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His Dark Materials: A Multiple Allegory: Attacking Religious Superstition in The Lion, The Witch and The Wardrobe and Paradise Lost

Author(s): Leonard F. Wheat
Publisher: Prometheus Books
Publication Date: September 2007
Format: Paperback, 338 pages
ISBN: 9781591025894

Editorial Overview

Philip Pullman's His Dark Materials trilogy is one of the most popular fantasy works of our time. Leonard F. Wheat demonstrates in this fascinating analysis that the trilogy is far more than a young adult's tale. At a deeper level it is a complex triple allegory - a surface story that uses 231 symbols to tell three hidden stories. As such, it is among the most profound, intellectually challenging and thoroughly adult works ever written.

Wheat brings the hidden stories to lights. He shows how Pullman symbolically retells two prominent works of British literature - C.S. Lewis's The Lion, The Witch and the Wardrobe, and John Milton's Paradise Lost. Pullman's aim is to counter Lewis's pro-Christian allegory. He does this with his own anti-Christian allegory, depicting Paradise Lost by turning Milton's story upside down. Satan, his daughter Sin, and his son Death, along with Adam's murderous son Cain, become heroes; God and Jesus become villains; and Judas, by again switching from God's side to Satan's and betraying Jesus, becomes a convert from evil to good. This retold story depicts our society's warfare between knowledge ("Dust") and religious superstition ("Specters"). Pullman adds a semi-allegorical third hidden story featuring Christian missionaries and Charles Darwin. Here the warfare between knowledge and superstition is resymbolized, with Darwin representing scientific knowledge and the missionaries representing superstition.

Wheat's intriguing interpretation of Pullman's work is the first to point out the many allegorical features of His Dark Materials and to highlight the ingenious ways in which Pullman subtly attacks religious institutions and superstitions. Pullman fans as well as readers who are interested in fantasy or concerned about religious coercion will find Wheat's book not only stimulating but overflowing with surprises.


  • Pullman's surface story
  • C.S. Lewis's story and his allegory
  • The Lion, The Witch and The Wardrobe retold: Pullman's allegory
  • Paradise Lost retold: Pullman's allegory
  • Missionaries, Darwin, and Conclusion

Reader Reviews

About the Author

Leonard F. Wheat, a retired economist, received his PhD from Harvard University in 1958 and is the author of five previous books dealing with economics, film, and religion. These include Kubrick's 2001: A Triple Allegory and Paul Tillich's Dialectical Humanism: Unmasking the God above God.


Selected praise for Multiple Allegory:

...an impressive case for multiple levels of allegory in Philip Pullman's brilliant His Dark Materials trilogy...His [Wheat's] detailed case richly illuminates the religious and the literary dimensions of the His Dark Materials trilogy.

- Susanna Braund, Professor of Latin Poetry and Its Reception, University of British Columbia.

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