The night before last, I curled up on my couch with a book that has been receiving much ado lately because of the movie “The Golden Compass” that is opening this Friday. "The Golden Compass” is the first in the “His Dark Materials” trilogy by Phillip Pullman, who, I hear, is quite an outspoken atheist. I must be honest, I had never heard of the author or the books before all of this hoopla.
Shame on me, I know.
The Catholic League and The American Family Association have taken a strong stance against this movie and the books, claiming they promote atheism to children and that we shouldn’t read them, allow our children to read them, or see the movie.
That’s fine to say, but the book is part of the required readings in two of my middle school children’s Language Arts classes. They are reading it right now. I asked the teacher if he’d received any complaints about the choice of reading material and he said yes, but the parents admitted they hadn’t actually read the book themselves.
Now, how can you complain if you haven’t even read the book?
Even if I thought this was the worst book ever, I wouldn’t forbid my kids to read it. If reading a fictional book can shake your faith, then I would have to say you’re faith isn’t very strong to begin with and/or you don’t know why you believe what you do. I say reading a book that challenges your religious beliefs can also strengthen your knowledge about your own beliefs.
You should know why you believe what it is you believe.
You know me and nothing riles up my curiosity like controversy and telling me not to do something, so I read the book and literally, could not put it down. I read it cover to cover in one sitting. It was THAT good.
Today is Thursday Thirteen...and here’s mine.
1. I’ve read a lot of blog posts about this book and one thing that keeps coming up over and over is that the people all have “daemons”. When we see this word now, we think of “demon” and evil, but actually “daemon” comes from the word “daimon” which means attendant spirit. Guardian angels are attendant spirits.
2. The character’s “daemons” are actually their souls, they are just not within the physical body. While they exist alongside each other in the book, they are an indivisible whole and can not exist without the other.
3. The characters also have a ghast (ghost) upon death which means that they have a body, soul and spirit.
4. Because of innocence, the daemons of children can take on different forms. Once the child reaches adolescence, though, the daemon takes on its final form, representing the soul of the person and it can no longer change.
5. Perhaps because of all of the atheistic hoopla surrounding the book, I initially thought that Lyra, the main character in the book, would be like the Spokesperson for Atheism. As the story goes on, it becomes clearer than she is representing Eve. When Eve was tempted by the apple, she left innocence behind, as most teenagers do. Some people call it sin, others may call it knowledge. Lyra must remain innocent until she fulfills her task, but is determined or tempted to find out about meaning of Dust.
6. In this story, Dust equates to original sin. I’m thinking it’s meaning is lust.
7. Lyra’s name is a derivative of the word “lyre” which means harp. Revelations 14:2 reads:
“And I heard a voice from heaven, like the sound of many waters and like the sound of loud thunder, and the voice which I heard was like the sound of harpists playing on their harps.”
I may be wrong about her name symbolizing something, but it was something I noticed.
8. Lyra’s daemon is named Pantalaimon. There is a saint called Panteleimon, but he is better known as Saint Pantaleon. Pantaleon was condemned to death after it was decided by an emporer that the miracles he was performing were magic. Despite many attempts to execute him, Christ appeared to heal him and all were unsuccessful. The executioners all converted to Christianity and Pantaleon begged heaven to forgive them. His name now means “all merciful”.
9. The Magisterium exists. It is the teaching authority of the Catholic Church. It is composed of the Pope and the current Bishops of the Church and they teach and interpret the word of God.
10. Lord Asriel is a character in the book that I perceive as the devil in this story. The Angel of Death is sometimes known as Azrael or Sariel. Azrael severs human souls from their bodies.
11. In the book, the daemons are severed from the humans by a process called Intercision. It is thought that if it were done before children reached adolescence, it would prevent the onset of “upsetting emotions”. These “upset emotions” are, of course, sexual in nature and Intercision is supposed to represent castration or male and female circumcisions. I don’t know all that much about female circumcisions, but obviously, males are circumcised to this day in religious ceremonies.
12. It’s also no secret that long ago, The Catholic Church would castrate young men prior to puberty to keep their voices from changing. They were known as castrati. Females weren’t allowed to sing in the Church, so this ensured high pitched voices. Most of the young boys died during this procedure, just like most of the characters in the book die if separated from their daemon.
13. What I took from this book was there there can be good and bad in everything. Things don’t always appear to be what they seem and that we shouldn’t decide something is good or bad based off of generalizations.
I thought the book was excellent and I’m halfway through “The Subtle Knife” which is the second book in the trilogy. I hope the movie is as good as the book! (I doubt that, though!)