The Golden Compass vs. The Chronicles of Narnia

For K.C., regarding your forwarded email entitled “POLAR BEAR.”

The polar bears reminded me of a movie I saw on DVD (Netflix) the other day in which a polar bear played a major role: The Golden Compass.

It is interesting to compare The Golden Compass with The Chronicles of Narnia. The latter is of course by C.S. Lewis, and is full of Christian allegory. E.g., the hero Lion-King who doesn’t seem to be around to help yet you must believe in him, who sacrifices himself to save the day, and who is miraculously resurrected.

The Golden Compass, on the other hand, is a not so thinly-veiled dig against organized religion, perhaps specifically organized religion of the Christian type (hmm, Snopes has an entry on this). In the movie, the evil Magisterium wants to control everybody’s thoughts, to vanquish free will across all the universes. This Magisterium represents organized religion. Since the story is set in what looks like late-Victorian or Edwardian England, we might take the Magisterium to represent the Anglican Church, but it might instead represent the Catholic Church (the Wikipedia entry seems to indicate the latter).

I wonder, if the version of Christianity that became dominant had instead been a knowledge-based Gnosticism variant rather than the belief-based version that we know, could movies such as The Chronicles of Narnia or The Golden Compass have been written? Would there even have been any movies at all? Would religion-based issues such as evolution and abortion have figured so largely in politics? Perhaps other topics (particle physics? professional sports? music theory?) would have been contentious instead?

If I recall correctly, some religious communities were against Harry Potter because of the alleged promotion of witchcraft. I’m not aware of any religious issues associated with The Lord of the Rings, although I know that Tolkien (friend of C.S. Lewis; they were both Oxford dons) was a devout Catholic.

And it’s interesting that The Golden Compass, The Chronicles of Narnia, and Harry Potter are all set (at least partially; most of the action in The Chronicles of Narnia takes place in Narnia, after all) in what looks like late-Victorian or Edwardian England. And the Shire in The Lord of the Rings looks like medieval England.