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Last Updated: Sunday, 16 October 2005, 17:56 GMT 18:56 UK
Pullman attacks Narnia film plans
Skandar Keynes, William Moseley, Georgie Henley and Anna Popplewell
The cast of The Lion, The Witch and The Wardrobe movie
Author Philip Pullman has attacked plans to turn The Chronicles of Narnia into a movie series, calling CS Lewis' books "racist" and "misogynistic".

The first film in the series - The Lion, The Witch and The Wardrobe - is due to be released in December.

His Dark Materials author Pullman said the 1950s stories were "reactionary".

"If the Disney corporation wants to market this film as a great Christian story, they'll just have to tell lies about it," he told The Observer.

Successful adaptations

The Lion, The Witch and The Wardrobe is the second and best-known novel in the seven-part Narnia book series.

The 62m movie version is expected to be the first of five films, following the success of The Lord of the Rings movie trilogy and ongoing Harry Potter film adaptations.

Evangelical Christian groups in the US have backed the movie, seeing parallels between CS Lewis' tales and Bible stories.

Philip Pullman
It's not the presence of Christian doctrine I object to so much as the absence of Christian virtue
Philip Pullman
"We believe that God will speak the gospel of Jesus Christ through this film," Lon Allison, director of Illinois' Billy Graham Centre, told the newspaper.

But Pullman said the Narnia books contained "a peevish blend of racist, misogynistic and reactionary prejudice" and "not a trace" of Christian charity.

"It's not the presence of Christian doctrine I object to so much as the absence of Christian virtue," he added.

"The highest virtue - we have on the authority of the New Testament itself - is love, and yet you find not a trace of that in the books."

Pullman's acclaimed His Dark Materials trilogy tells of a battle against the church and a fight to overthrow God.

Attacked by some Christian teachers and Catholic press as blasphemous, Pullman's trilogy is also being made into a series of movies.


Do you think Philip Pullman is justified in his attack on the forthcoming Chronicles of Narnia movie series?

This debate is now closed. Thank you for your comments.

Pullman says that you do not find a single trace of love in the books. If I can draw people's attention to one of the pivotal moments in the books - where Aslan sacrifices himself in order to save the lives of the four children; this in itself defeats argument that Pullman puts forward. Not only this, but it also draws huge parallels to the death and resurrection of Jesus.
Greg, Kingston

Mr Pullman has obviously not read The Lion, The Witch and The Wardrobe if he believes that that there is no trace of love in the book. The most compelling storyline in the book is the love that the children feel for Aslan.
Amanda, Surrey

I agree that the Narnia books are racist and misogynist. They also are derisive about vegetarianism and liberal education. CS Lewis was a naturally mythopoeic writer, but he let his prejudices run away with him much too often. Mr and Mrs Beaver eating sausage for breakfast - of course, the sausages weren't made from Talking Pigs, so that's alright! And his theology is extremely dubious - muscular Christianity filtered through classical mythology. The books will live because Lewis created myth as naturally as George Macdonald, but to popularise them through film, particularly with American evangelic support, is not serving God, literature or children.
Drew Herzig, Taos, New Mexico, USA

The Christian symbolism went right over my head
Danny Cunningham, Aberystwyth
I think Mr Pullman not only hasn't the foggiest idea what he's on about, but is using one of the greatest children's literary tales to publicise his own work. What religion and Christianity have to do with what is a work of fantasy and fiction seems to be utterly beyond him. The answer is simple... nothing.
Richard Purves, Newcastle Upon Tyne, UK

There are seven books in the series. Why don't they make a film of the Magicians Nephew or the Horse and his Boy, both of which are superb, and better than the over-rated Lion, Witch and Wardrobe? Oh, and when I read them as a kid, it was for the fun and escapism. The Christian symbolism went right over my head, and I think it probably would do today too!
Danny Cunningham, Aberystwyth

I grew up reading everything by Tolkien, CS Lewis and Ursula K LeGuin. The Narnia tales were beautiful reading. Eventually, I noticed that Narnia was an enjoyable world to escape to partly because we were seeing it through the eyes of its god-endorsed royalty. Visit Earthsea or the League of Worlds by Ursula Le Guin instead, discover how a world can mature as its author revisits it over many decades. Her writing is inspiring and centres on human rights without preaching. Philip Pullman is encouraging and refreshing in his honesty and willingness to tackle real issues in His Dark Materials. His social and literary commentary, as in the above comments on Narnia, reflect this outspokenness.
Marc Campbell Ph.D., Des Moines, USA

Sounds like sour grapes to me. There is plenty of love running throughout the Narnia books, especially the children's love for each other and for Aslan. The day Philip Pullman writes a classic as compelling as The Lion, The Witch and The Wardrobe then he can criticise.
Mark Jobson, Edinburgh

CS Lewis wrote for an audience whose doctrines were under attack
Galen Currah, Portland, Oregon
Pullman's comments sound a bit extreme to me. I've read The Lion, The Witch and The Wardrobe and several other Narnia books, as well as Lewis' science fiction trilogy. While I'm not a Christian per se and I don't necessarily agree with every point that Lewis is trying to make in his books, I think love is in fact a central theme there, and the Narnia stories positively glow with it. But I'd be interested in hearing Pullman point to specific passages that led to his conclusions.
Tom, Bloomington, Indiana, USA

Philip Pullman's comments are probably not relevant when most people are going to see the film for it's entertaining and delightful story and not Christian subtext. When I watched the BBC TV series and read the books, any racist, misogynistic and reactionary prejudice completely bypassed me.
Richard Armitage, Bournemouth

The Christian message in the Chronicles of Narnia, I would argue, is an undercurrent that one should certainly bear in mind, but never let take over the amazing books. I would like to add that there is love between the children themselves and also between the children and Narnia and its inhabitants. Finally, surely the idea of a brother betraying his siblings for narcotic Turkish Delight is as dark and intriguing as any concept by Pullman?
Daniel Parsons, Lancaster

I remember reading these books when I was young. and even though I'm now 25, I will go and see these films. To be honest does it matter if these films contain Christian values or not? And on the comment regarding no love in these stories, surely it is good for people to realise that life isn't always full of love and happiness.
Rob Nichols, Hertfordshire

You need only look at the books to see they obviously aren't that virtuous at all in reality
Fridrik Jonsson, Reykjavik, Iceland
We cannot comment on the films before we have seen them - though some seem to have done so. CS Lewis wrote for an audience whose doctrines were under attack, not their love. There is love in the stories - the lion's love and saving care towards those who trust him. Otherwise, we welcome critics' remarks, for they reveal our blind spots. Still, those are great stories, illustrating that even children can persevere against evil.
Galen Currah, Portland, Oregon (USA)

I think Pullman's comments have good cause. You need only look at the books, which I have read, to see they obviously aren't that virtuous at all in reality. It's a well written series... so I can understand some people jumping on the "fantasy movie bandwagon" after successes like the Lord of the Rings movies. However there are series worth the movie deal more than this one.
Fridrik Jonsson, Reykjavik, Iceland

I think Philip Pullman is making these comments for no other reason that shameless self publicity. Personally my problem with the making of these films is they do not have the scope to make anything other than a predictable kids film. Why remake the Narnia story again, why not give someone else a chance, like Terry Pratchett? He was topping the best sellers lists long before Harry Potter and will continue to outsell everyone else long after that boy Potter is long gone.
John Stewart, Falkirk, Scotland

I would hate to think that a corporation would enforce a Christian image or any religion over such a fictional story. I think every bit of media in its own right deserves to be quite neutral in any respect and if indeed it is religious, then let it be. If it is blasphemous according to some, then there is no reason to alter it because of that. Movies should be true to the books and ideals of the author rather than the multi-million dollar companies making money out of a religious theme.
Ben Catchpole, Bucks, UK

There are religious parallels but one could say that of ET, Star Wars and many other successful films
Helen Davies, Aberdare, Wales
I have a suspicion that many who have only negative things to say about Lewis' Lion book probably did not read other books by CS Lewis. Try his Miracles, The Problem of Pain, Letters and so on. Then read the Lion again. And learn.
Chiong Wee Chow, Singapore

I read and re-read the Narnia stories as a child and read them to my daughter. There are religious parallels but one could say that of ET, Star Wars and many other successful films. Yes, the author had a religious background. So what? Whilst I find the latching on to the film by the Bible Belt regrettable, I cannot understand why Philip Pullman should seek to attack a series of books so well loved. Come down off your high horse, Sir, and allow a little childlike magic into your life.
Helen Davies, Aberdare, Wales

I feel torn by this debate: I loved the Narnia stories as simple yet profound parables whose author shows a (sometimes painfully) real understanding of children's feelings. Yet as an atheist, I sympathise with Philip Pullman's points. I don't want evangelicals using these books to fuel fundamentalism in the 21st Century. Kids - enjoy, but make sure you see through this.
Lucy Pevensie, Cambridge, UK

Talking down, and indeed grossly misrepresenting, the much-loved work of another author? Not a lot of love shown there, surely Mr Pullman?
Paul, Birmingham, UK

CS Lewis is an accomplished author whose stories have enriched many lives. If society becomes so precious about causing offence in one direction or another then our literature will so become so bland as to be worthless. Through all forms of art and expression we learn about and discuss our past values and cultures and become better people.
Michael de Whalley, King's Lynn, UK

Philip Pullman and others are falling into the trap that so often catches the unaware. That of judging past authors using the values of today. I'm sure, judged by today's standards, Dickens, Hardy or even Shakespeare could be deemed racist and misogynist. Think of Fagin in Oliver Twist, Shylock in Merchant of Venice or Tess in Tess of the Durbevilles. One cannot dismiss a story simply because it exists in the past, both in the literary and social sense. My only hope with the film is that Disney don't... well... Disneyfy it!
Andrew Crawley, London, England

The author does not plug Christianity per se, evangelical or otherwise
Paul Papadopoulos, Athens, Greece
Really, who cares about the alleged religious links? This is a lovely, magical and sometimes moving story enjoyed by many generations of children (and adults) over half a century. I can certainly remember being in my early teens and watching the BBC adaptation in the late 1980s, being glued to the TV set every Sunday teatime with my parents, holding back the tears when Aslan died. I'm sure this will turn into one of Disney's classics for all the family to enjoy together - what can be more important than that?
Craig, Hampshire

As the owner of the only English bookshop for miles, I can say that Mr. Pullman outsells Mr Lewis by far. Having said this, the question as to whether we should take the yardstick of today's political correctness and use it to judge books written over 50 years ago has to be asked. Good publicity for Mr Pullman, though.
Paul Underwood, Unna Germany

Philip Pullman is completely out to lunch and so are the Evangelists. I read the whole series to my children when they were young and fail to see where he can find racist or misogynistic bits in it. The book seems to emphasise good over evil, and some of the evil characters are women. So what? Would Pullman can a film about Cinderella or Snow White? CS Lewis was a strong Christian believer and The Lion is depicted as a virtuous and spiritual entity but the author does not plug Christianity per se, evangelical or otherwise.
Paul Papadopoulos, Athens, Greece

Geesh. Relax already, everybody. It's art! The art of CS Lewis, Philip Pullman or whoever. If you don't like it, why work yourself into a lather over it? Find something else to enjoy.
James E Stephenson, Seattle, WA




SEE ALSO
Children of Narnia in spotlight
12 Oct 05 |  Entertainment
Disney to back Narnia film series
02 Mar 04 |  Entertainment
CS Lewis book to become 62m film
19 Dec 03 |  Entertainment
Pullman trilogy gets new director
09 Aug 05 |  Entertainment
Public chooses Narnia book
17 May 03 |  Northern Ireland

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