Britain has been a fertile ground for fantasy since the genre’s inception in the Victorian era. The literary series At the crossroads of worlds was born at the same time as Harry Potter, in the mid-1990s. If the saga invented by Philip Pullman did not have the same generational impact (nor the immense success in derivative products) as that of the wizard with glasses, it has bewitched several generations of readers. Translated into 40 languages, it has sold over twenty million copies worldwide, including 2.5 million in France.
This success is linked, of course, to the quality of the writing of the works, to their romantic breath, but also to the unique universe that Pullman, a formidable storyteller, has been able to enrich over the volumes (1). Bears in armor, icy kingdoms flown over in aircraft, parallel worlds that one crosses through rifts …
Pullman’s inventions contain what it takes of mystery and wonder to capture the imagination. His stroke of genius remains the “Daemons”, these animals endowed with words which embody the soul of the characters and accompany them during the adventures.
Different reading levels
Raised by a pastoral grandfather, the former professor at Oxford drew his inspiration from the Bible, British folklore and poetry (William Blake, John Milton), as well as scientific research around elementary particles and dark matter, at the origin of this famous “Dust” gifted with conscience at the heart of Lyra’s quest, the courageous and sensitive heroine. A subject that opens up on deep metaphysical questions.
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Thanks to its different reading levels, the fresco built by Pullman is aimed at all generations (from 10 years old). An ode to curiosity and generosity, she mixes up countless themes: the ravages of religious fanaticism and despotism, but also mourning, abandonment, the coming of age …
For children put off by the thickness of the novels, the comic book adaptation, performed with talent by Stéphane Melchior with Clément Oubrerie then Thomas Gilbert, is a good introduction, as is the series produced by the BBC and broadcast in France by OCS, His Dark Materials. Facing the touching Dafne Keen as Lyra, Ruth Wilson terrifies into chilling Madame Coulter.