Magic is awesome, except when it just makes everything worse. It happens rarely, but sometimes magic as a whole is a net evil thing in a story. In order to bring, well, order, back to the world in question, magic has to go. Although it’s sad for both the characters losing their magic and the audience by proxy, by casting fantastical power as something that’s fun or useful but ultimately damaging, these stories can teach us something worthwhile about the importance of self-sacrifice.
Today’s guest column comes via longtime LGG&F reader Kathryn Hemmann. Kathryn teaches classes on Japanese literature and cinema by day and diligently trains to become a Pokémon Master by night. She posts reviews of Japanese fiction in translation along with occasional essays about pop culture on her blog, Contemporary Japanese Literature.
Readers should be advised that this essay contains frank references to adolescent sexuality.
Part 2: Why I Wish the Protagonist Were Female
Last week I lamented the surprising dearth of narrative focus on female characters in the latter two books of Philip Pullman’s His Dark Materials fantasy trilogy. This week I explain how Lyra’s lack of interiority in particular makes it difficult for the reader to reconcile the plot of the story with its broader philosophical themes. This installation contains major spoilers for the series from the first paragraph onward, so consider yourself warned.
After Harry Potter, I’d guess that Philip Pullman’s His Dark Materials is the second most controversial series of books, at least where the religious right is concerned. And with good reason: the two child protagonists ultimately set out to destroy God. The trilogy is commonly understood to be the anti-Narnia. C. S. Lewis’ Chronicles of Narnia are a very clear Christian allegory, with heavy-handed Christian symbols and parallels to sacraments. But where Lewis created an obvious allegory, Pullman gives us something more akin to a philosophical position paper in story form. How good of a job does his trilogy do in tackling the problem of God?