On the His Dark Materials series

Philip Pullman, Research Scientist

By Robert A. Metzger

We take such comfort from labels.

Before me are the volumes that make up Philip Pullman’s His Dark Materials trilogy. Picking them up and thumbing through, I can’t help but catch key words and phrases, those that should help me label just what these books are all about: d¦mons, angels, a subtle knife, armored bears, Gobblers and witches.

Witches.

Even a quick scan clues me in that these aren’t twenty-first-century witches, those who live in Manhattan, practice the art of aromatherapy and make the pilgrimage to upstate New York in the comfort of their Land Rovers during the summer solstice, where upon arrival they’ll run about naked in an apple orchard as they feel the mud squish between their toes. Not Pullman’s witches–these are of the pine branch-riding variety who chop up cliff ghasts.

Can there be any doubt as to what sort of books I have before me? I’m looking at fantasy here. And if any doubt at all remained, the back cover of my edition of The Golden Compass should put that to rest, proclaiming that what I hold in my hand is a “modern fantasy classic.”

Okay.

The label has been applied–but not just to the books.

A label has also been applied to me–the reader of these books. Who am I? What am I? You see me walking through the bookstore with Pull-man’s His Dark Materials tucked beneath my arm and you think here is someone who appreciates fantasy at its finest–the fantastic mixed with overtones  …

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