Pullman (spoilers for all 3 books)

Kyla Tornheim kyla at sccs.swarthmore.edu
Sat Mar 16 21:34:52 EST 2002

So I've been rereading the posts from my other mailing list about the
His Dark Materials trilogy to remember stuff. And here are some points
which I completely hadn't thought of while I was reading, but thought
nifty/agreed with when I read them.

1) the taboo on touching other people's daemons: couldn't you fight
someone by doing something to their daemon, with*out* touching it? poke it
with a stick, shoot it, toss a sack over it...sure, maybe it's the "oh, I
wouldn't like someone to do that to *my* daemon" feeling, but some of the
characters are so nasty that I don't think they'd be stopped by concerns
of that sort.

2) so a daemon fixes its shape when its person hits puberty, at about 12
or 13. And the daemon's shape is *always* quite indicative of the person's
profession, character, etc. Did all the soldiers know they were going to
be soldiers? And how many people feel that they are currently the same
person they were when they were 12? I really hope I've changed. I was a
pretty unhappy 12-year-old.

3) pronunciations, in case anyone was wondering. Philip Pullman himself
read at least the first book for the audio tape, so. Lyra is pronounced
lye-rah (lye rhyming with "eye"); the bear's name was thought to be
spelled Yorick Bearnesson (and I can't now remember how it's spelled
actually. Oops.).

4) the name Asrael: Apparently Azrael is the angel of death in Hebrew and
Islamic angelology. According to a Dictionary of Angels a friend referred
to, he is "forever writing in a large book and forever erasing what he
writes; what he writes is the birth of a man, what he erases is the name
of the man at death." Also, his roleis to "separate body from soul... by
holding an apple from the Tree of Life to the nostril of the dying

5) in _The Golden Compass_, there's a bunch of moral ambiguity. By the
second and third books, it's pretty clear whose side we're supposed to be

6) the very end. This is the point that I most agreed with, probably
because it kind of pissed me off. To paraphrase my friend Amy: so they've
just fought this huge battle against the Authority, and human independence
is better than just doing what an angel says, just 'cause. And so they all
just believe/obey this angel who shows up. And Lyra and Will have to be
separated because all the windows have to be shut, but if both of them go
encourage their worlds, enough Dust will be produced to keep that one very
important window open. But that's it.

Aren't there lots of worlds? And if you had just two more people on two
more worlds, wouldn't that make enough extra dust that another window
could be opened? So people are supposed to exercise their free will and be
all independent and Dust-producing...but Lyra and Will will just settle
down separately and do what the nice angel says and no one will even
explore inter-world travel. Huh.

7) and lastly, I suppose: Mary as serpent. Argh. Dust != sin, because
that's what the Church says, and it is clearly ("clearly") Evil and
Bad. But children do not have Dust. Lyra and Will having sex or just
behaving in a sexual manner stops the dust from leaving. The strength of
their love. Aren't they 12 and 14? 

There's about eight different points in #7. I guess it's that the original
Eve story annoys me, so the new one does too. I don't see Mary as being so
tempting; I don't really think a 12-year-old should be having sex; I don't
understand children's vs. adults' (lack of) dust. Why is it such a
revelation to the world when Lyra and Will go through this change? Why
does it have to be them? Really, what does Dust care? And is it so
completely tragic that they're separated? The boy I liked when I was 12
was a total jerk by high school. The guy I dated two years ago apparently
isn't even my friend now. If we'd been tragically separated after a month,
it would've seemed really bad. Shrug.

Ooh, that was long. Sorry 'bout that.

Where large sums of money are concerned, it is advisable 
to trust nobody.
       --Agatha Christie

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