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The story begins with a girl hiding in a wardrobe. It continues with a series of adventures in which the girl passes through gateways into other worlds, meeting witches, figures from ancient mythology, and talking animals along the way. Ultimately, it takes her into the afterlife and to an apocalyptic battle between supernatural powers.

Philip Pullman's trilogy, His Dark Materials, has some striking parallels to C.S. Lewis's The Chronicles of Narnia. Between protective beasts, snowy landscapes, and references to a prophecy only the girl may be able to fulfill, the ads for The Golden Compass—the first installment of Pullman's series coming to the big screen on December 7—look made to attract fans of The Lion, The Witch and The Wardrobe. New Line Cinema has also gone out of its way to link the new film to J.R.R. Tolkien's The Lord of the Rings, which the studio also adapted.

But His Dark Materials presents a strikingly different kind of tale from the ones told by Lewis and Tolkien; on a certain level, it even opposes them. Pullman, writing in The Guardian on the occasion of Lewis's centenary in 1998, said the Narnia books are "one of the most ugly and poisonous things I have ever read," with "no shortage of … nauseating drivel." Peter Hitchens, writing in The Spectator in 2003, named Pullman "the Anti-Lewis."

While Lewis and Tolkien wrote stories imbued with Christian imagery, Pullman's trilogy—which has sold millions of copies and won numerous literary awards, including the Carnegie Medal and the Whitbread Prize—depicts the death of God and the creation of a "Republic of Heaven" that has no need for a King. And while Lewis and Tolkien kept the Christian elements fairly subtle—even the Narnia books ...

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November 2007

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