[Milton-L] Golden Compass

Larisa Kocic-Zambo larisa at lit.u-szeged.hu
Thu Dec 6 15:33:28 EST 2007

For some, the following might contain spoilers related to Pullman's His Dark
Materials trilogy, so if you are about to read them and wish to keep up the
suspense of the novels, please, skip my comment.


I remember being enthralled by Pullman's first book in the trilogy, the
Northern Sky (The Golden Compass), and hardly waiting to get hold of the
Subtle Knife. However, hints made to Lyra as being the second Eve, made me
dread the outcome in the third installment, The Amber Spyglass. I thought,
oh no, not again. If Pullman is going to pull the original sin string too, I
am going to lose it. Especially, since he claims to have been influenced by
Milton (it seems only as far as the "his dark materials" expression goes).
Of course, I do not wish to deny the Magistrates'/the Church's (of all
denominations) role in devaluating love and the consumption of it to an
abomination, and their/its responsibility in viewing it as the "original
sin", i.e. the reason of, or at least the primal consequence of Fall - a
fact that is only heightened by the endless number of visual representations
of the Fall, where Adam's and Eve's intimate parts are hidden with leaves.
But Milton of all people was quite adamant in emphasizing the misconception
of this idea (see the description of Adam and Eve's connubial love before
the fall in Book IV): 


Strait side by side were laid, nor turnd I
Adam from his fair Spouse, nor Eve the Rites
Mysterious of
connubial Love refus'd:
Whatever Hypocrites austerely talk
Of puritie and place and innocence, [ 745 ]
Defaming as impure what God declares
Pure, and commands to som, leaves free to all.
Our Maker
bids increase, who bids abstain 
But our Destroyer, foe to God and Man?
Haile wedded Love,
ous2> mysterious Law, true source [ 750 ]
Of human ofspring, sole
In Paradise of all things common else.
By thee adulterous lust was driv'n from men
Among the bestial herds to raunge, by thee
Founded in Reason, Loyal, Just, and Pure, [ 755 ]
Relations dear, and all the Charities
Of Father, Son, and Brother first were known.
Farr be it, that I should write thee sin or blame,
Or think thee unbefitting holiest place,
Perpetual Fountain of Domestic sweets, [ 760 ]
> bed is undefil'd and chaste pronounc't,
Present, or past, as Saints and Patriarchs us'd.


So when Pullman says, 

"This is exactly what happens in the Garden of Eden. They [Lyra and Will]
become aware of sexuality [ie. in Pullman's argument, the same way Adam and
Eve are in a moment after the fall, when "the eyes of them both were opened,
and they knew that they were naked" Gen. 3,7], of the power the body has to
attract attention from someone else. This is not only natural, but a
wonderful thing! To be celebrated! Why the Christian Church has spent 2,000
years condemning this glorious moment, well, that's a mystery. I want to
confront that, I suppose, by telling a story that this so-called original
sin is anything but. It's the thing that makes us fully human" (see

he is definitely missing Milton's point, as quoted above, and equating a
manmade, institutional hypocrisy with a divine decree that one is supposed
to oppose. In a superficial sense, Pullman is interpreting Milton in a
Blakeian way - his Lord Asriel cast in the role of the heroic Satan -, while
in reality, at least from Milton's point of view, Satan, the leader of the
rebellion against God, is in fact sharing the deplorable notion of the
"Christian Church" Pullman is resolved to confront. For Satan, observing the
first pair "imparadis't in one anothers arms", turns "for envie, yet with
jealous leer maligne / ey'd them askance" and exclaims to himself: 

Sight hateful, sight tormenting! thus these two [ 505 ]
Imparadis't in one anothers arms
The happier Eden, shall enjoy thir fill
Of bliss on bliss, while I to Hell am thrust.

All in all, I loved His Dark Materials, but, personally, found its end
lacking in its initial vigor and genuineness of thought. As for the movie,
it remains to be seen.


Larisa Kocic-Zambo







From: Peter C. Herman [mailto:herman2 at mail.sdsu.edu] 
Sent: Wednesday, December 05, 2007 12:35 AM
To: John Milton Discussion List
Subject: Re: [Milton-L] Golden Compass


But those expecting that the movie will be faithful to the book, or even
bear a nodding acquaintance to it, will be disappointed. See the article in
the most recent Atlantic Monthly on how the film-makers essentially
bowdlerized Pullman's skeptical vision. 

Peter C. Herman

At 03:11 PM 12/4/2007, you wrote:

There was some recent discussion of movies so I will mention The Golden
Compass based on Philip Pullman's first novel in a trilogy. Pullman has
enertained many young and older readers with 'His Dark Materials,' a fantasy
trilogy inspired by his reading of Milton. He also has out a Paradise Lost
put out by Oxford with his own "Fan" notes with the text. The movie
hopefully also inspired by Milton will be out Dec 7 below is the official
film website.
Paul Miller
Milton-L mailing list
Milton-L at lists.richmond.edu
Manage your list membership and access list archives at

-------------- next part --------------
An HTML attachment was scrubbed...
URL: http://lists.richmond.edu/pipermail/milton-l/attachments/20071206/ba0eda4c/attachment.html

More information about the Milton-L mailing list