A SEQUEL and a prequel are different but not altogether. A sequel follows a story; a prequel precedes. Both continue a story.
The husband and I went to search for the third volume of Joanne Kathleen Rowling’s Hogwarts series. A goddaughter had all seven volumes but the third one. How could the child have skipped reading the third, finished the series, and endured waiting for the third?
Ever practical, the husband suggested she borrowed a copy.
The more popular movies may dictate how books are read now. I read “The Lord of the Ring” trilogy, which John Ronald Reuel Tolkien wrote in 1954, before I discovered “The Hobbit,” written in 1937.
Yet, the struggle of good versus evil in Middle Earth continues long before Frodo picks up the ring “left” by his uncle, Bilbo. in “The Hobbit,” a young Bilbo finds The One Ring in the cave (or the ring finds him).
Supplying the “back story” of a major character, a prequel milks a top-grossing movie for its worth. In reading, is there a proper order?
I went down this rabbit hole again while debating whether to get Volume One of “The Book of Dust” for a young goddaughter. “La Belle Sauvage” (2017) returns Philip Pullman to the world of Lyra Belacqua in His Dark Materials trilogy (1996-2001).
The first of the series, “The Golden Compass,” was made into a movie, which, despite featuring Nicole Kidman, Eva Green, and Daniel Craig, is inferior to the book.
In “La Belle Sauvage,” Lyra is an infant sought by the mother who initially abandoned her, the father who cannot keep her, the despotic Magisterium, a shadowy organization calling itself Oakley Street, and a relentless predator.
The object of all this unwanted attention does nothing but wet her nappies. “La Belle Sauvage” belongs to an 11-year-old innkeeper’s son, Malcolm Polstead.
Pullman has a gift for recreating the rich, complex life of young people. In the fantasy world of Oxford, where scholars co-exist with witches and gyptians, and humans are twinned with animal daemons, the real enchantment is found in Malcolm’s ordinary life.
When Hannah invites Malcolm to choose “one novel” and “something else” from her bookshelves, the professor remembered an old lady in her village who initiated her to the “delight of choosing for herself, of being allowed to range anywhere on the shelves.”
While the race to control Dust—representing knowledge and the deathless debate if fetters can be imposed on knowledge—connects the planned trilogy of “The Book of Dust,” Malcolm’s choices settle the question for me: “He chose his books and tucked them away tightly in his knapsack to keep them dry… and he went out into the damp, dark evening.”
*First published in SunStar Cebu’s January 14, 2018 issue of the Sunday editorial-page column, “Matamata"