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'His Dark Materials' Is Way More Existentially Terrifying Than You Realized As A Kid

Updated 1 Nov 2019 11.2k views14 items

Philip Pullman's His Dark Materials series strikes an interesting balance with its intended audience - though the protagonists are young, the series deals with complex themes, most of which bemused young readers. That's by design; Pullman famously wrote the series as a response to other, more heavy-handed approaches to fantasy books for young audiences, and fully intended for them to be read by children and adults alike. Pullman examined deep existential and philosophical themes that served as the subtext for the darker and more violent storytelling. Pullman is far from the first author to tackle dark and complicated themes for children and teenagers, but he manages to do so in his own unique and complex way.

His Dark Materials' themes include love (with emphasis on an appreciation of life), anti-authoritarianism, and (of course) religion. Pullman has made no secret of his feelings about the works of authors like JRR Tolkien and CS Lewis, both of whom also wrote richly detailed fantasy worlds that espouse certain worldviews. In his series, he responds to those ideas not through satire or parody, but by offering philosophical alternatives. Children who grew up on these books might be surprised to learn about some underlying themes they may have missed while reading. 

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