Editing Out the Paganism?

Jason Pitzl-Waters —  June 28, 2007 — 1 Comment

Has Walden Media edited out all the paganism from the film adaptation (currently in post-production) of Susan Cooper’s classic young-adult novel “The Dark is Rising”? Fears about alterations have been brought up since the film was first announced, mostly due to the fact that Walden Media has a “family friendly” mandate from its conservative Christian billionaire owner Philip Anschutz, and that director David L. Cunningham is a conservative evangelical Christian.


Christopher Eccleston as “The Rider”

Two recent interviews with Cunningham and screenwriter John Hodge (who also adapted “Trainspotting”) seem to validate some of the fears of those worried that the film will be sanitized for Christian audiences. Hodge, when asked about the pagan and pre-Christian elements of the film, said this to JoBlo.com.

“I think some of that sort of, the pre-Christian element or the Arthurian stuff isn’t really in the script.”

Also worrying is Cunningham’s comments on Susan Cooper’s reaction to the film.

“I think that she’s – I don’t want to speak on her behalf, but I think it’s mixed feelings. She’s thrilled that it’s being introduced to a new audience, but of course she would love it to be truer to the book and in many ways we would, but at the same time we needed to translate it.”


Herne the Hunter and Will Stanton
Illustration by Alan E. Cober from the 1973 edition of the book.

One can only imagine what a Christianized version of “The Dark is Rising” would look like. Will the amazing sequence with Herne the Hunter be removed? Will all non-Christian passages from the book be sanitized or removed entirely? I would hardly think that Cunningham and Walden would allow dialog from the book like this:

“Very old, them crosses are, rector,” said Old George unexpectedly, firm and clear. “Made a long time before Christianity. Long before Christ.” The rector beamed at him. “But not before God,” he said simply … “There’s not really any before and after, is there?” he said. “Everything that matters is outside Time. And comes from there and can go there.” Mr Beaumont turned to him in surprise. “You mean infinity, of course, my boy.” “Not altogether,” said the Old One that was Will. “I mean the part of all of us, and of all the things we think and believe, that has nothing to do with yesterday or tomorrow because it belongs at a different kind of level. Yesterday is still there, on that level. Tomorrow is there too. You can visit either of them. And all Gods are there, and all the things they have ever stood for. And,” he added sadly, “the opposite, too.”

I only hope I’m wrong, and that the greater spirit of the book shines through despite the meddling of men who would “translate” a classic to make it appeal to their “family friendly” demographic. “The Dark is Rising” is set to open in October.

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Jason Pitzl-Waters

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  • Paloma

    I found it interesting Jason that you used the term “sanitize” twice to describe what will be done to the story. Did you mean to play on the Christian point of view? Because otherwise I think that a Pagan referring to it this way is kind of describing the world in Christian terms, you know? Like, acknowledging that there might be something “dirty” needing “sanitization.” Perhaps I’m sensitive to it coming from a Feminist background that is sensitive to language usage, etc, but I think that without appearing petty, we can refer to this as what it is- damaging and removing authentic/essential elements?