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« R.I.P. LLOYD ALEXANDER | Main | McBrien Again »


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Well, well, this is quite the surprise. When I was in grade school, I happened to pick up "The Dark is Rising" in the school library, and was immediately drawn to the series. I read all five of the books a few times as I grew up. However, this was all during a time when I wasn't really accepting of my Catholic faith - Catholic grade school, CCD, weekly Mass, and all. At that time, I loved them, and would have been really excited if a movie series came out.

But, then my good parents started questioning why I was reading these books, and (yes, really) it made me think, even though I scoffed at them. Later, in my teen years, while rereading them I became suddenly very conscious of the part in the book where Christianity is quite simply denied and laughed at - there is a scene where Will is in the church, and the priest (I suppose Anglican, though I didn't know much about the difference then) was not able to fight the Dark by the sign of the Cross or by Jesus' name. Only Will was able to do so with his Signs - when the vicar sees the Signs (a circle quartered by a cross) he cites the cross as being the reason, but they (Will and cohorts) "correct" him as a teacher corrects an ignorant child, with understanding grins, saying that, yes, vicar, but the Signs and their Power are far older than Christ...

Throughout all the books I began to realize that there was a real dualistic theology behind it (of course, I didn't know that term then - but I see now what it is that I sensed was wrong), culminating with the last book, Silver on the Tree, when the message is that the Dark is of equal power as the Light (even with the prophetic runes that say that the Light will prevail), and that throughout the books there is a real sense of the "goodness" of the spirit world and the "badness" of matter. Perhaps now with my philosophy and theology I am "reading back" into the books, since I haven't read them since high school. If I am, please correct me.

In any case, I threw these books out even before I had my reversion to Catholicism in college. Even so, I will say that there is something about them that has always drawn me. I think of them at odd times (particularly Hern the hunter for some reason!) and if I see a copy of one of them at a used book store or garage sale, it is all I can do to keep from picking it up.

I don't know whether these books are truly harmful or not, and I don't mean to say that it's necessarily wrong for others to read them - but I would be cautious of them, for youth especially, particularly as I could see them being a way that the devil could tempt us into being more open to "White Magic" and such while offering encouragement to seek something "better" than going to church on Sunday.

I put them into a much more worrisome category than Harry Potter, because this is the kind of book that becomes even more of a stepping stone into other, more diabolical tales, as it is geared for a more mature (yet not adult) audience.

Someone once told me that I should think of these books as being like "Lord of the Rings", but I disagree. In Tolkien's world, which may seem foriegn to Christianity in many of the same ways, there IS no Christianity - yet. In this series, however, Christianity exists, is acknowledged, and set aside as being less than worthless against the "real" Powers. It's that Deep Magic (associated with Druids even) that is thus claimed to be the real religion, that only those fated individuals destined to immortality and given the special gnosis (knowledge) can partake in. (Hmm, sound like any heresy you've heard of lately?)

I don't know, this is just my own experience and thoughts about this series. I would like to hear more about why you think this is a worthwhile series and a movie for Christians to look forward to - for me, I will stay wary of it, God willing, though when that movie comes out I am going to be SO tempted to go to it!

******First of all, you make several excellent points. The books, while grounded in traditional Christian values do indeed have a dualistic leaning. I would never say they were "Catholic" books in the way that Tolkien's literature is Catholic. Yet, they have a great value in the same way that non-Christian classics such as Homer or Virgil's works have. In other words, one doesn't have to agree with everything in order to enjoy a basic story of good conquering evil. There is no doubt in Cooper's mind that the Light is better than the Dark, and even the Wild Magic which, in the stories is above them both, seems to favor the Light. I put these stories on the same level as Star Wars. I love the Star Wars tales even though those are dualistic as well. I don't agree with the implied theology, but I do agree that Luke Skywalker and Obi-wan Kenobi are far better than Darth Vader and the Emperor. No problem in figuring which side to be on. As theology, Cooper's works leave much to be desired. As fictional myth with good values and a clear leaning towards truth and goodness, Cooper's works are far better than the relativism which passes for literature these days. I still like the advice Pope Gregory the Great gave the missionaries to England; namely, to baptize what is good in the pagan religions, Christianize them, and banish what is false, but don't condemn the entire system. So, enjoy the novels for what they are--works of fiction with values and truth mixed in. We could do worse in these days.

Msgr. Eric R. Barr

Thanks for your comments Msgr., though I have to say that I am not convinced...

I understand the attempt to compare the series to Star Wars, and yes, there are striking similiarities, and yes, there is value in Star Wars and the "absoluteness" of the battle between good and evil. (As a side note, this makes me recall Lewis' opening remarks about the separation between Heaven and Hell in "The Great Divorce" - good stuff!)

However, my point regarding the "apples and oranges" comparison to the books and "Lord of the Rings" holds true for any comparison of the books with Star Wars as well.

In Star Wars, the movies themsselves have no reference whatsoever to any kind of Christian religion - it is a non-issue. As such, the movies may have a tendency to be "New Agey" to some extent, but there is no direct conflict with Christianity. Therefore, the difference still remains that with the "Dark is Rising" series, there is an actual, blatant attempt to disparage Christian belief and practices. If only Cooper would have left that angle out entirely, I would have much less of a problem with the series. But as it is, there is a worrisome hermenutic there that cannot, and should not, be denied or overlooked.

And, while it's not exactly proof, I do think it troublesome that I, as a teenager unconcerned (so I thought) with Christianity and Catholic faith picked up on this gnostic philosophy and was influenced by it. In my case, by the grace of God, no real harm came from it, and I suppose it even indirectly contributed to my eventual return to the Faith. But... what of others?

I'm just not sure Fr., I know the pull that the books, and books like them, have on me. I know how grateful I am to have the "Lord of the Rings" books to whet my appetite whenever I get tempted to start reading other, less innocent, things.

I would question any "endorsment" of these books by you, and ergo, the Church (on some level, as any endorsment by a cleric in good standing automatically has some weight of "Church authority" to the general population).

In any case, there's no way to judge the movie yet - if that aspect of the book is minimized or left out, it may well be a fine movie ala Star Wars. We'll see! (or at least, you'll see... :)

God bless!

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