Woe to those who call evil good and good evil, who substitute darkness for light and light for darkness, who substitute bitter for sweet and sweet for bitter. Woe to those who are wise in their own opinion and clever in their own sight. - Isaiah 5:20-21 HCSB
In the movie, The Golden Compass, Lucifer is good. Judaic tradition teaches that there is an archangel under Yawheh whose name is Azrael. This archangel became particularly associated with death. Though his intentions were good, he ended up on God’s wrong side, and he and other angels were cast out.
To my mind, Pullman’s Lord Asriel, Lyra’s uncle, represents Lucifer and in Pullman’s stories, Asriel is revealed to be a good guy. In his trilogy, Pullman draws on Milton’s portrayal of Satan for inspiration. Both Milton’s Satan and Pullman’s Lord Asriel are powerful but their twisted nobility remains attractive. However, Milton expresses sorrow over the fall from grace caused by Satan. Pullman exalts the Fall as the moment when humans gained freedom.
Pullman clearly thinks that sin is good. In his writings, “Dust” represents original sin. It accumulates on adults but not on children, reflecting the idea of the age of accountability. However, Pullman redefines original sin as “self-knowledge.” Dust is thus, according to Pullman, our consciousness, or awareness of the world around us and all of its possibilities. He teaches that it is precisely our vices and flaws that make us interesting and uniquely human.
Lyra, the main character, is given a tool called an “Alethiometer” which literally means “measurer of truth” and we are told in later chapters that Dust is what makes the alethiometer work. Pullman is apparently teaching that our vices are capable of teaching us about ourselves and the path to truth and full self-awareness lies in experimenting with Dust, or sin.
In an interview with Teenreads, Pullman said, “The theme of the whole thing, after all, is the ending of innocence and the beginning of wisdom; and that is summed up in the third chapter of the Book of Genesis…in the story of Adam and Eve. Lyra is Eve; Mary Malone is the serpent, who teaches her how to fall in love, and Will is Adam.”
So Pullman believes that the serpent was the good guy in the story, teaching humanity how to love by seeking after wisdom. The theme of his books is, therefore, the elevation of rebellion to God as the beginning of wisdom.
This naturally affects Pullman’s character development. In The Golden Compass, the practitioners of the occult are good. In Pullman’s stories, Gyptians (apparently based on Gypsies, not Egyptians) and witches are the solid citizens working to rescue the world from the evil Authority. The Gyptians are a nomadic and irreligious people who live on the outskirts of society and are often shunned and mistreated by the Church. Nevertheless, they are depicted by Pullman as heroes. Similarly, instead of being rebellious and evil creatures, the witches are transformed by Pullman into icons of freedom and power.
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