist.
Given his reaction to Lewis and Tolkien, and his attempt at attacking the Church in his novels, not to mention pushing his ideas of how things should be, I somehow doubt this is the case.
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Old 08-05-2006, 01:53 PM   #59
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My picture is depressing? I encourage you to travel to Moscow and observe how these people pummel each other in the streets, especially if the weather is nice, or the grand way they embezzle money. My picture is realistic. Back in the Soviet Union, religion actually meant something to its clandestine followers. These days, most of it's been reduced to a platform for political posturing, something that I detest. Oh, there are people doing good together, even the slim inter-faith crowd that, for example, quietly runs shelters for thousands of trafficked women, but the overall situation is grim. This isn't a Rennaissance, it's more of a Dark Age with mobile phones.

I think Pullman (lest anyone thought I was getting horribly off-topic) sees all this on a larger scale, and is aghast. He was very vehement toward the Slavs & their Church in HDM (Interesting that you should bring up Russia, which by, the way, is only a part of what was behind the Iron Curtain), using the old "vodka" cliche left and right. This was something I didn't appreciate, but I could relate to his frustration with barbarism disguised as spirituality. Pullman engages the ugly quite nicely, maybe too nicely (hence the obvious break with the lyrical Tolkien, in my opinion). He knows what these little religious spats can amount to - blood and gore.

His attitude toward Tolkien doesn't sit well with me, but I agree with him more on Lewis, the man who denied a female character Salvation for cultivating an interest in "grown-up" things like stockings and the like. It seems odd to me that Pullman should reserve his harshest criticism for Tolkien, so far.

Furthermore, I don't think Pullman is doing this because, as you said, "the lady doth protest too much." I think he's onto something. His categorical nature prevents me from agreeing with him on everything. I think the tradition his insults is the tradition he owes a lot to, including Tolkien & Christianity. However, the way he shatters old taboos is a good lesson for any aspiring writer wanting to do his or her own thing.
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Old 08-05-2006, 02:21 PM   #60
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Silmaril

Oh, and, with apologies to everyone who's totally uninterested in Pullman & the Slavs (those passages are wroth revisiting if Pullman's religious criticisms are to be understood, IMHO),

I find it really, really heartening when foreigners (I'm assuming you're foreign) have something positive to say about spirituality in E. Europe, Roa. I just see very little real positive effect. The Fall did more damage than us freedom-lovers (myself included) would usually like to admit.
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Old 08-05-2006, 04:37 PM   #61
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I don't think anyone would argue that the Church has not done wrong throughout the last two thousand years. It has also done good. Pullman's position seems to be that the bad the Church has done is a reflection of its true nature, that it is inherently 'evil', & that the good has been almost accidental, & that people would have done that good regardless.

This comes from his understanding of human nature. Pullman clearly believes that human beings are by nature good & are corrupted by superstition. I see no evidence for this being the case, & I don't see that Pullman offers any supporting evidence in his books or statements. Tolkien clearly believes the opposite - that Man is fallen & needs to be redeemed, 'saved' by God (or His emissaries). Suffice to say I see no evidence offered by Tolkien to support this position either. Pullman creates a Secondary World in which his view of human nature is shown to be obvious (it is never questioned by the author or any of his characters). Tolkien likewise.

The issue, then, is the quality of the works themselves, their quality as Art. For me, Tolkien succeeds where Pullman fails, because Tolkien's Art is 'pure' - it is not in the service of the author's 'message'. Tolkien does not seek to convince his readers of anything other than the 'reality' of the Secondary World he has created. Pullman, however, has an agenda. His Secondary world exists in order to sway the reader to his worldview. He wants to make the reader see the Primary world in the way he himself sees it. HDM is a politico-philosophical manifesto, not simply a work of Art. I think because of this we should expect Pullman to back up what he says, & actually are obliged to challenge his position.

The situation as regards Tolkien is different. Tolkien has no desire to persuade his readers of anything. He is simply telling a story to entertain & move us. He does not want us change our beliefs about the world. Whatever we find in LotR is purely down to 'applicability' What we 'find' in LotR is down to us, what we take from it back into the Primary is down to us. Pullman, on the other hand, wants us to find, & take back with us, something very specific. The Church is an evil organisation - not just in Lyra's world, but also in Will's (our) world. Mary Malone, the 'enlightened' Nun has 'seen through' Christianity. The 'God' that dies of senility in HDM is God, not an Eru figure. Pullman is attacking Primary world religion & saying the Primary world would be better off without God & the Church. And his intention is that his readers 'see the light'.
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Old 08-05-2006, 05:12 PM   #62
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This comes from his understanding of human nature. Pullman clearly believes that human beings are by nature good & are corrupted by superstition.
Quoi?

Could you expand on that please?

Because at this point, I'm not sure that I agree. Lyra's father was not particularly superstitious, as I recall, and he was a very ruthless man.
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Old 08-05-2006, 05:14 PM   #63
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Pullman, however, has an agenda. His Secondary world exists in order to sway the reader to his worldview.
Yes, but I've discovered that if you like said agenda, you have less of a problem with it aesthetically. Christopher Hitchens, for example, is a huge fan of Pullman's work.
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Old 08-05-2006, 05:35 PM   #64
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This comes from his understanding of human nature. Pullman clearly believes that human beings are by nature good & are corrupted by superstition.
Hmmm. Lyra is repeatedly described as a liar; her stories and tales are similar to the "stretchers' which Mark Twain has his boys tell. Pullman even pronounces the name "Lie-ra" rather than, as I had assumed, 'Leera.' The children's games are presented not as simple play but as "war". For instance, the capture of the gyptians' boat could have had extremely serious consequences. The game Lyra plays of switching the coins which represent the dead daemons is also cruel--or at least thoughtless. For all of Lyra's eagerness to save her 'uncle' from the poison--that, too, I think, is presented more as a desire to partake of adventure--I think Pullman provides a serious attempt to suggest that children are not sentimental innocents, are not thoughtful or always considerate, are eager little creatures who are at the mercy of their desires and stimulations and who must through trial come to understand a moral stance. Look at how easily Lyra falls for Mrs Coulter at that first dinner and ignores boring old Dame Hannah. And look at how much her attitude towards Dame Hannah has changed by the final chapter. There's a moral development as significant as that of Austen's Emma. What redeems Lyra, saves her, are her experiences. She learns and she learns fast.

And I don't have any sense that Lyra has particularly been indoctrinated at Jordan, although she clearly understands the rituals of the college and its life. If anything, she has had the glorious advantage of having more freedom, more play, than most girls.
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Old 08-05-2006, 05:41 PM   #65
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Lyra is repeatedly described as a liar;
Lyra the liar! Ahaha! Brilliant. Almost as good as "the right to bear arms" reversed into "the right to arm bears" (or so Hitchens suggests).

Pullman is brilliant in his wordplay. He's the Nabokov of the genre. Wry and unsentimental, not a gentle creature at all. Maybe this is why Tolkien irritates him so much.
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Old 08-05-2006, 09:18 PM   #66
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My picture is depressing? I encourage you to travel to Moscow and observe how these people pummel each other in the streets, especially if the weather is nice, or the grand way they embezzle money. My picture is realistic. Back in the Soviet Union, religion actually meant something to its clandestine followers. These days, most of it's been reduced to a platform for political posturing, something that I detest. Oh, there are people doing good together, even the slim inter-faith crowd that, for example, quietly runs shelters for thousands of trafficked women, but the overall situation is grim. This isn't a Rennaissance, it's more of a Dark Age with mobile phones.
I've been to Moscow and Ischefsk, a city at the base of the Ural Mountains which is far worse off than Moscow. I have friends who live in Ischefsk that I keep in contact with. I know exactly what it's like there. People don't pummel each other in the streets- they can't because soldiers with M16's are standing at each corner. And not everyone embezzles money because very few people happen to be in a position where they can do that. And political posturing in religion is something that takes place in any country where religion has sway over the people. Russia certainly isn't going to be immune to that. Yes, it's sad that it's used that way, but that doesn't mean everyone who claims to belong to each faith is a fraud. It's not a happy place, but it's getting better.

All of this is beside the point, however. I was using an anecdote as an analogy to present the idea that maybe Pullman does see more in Tolkien's works than he'd like us to think.

Quote:
His attitude toward Tolkien doesn't sit well with me, but I agree with him more on Lewis, the man who denied a female character Salvation for cultivating an interest in "grown-up" things like stockings and the like. It seems odd to me that Pullman should reserve his harshest criticism for Tolkien, so far.
Actually, Susan wasn't exactly denied salvation. She didn't die in the train accident like the Friends of Narnia and their parents. She was traveling abroad in the states. Also, any denial had nothing to do with her liking grown-up things. It was because she lost her faith and stopped believing in Narnia, and more importantly, Aslan. The "grown-up things" were merely an analogy for this.

Quote:
I think Pullman provides a serious attempt to suggest that children are not sentimental innocents, are not thoughtful or always considerate, are eager little creatures who are at the mercy of their desires and stimulations and who must through trial come to understand a moral stance.
*laughs* Anyone who works with children knows that…..
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Old 08-05-2006, 09:48 PM   #67
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Silmaril

Yeah, I give up.

P.S. Pullman's a genius. Albeit a cranky one.
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Old 08-06-2006, 02:21 AM   #68
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Quoi?

Could you expand on that please?

Because at this point, I'm not sure that I agree. Lyra's father was not particularly superstitious, as I recall, and he was a very ruthless man.
I should have put superstition in quotes. I was referring to the way that Pullman presents religion & its manifestation, the Church, as corrupting, & it is corrupting not because humans are fallen & so everything they create will have an element of 'fallenness' in it, but because 'God' & the Angelic hierarchies are corrupt.

As to whether Lyra & the other children are 'innocent' - I'd say they absolutely are. They are neither Good nor Evil. They have not yet eaten of the Fruit of the Tree of the Knowledge of Good & Evil, hence all their actions are morally neutral (& thus morally worthless). Lyra can't be condemned for the bad she does or praised for the good she does, because she herself is not doing either 'good' or 'bad' things. She mostly just 'does' things for the sake fo doing them. Hence her declaration at the end of the story that she now has to start actually doing things for a reason - helping others, studying, building a better world.

Point is, in Pullman's world people are born morally 'neutral' (ie 'unfalllen') & have to discover for themselves what is Good & what is Bad. But first they have to liberate themselves from the 'superstition' of religious belief, because in Pullman's view all religion is corrupting.

Now, as I said. That may be absolutely correct. And if Pullman was writing a novel about a self-contained secondary world (which M-e is, for all Tolkien's statements about it being set in a hiistorical period of our world) that would be fine & we could leave it there. However, Pullman sets his novel partly in our world, & so is making statements about the religions (principally Christianity) & the God of our world. So, he is throwing his hat into the ring. If he makes statements about the way our world works, about a religio-philosophical system which has shaped the Western World (for good or ill) he should be able to back them up.

In the interview which Squatter linked to earlier Pullman states:

Quote:
Jesus, like many of the founders of great religions, was a moral genius, and he set out a number of things very clearly in the Gospels which if we all lived by them we’d all do much better. What a pity the Church doesn’t listen to him!
Now, first of all, to say that the Church doesn't listen to Jesus is idiotic as well as untrue. The main point though is that Pullman never states anywhere (as far as I know) what, in his opinion, Jesus was actually 'setting out'. As Lewis pointed out you can't take that easy option of saying Jesus was a nice guy who taught his followers to be nice guys. Yes, Jesus told his followers to love their enemies & perform acts of charity, but he also told his followers he was the Son of God, & that he would die to save them from Hell.

Point being, Pullman's view of Christianity is as simplistic as his view of fantasy. Its all very well to claim in that same interview 'I say a lot of things just to be provocative.' but you have to be able to back up 'provocative' statements, or be prepared to come clean & state 'I was lying', or 'I made it up so you'd pay attention to me'.
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Old 08-06-2006, 10:53 AM   #69
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Originally Posted by davem
This comes from his understanding of human nature. Pullman clearly believes that human beings are by nature good & are corrupted by superstition.

Quote:
Originally Posted by davem
As to whether Lyra & the other children are 'innocent' - I'd say they absolutely are. They are neither Good nor Evil. They have not yet eaten of the Fruit of the Tree of the Knowledge of Good & Evil, hence all their actions are morally neutral (& thus morally worthless).
Forgive my misunderstanding. To me, there is a vast difference between saying "human beings are by nature good" and they are "innocent", which is again different from saying "morally neutral."

In Christianity, good and evil derive from the perfection of God and the absence of Him, respectively. Evil is, like sin, a privation or separation from God, a deficiency. In the ethical system which absents God, the question is to determine how to go about determining good and evil, which gets us a very long way from Tolkien and spun candy.


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Originally Posted by Roa_Aoife
*laughs* Anyone who works with children knows that…..
The applicable point here is not the personal experience of early childhood educators or parents or teachers, but the depiction in the texts. Sorry if this point wasn't clear.

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Originally Posted by Tolkien by way of Estelyn
It is better anyway to preach by example than by criticism of others.
Clearly a great deal of Tolkien's habits and manners grew out of his moral vision. An argument which is counter to charity would, I think, in his eyes, be similar to the sin of scandal (inciting or inducing others to sin) in that it exists merely to prove wrong rather than to demonstrate right. In other words, if you speak up only to pull down, if ya can't add sumthin' good, don't add it at all.

That said, I probably should reiterate my agreement with Lal that I find Pullman's creation fascinating even if unsatisfactory at times. I think he is trying to articulate a vision of fantasy which does not look back, but which looks around at the present or towards the future. Even Tolkien gave up writing post-Third Age.
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Old 08-06-2006, 11:05 AM   #70
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Originally Posted by Bb
Forgive my misunderstanding. To me, there is a vast difference between saying "human beings are by nature good" and they are "innocent", which is again different from saying "morally neutral."
Yeah - I wasn't clear there. The first statement was my understanding of how Pullman sees things ('Pullman clearly believes ..'), the second was my personal interpretation of the character's behaviour ('I'd say..').

My reason for saying that Pullman believes human beings are essentially good is that he believes that once 'liberated' from the Church they will be able to create a perfect world (the Republic of Heaven). They are ignorant but in essence have the capacity to create Heaven on earth.

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Point is, in Pullman's world people are born morally 'neutral' (ie 'unfalllen') & have to discover for themselves what is Good & what is Bad. But first they have to liberate themselves from the 'superstition' of religious belief, because in Pullman's view all religion is corrupting.
Is again my interpretation of the work. My feeling is that Pullman believes that there is a core of good in each being which must be 'awakened', whereas in my reading of the work they are morally neutral - which is one reason why I am not convinced by his conclusion. I see nothing in the story to make be believe that any of the characters have the capacity to create a perfect world. Pullman clearly does.

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Old 08-06-2006, 06:58 PM   #71
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Originally Posted by Lush
Yeah, I give up.
Pity, dear, as I always enjoy your posts, even if I disagree with them.

I, too, am disappointed by the implications of Susan's depiction. There's a very strong, horrible tradition in western culture denigrating any form of female sexuality and it's a shame that Lewis, with his love for Joy Davidman and his great learning from her, went this ambiguous route that is so open to such an interpretation. But we are all allowed our interpretations.

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Originally Posted by davem
Is again my interpretation of the work. My feeling is that Pullman believes that there is a core of good in each being which must be 'awakened', whereas in my reading of the work they are morally neutral - which is one reason why I am not convinced by his conclusion. I see nothing in the story to make be believe that any of the characters have the capacity to create a perfect world. Pullman clearly does.
I must begin by saying that I have read HDM only once and not given it the depth of consideration which you have, so my thoughts are clearly less measured. That said, I'm not sure about this core of good which must be 'awakened'.

True that if we take Pullman at his word that every person must, in himself and herself, experience a "fall" from innocence, then it follows that this initial stage, if it is in keeping with the religious traditions of fall which Pullman and Milton worked in, must be some form of guileless, candid, uncorrupted state unaware of the knowledge of good and evil. (Wait, it's been so long since I read Milton that I'm not sure this applies. I mainly remember that he thought Eve was a great cook and he really loved epic similes.) Pullman would then reject the concept of original sin and believe that good can be drawn out of people.

However, if Pullman as an agnostic or possible atheist believes in evolution, then the question is, I think more murky. This particularly relates to the idea that humans have daemons, animal forms of alternate identities. If people have evolved, where or when does the ethical question of good and evil come into existence? Is it there in bacteria? Or does it evolve as cell division becomes more complex and sophisticated? Is the ethical form of human existence only something that is learned? Must human beings learn not to harm others in the pursuit of their own desires, for instance? This seems to me to be one way to interprete Lyra and the trilogy's conclusion and it is an evolutionary rather than an absolute question.

The daemons are, I think, central to understanding Pullman's conception of human identity. I relate this back to Lyra's behaviour as a child. Even if we grant, as davem does, that such behaviour is morally neutral, I think that, in giving Lyra a name which highlights her guile and her lack of candor and straightforwardness, Pullman may in fact be suggesting that human nature is not essentially good, but that goodness must be earned at a cost.

In short, I'm not convinced that this "republic of heaven" necessarily implies a perfect world here on whichever planet of whichever dimension we exist in, but rather the world which grants to humans the greatest possibility of ethical behaviour.

Again, I think back to Tolkien. He worked within a concept of a fallen world, of human beings who always and inevitably fail. And he eventually decided not to write about the fourth age, or a fifth age, or a sixth age, or a seventh.

What does someone whose imagination is given over to these later ages do? Is there no hope?
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Old 08-06-2006, 08:15 PM   #72
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Now, first of all, to say that the Church doesn't listen to Jesus is idiotic as well as untrue.
Actually, I completely agree with Pullman on this one. Although perhaps you've (and or Tolkien ) had better experiences in that department.
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Old 08-06-2006, 10:32 PM   #73
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A side note....

Regarding the depiction of Susan in the Narnia tales....

These stories were written before Lewis became involved with Joy. Even as a young girl reading the stories, I had trouble with his portrayal of the maturing Susan. Till We Have Faces , which was written after his marriage, reveals that Lewis had learned a great deal about women. His portrayal of the two sisters is, in my opinion, his very best handling of female characters.
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Old 08-08-2006, 03:02 PM   #74
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Originally Posted by Bethberry
However, if Pullman as an agnostic or possible atheist believes in evolution, then the question is, I think more murky. This particularly relates to the idea that humans have daemons, animal forms of alternate identities. If people have evolved, where or when does the ethical question of good and evil come into existence? Is it there in bacteria? Or does it evolve as cell division becomes more complex and sophisticated? Is the ethical form of human existence only something that is learned? Must human beings learn not to harm others in the pursuit of their own desires, for instance? This seems to me to be one way to interprete Lyra and the trilogy's conclusion and it is an evolutionary rather than an absolute question.

The daemons are, I think, central to understanding Pullman's conception of human identity. I relate this back to Lyra's behaviour as a child. Even if we grant, as davem does, that such behaviour is morally neutral, I think that, in giving Lyra a name which highlights her guile and her lack of candor and straightforwardness, Pullman may in fact be suggesting that human nature is not essentially good, but that goodness must be earned at a cost.
I thought that the daemons were meant to represent the anima/animus. Female characters have male daemons, males have females. Also daemons are not fixed until characters approach emotional maturity - Lyra's daemon becomes fixed when she is in love with Will. Possibly Pullman means this has something to do with first love fixing 'ideals' in the mind or that only when the Daemon is fixed we can begin to look 'outside' ourselves and to other people.

I'm not sure if the actual creatures that Daemons become are significant in this respect - Lord Asriel has his snow leopard, which sounds fitting, but how do the little obedient terrier daemons belonging to the staff at the research centre fit with this idea? What does that say about what has happened to these adults? And what does it say about the poor children who are severed from their daemons?
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Old 08-08-2006, 08:15 PM   #75
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Lalwendë
I thought that the daemons were meant to represent the anima/animus. Female characters have male daemons, males have females. Also daemons are not fixed until characters approach emotional maturity - Lyra's daemon becomes fixed when she is in love with Will. Possibly Pullman means this has something to do with first love fixing 'ideals' in the mind or that only when the Daemon is fixed we can begin to look 'outside' ourselves and to other people.

I'm not sure if the actual creatures that Daemons become are significant in this respect - Lord Asriel has his snow leopard, which sounds fitting, but how do the little obedient terrier daemons belonging to the staff at the research centre fit with this idea? What does that say about what has happened to these adults? And what does it say about the poor children who are severed from their daemons?
Anima is a likely explanation, but as I said in a post above, I've read HDM only once and haven't deeply pondered all its implications. I suppose one would have to know Jung very well to be able to say--or accept Pullman's word for it. I can't help but think of Tolkien's comment that one of the consolations of fantasy (or profound desires which fantasy can satisfy ) is to communicate with animals. It is fascinating to me that Pullman creates these alternate selves or identities that are animals. What is it like to live with another self that is, quite literally, a beast? The narrator does, after all, describe Lyra in childhood as a "half-wild cat."

There is that statement that all servants have dćmons who are dogs, so from that I assume there is some kind of relationship between adult form and the human's personality. Does this relate to the researcher's terriers?

While we see strongly the relationship between humans and their dćmons, I don't think we often are privilege to the dćmons' own thoughts--I could be wrong about this, but one incident stands out to me. When the gyptians kill the men who had caught Lyra, Pan squirms around with great curiosity to see what happens to their dćmons. That I found really poignant. Imagine your fate tied to the life span of another creature.
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Old 08-09-2006, 02:54 AM   #76
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I'm not sure how far the Daemons=the Anima/Animus idea can be pushed. In Jungian theory the Anima/Animus is described as being (in appearance) the 'contra-sexual image'. In other words, for a man it will take the form of a woman & for a woman the form of a man. It may appear in some circumstances as an animal or an object (ie, a cat or the Moon/the Sea for the Anima) but this would be quite a rare occurence.

Pullman's daemons seem rather to reflect an aspect of the individual's personality, or even to symbolise the person's character/essential nature. Yet they are more than that, as they seem as well to have a separate personality/intelligence of their own. Either their true nature is very complex, the characters are seriously schizoid, or Pullman hasn't thought the idea through. Taking these options one at a time, we'd have to say, a) If the Daemons are merely 'symbols' they shouldn't have a separate consciousness, or feel emotions the individual does not feel, & certainly shouldn't know anything the individual doesn't; b) If they do have a separate consciousness this implies a 'split personality' & further implies that the individuals in Lyra's world are all psychotic; & c) if Pullman hasn't thought the idea through it wouldn't surprise me at all.
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Old 08-10-2006, 08:05 AM   #77
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Originally Posted by davem
a) If the Daemons are merely 'symbols' they shouldn't have a separate consciousness, or feel emotions the individual does not feel, & certainly shouldn't know anything the individual doesn't; b) If they do have a separate consciousness this implies a 'split personality' & further implies that the individuals in Lyra's world are all psychotic; & c) if Pullman hasn't thought the idea through it wouldn't surprise me at all.
Oh dear. Aren't they supposed to be souls? Embodied souls? I'm sure there's a section where this is stated clearly. Just after Lyra and Iorek find the severed child Tony?
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Old 08-10-2006, 08:40 AM   #78
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Originally Posted by Bb
Oh dear. Aren't they supposed to be souls? Embodied souls? I'm sure there's a section where this is stated clearly. Just after Lyra and Iorek find the severed child Tony?
Well, you can use the word 'soul' but don't you have to define what you mean by it? If an individual in a world without a True deity has a 'soul' what is its nature, how does it function & what is its relationship to the individual's ego? Is such a 'soul' immortal?

Using the word 'soul' doesn't help us understand the nature of the Daemons at all. If we replaced the word 'daemon' in my last post with 'soul' I think all my points would still stand – if anything it introduces even more problems. Pullman seems as vague as regards 'souls' as he is as regards 'Heaven'.
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Old 08-14-2006, 12:40 PM   #79
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And now for a word or two from Michael Moorcock.
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Old 08-14-2006, 04:48 PM   #80
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*sigh* Some people just can't appreciate a good story.... (More later, busy now)
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