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Series vs. series

Poll #1035880 There can be only one

Which is your preferred series?

The Chronicles of Narnia
His Dark Materials

Which of the following answers concerning the previous question most applies to you?

This was an easy decision.
I feel ambivalent about my answer.
This was a hard decision.
I haven't read one of these series (or at least parts thereof).
I haven't read either of these series.



( 23 comments — Leave a comment )
Aug. 8th, 2007 10:51 pm (UTC)
Actually, would you believe that I find the theology of His Dark Materials offensive? And that's weird to me, that gut reaction, since I have no problems with Catharism. Maybe it's the presentation. Or something.

(Where as Lewis, hi. Thanks for jamming it down my throat at the end, yeah.)
Aug. 8th, 2007 11:22 pm (UTC)
I didn't take it as Catharism when I read it, although now that you mention it I can see how it would apply. I took it much more as an atheist/theist split.
Aug. 8th, 2007 11:44 pm (UTC)
Hm, that could be part of the issue. (Catharism isn't the best term, but I couldn't remember if Nestorianism was like this or not. Manecheism? Dude, give me some Buddhists! At least I understand the Sanlun/Yogacara disputes.) I do see the atheistic/theistic parts, yes. But it's a strange sort of atheism, compared to some of the books that have recently come out as being anti-theist, don't you think?

(I should just write Buddhist-theology based horror novels. It would work!)
Aug. 9th, 2007 12:04 am (UTC)
If we know were all just rotting skeletons passing through again anyway, who would be frightened? MU.
Aug. 9th, 2007 02:43 am (UTC)
Well, that would be the non-attached response. (If you cite "Mu", then I am forced to ask you whether the enlightenment of the Buddha was conditioned or non-conditioned. But that's because I'm mean, and heading for the Blood Pool Hell anyway.)

But, to look at it another way: everything is connected, and everything is mutually originated. Which means that you can't escape anything. You deserve everything that happens to you, and you will be reborn again, and again, and again, as the world slowly turns to dust.

I think that's a decent basis for a horror story. 'Bout as good as "the devil needs a surrogate mom."
Aug. 8th, 2007 11:19 pm (UTC)
Apples to Oranges, I think. I think Pullman is by far a better writer and the story and characters have more depth and show much more creativity. I don't really think HDM is for children or young adults, either, at least not in the way that the CoN are.

OTOH, CoN is nostalgic and in some ways more magical. It's friendlier, I think, and much easier to appreciate because one can ignore the Christian didacticism more easily (not the moral didacticism, though).

Not that they aren't both wielding dogmatic sledgehammers. I think if I had to give only one series to a young person, it would be CoN, because it's more accessible and I kind of like the ideas of black and white, even if I think Pullman's view is probably more accurate.

Either way,
Aug. 8th, 2007 11:24 pm (UTC)
The other thing to consider about CoN is that it's not a single overarching story, but a series of interlocking, interrelated stories, which I think contributes to the apples and oranges thing.
Aug. 8th, 2007 11:35 pm (UTC)
I picked ambivalent, because honestly, I don't care much for either one on a theological level more than anything else. Though at least I did finish reading the Narnia books; I sort of petered out halfway through the third HDM book. Of course, I was 12 when I read Narnia and perhaps less aware of what the author was attempting to cram down my throat.

And I'm an atheist, so I would have expected to be more on Pullman's side, but... yeah, no.
Aug. 8th, 2007 11:44 pm (UTC)
I'm not thrilled with the theology of either one, but a) I have fond memories of reading the Narnia series as a kid, and b) I found HDM gradually petered out after a quite good first book, until by the third book I was mainly just finishing it to see how it ended, not because I cared about any of the characters. With Narnia there are several of the books that I'm still rather fond of, and I really only actively dislike The Last Battle, but I don't see myself ever re-reading HDM.
Aug. 8th, 2007 11:46 pm (UTC)
I wildly appreciate Pullman's anti-authoritarian atheism and moral ambiguity so, that helped a bit ;)..oh and armoured bears and totem animals..gotta love that. *But*, if I can imagine that not being a factor, Pullman's the better writer with the more compellingly vivid imagination. HDM has it all over CoN in the 'deep,transcendent meaning for thinking persons' category, rather than the 'propaganda for young idealists of a prescribed sort' arena CoN inhabits

They're both rather Book of Common Prayer for this half-Jewish /half some sort of pantheist who got baptised Catholic `cause the neighbours though she was too premature to live offspring but, whadya do?
Aug. 9th, 2007 12:31 am (UTC)
Narnia all the way. I liked the first book in Pullman's series but the last two kind of lost me.

What is catharism?
Aug. 9th, 2007 12:35 pm (UTC)
Cathars, a.k.a. Albigensians, in Germany, S France & N Italy in the 11-13C, were dualistic, believing that the entire material world is evil and incessantly at war with the spiritual world, which is good. I think that, like Blake, they believed that the god of the OT, who created the material world, was on the Bad side. Christ, on the other hand, was a purely spiritual being inhabiting a phantom body, and of course Good. They were, at least ideally, veggies. Naturally good RCs considered them heretics, and St. Dominic devoted a goodly part of his life to fighting them, and achieved a goodly part of his fame from his success.

The Manichaeans (3-4C) are the fundamental dualistics, as far as present-day, one-word references go. It's odd that HDM seems both Manichaean/Cathari and atheistic, since one should logically preclude the other.
Aug. 9th, 2007 01:12 am (UTC)
More or less what everyone else said (the ones that prefer CoN). Though I, to be honest, am not even convinced that Pullman's the better writer. Yes, he has great set pieces, but his characters are almost as badly drawn as Rowling's. And there's something about those books that just... sets my teeth on edge. No young person is going to "get" the theological arguments, or the riff on Milton, any more than probably any of us as children "got" the Christianity in Narnia until The Last Battle and they all die and go to heaven and it's "dong" - OH THAT's what it was about. And without the theological arguments or the riff on Milton, I'm not really sure what ... value (?) can I use that term ... Pullman is projecting. Whereas there's a lot that's magical and wondrous in Narnia, a lot that's basically nice. (yeah, yeah, I know about the racism and sexism, but...)
Aug. 9th, 2007 09:33 am (UTC)
Love your icon - haven't read Deerskin in AGES (it's in storage a continent and ocean away, alas!).

I completely agree with you - CoN may be theological but it's also a good, compelling story. There's a reason that the mythology behind Christianity (and I'm Christian) is such a powerful one. Somewhat racist it might be but I don't know much Christian literature that says, effectively, "If you serve Allah your whole life with good in your heart, you are as saved as if you served Christ your whole life," which is a fundamental message of The Last Battle.

Pullman, on the other hand, isn't about acceptance but bludgeons the reader over the head with his own theology. Even the whole idea of the daemons isn't a bad one but he's clearly chosen to call them daemons as an intentional slap in the face of conservative Christians (even those who aren't scarily intolerant).

Aug. 9th, 2007 04:08 am (UTC)
I read the Narnia books too long ago to really make any solid judgment ... plus I'm only mid-way through the second book in the HDM series (my dad gave me the first book months ago, and I finally started reading it ... and now everyone is talking about it and there's a movie coming and such ... crazy). But if I had to choose based on my vague memories of the Narnia series and my half-knowledge of HDN, I'd choose HDN. But I fully admit that it's because of the scholars and Oxford. Yes, it's true, I'm easily won over by fictional representations of academia.

That and I'm not really into the "magical and wondrous" (quoting the above commenter there). When I read fantasy, I want swords and dragons ... or scholars, I suppose.
Aug. 9th, 2007 06:48 am (UTC)
I don't find either of them offensive, I just found the Dark Materials trilogy to be far less fun to read! I'm surprised many kids manage to plod through it.
Aug. 9th, 2007 06:52 am (UTC)
Get the kids started right, give 'em Alan Garner.

FF - converted to pagan by Mr G in 1974 and proud of it.
Aug. 9th, 2007 07:47 am (UTC)
Oooh yes. Alan Garner outshines both Narnia and HDM. Brilliant writer!

Garner and Diana Wynne-Jones have a lot to answer for when it comes to my current book tastes :-)
Aug. 9th, 2007 07:44 am (UTC)
Hard decision. I grew up with Narnia, and I loved it. But overall, now, I prefer the feel of His Dark Materials. Well. I loved the first book, thought the second was okay, and the third one...meh. But there were aspects to them which I thought were brilliant. So...Narnia gets the nostalgic love, HDM gets the 'oooh, that's a cool idea' love. Very hard for me to pick.
Aug. 9th, 2007 08:08 am (UTC)
Okay, I have to admit I don't understand some of the comments (I have no idea what Catharism is!)

For me it was a very easy decision, and I think there is something about when you first read the books here.

I read The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe when I was very young, as many people did, but I didn't read any of the other books until I was in my, um, late twenties I think. To someone of that age, without the glow of nostalgia or childhood memories, I found the books to be quite badly written.

The His Dark Materials, on the other hand, have nothing in the quality of the writing that would embarass an adult reader.

Mind you I'm not sure that the comparison between the two is necessarily fair; they feel like they are written for different age groups (even though Pullman claims that he does not write for any particular age group). I do have issues with some of the final book, though...
Aug. 9th, 2007 09:25 am (UTC)
I think the books are aimed at rather different audiences. CoN is aimed at a lower age group than HDM, to my mind. I read it around the age of 8 or 9 and, frankly, most of the religious imagery went way over my head. Which was good, as I would have enjoyed it far less if I'd known it was propaganda. HDM, in contrast, is aimed squarely at older children and adults, and has a far more realistic worldview than the simplistic goodies and baddies of CoN.
Aug. 9th, 2007 04:22 pm (UTC)
Honestly, I couldn't do the poll. I read them for two different things. I understand why people want to stack them up against each other (and since Pullman makes disaparaging remarks about Narnia, that's adding fuel to the fire) but I really look at them as completely separate entities: Narnia is a holdover from my childhood. I loved Mr. Tumnus when my mother read the first book to me. HDM, in contrast, I didn't read until about 6 years ago for a children's lit class. I love the scope of the world in the first book, I love the deamons, and I love Lyra. Neither series ends well for my tastes; both of the last books (in Narnia's case, the last few) get bogged down in theology. Narnia I read when I want to revisit my childhood; HDM I read when I want to revisit my adulthood.

That's my take. ^-^;;
Aug. 12th, 2007 05:58 pm (UTC)
Pullman is teh better writer and has the more interesting world - but as someone said above, he's not really a writer for children, so it isn't really a fair comparison. I thought myself immensely clever at age 11 when I spotted the allegory in LWW and MN. Now I find it crude, but it's surprising how many folks don't necessarily see it on first reading.

Lewis seems rather dated to me now, especially in his portrayal of Calormen. Whether Pullman will still be read 40+ years after his death is an interesting question, however.

I wonder why they seem to have stalled with filming the rest of Narnia?
( 23 comments — Leave a comment )