Teaching Students About the Fantasy Book “His Dark Materials”


“His Dark Materials” is a critically acclaimed and thought-provoking fantasy book trilogy by Philip Pullman. Consisting of “Northern Lights” (also known as “The Golden Compass”), “The Subtle Knife,” and “The Amber Spyglass,” the series tackles complex themes that can engage and challenge young readers. This article will explore the most effective ways to teach students about “His Dark Materials” in an educational setting, touching on various key themes, literary analysis, and strategies for sparking classroom discussion.

1. Introducing the Trilogy:

Begin by introducing students to author Philip Pullman and his background. Next, provide a brief overview of the core plot of each book in the trilogy without revealing any major spoilers. Engage students further by sharing positive reviews, awards received, and adaptations produced from the series.

2. Thematic Analysis:

“His Dark Materials” delves into philosophical questions regarding religion, freedom, morality, consciousness, and growing up in an ever-changing world. Encourage students to identify and analyze these themes by highlighting instances in which they appear in the text. Facilitate debates or open-ended discussions to help students further their understanding of these complex topics.

3. Character Discussion:

Encourage students to dissect the trilogy’s key characters: Lyra Belacqua, Will Parry, Lord Asriel, Mrs. Coulter, Iorek Byrnison, among others. By analyzing each character’s motives, relationships, growth over time, and significance within the story’s universe, students can better comprehend how these intricate individuals contribute to the overarching narrative.

4. World-Building and Symbolism:

Pullman’s rich world-building and use of symbolism are essential aspects of his storytelling prowess. Have students examine and discuss elements such as Daemons – representations of one’s inner nature – in addition to other fantastical creatures and dimensions. Also, engage students with the series’ intricate religious themes, which reflect a myriad of cultural and moral issues.

5. Literary Techniques:

Exploring Pullman’s use of literary devices such as imagery, foreshadowing, and allegory can provide significant insights into his writing style. Encourage students to examine specific passages to identify the rhetorical techniques used by Pullman to immerse readers in his universe.

6. Multimedia Adaptations:

Expose students to various media adaptations of “His Dark Materials,” like movies, graphic novels, and radio plays. Compare and contrast these adaptations with the original text, stimulating discussions about creative liberties and successful or unsuccessful translations to other mediums.


Teaching students about “His Dark Materials” can be a gratifying way for educators to delve deep into literature while imparting valuable lessons about ethics, personal growth, and critical thinking. By using these strategies, you can inspire your class to engage with this acclaimed trilogy and promote intellectual curiosity in their reading endeavors.

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