Philip Pullman

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Philip Pullman

Philip Pullman, (born October 19, 1946) is an English writer, educated at Exeter College, Oxford, who is the bestselling author of the His Dark Materials trilogy of fantasy novels and a number of other books, purportedly for children, but attracting increasing attention by adult readers. The series consisted of Northern Lights, The Subtle Knife and The Amber Spyglass. Pullman was awarded a CBE in the New Year's Honours list in 2004.

The first volume of that trilogy, Northern Lights, (The Golden Compass in the US) won the Carnegie Medal for children's fiction in the UK in 1995. The Amber Spyglass, the last volume, was awarded the Whitbread Book of the Year prize in January 2002, the first children's book to receive that award. The trilogy won popular acclaim in late 2003, taking 3rd place in the BBC's Big Read poll.

Like the Harry Potter books, the His Dark Materials books have been at the heart of controversy, especially with certain fundamentalist Christian groups. It is claimed by some that he actively pursues an anti-Christian agenda. Proponents of this view point to the critical articles he wrote regarding C. S. Lewis's Narnia series (which Pullman denounces as propaganda), and the usually negative portrayal of the "Church" in His Dark Materials.

The two series resemble each other in many ways. Both feature children facing adult moral choices, talking animals, religious allegories, parallel worlds, and the fate of the worlds hanging in the balance. The first published Narnia book, The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe starts with a young girl hiding in a wardrobe, as does the first Dark Materials book, Northern Lights.

Indeed, some have seen the His Dark Materials series as a direct rebuttal of C.S. Lewis's Christianity-inspired series. Pullman has criticised in particular Lewis's use of a fictional cure for cancer in one of the Narnia books, which Pullman claimed would raise false hopes in children who were themselves, or who had friends or family members who were, seriously ill. He has also criticised the way Lewis excludes the character Susan from the final heaven scenes in The Last Battle, saying that she "goes to hell" for her growing worldliness and her rejection of Narnia. Lewis devotees argue that Pullman has read far too much into this; indeed Lewis made no such statement about Susan's final destiny, and never excluded the possibility of her rejoining her friends in heaven later.

However, Pullman has also found support from more liberal groups, most notably Rowan Williams, the Archbishop of Canterbury. These point out that Pullman's attacks are focused on the constraints of dogmatism and the use of religion to oppress, not Christianity itself. Dr. Williams has gone so far as to propose that His Dark Materials be taught as part of religious education in schools.

In 2005 he was announced as joint winner of the Astrid Lindgren Memorial Award for children's literature.


A recorded version of His Dark Materials has Pullman reading as narrator, with dialogue performed by a cast of voice actors.

External links

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