Philip Pullman

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Several His Dark Materials fans have sent letters to Philip Pullman over the years and received replies - many of which are quite illuminating and reveal interesting things about the trilogy and the way the author works. We've collected them all here together for you; there are some typed up as transcripts, and a few scanned images of the actual handwritten or typed letters. If you have sent a letter to Pullman and received a reply, please do send it in.

Scanned Letters
Joseph's Letter
Jospeh sent a letter to Pullman and got a response, with lots of (for the time) new information (such as what he's working on, the radio adaptation, the stage adaptation, and a new website for Pullman). View the response here.

DarkMatterSociety Letter

The darkmattersociety e-mail group also sent a letter to Pullman awhile back, for which they compiled a lengthy list of questions they had and then sent them via snail mail to Pullman. He sent them the standard reply, but in addition on the back he scribbled the answers to their questions.

Here's the letter they sent:

Dear Philip Pullman,

We are members of an E-mail group called The Dark Matter Society (darkmattersociety@yahoogroups.com) which is dedicated to discussing fantasy- especialy the His Dark Materials Trilogy. Being huge fans of the series, we have compiled some questions and would appreciate it very much if you would take the time to answer the ones you can.

  • Did any of the descriptions of the hell in Dante's Inferno influence your Land of the Dead in The Amber Spy Glass?

  • Would you like to see a movie made based on His Dark Materials, and if so, how much control would you want over its production?

  • How planned out was His Dark Materials?
  • Did you know exactly what was going to happen next, or did you just keep a general idea of where you wanted to end up in mind?
  • There has been a lot of talk about The Book of Dust... Just what will this include, and when can we expect to see it on bookstore shelves?

  • The last few chapters of The Amber Spyglass were some of the most touching that i have ever encountered in a book. How do you capture so well the emotions of your characters, and play so easily on the hearts of your readers?

  • Are there any plans for a His Dark Materials Role Playing System?
  • That would be great.
  • Where did the idea for the daemons come from, why did you use daemons in HDM?
  • Would you like to have a daemon?
  • What do you think about the inevitable comparisons with Harry Potter?

  • Was Lyra modeled on anyone you know?

  • The Gyptians- obviously similar to Gypsies- but the Gyptians are different to gypsies... what was the thinking behind using the term "gyptians"?

  • Thank you for your time! Sincerely,

    The Dark Matter Society

    Here's the letter they got back: Front | Back

    Phit's Letter
    Phit has sent us a transcript of a letter she sent to Pullman some years back - it's still quite illuminating though, and here's his reply:

    I'm glad you enjoyed His Dark Materials, and I hope I can answer your questions.

    Here goes:

    The part with the monkey in the trees, is this a sort of symbolic way to show the fear Lyra had of learning the alethiometer? I remember reading later on that Lyra described her knowledge of the alethiometer like "a monkey swinging through the trees" and at that time Lyra was learning the alethiometer and initially was afraid of it.
    The monkey in the trees - this is a mystery to me. One explanation for it might be that Mrs. Coulter herself has the powers of a witch. It's never referred to anywhere else, though. There are many things about my characters that I don't know.

    Was Mary Malone the character Xaphania was referring to when she spoke of imagination?
    Mary Malone and imagination: she was in a special position in many ways. She was the only person, apart from Will, who had travelled from his world to others and come back; she had learned to see her dæmon; she had experience of all kinds of things: of religion, of science, of love, and of just growing up. She just has more in common with Will than anyone else. They are going to be the closest of friends - a rare friendship this, between a man and a woman, not touched at any moment by romantic or sexual feeling. Perhaps it's more like a sibling relationship.

    What is your favorite quote?
    What is my favorite quotation? That's impossible, but this would be among them: "Eternity is in love with the productions of time" - William Blake.

    If angels describe themselves as Dust, and Dust controls the alehiometer, then could Balthamos and Baruch control the alethiometer? And couldn't angels with different intentions control it in different ways - thus making it's ability to tell the truth completely dependant upon the question?
    Dust and the alethiometer: this is still a mystery to me. I shall examine it more closely in The Book of Dust, which I'm going to start writing early next year.

    In Lyra's world, they're controled by organized religion, and her world seems to be falling apart. The Cittagazze world was controlled by science and it was falling apart. Our world has both in control yet it's still falling apart. Then the Mulefa world didn't seem to have either and it was the most perfect of all the worlds. I know you didn't like organized religion, but is this also condemning dependance upon science?
    Mulefa and dæmons: I think the answer is that they are so fully integrated with themselves, so completely at home in their own world, that there was no question of a 'split'-seeming personality. The mulefa have a very rich and complex history and mythology, but there was no room for it in The Amber Spyglass. I just wanted to imagine a species that was both conscious and integrated with nature. Consciousness is a great blessing, but it doesn't come free: we humans can only have it at the cost of feeling seperate and even alienated from the world we live in. This is one of the origins of religious feeling, actually.

    There. I'm sorry you had to wait over a year for a response. I hope you enjoy Lyra's Oxford when it comes out soon. It will be a kind of stepping-stone between His Dark Materials and The Book of Dust.

    With best wishes,
    Philip Pullman (signed)

    Orson's Letter

    Orson, one of our fanartists, sent a letter to Pullman and was kind enough to scan in the letter and Pullman's response and send them to us to put up on the site. Here's the original letter:

    Dear Mr. Pullman, I think you got some 'dumb' letters like this from the readers, but I hope I don't disturb you. I like the trilogy called 'His Dark Materials'. Well, I'm not a child (but I'm don't feel myself as an adult with my 18 years), and I was a child when I read first your book. But I'm still wondering this book and its fantastic world. Unfortunately, in Hungary where I live was only the 1st book published. The next two books will be in the shops this year, I hope. Some interviews and answers I read on the internet, but some questions are 'opened' for me. So I'd like to ask you about it:

    At first, why are two different titles of the first book? (I've read it as Northern Lights) How did you invented anbaric energy and naphta lights? Why are daemons like animals? Where did the idea of Bolvangar come from? Somewhere I read this place is like a concentration camp. And my last question is: do you really believe in parallel worlds?

    Thank you your reply in advance,

    Yours sincerely,

    Orson from Hungary

    You can read Pullman's response here

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