Talk:Philip Pullman

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edit·history·watch·refresh Stock post message.svg To-do list for Philip Pullman:
  • Add citations where requested.
  • Summarise Awards and Acclaim
  • Add spoiler warning for giving away a critical detail of the last "Chronicles of Narnia" book

Questionable editing[edit]

Early this morning (May 16) I inserted a small paragraph under the section of Religious Perspectives. The reason I did this was because I wanted to bring a balance to the section. I noticed that in the final paragraph of this section certain religious representatives give positive views about the contribution of Pullman's work to theology. I thought this was slightly misleading since there are many religious leaders and scholars who are highly critical of Pullman's views. Not only because of his criticism of Christianity but because of his poor knowledge of theology.

To show this balance I summarized a book review (and gave a link directly to the review itself) given in a scholarly Christian journal which observed that Pullman's depiction of God was much closer to Chrsitian understandings of Satan, and that the victory of the two heros was more like the Chrsitian understandings of Christ and Mary's victory. This brings balance to the article because it shows that though some religious scholars view Pullman's work as beneficial others see it as missing the mark of its intent and of showing poor knowledge of what true Christian theology is.

But of course, as often happens when I try to show the non-secular side of a debate, someone ran through and edited it out, even though the citation was legit and I was merely doing what the other people had done in the last paragraph of the section by showing people's observations of Pullman's religious perspectives. Why is that final paragraph kept in and mine taken out? I am sure you want a more balance article and do not want one side of the story shown. Will who ever edited out this paragraph please explain. Thank you.--~~ic2705 8:13 May 16,2009~~

More Biographical info needed[edit]

  • Lots of requests here for more biographical PP info in the article. It's all over the web: look to [1], [2] or [3] for example. I don't have time right now, but whoever does, that's what needs doing (thanks). I suggest the sub-headings, Life, HDM, Acclaim, Criticism, Philosophical stance for starters. --taliswolf 15:15, 14 May 2006 (UTC)
    • I've added a brief bio myself. taliswolf 11:32, 21 September 2006 (UTC)
  • This article is pretty much the paradigm case for why I find Wikipedia largely useless!Cokerwr 23:21, 11 May 2006 (UTC)
  • What the hell does all this gibberish about C. S. Lewis and mindless speculation about religious propaganda have to do with Philip Pullman, and where are the biographical details about Pullman that belong in this entry? The entry as it stands seems to have been written by a religious fundamentalist who knows nothing about Pullman and little about the larger topic of the religions of mankind, however irrelevant. 23:20, 11 May 2006 (UTC)
  • Most of this page seems to be about HDM, rather than PP. Shouldn't most of it move to there?

I didn't think Philip Pullman wrote his books for children. I might be wrong, but I think I heard him say that he just wrote books and that other people classed them as children's books. i.e. They're not specifically targetted at children. -- Darac 09:55, 12 Nov 2003 (UTC)

I don't agree that he has an "openly anti-Christian agenda" -- this is very POV imho. He is anti-any-organised-religion. This seems to have been written by someone who has only read His Dark Materials and not any of his other books, most of which do not touch upon religion at all. --Taras 04:39, 8 Mar 2004 (UTC)

-I've changed that paragraph. Better, now? If someone can find his attacks on CS Lewis and add the link, that would be great...--Fangz 16:17, 8 May 2004 (UTC)

I've got a link to such an essay, but wikipedia doesn't like it; it has an http:// embedded in the middle of the url as well as at the beginning. The link can already be found under the 'Philip Pullman Resources' link if you search the page for 'The Dark Side of Narnia'. Any idea on how to get the link to work? --Taliswolf 20:47, 8 May 2004 (UTC)

Use --Fangz 00:28, 9 May 2004 (UTC) worked on 2nd attempt: link added. A bit of the essay is missing from the end (but it's mostly complete); kudos to whoever can find the complete text and link to that --Taliswolf 18:59, 10 May 2004 (UTC) and -- the sites also have other articles about Pullman and Narnia -- 22:26, 27 December 2006 (UTC)

Can anyone document Pullman attacking Lewis' "Cure for Cancer?" It's been a long time since I've read the Narnia books, and I can't find a web link Hipocrite

  • I'm adding Ancient Civilisations and Using the Oxford Junior Dictionary to the bibliography, but these are the only non-fiction things there so far. has both, but I've never been 100% that it's the same PP. Can anyone confirm these two, link an interview where he's mentioned either, etc? There's a cover of the latter here. --taliswolf 19:50, 3 January 2006 (UTC)

What about the Astrid Lindgren Memorial Award? Maybe that should be mentioned.

Maybe the fact that his books are so blatantly derivative of the Narnia books should be pointed out more forcefully - especially given his criticisms of C. S. Lewis.

Care to give a single example?


I agree that some of the material about His Dark Materials is excessive and should be in that article, not the Pullman article. I also think too much is read into the similarities between His Dark Materials and The Chronicles of Narnia. "Adult moral choices" are seen in countless fantasy books, that doesn't seem anywhere near derivitave or even similar. "Talking animals" are also seen in countless fantasy stories. In Narnia the animals are as intelligent as humans and have somewhat human behaviour . In His Dark Materials the dæmons, though taking animal forms, are not animals, rather part of humans in Lyra's world. The panserbjørne, armored bears, are talking animals of a sort, though they are a specific instance. Though both initial books of both series start with a young girl hiding in a wardrobe, the circumstances are completely different and this is not mentioned in the article. The wardrobe Lucy Pevensie hides in is a gateway to Narnia and very significant in the series' plot. The wardrobe Lyra hides in, on the other hand, is of little significance in itself. Lucy hides for hide-and-go seek, Lyra hides to watch the meeting and ends up seeing her father almost being poisoned. The similarities are made too much of and should either be deleted or more information should be given. —Preceding unsigned comment added by Omnijohn (talkcontribs) 2 January 2006

A correction should be made where it says that both series have Christian allegories. If you go to the page on C.S. Lewis he specifically states that Aslan is not an allegory. I haven't heard of what he says about other things in his books, but Aslan is frequently misunderstood to be an allegory. —Preceding unsigned comment added by (talkcontribs) 6 March 2006

Author's intent, while interesting, is not the defining characteristic of whether something can be seen as an allegory. Whether or not Lewis belives Aslan to be a allegorical Christ-figure is important, but it's also important that critical and lay readership have read Aslan as allegory for half a century, with strong textual support. Phrasing could arguably changed to "both series are often read as having strong Christian allegories." Deborah-jl Talk 18:13, 6 March 2006 (UTC)

The parallels might as well add that both books were printed on paper in black ink, had vowels in the titles and were written by male writers... --Chade —Preceding unsigned comment added by (talk) 21:24, 1 September 2008 (UTC)

I removed the word "liberal" as a discription for Rowan Williams. In fact, Rowan Williams is known for his association with the Radical Orthodoxy movement. In any case, the word liberal is extremely ambiguous, even in a religious context, outside of its specific application to a movement particuarly connected to German theology in the 19th century.


In addition to needing references, this article primarily needs some more information about his personal history as well as his publishing history. --InShaneee 02:13, 7 July 2006 (UTC)

Bibliography Links[edit]

The links in the bibliography section tend to link towards already existing articles about a non-literary concept (e.g. Spring-heeled Jack links to Spring-heeled Jack, not the book with the name). Not sure what the standard method is for distinguishing a book by a specific author apart from the semantic concept of the title. So, I'll leave it alone for someone who's more comfortable with Wiki to clean. TheodoreLarson 05:54, 22 June 2007 (UTC)

Also in the bibliography, the date for The Book of Dust is listed as 2009, but in the linked article it is 2010. in the separate article there is a source mentioned (interview in 2007), while this one mentions that the date could change. (talk) 00:28, 14 December 2007 (UTC)

Biographical information[edit]

I was reading

That source lists his birth name as Philip Nicholas Outram. It also gives 1954 (not 1953) as the date of his father's death.

I'm not quite sure what to do with this information though. Dfmclean 16:18, 15 October 2007 (UTC)

Religious perspective section[edit]

The first paragraph of "Religious Perspective" seems extremely subjective. Can anyone fix it? --Stellaciel —Preceding comment was added at 03:16, 27 October 2007 (UTC)

This section seems to be attracting a fair amount of vandalism. In addition, the legitimate additions are being piled on without regard to any kind of over-all structure, giving the whole section a schizophrenic feel to it. Dfmclean 20:36, 13 November 2007 (UTC)

I am baffled by the removal of a quotation from the "Washington Post" which I inserted in the entry on November 24th. The remover says the quotation is 'apocryphal'. A Google search will rapidly turn up the original interview from the "Washington Post" site , containing the exact quotation. I have therefore restored it and ask that it be left in place. Also, a reference is given to an article which I wrote for the 'Mail on Sunday'. This does not link to the original article, but to a reproduction of it, in which the headline "Is this the most dangerous author in Britain", is misleadingly and wrongly altered to "This is the most dangerous author in Britain". I was unable, for some reason, to gain access to the references to alter this. Peter Hitchens, signed in as Clockback (talk) 21:03, 25 November 2007 (UTC)

Or rather, I would have restored the "Washington Post" quotation if I had the technical ability, which I currently lack. NB, the January 2001 WP article, by an interviewer called Wartofsky, is referenced in the Wikipedia entry on 'The Golden Compass' . It contains the supposedly 'apocryphal' quotation. Peter Hitchens, signed in as Clockback (talk) 21:21, 25 November 2007 (UTC)

The quote I removed was uncited ([see here]. A search for the quote as given returned plenty of links from right-wing and conservative religious websites and no links pointing to the Washington Post from which the quote was allegedly taken. Unless you can provide an actual link to the exact, actual quote, I can only conclude that the quote was made up by religious extremists intent on silencing anyone who would challenge their beliefs. TechBear (talk) 00:03, 26 November 2007 (UTC)
What do you mean, uncited? I gave the reference to the date on which it appeared in the Washington Post. My computer skills aren't up to placing a reference on this page, indeed, I can't work out how anyone could do it since when I try to edit the references I can't get in. But perhaps you could. You portray yourself as unbiased in your self-description. Perhaps you'd care to establish this by undoing what you've done, putting the quotation back where it belongs, and linking it to a reference. If you don't,, I shall seek out help elsewhere, but it seems only just given your over-hasty removal of the quotation first time round. You don't seem to have paid much attention, I'm sorry to say, to my last message, in which I drew your attention to the identical link on the Wikipedia 'Golden Compass' entry. You also seem to have ignored my complaint about the mistitling of my article which is indeed apocryphal, and preusmably ought to concern you just as much as the alleged misquoting of Mr Pullman. What, by the way, is an 'extremist'? Does 'NPOV' allow such a usage? And why would anyone try to silence an opponent by giving wider prominence to his words?

For all avoidance of doubt:

THIS links to the WP site: —Preceding unsigned comment added by Clockback (talkcontribs) 09:35, 26 November 2007 (UTC)

And THIS is what the link brings up:

_ The Last Word Philip Pullman's Trilogy For Young Adults Ends With God's Death, and Remarkably Few Critics By Alona Wartofsky Special to The Washington Post Monday, February 19, 2001; Page C01

OXFORD, England

Years ago, when British writer Philip Pullman was traveling with his family in Austria, they stayed in a hotel where the restaurant service was particularly slow. Every evening as they waited for dinner, Pullman would entertain his 6-year-old son by telling him a portion of "The Odyssey."

"I spun it out, calculating all the time, watching the kitchen and seeing when the food would arrive, and ending on a cliffhanger every night," recalls Pullman. "We got to this point in the last night where the most exciting bit of the story happens, when Odysseus comes back to the island." As the tension built and the hero prepared to string his great bow, Pullman's narrative was shattered by a startling and terrible crunch. His son, totally engrossed by the story, had bitten right through his water glass. "The waitress who was coming just at that moment saw this and was horrified, and she dropped the food," exults Pullman. "It was chaos! It was wonderful!"

Anyone wanting additional proof of Pullman's superior storytelling skills will find them in "His Dark Materials," his best-selling trilogy for young adults. The critically acclaimed books -- "The Golden Compass," "The Subtle Knife" and "The Amber Spyglass" -- have been published in 21 languages. In the United States, combined sales of the three volumes have totaled more than 1 million. For most weeks since its publication last October, "The Amber Spyglass" has occupied the No. 5 slot on the New York Times Book Review ranking of children's bestsellers, just under the four Harry Potter adventures. Like the Potter books, the trilogy is attracting readers who are much older than the target audience. Yes, teens and preteens are reading it, but their parents are, too.

But unlike J.K. Rowling's tales of a young wizard, Pullman's trilogy delves into the moral complexities of weighty philosophical and religious questions. The epic story, which was inspired by Milton's "Paradise Lost," subverts fundamental Western religious principles and is populated by compassionate witches, malevolent theologians and a feeble, disingenuous God.

The first book, "The Golden Compass" (1996), introduces readers to 11-year-old Lyra Belacqua, a half-wild orphan who is being raised at an Oxford college. Lyra's Oxford is very different from Pullman's. In her world, every human has a "daemon," an animal familiar that serves as the embodiment of a person's soul. The golden compass of the title is a truth-telling "alethiometer," which proves to be invaluable as Lyra journeys to the frozen North to rescue her best friend and other kidnapped children from terrible experiments being carried out by the church. In "The Subtle Knife" (1997) she meets Will, a sober boy burdened by adult responsibilities, and together they travel to other worlds in search of Will's missing father. Along the way, Will acquires the immensely powerful knife of the title. Lyra is pursued by an assassin in "The Amber Spyglass," which recasts the biblical Temptation and Fall as the beginning of true human freedom. The final volume also wraps up myriad plot developments with a great war in Heaven that results in the death of God.

While many readers might find such content objectionable, attacks on "His Dark Materials" have been few. This is particularly surprising given that religious fundamentalists have criticized the relatively innocuous Harry Potter series as glorifying witchcraft. A recent article in Publishers Weekly speculated on why the trilogy hadn't stirred similar controversy, and the explanation is: No one's really sure.

Pullman's U.S. editor, Joan Slattery, publishing director of Knopf Books for Young Readers, says she's "pleasantly surprised and relieved" that she's not hearing any complaints. "Kids are reading these for the wonderful adventures," she says. "The adults who are reading it are fairly sophisticated. I think it's a testament to the intelligence of his fans that nobody has objected to it."

After "The Subtle Knife" was published, Pullman received a handful of letters from readers accusing him of endorsing Satanism. "My response to that was: 'You haven't read the whole story yet. You wait and see what happens in the third book. If you find that you inadvertently become a Satanist, you can write to the publisher and get your money back.' "

Pullman acknowledges that a controversy would be likely to boost sales. "But I'm not in the business of offending people," he says. "I find the books upholding certain values that I think are important. Such as that this life is immensely valuable. And that this world is an extraordinarily beautiful place, and we should do what we can to increase the amount of wisdom in the world."

He says he recently received a review in the mail from a vicar who found the books' "moral base" to be secure. "What he meant," Pullman explains, "is that the qualities and the actions which the story seems to be saying are good -- such as courage, love, kindness, compassion and so on -- are ones that we can all agree on. . . . It's saying things that we generally agree on, so what is there to disagree with?"

It's No Narnia

Pullman, 54, lives with his wife and three dogs in a tranquil Oxford suburb. The study is cluttered with hundreds of books, but Pullman doesn't write there. He works in a rickety-looking garden shed in the back yard, where, when he's writing, he produces exactly three hand-scrawled pages a day. After lunch, he always watches his favorite television show, the Australian soap opera "Neighbours." He enjoys tracking what he describes as the "ancient story patterns," the love triangles straight out of classic literature.

Pullman's father was a pilot with the Royal Air Force, and so Philip was a well-traveled child. For a time, the family lived in what was then Rhodesia. After his father was killed in a flying accident, his mother married another RAF flier and they moved to South Africa and then Australia. As an adult, Pullman settled in Oxford, where he taught the British equivalent of junior high school for 13 years. For several more years, he instructed teachers-in-training on children's literature. Eventually he quit to write full time, turning out young-adult and children's volumes that have included another trilogy ("The Ruby in the Smoke," "The Shadow in the North" and "The Tiger in the Well"), "The White Mercedes" and "I Was a Rat!"

Just a short walk away from the Pullmans' house is the grave of another Oxford master of fantasy: J.R.R. Tolkien. Comparisons, notes Pullman with a heavy sigh, are inevitable. There's the Oxford connection, and the invented worlds, and both Tolkien's "Lord of the Rings" and "His Dark Materials" consist of one (very) long story in three volumes. But Pullman insists the similarities stop there. "What I'm doing is utterly different," he says. "Tolkien would have deplored it."

So, too, would have another famous Oxford fantasy writer, C.S. Lewis, a devout Christian whose children's series "The Chronicles of Narnia" exemplified his religious convictions. "I'm trying to undermine the basis of Christian belief," says Pullman. "Mr. Lewis would think I was doing the Devil's work."

Pullman read the Narnia books as an adult and found them deeply disturbing. "Lewis was celebrating, upholding certain activities and attitudes which I am explicitly against, such as bullying, racism, misogyny. Girls are no good, says C.S. Lewis. Girls are only good as long as they act like boys. If they're tough, they're okay, but intrinsically they're inferior. People with dark skins who probably come from somewhere sinister like the East, and almost inevitably smell of garlic, are always a sign of evil or danger."

In the final Narnia book, "The Last Battle," the older girl is excluded from salvation because she has become too interested in lipstick, nylons and invitations. "In other words, she's growing up. She's entering adulthood," says Pullman. "Now this for Lewis, was something . . . so dreadful and so redolent of sin that he had to send her to Hell. I find that appalling."

The coming of age of Lyra and Will, which serves as the culmination of the trilogy, represents an alternative view of the business of growing up. "This is the moment when they become truly what they could be," says Pullman. "Mr. Lewis would have hated it."

Both Lewis and Tolkien stressed "the otherness" and superiority of their fantasy worlds. Pullman is passionately opposed to that, too. He gazes out the window and watches the unending downpour that is turning his yard into a mucky pool. "I want to open people's eyes if I can, and their hearts and their minds to the extraordinary fact that we're alive in this world, which, although it is full of rain and mud, is nevertheless extraordinary and wonderful. And the more you explore it and discover about it -- scientifically, imaginatively, artistically -- the more wonderful and extraordinary it becomes."

The author would also like to help readers discover the possibilities within themselves. "Harry Potter was born to be a wizard, and I don't really like that idea. I wanted to get away from the notion that somebody is born with a particular destiny," he says. "Lyra is a very ordinary child, and so is Will, and there are hundreds of thousands of millions of kids like Will and Lyra all around the place. The great things they do are doable by all of us. . . . Lyra's and Will's responses are the responses of every young person who is faced with something difficult and is courageous enough to deal with it. "

The Realism of Fantasy

Many adult readers of general literary fiction don't care for the fantasy genre and its endless quests for sacred objects and places with strange spellings. Therefore, it is perfectly reasonable to speculate that if "His Dark Materials" had been published for adults, it would have been relegated to the fantasy aisle -- and reached a far smaller readership.

While the trilogy relies on such standard fantasy elements as talking animals and dramatic prophecies, it departs from the genre's conventions. "What I'm interested in is what people are like as human beings, and how we grow up and how we love each other and how it's difficult to live with each other," says Pullman. "Traditionally, that sort of stuff has belonged in the domain of realistic fiction. But why not put that in a fantasy context? I wanted to make this fantasy as realistic in psychological terms as I possibly could."

The trilogy's animal familiars are a fanciful device that serves as a shortcut to characterization (or, possibly, species stereotyping). Children's daemons change according to their mood -- when Lyra is angry, hers often transforms into a polecat -- but once a person matures into adulthood, his daemon settles into a single form. Servants' daemons are always dogs. The villainous Mrs. Coulter's daemon is a golden monkey, while the fearsome Lord Asriel's is a powerful snow leopard.

Readers frequently ask Pullman what sort of daemon he might have. "I think she would be one of those birds who steal bright things, like a jackdaw," he says. "Storytellers work by picking up little bright bits of experience or gossip or something they've read that sort of sparkles. So you pick it up and take it to your nest."

Pullman's influences range far and wide. Washington Post book critic Michael Dirda, who has called the trilogy "the best, deepest and most disturbing children's fantasy of our time," assembled a remarkable list that includes "Paradise Lost," the poetry of William Blake, the Jewish cabala, Wagner's "Ring of the Nibelungs," "Peter Pan," "Star Wars," superhero comics and Ursula K. Le Guin's "Earthsea" books.

Pullman devised the names for some of the trilogy's most beloved characters by borrowing from a variety of sources. The author came up with "Iorek Byrnison" for the armored bear by thumbing through a book of old Norse poems. "Iorek means something like bear," he explains, "and the second part of his name comes from 'byrne,' which means something like armor. Then I added a typical Nordic suffix." Texan aeronaut Lee Scoresby was derived from actor Lee Van Cleef and arctic explorer William Scoresby. As for the elegant and beautiful witch Serafina Pekkala, Pullman took that name right out of a Helsinki telephone book. "It's a really common name in Finland," he says.

Pullman was very involved in the award-winning audio versions of the trilogy -- he read the narration -- but his participation in any upcoming film version will be considerably less. The movie rights have been sold to a company that's talking to various studios, he says, and that's all he knows. "Whether they will make a film at all, whether it will be one film or three, whether it will be animated or not, I really don't want to be involved. If somebody buys the rights, that's what they buy -- the rights. If they want to turn Iorek Byrnison into an armored giraffe and Lyra into a boy . . . they can do that. I could say, 'You shouldn't do this,' but they don't care what some damn fool writer in England says. I don't want an argument. I want to be writing another book."

Another book? Could there be a sequel to the trilogy? The answer is a not particularly firm "no." For now, he says, he's contemplating prequels, but he hasn't ruled out more on Lyra and Will. Up next, he says, will be "The Book of Dust," focusing on what he calls "the mythical dimension" of the trilogy. He's also considering the early life of one of his favorite characters, Lee Scoresby, and how he came to be friends with the armored bear. Then there's the story of Serafina Pekkala and the human she once loved . . .

"There are all kinds of stories, thousands of stories, that could be set in this world," he says. The expert storyteller's dramatic pause. "And I may write them."

© 2001 The Washington Post Company

You will find the supposedly "apocryphal" quotation in the body of the article, in the paragraph beginning "So, too.."

Peter Hitchens, signed in as Clockback (talk) 09:46, 26 November 2007 (UTC)

Right, I've sort of fixed it now, though a more skilled person might care to tidy it up. Please don't remove it again. It isn't 'apocryphal' and never was. I've also adjusted or evened up a few tendentious verbs ('claims' for persons of whom an editor disapproves, and straight 'says' for those of who he approves is subtle partiality, so I've substituted such wordsd as 'says'(for 'claims') or 'contends ('for 'says' so as to avoid repetition). I suppose a neutral 'says' wopuld be technically better, but would read rather badly. However, it isn't only adjectives that can be used to express an opinion. And I've removed an 'even'. The fact that a person responds in a civilised way to critics, while meritorious in itself, doesn't affect the weight of his argument, or that of his critics. I've also altered the reference to the headline on my 'Mail on Sunday' piece, reinstating its actual form as a question rather than a statement. I haven't yet worked out how I can correct this in the linked version, which is not from the MoS site, since I don't think the paper was on line at the time.

Peter Hitchens, signed in as Clockback (talk) 11:55, 26 November 2007 (UTC)

Fresh from reading the His Dark Materials trilogy I was struck by how much the religious perspective is not so much Atheist but Gnostic. Specific parallels include:

 - The Demiurge concept that the God worshipped by Judeo-Christian religious institutions is:
   - Evil
   - Not the real Creator but a lesser but still powerful spiritual being
 - The idea of the Tempter as Good rather than Evil (especially found in Ophite Gnosticism)
 - The importance of Wisdom (as demonstrated by a quote in the article and alluded to by the fact that Lyra ends up at St. Sophia!

I don't have external sources for this (except a vague memory of having heard or read it before. However, the parallels are really fairly strong and self-evident to anyone familiar with the Demiurge concept and seem worthy of a mention. Gnosticism certainly may not be Philip Pullman's personal belief, but the parallels to the Gnostic tradition are worth pointing out in a section devoted to the religious perspective of his novels. I don't want to make changes that will appear to be vandalism, though. So I thought it might be worth bringing them up here before actually doing anything to the page itself. (talk) 18:53, 28 January 2008 (UTC)

Deleted this text and its references: "Though widely reported as such, the Catholic Herald has not called for the book to be burned. Catholic writer Leonie Caldecott was defending J. K. Rowling and joked that there were better things for fundamentalists to burn (it was around Guy Fawkes Night).[4] [5]. Too self-referential109.153.10.240 (talk) 14:32, 8 January 2012 (UTC)


Someone seems to have vandalized this page. Books are referred to as 'stinky maggot' etc. I'd fix it, but I have to dash off. ESO, 01:32 12/11/2007. —Preceding unsigned comment added by (talk) 00:33, 12 November 2007 (UTC)

Educating the Masses at the risk of feeding the trolls[edit]

When users vandalize this page and related ones by going on and on about how Pullman is going to hell and he is terrible, etc., I've started posting the following paragraph onto their talk pages, just because it may be that the user has never considered that critique of organized religion does not have to entail a rejection of all ethics, even of some ethics that are affirmed in Christianity. Maybe some users don't realize that they are allowed to regret the Inquisition without immediately having to start eating babies in satanic rituals. Of course, some won't respond to such enlightenment. But in case they might, feel free, should you be interested, to post something like the following on their talk pages. Best, Anthony Krupp (talk) 16:50, 29 November 2007 (UTC)

One thought for you to consider: don't confuse a hatred of the Inquisition with a hatred of Jesus Christ. If you've read Pullman's book, you know that Lyra descends into the underworld to free souls that have been in captivity of demonic creatures. This theme of redemption is a Christian one. I am not suggesting that Pullman is a theist, but I think that a real Christian can read the books and find themes supported and affirmed in them that are also central to Christianity. But it's true, in my opinion, that Pullman hates what the Church has done in the name but not in the spirit of Jesus Christ. Decide which one you support: the Christian Inquisition or the Christian ideals of love and charity, which Pullman's novels thoroughly affirm. Best, Anthony Krupp (talk) 16:50, 29 November 2007 (UTC)

Perhaps we could put a hidden comment at the top of the article reminding editors to follow WP:NPOV? --NeilN talkcontribs 16:58, 29 November 2007 (UTC)

An excellent and thought provoking bit. I doubt it will do much good; the kind of troll who vandalizes Wikipages does not educate easily. But maybe I will be wrong. TechBear (talk) 20:24, 29 November 2007 (UTC)

My thought too - a vandal won't even read past your first sentence, however well written your argument is.VatoFirme (talk) 04:50, 6 December 2007 (UTC)

I really like people that vandalize Wikipedia. I have to do school projects on things, and Wikipedia is one of my main resources for that. I would really appreciate if the person vandalizing the Philip Pullman page could keep doing so, because I am doing a project on him, and my teacher will yell at me if I have wrong information about him. Wikipedia is a general research resource, and it's for research about sex and love. —Preceding unsigned comment added by (talk) 01:31, 30 April 2008 (UTC)

biased information[edit]

Someone has entered obviously false information in here. One example: "Many people have already been fooled by the trilogy. Nichole Kidman, who is going to star in the upcoming film, The Golden Compass, has even said that she is a strict catholic and that she would not act in any film that would "make my grandmother turn in her grave."" I do not know how to edit the page to question it's validity, so I will leave you to someone more knowledged.

Already reverted. And please sign your posts. :-) TechBear 20:19, 4 December 2007 (UTC)

Pullman Interview[edit]

News item #25 in the podcast box leads to the interview, if it doesn't load right away.

Some notable things: Pullman avoids labels like "humanist" or "atheist". He directly denies having an agenda, because he wants people to think for themselves. He also professes respect for Narnia for its literary importance and the fact that it takes on large questions of faith, even though he hates the conclusions it comes to - whereas he sees LOTR as pure fantasy that doesn't ask any big questions, doesn't hate it, but doesn't respect it either because it doesn't say anything. He directly comments on the movie (loved it), and the protesters (he thinks they are acting exactly how the Magisterium is portrayed in his books).

Great interview and pretty long, and he gets a chance to represent his beliefs with more nuance, rather than sound bytes, so check it out.VatoFirme (talk) 04:54, 6 December 2007 (UTC)

Request for Clarification[edit]

In the interest of presenting relevant information based on facts, I wonder if anyone has more information on this statement:

Literary critic Alan Jacobs (of Wheaton College) argues that Pullman's trilogy is a recasting of John Milton's trilogy, only instead of a theist world-view Pullman presupposes a world-view more in line with the philosophy of Jean-Jacques Rousseau.[9]

Would it be fair to bring more of the cited reference into this statement? I think it would help clarify the shades of gray between the whole C.S. Lewis/atheist discussion.

Or, is that more for the subject matter page itself? I wanted to ask first, before adding information where it's not wanted. This is a very interesting guy, and I'd like to see more info on his views and what inspires him to write. —Preceding unsigned comment added by (talk) 13:20, 6 December 2007 (UTC)

This is the article for Philip Pullman, not the article for His Dark Materials. Information that is specific to the trilogy belong in that article, not this one, so your question would be better directed there. TechBear (talk) 14:16, 6 December 2007 (UTC)
TechBear's answer makes sense to me. But I'll fix one thing now: that it is a recasting of Milton is obvious, and we have Pullman saying so himself. (More anon.) The Rousseau thing is definitely an interpretation.Anthony Krupp (talk) 16:06, 6 December 2007 (UTC)


This is just a little grammitcal nitpick in the face of all the religion-based vandalism, but shouldn't the speaker be changed in this: (From 1963 Pullman attended Exeter College, Oxford, receiving a Third class BA in 1968. In an interview with the Oxford Student he stated that "he did not really enjoy the English course" and that "I thought I was doing quite well until I came out with my third class degree and then I realised that I wasn’t — it was the year they stopped giving fourth class degrees otherwise I’d have got one of those".) Ie: that he "did not.... or and that "[he] thought [he] was doing.... I could be wrong, just a though —Preceding unsigned comment added by (talk) 21:42, 9 December 2007 (UTC)

I put the first "he" outside the quotation marks as I'm fairly certain he didn't refer to himself as "he", but as for changing the "I"s to "[he]"s in the rest of the sentence, I don't know about that. Someone more skilled in writing can decide on that one.VatoFirme (talk) 08:36, 17 December 2007 (UTC)

"I've been surprised by how little criticism I've got. Harry Potter's been taking all the flak. I'm a great fan of J.K. Rowling, but the people - mainly from America's Bible Belt - who complain that Harry Potter promotes Satanism or witchcraft obviously haven't got enough in their lives. Meanwhile, I've been flying under the radar, saying things that are far more subversive than anything poor old Harry has said. My books are about killing God." -- Philip Pullman —Preceding unsigned comment added by (talk) 17:56, 28 December 2007 (UTC)

Does "His Dark Materials" attack the genital cutting of children?[edit]

On his History of Circumcision website, author Dr Robert Darby has argued that parts of ‘’His Dark Materials’’ can be read as an allegory about the genital cutting of children. [6]. For instance, there is this passage from ‘’The Subtle Knife’’:

“Sisters, let me tell you what is happening and who it is that we must fight. … It is the Magisterium, the church. For all its history … it’s tried to suppress and control every natural impulse. And when it can’t control them, it cuts them out. Some of you have seen what they did at Bolvangar. And that was horrible, but it is not the only such place, not the only practice. Sisters, you know only the north: I have travelled in the south lands. There are churches there, believe me, that cut their children too, as the people of Bolvangar did – not in the same way, but just as horribly – they cut their sexual organs, yes, both boys and girls – they cut them with knives so that they shan’t feel. That is what the church does, and every church is the same: control, destroy, obliterate every good feeling” (p. 50).

There is also the passage: where Lyra asks Lord Asriel why the Church was letting the doctors perform intercisions. Lord Asriel compares intercisions with castration:

“Something like it had happened before. Do you know what the word castration means? It means removing the sexual organs of a boy so that he never develops the characteristics of a man. A castrato keeps his high treble voice all his life, which is why the Church allowed it: so useful in Church music. Some castrati became great singers, wonderful artists. Many just became fat spoiled half-men. Some died from the effects of the operation. But the Church wouldn’t flinch at the idea of a little cut, you see. There was a precedent. And this would be so much more hygienic than the old methods, when they didn’t have anaesthetics or sterile bandages or proper nursing care. It would be gentle by comparison” (p. 372).

Darby points out other parallels, include the following, where the arguments for intercision sound like arguments made for circumcision:

  • The reassurance that intercision is “just a little cut”.
“The nurse came in and said, Come on Tony, I know you’re there, we won’t hurt you. … We just put you to sleep, and then we do a little operation, and then you wake up safe and sound … Tony wanted to know what they was gonna do with Ratter, see. And the nurse says, Well, she’s going to sleep too, just like when you do. And Tony says, You’re gonna kill her, en’t yer? I know you are. We all know that’s what happens. And the nurse says, No, of course not. It’s just a little operation. Just a little cut. It won’t even hurt, but we put you to sleep to make sure (p. 250).”
  • The reassurance that intercision is “for the children’s own good.’
“Darling, these are big, difficult ideas. It’s not something for children to worry about. But the doctors do it for the children’s own good, my love. Dust is something bad, something wrong, something evil and wicked. … But a quick operation on children means they’re safe from it. Dust just won’t stick to them ever again. They’re safe and happy and – ” … Lyra thought of little Tony Makarios. She leaned forward suddenly and retched (p. 282).
  • The reassurance that intercision is a protection at puberty:
“Darling, some of what’s good for us has to hurt us a little, and naturally it’s upsetting for others if you’re upset. But it doesn’t mean that your daemon is taken away from you. He’s still there! Goodness me, a lot of grown-ups here have had the operation. The nurses seem happy enough, don’t they?”
Lyra blinked. Suddenly she understood their strange blank incuriosity, the way their little trotting daemons seemed to be sleepwalking.
“Darling, no one would ever dream of performing an operation on a child without testing it first. And no one in a thousand years would take a child’s daemon away altogether. All that happens is a little cut, and then everything’s peaceful. For ever! You see, your daemon’s a wonderful friend and companion when you’re young, but at the age we call puberty, the age you’re coming to very soon, darling, daemons bring all sorts of troublesome thoughts and feelings, and that’s what lets Dust in. A quick little operation before that, and you’re never troubled again” (p. 282-3).

I don't claim to be an expert on Pullman's books. However, Dr Darby's essay may be of interest to some readers. I have therefore put a link to it in the Further reading section of the entry. Michael Glass (talk) 13:21, 22 January 2008 (UTC)

I'm not convinced that the author of the referenced work isn't a bit too far out of the mainstream. While the arguments are convincing enough to admit that this explanation is POSSIBLE, I do not believe that it is likely. Not everything has a hidden meaning. Sometimes authors just write about bad guys doing bad things to show how bad they are. Dfmclean (talk) 15:40, 22 January 2008 (UTC)
The parallels (up to the phrase "the little cut," a well-documented phrase commonly used to describe castration) are obvious, even mentioned in the novels themselves. It's not even a 'hidden' meaning. However, it's original research and as such should not be included in the article, until a respectable publication deals with Pullman's novels (or the film) and castration, at which point we could certainly cite such a publication. Not to be snarky, but I'd like to state that the claim that "sometimes authors just write about bad guys doing bad things to show how bad they are" is also original research. It is possible it is true, but more often than not, it is used to shut down discussions. I've heard the phrase too often in humanities courses from students who don't really want to think. And there's my original research. Back to a cup of tea now... Anthony Krupp (talk) 13:01, 23 January 2008 (UTC)
I wasn't trying to shut down discussion or avoid thinking, I was just pointing out that Occam's Razor applies even in literature. Notice that I didn't claim that it was a 'hidden' meaning or even that it was invalid, only that it didn't appear to have wide enough acceptance to appear in Wikipedia. Dfmclean (talk) 15:43, 23 January 2008 (UTC)
Yes, of course. Sorry I left things hanging that way. What I meant was that 'that phrase' you used is often used to shut down discussion. I guess I could say of the phrase what Iorek said of the subtle knife: intentions aside, the object in question can have intentions of its own... I agree with you completely on the non-inclusion of the parallel at this time. Best wishes, Anthony Krupp (talk) 23:48, 24 January 2008 (UTC)

I'm not suggesting that Darby's theory should be included in the article itself. What I proposed is a link to the article in the further reading section so that readers can make up their own minds about its worth. Michael Glass (talk) 13:23, 24 January 2008 (UTC)

I did a Google search on "the little cut" + circumcision and got 10 hits; "the little cut" + castration got 7 hits. Pullman is British, where circumcision is far less common than in the United States, and is more frequently regarded with distaste or even revulsion. A connection between intercision and circumcision has also been noted on the "circumstitions" website [7] and by Steve Warren in his film review of "The Golden Compass" [8]. A Google search of "intercision + circumcision" turns up several hundred hits, so others have commented on this, too, sometimes to make the link with female circumcision, sometimes to pooh-pooh the idea and occasionally to attack the author for making an attack on religion and circumcision etc. Once again, the question is not whether Darby's theory is "right", but whether it is notable enough to be linked to this article. Michael Glass (talk) 22:32, 24 January 2008 (UTC)

No-one has added any comments to this discussion for over a week. I would therefore like to put the question to other editors again: Is Darby's argument about "His Dark Materials" and an attack on genital cutting of children [9] notable enough for it to be linked to this article? One editor has argued this is that it is not notable enough. However, others besides Darby have made this link. Here are a few examples:
  • Steve Warren notes a parallel between intercision and circumcision in his weekly review of films [10]
  • The connection is also noted on the Circumstitions website [11] .
  • It is alluded to on the Memorial University (Canada) website [12]
  • Another reviewer notes, "The process is called "intercision" and on more than one occasion it's described as "just a little cut." Think intercession melded with circumcision."


  • Father Thomas Dowd notes the same parallel and criticizes it as anti-Jewish. [14]
  • From the Google ranking on intercision + circumcision it would appear that Darby is the most prominent of those who argue for such a link.
I am not saying that this is the only way to interpret the books, but the idea of a connection between intercision and circumcision is discussed often enough for it to be considered as worthy of a link. What do others think? Michael Glass (talk) 22:29, 2 February 2008 (UTC)
Well, Michael, that is a very well researched comment. In the light of significant supporting evidence, I cannot help but agree that some mention is appropriate. Dfmclean (talk) 15:55, 7 February 2008 (UTC)
Thank you. I have restored the link to Darby's comments. Michael Glass (talk) 19:38, 7 February 2008 (UTC)

Reference List page can't be retieved[edit]

This site gives a page not found error. 

I don't know how to edit reference list, so i am writing it here so that somebody who knows can verify this and delete the reference.

I would really like to see a list of the awards and accomplishments of Philip Pullman, please? I am doing a biography about him and I need to know more about his accomplishments and awards, please! —Preceding unsigned comment added by (talk) 01:29, 30 April 2008 (UTC)


Could someone please post some TRUE information about Philip Pullman's childhood on here? I need it for my report...thank you! —Preceding unsigned comment added by (talk) 02:08, 30 April 2008 (UTC)

Religious Views[edit]

Is Pullman an atheist or an agnostic? I believe I've heard quotes that imply the later. He doesn't believe in God, but believes that there is a possibility and there is no evidence either way. —Preceding unsigned comment added by (talk) 23:58, 11 June 2008 (UTC)

Religious Perspectives[edit]

The Religious Perspectives section has improved vastly since it was first written and is as about as neutral and reasonable as can be expected of such a controversial figure, so while he may well be going to hell, saying so here is rather pointless as he is not likely to be influenced by it and no doubt gets his jollies by reading of your reaction. Jgk168421 (talk) 05:23, 12 June 2008 (UTC)

Tedious religious perspectives[edit]

I fail to see the point of the religious perspectives section. He is an author, he writes a few things that some people don't like. Surely the discussion ends there? It is sections like this that allow the hypersensitive to document their indignation with an individual and his or her works (and indeed, in the case of Peter Hitchens a dollop of self promotion) where Wikipedia becomes non-encyclopedic and heads more towards a battleground or editorialising.

What next, a Republican perspective on every Democratic bio? A Facist perspective section on every Communist? A Hip-Hop perspective on the great composers?

It may be within the guidelines of Wikipedia, but it is seriously tedious reading through reams of hurt feelings, thinly veiled character assassination and aspersions. - Anonymous reader of Wikipedia.

I 100% agreed with Anonymous. Is it really so important and fundamental to know what the Hitchens family think about him...who's f**in' care?He is an atheist and wrote a book and then? —Preceding unsigned comment added by (talk) 17:53, 29 September 2008 (UTC)

  • I agree that the Religious Perspective subsection has become overlong (I have trimmed the end, which did seem self-promotion-y), but the original intent wasn't a rantspace for the offended; it's to document Pullman's own perspective on religion, which is significant as it plays a large role in his work. The Peter Hitchens comment, meanwhile, is significant because when it was published it caused quite a stir in Britain. Much of what is there really belongs in His Dark Materials. taliswolf (talk) 14:24, 12 November 2008 (UTC)

One point to respectfully add to those who don't see a point to the Religious Perspective: When an author purposefully goes out of their way to criticize the works of other authors (such as Lewis and Tolkien), while still heavily drawing on such works as resources, they automatically open themselves up to criticism themselves. It makes honest people who read both sets of works analyze and review the merits of his (Pullman's) works. Pullman sets up an "alternate" religion in his books, and discussing and critiquing the merits, or lack thereof, of his viewpoint is completely rational on this discussion page.

Criticism vs Observation[edit]

"The His Dark Materials books have been criticized by the Catholic League for Religious and Civil Rights [13] and Focus on the Family[14]. Peter Hitchens has argued that Pullman actively pursues an anti-Christian agenda."

"Pullman has criticized the Narnia books as religious propaganda."

These aren't criticisms, they are just observations, and what they say is already obvious to anybody (or at least any adult) who reads the books. They don't affect the literary value of the books, unless you're an ideologue who thinks books are Good if they agree with your point of view and Bad if they don't.

Both writers are highly imaginative, succeeding in inventing complex imaginary worlds and a few fascinating characters (Good). On the other hand, both writers have trouble with plotting compared to Tolkien or Rowling; the main story of GOLDEN COMPASS ends two-thirds of the way through the book, and Lewis never makes clear just why Narnia needs the English children. (Bad) That's criticism, though superficial. CharlesTheBold (talk) 02:37, 22 April 2009 (UTC)

So since when is it wrong to criticize something that you disagree with? (talk) 07:41, 16 October 2010 (UTC)
who cares what Peter Hitchens has to say? Why are we referring to him? The man is a columnist for a populist newspaper. As far as Im aware his comments on literary ability carry no significance. Can we not leave him out? Likewise Focus on the Family - what does that organisation have to say that really adds any neutral value? (talk) 20:39, 27 December 2010 (UTC)

Norwich, Norfolk, England, UK[edit]

doesn't exactly trip off the tongue?! Can we get rid of the Norfolk? It's not very common in England to refer to a place as Norwich, Norfolk or Exeter, Devon. (talk) 03:13, 30 November 2009 (UTC)

Yesterday I replaced the {{infobox writer}} birthplace "Norwich, United Kingdom" with "Norwich, Norfolk, England, UK" and I provided the same {{Persondata}} (which has no display).
Why give any birthplace in the lead sentence (which now gives Norwich)?
Section 1 is fine now with "Norwich, England" in its lead and "Norfolk" alone later. --P64 (talk) 19:08, 4 June 2013 (UTC)

John Milton's "Trilogy"[edit]

It ought to be clarified in the religious perspectives section that John Milton wrote no trilogy. He wrote Paradise Lost and the brief Paradise Regain'd. Regardless of the reference cited, there was no trilogy. We must, at the least, have the facts straight, regardless of Pullman's misunderstanding of Milton's writing. That is another matter. (talk) 18:00, 29 December 2009 (UTC)

The Register article link[edit]

The Register article doesn't add anything to the excellent article in the Telegraph that it critiques. I suggest that it be deleted. This is not just because it calls Philip Pullman "mean-spirited." Pullman says a lot of contructive things in the Telegraph article that are ignored by the article in The Register.Totorotroll (talk) 08:10, 4 March 2011 (UTC)

The Guardian coverage of His Dark Materials[edit]

See Talk:His Dark Materials#The Guardian coverage. I have posted links to nine articles published by The Guardian newspaper from 2000 to 2007. These articles review the third volume, cover its major 2001 awards achievements, and cover the 2007 all-time Carnegie Medal achievement by the first volume, Northern Lights (1995).

--compiled while reading the newspaper's coverage of children's book awards in its online archive, which dates only from 2000. --P64 (talk) 00:22, 16 October 2012 (UTC)

Artwork in school fire[edit]

Anyone know if there is any truth in this edit? There is no source and looks a bit unlikely, but I thought I should check.

Yaris678 (talk) 08:26, 23 December 2014 (UTC)

I've reverted, the mention of the editors name adds to one's suspicions, it would only be notable anyway if Pullman lost 'professional' artwork, and that seems very unlikely. Pincrete (talk) 08:42, 23 December 2014 (UTC)

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