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Philip Pullman

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Philip Pullman

Philip Pullman signing a copy of Lyra's Oxford
Born October 19, 1946 (1946-10-19) (age 61)
Norwich, Norfolk, England
Occupation Novelist
Genres Fantasy
Website Philip-Pullman.com

Philip Pullman CBE (born October 19, 1946) is an English writer. He is the best-selling author of His Dark Materials, a trilogy of fantasy novels, and a number of other books.



Brief biography

Pullman was born in Norwich, Norfolk, England, to RAF pilot Alfred Outram and Audrey Evelyn Merrifield. The family travelled with his father's job, including to Southern Rhodesia (now Zimbabwe), where he spent time at school. His father was killed in a plane crash in 1953 when Pullman was seven. His mother remarried and with a move to Australia came Pullman's discovery of comic books including Superman and Batman, a medium which he continues to espouse. From 1957 he was educated at Ysgol Ardudwy school in Harlech, Gwynedd and spent time in Norfolk with his grandfather, a clergyman. Around this time Pullman discovered John Milton's Paradise Lost, which would become a major influence for His Dark Materials.

From 1963 Pullman attended Exeter College, Oxford, receiving a Third class BA in 1968, in an interview with the Oxford Student he stated that "he did not really enjoy the English course" and that "I thought I was doing quite well until I came out with my third class degree and then I realised that I wasn’t — it was the year they stopped giving fourth class degrees otherwise I’d have got one of those".[1] He discovered William Blake's illustrations around 1970, which would also later influence him greatly.

Pullman married Judith Speller in 1970 and began teaching children and writing school plays. His first published work was The Haunted Storm, which joint-won the New English Library's Young Writer's Award in 1972. He nevertheless refuses to discuss it. Galatea, an adult fantasy-fiction novel, followed in 1978, but it was his school plays which inspired his first children's book, Count Karlstein, in 1982. He stopped teaching around the publication of The Ruby in the Smoke (1986), his second children's book, whose Victorian setting is indicative of Pullman's interest in that era.

Pullman taught part-time at Westminster College, Oxford between 1988 and 1996, continuing to write children's stories. He began His Dark Materials about 1993. Northern Lights (published as The Golden Compass in the US) was published in 1996 and won the Carnegie Medal, one of the most prestigious British children's fiction awards, and the Guardian Children's Fiction Award.

Pullman has been writing full-time since 1996, but continues to deliver talks and writes occasionally for The Guardian. He was awarded a CBE in the New Year's Honours list in 2004. Pullman also began lecturing at a seminar in English at his alma mater, Exeter College, Oxford, in 2004.[2][3] He is currently working on The Book of Dust, a sequel to his completed His Dark Materials trilogy.

His Dark Materials

His Dark Materials consists of Northern Lights (titled The Golden Compass in North America), The Subtle Knife and The Amber Spyglass (see also a short companion piece, Lyra's Oxford, containing items of interest and a short story, as well as the yet-unpublished sequel, The Book of Dust ).

The first volume of the trilogy, "Northern Lights", won the Carnegie Medal for children's fiction in the UK in 1995. The Amber Spyglass, the last volume, was awarded both 2001 Whitbread Prize for best children's book and the Whitbread Book of the Year prize in January 2002, the first children's book to receive that award. The series won popular acclaim in late 2003, taking third place in the BBC's Big Read poll.

In 2005 Pullman was announced as joint winner of the Astrid Lindgren Memorial Award for children's literature.

Religious perspective

Pullman is a supporter of the British Humanist Association and an Honorary Associate of the National Secular Society. New Yorker journalist Laura Miller has described Pullman as one of England's most outspoken atheists. [4]

The His Dark Materials books have been controversial with some Christian groups. Peter Hitchens has claimed that Pullman actively pursues an anti-Christian agenda.[5] Hitchens views the His Dark Materials series as a direct rebuttal of C. S. Lewis's series.[6] Although Pullman has criticized C. S. Lewis' series The Chronicles of Narnia as religious propaganda, the two series have several things in common. Both feature children facing adult moral choices, talking animals, religious allegories, parallel worlds, and concern the ultimate fate of those worlds. The first published Narnia book, The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe, begins with a young girl hiding in a wardrobe, as does the first His Dark Materials book, Northern Lights (published as The Golden Compass in North America).

Literary critic Alan Jacobs (of Wheaton College) argues that Pullman's trilogy is a recasting of John Milton's trilogy, only instead of a theist world-view Pullman presupposes a world-view more in line with the philosophy of Jean-Jacques Rousseau.[7]

However, Pullman has found support from other Christians, most notably Rowan Williams, the Archbishop of Canterbury. These groups and individuals point out that Pullman's negative portrayal of the "Church" in His Dark Materials amounts to an attack on dogmatism and the use of religion to oppress, not on Christianity itself. Dr. Williams has gone so far as to propose that His Dark Materials be taught as part of religious education in schools. Moreover, even authors of works dedicated to critical appraisals of religious themes in his writing have described Pullman as a friendly and generous debating partner[8].

Other Christian writers, such as Kurt Bruner and Jim Ware, while finding his anti-Christian position troubling, "also uncover spiritual themes within the books, which, like shafts of light, break through an otherwise gloomy universe—despite Pullman’s best efforts to keep them out. In the end, the authors argue that Pullman offers an unwitting tribute to the God he intended to discredit."[9] in their book Shedding Light on His Dark Materials.

Screen adaptations


Non-series books

The New-Cut Gang

Sally Lockhart

His Dark Materials

Companion Books



Source: [2]


  1. ^ http://www.oxfordstudent.com/tt2006wk7/Features/growing_pains
  2. ^ http://www.uce.ac.uk/web2/releases04/3476.html
  3. ^ http://www.exeter.ox.ac.uk/admissions/undergrad/life/
  4. ^ Miller, Laura. 'Far From Narnia' (Life and Letters article). The New Yorker. Retrieved on 2007-10-31.
  5. ^ Hitchens, Peter. 'This is the most dangerous author in Britain' (Mail on Sunday article). The Mail on Sunday. Retrieved on 2006-09-21.
  6. ^ Hitchens, Peter. "A labour of loathing" (Spectator article), The Spectator. Retrieved on 2006-09-21. 
  7. ^ Mars Hill Audio - Audition - Program 10. Retrieved on 2007-11-13.
  8. ^ Robert Butler. "The Dark Materials debate: life, God, the universe...", The Telegraph, March 17, 2004. Retrieved on 2007-04-28. 
  9. ^ Bruner, Kurt & Ware, Jim. 'Shedding Light on His Dark Materials' (Tyndale Products review). Tyndale. Retrieved on 2007-10-01.

Further reading

  • Lenz, Millicent (2005). His Dark Materials Illuminated: Critical Essays on Phillip Pullman's Trilogy. Wayne State University Press. ISBN 0-8143-3207-2. 

External links

NAME Pullman, Philip
SHORT DESCRIPTION English novelist
DATE OF BIRTH 19 October 1946
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