Tuesday, 27 May 2008

Is Mrs Coulter the Ice Queen?

I went to lunch with my friend Paul May today. He was in Cambridge for a conference on teaching music in primary schools. He is a primary school teacher and writer of children's books - a good one too (writer, that is - I can't speak for his teaching abilities).


We went to the Michaelhouse Cafe and talked for ages about teaching and education and writing and writers. Paul and I used to share an agent and a publisher and now share neither. We talked about about that. We talked about the way we write and what we write and what we'd like to write. Writers have that conversation a lot.


We also had a chat about Philip Pullman and C S Lewis. Paul hadn't seen the BBC4 programme about fantasy fiction, but he had wondered - like me - whether, for all his detestation of Lewis, Pullman wasn't just a bit affected by him. Were Lewis's books a spur for Pullman to write something himself, if only to show that it could be done better?


Mrs Coulter does have something of the White Witch about her (but then the White Witch had something of the Snow Queen about her). And then there is the frozen worlds that take up so much of Northern Lights and The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe. And of course there is the anti-religious theme of Pullman v the pro-Christian Lewis.


This is not a particularly thought-out theory - hey are such different books and such different authors. I just wonder whether Northern Lights was written - in part - as a reaction to Lewis, and is therefore influenced by him. And if that's true, would Northern Lights have been written without The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe? An odd thought.

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