The Golden Compass
You see, writing this essay has been the only thing holding me together after finishing the trilogy, and I keep on going back to it whenever another sudden bad spell comes along and I need some time to myself. What I hope can be seen in the final version is that I'm just your typical pleasure reader who is slowly but surely being ripped apart from the inside on account of stories being abandoned and never returned to by their makers. Of course, we all know this is a very recent series, and all sorts of possibilities still remain in the future. But if history has any bearing on what will happen to the future after the trilogy, Mr. Pullman is just going to leave it be, thinking he's got all he could out of it. In seeing this, I roused myself to the call to arms of somehow contacting the wise Pullman himself and offering him my views on this frightening prospect. If his interviews tell us anything, it's that Pullman is an open-minded, understanding and brilliant human being. It is my fervent hope and desire that he see what I see (though likely enough he already does) in the chance (however small) that my thoughts will somehow aid in convincing him that these sorts of things shouldn't be left to molder in the past. We're all incredibly grateful of the coming companion novel to the trilogy, and although my concerns are perhaps too premature to warrant any value quite yet, I still see the need to voice what follows before history has even a fair chance to repeat itself. At least I'll know I've done all I can to stop that from happening.
Well, there comes a time when you’ve simply got to gather up all your broken nerves and just give it what you can. I wouldn’t doubt it if you’ve gotten dozens and dozens of these before and you’ll likely never even pick this up, much less take the time to read it, but I suppose all I can do is let things happen as they may. And I certainly don’t expect anything to happen because of anything I say in the line of your work, as I understand very well it’s your own work; although I dearly hope the message reaches home and we’re both the wiser for it. Assuming a lonely young adult has any wisdom at all. Come to think of it, the more I consider what I’ve written, the more childish it makes me feel that I wrote it; and, strangely enough, the better that makes me feel in the end. But at this point in my short life, there’s nothing that would ease my mind more than to hear you respond. Or, well, read... that response. Under that context, I implore you to bear with what follows in this letter. This essay was written initially to other fans of the series, and it is hoped that Mr. Pullman will forgive any references made to him in the third person. I could carry on sugar-coating it in hopes that there will be a greater chance for you to read this and find yourself swept away and gearing up with a mission in mind by the end, but I’d much rather just get this over with. So here goes.
an essay of sorts by Thaddeus Christopher
Somebody, somebody close to Philip Pullman has to help him to see what it's like to be a young reader whose run the gauntlet of envy for high adventure more than once and has continually been shot down with weary, burdensome, blinding, percolating rage on account of depressing endings. All in the name of what? Prose? The nature of the legend? The aforementioned books are the most perfect interpretations of some of the richest imaginations in our history, and then what happens? The author knows what he's doing. At least by half-way through working out the general story (or maybe it's a painful surprise as he writes his way to there as well? depends on how ignorant of the story they feel they need to be so they can enjoy it as it comes out too...) he sees the potential of his creation. The word legendary comes to mind. Epic. They see that. And in doing so, they see that however they choose to wake their readers up from this sublime dream-like sharing of creativity, it will have to be as unique as possible to fit with earning the title of "legendary". So what's the natural course? Definitely not a happy ending. No, no; been done to death it has. The natural flow makes its way to loss. Pain. A potent emotional stirring of abysmal emptiness. Mocking those of us who were so innocently enraptured in the telling, chiding those of us who've experienced it before and were cautiously (but oh, wasn't it nearly impossible not to place your trust in it entirely?) letting ourselves fall under the spell.
Lloyd Alexander is still alive, but it seems like he'll never bring the satisfaction of closure to his most trumpeted series. It’s been deemed such a classic telling of high fantasy; is he just too apprehensive to touch it ever again? Would he be muddying its purity? Is it really better if the characters are doomed forever to be in a suspended state of separation in your mind, 'cause that's just how he left you after all was said and done, and that’s just how it was meant to be? But that defeats one of the grandest purposes of good, imaginative literature: to rouse the reader’s mind after the telling, to urge them to enrich their own creativity by reaching into their own imagination and getting lost thinking about the characters and adventures they can still have. It doesn't look like he'll ever be returning to that pure, raw imaginative world of Prydain complete with familiar friendships and high adventure, and, as a result, many imaginations will be clouded over with fuming frustration and confusion rather than an ample sprinkling of creative passion.
The same applies, in spades this time, when it comes to “The Amber Spyglass”. Philip Pullman's alive and well (and may he live on to be alive and well for as long as he sees fit to; hopefully immeasurable by time) and yet he's timid. Oh so incredibly timid. And split too, with any luck. (and now I find myself speaking as if I know the man personally... well, something still tells me it's more than just a hunch- it better not just be blind hope cause I'm getting sick to death of that) Part of him sees plausible avenues to bringing a just peace unto the two characters he spun together out of his creative womb. He's no doubt already worked out possible events that lead to the meeting again of Lyra and Will, and the good things that could come about respectively. The ideals of those being (mind you, not without a little personal penchant.):
[three through eleven have been cut out and placed at the very end due to the prospect of picturing the face of an author being subjected to other people’s direct opinions on the future of their work...]
1)The realization that one can indeed keep forever their childhood innocence (and allow me to stress childhood innocence- being of the age I am I'm realizing just how recent and subtle a change adulthood is, and how potentially it could be the most sad and lonely beginning to the most sad and lonely part of one's life, were it not handled with a pure understanding of one's true original nature and an utter disregard for societal rules and pressures- staying playful makes it all worth while, and it's so not impossible that you really have to laugh at those growing up around you who follow the drab and already well-trodden paths to a souring of life) and in turn, their daemons never actually have to stop changing;
2) Lyra and Will both meet and exist in Lyra's world within four years since they parted- four years! That’s nothing compared to the alternative! Even so, it’s still nearly as painful.
But the other part of him tells him he could leave the rest empty, along with parts of himself he'll never know if he lets it all go to waste. Look, I'm just asking myself what I would do if I were 54 years old, having come up with the world of “His Dark Materials”, the idea of daemons so closely and personally and physically tied to their humans, all those wonderful things. I can very sincerely sit here and tell you that were I in Philip Pullman's position...no, no; were any imaginative Creator such as Philip Pullman who was honest and true to their nature and to the all-encompassing nature of the act of creativity itself were in his position, they would make a blissfully ignorant march into the depths of their creative essence and not stop learning from it, from themselves, until everything about the world they’ve made has been uncovered. After that, it's only a series of hops, skips, prances, twirls, stomps, and lovably childish games until you've found you've written your way down an enlightened path where your stories will emanate undeniable truth and shine a loving and caring light into every fiber of every readers being. This is where the greatest creative minds of the past have failed. This is where our heroic authors of eld have missed their mark and fallen victim to age and time. They forget. They forget all about their greatest creations and ignore the yearning in their mortal beings to return and to expand upon the old to create new. To forge ahead and conquer beyond what it is they first set out to do.
What I'm wishing for isn't redemption, or some sort of prodigal deliverance of a dozen more stories encompassing the fates of Lyra and Will. Nothing silly like an act of nature to come raging out in front of Philip Pullman's eyes waking him up to the more compassionate possibilities or show him some sort of sign that would make him understand. I want what every genuine human who has grown up consumed by his or her imagination wants; my own little fantasy corner I can crawl in whenever I'm alone and have nothing much else to do. This means not just my own dabblings in creative substance, but complete, legendary role models I can shine my youthful eyes up at, and settle myself delicately under their creative wings. To be taken in to a new, fantastic voyage of such vivid and compelling proportions is to be utterly and completely human. You learn so much from the reactions of all the characters involved in the hero’s journey. When times are peaceful, we get to watch each individual character flesh out and become more and more complicated and complete as a living, breathing being; and when the times are desperate, we get to see these characters change and grow as they learn from their experiences. Thus the attachment to our image of these people grows and grows until (if it’s handled right) we bond with them and perhaps even feel a genuine love for what we’ve watched them become. And as the Creator of these spectacles of the imagination toys with his creations, we get to learn all about the versatility of emotion. Such has been the case so far with the glorious tale of Lyra and Will. And if Philip Pullman follows along the already trodden path, throwing a blind eye toward a familiar world and unforgettable characters (namely Lyra and Will), treating it as some sort of sacred untouchable territory, as if it would be an unspeakable sin to continue working and expanding upon it, then I might as well just die right here and now and be spared of the treachery of human kinds greatest Creators. You don't know who I am, or whether or not my opinions are worth a peek, a thought, a hope, a chance. Neither do I really. Who is willing to sally forth their creative potential on the whims of a lonely reading-battle-worn teenager? But it's not just me. And we all know that for a fact. I believe in Philip Pullman. Don’t you?
I understand the dire importance of getting a message out to the readers that says “You must go now and make your own lives into stories. Factual, adventurous ones with bits of peace and bits of turmoil; a loving and sharing of both human nature and nature itself; a regretless path to leave behind; an avid attachment to curiosity”; and all those fine ideals. And I certainly can understand themes on the matter of discovering charming pairs (daemons, lovers) and wrenching them apart to toy with the heart strings of the listeners and readers. But wouldn’t it be the grandest thing of all to continue to appeal to those values and continue playing those games? To share them among others and introduce all kinds of new people to the message of building their own Republic of Heaven; of the brittle and thus treacherous nature of peace and tranquility? To impart upon them some real excitement in their worlds. Well, maybe we agree then after all! Will and Lyra could go down the way they are now in the history of the minds that have been moved by them as a monument to the unfairness of love and apparent existence of cruel fate, or, they could continue their adventure where it left off. Finding new journeys and finding each other well before they bloom into adulthood or die and fade into the scenery. Please, I implore You-Who-Has-The-Power-To-Make-The-Good-Things-Happen. The fate of the tale of Lyra and Will which sprung from your mind and resides still in your hands: be kind to it. Be kind to those who gather around you from all over the world to listen to it. Be… kind. Please.
The following are the daringest of hopes and the most wanton wishes (and why don’t we add ‘whimsical fantasies’ while I’m at it?) of the author of this essay, and essentially what he would do were he in the fantastic position Mr. Philip Pullman is in; or, rather, close proximities to what he wishes Mr. Philip Pullman would do as it’s certainly more viable that he (Pullman) has the most influence on what’s suppose to come about:
1) Lyra was never able to get her final questions to the alethiometer answered, after all. The chance that she and Will could find that loop-hole, that things could all be better again, isn’t impossible! To build the Republic of Heaven- they wouldn’t be putting themselves first if it just happened; if they just stumbled upon that loophole, fate bringing them together once again. There are definite ways yet for it to work; you can’t deny that you want it to. Four years or so spent learning how to be cheerful and kind and curious and patient, studying and working hard, and then release. Sweet, justifiable reunion.
2) The lore of Lyra’s world and of daemons; there’ve got to be all kinds of possibilities left, like special cases where people who grow up with daemons that still can change as often as they wish, frightfully unique daemons, and so on. To have created such a living, breathing world, Mr. Pullman certainly can’t deny that inner desire to continue adding and adding to it.... I know I never could; I’d return to it as often as the mood struck me at least time-lining the events of the lives of Lyra and Will. At the very least.
3) Lyra and Will have many more adventures together with all kinds of new alliances and enemies; adventures being comprised both of epic proportions and small ones, of a more personally dire nature and closer to the heart- hopefully without the melodramatic pang of overly lovesick and confused teenagers, please to everything I stand for not that, but more of a potent and genuine love, in a sense, experienced by two people who have a glorious history and the makings of a spectacular future, and who remain true to their fresh child-like mindsets despite the prospect of growing up. Also, Lyra and Will haven’t been simply wasting their time away from each other, no; they’re in peak physical condition for their age- strong, healthy, and agile. They’re also wiser, learning how to be witty and clever, and even more lively, playful, and disobedient than ever;
4) The problem of limited time spent in a different world is eradicated and they can once again move subtly through the different worlds but in a safe, new way perhaps having something to do with Dr. Malone’s "out of body experience" the angels hinted at (and no, not just spiritually, they'd have to be able to live together in the flesh again);
5) Old friends will meet again, along with new;
6) An absolute bare minimum of a dozen more novels set in the world, the majority following the events of "his dark materials" and the yet to be written struggles and ultimate tear-quenching and heart-lifting endings that bring about new, equally as pure beginnings- and believe me, were I in Mr. Pullman's position, no force of fate or nature would have enough power to stop me from accomplishing this;
7) Lyra can again read the alethiometer very naturally;
8) Will’s fingers are fixed and replaced through a spell of some sort, or a mystery. He used to play the piano after all! That’s simply got to be one the most frustrating realizations someone whose played a musical instrument before can go through. By the way, Nikolai Medtner is becoming one of my favorite composers very quickly. I can half-manage plucking out most of the Vergessene Weisen, Op 38, and let me tell you, being part percussionist, pianist, guitarist, and primarily rhythm instrumentalist, this is one of the most challenging feats I’ve ever tried to accomplish! Polyrhythms are appearing like spots in front of my eyes whenever I step away from the piano;
9) A first-person perspective of what it’s really like to be physically dead but consciously part of everything. Rebirth was hinted at, how does it work and what’s it like? It would seem hard to imagine that there keeps amassing an immeasurable amount of ‘new’ spirits to inhabit life in the universe. From where did they originate? Scientifically, it would stand to reason that when a constantly growing number of things keep popping into existence, something must give way in its place. That, or there are only so many spirits but they keep re-inhabiting new forms of conscious life. A kind of spiritual fabric we all are piece of.
an essay of sorts by Thaddeus Christopher
Last modified on May 8th, 2002.
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