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Headscratchers: His Dark Materials
Speaking English?
The English language has an extremely complicated history, so tell me, just how is it that Will and Lyra speak the the exact same language, in the audio books they even have similar accents. The only notable difference is that whole "amberic" vs "electric" business. This makes no sense what so ever. To be fair, there are a few more terms that are different, but it's still stupid.
  • Actually it makes sense. They're not from different countries within the same universe, they're from two versions of the same country. If we take into account the multiverse theory, then just about anything makes sense. If there is an infinity of parrallel universes, then it makes perfect sense.
    • But I think you've missed the point: yes, they come from the same country, but versions of the country with very different different histories. The English language has evolved over hundreds of years. There's nothing inevitable about the shape it's taken at present. Depending on when Lyra and will's Verses split from each other, their Englands have had perhaps thousands of years to diverge, and yet they end up speaking the same version of English as each other (with some very minor dialect and vocabulary difference). Chalk it up to Acceptable Break from Reality by all means, because, after all, in an infinite multiverse, all things are possible. But it seems odd that in all their travels through different versions of Earth, Lyra and Will never seem to encounter a human language that isn't recognisably a real-world language - and a good number of the people speak the Queens English no matter what part of the world they have appeared in.
      • I believe the chap above you's point was that if there are an infinite number of parallel universes, then Lyra's world & Will's world will both exist as they appear. There'll also be different versions of their worlds with only minor variations to the language and, indeed, a version of their world that speaks Klingon. The key word is 'infinite'.
  • A better question is why the people in Cittagazze speak english, since they should be speaking Italian! The only (semi-)plausible argument is that, over centuries of being connected to England via portals, and given the general societal instability in the region, English was adopted as the spoken language.
  • It's a mix of In Spite of a Nail and Aliens Speaking English. These tropes rarely need to be justified, as they are Acceptable Breaks from Reality for any story involving an Alternate Universe.
    • I don't think that's the case here, because communicating across language barriers is a bit of a recurring motif throughout the series. We see of many examples of characters from Lyra's world—especially those who live or work in the North—who demonstrate a command of multiple languages, and failing that, there's more than one instance of daemons facilitating communication...somehow. Lyra learning to read the alethiometer is exactly like learning a new language, and Mary learning to communicate with 'shadows,' and learning the language of the Mulefa are both major plot points in the series. Pullman always gives some kind of justification for to people who shouldn't speak the same language being able to understand each other, so the absence of such in Cittagazze is conspicuous enough to make me think there's some meaning behind it—thought I have no idea what that meaning is. It would have been easy enough to handwave away: just throw in a mention of Will noticing a tattered Union or Commonwealth Flag in the city, and let the readers draw their own conclusions from it.

Same Sex Daemons
Lyra once mentioned a man who had a male daemon, does the book ever explain why this might happen? I interpreted it as a homosexuality thing but I was wondering if there were any explanations/ideas?
  • It was an example of Throw It In, a fan suggested the homosexuality theory on a web Q&A, and Pullman liked the idea.
  • But what about bisexuals or asexuals? It makes more sense for same sex daemons to be for transsexuals and/or hermaphrodites.
    • It is stated that same-sex daemons are rare. Homosexuality in the general population is around 1:10—doesn't really count as 'rare.'
    • Actually, it's about 1:100. The same study that showed 1:10 also showed that bestiality was 1:3. Many better-done studies have produced more realistic figures.
    • Perhaps it isn't a prerequisite for homosexuality then, just an indication?
  • Pullman also suggested that it could be a second sight thing.
  • Pullman himself doesn't know what the hell it means, so any interpretation of the same-sex daemon phenomenon is potentially valid.

God is evil
What really bugged me about this wasn't the concept so much as the execution. Technically God wasn't evil because he was to busy being old and trapped in a bottle by his right hand man, Metatron, who was the actual source of the evil. Doesn't that just mean that Metatron is actually an analogy to Satan since Lucifer was the right hand of God and betrayed him for power? I mean God wasn't even killed, he was freed by the protagonists.
  • He was evil enough in his prime. Once he got too old he passed the evil mantle to a worthy evil successor.
  • But he wasn't God, just the first Angel.
    • Who convinced everyone that came afterwards that he was the supreme creator of the universe so that he could live, essentially, as a dictator. That's fairly evil.
  • Anyhow, Asriel is the Lucifer-analogy. Read Paradise Lost.
    • Negative. Lucifer is the female angel leading the rebellion who goes unnamed. Asriel is just on her side. Whatever the lines drawn, the HDM universe does not and does not pretend to align with Abrahamic cosmology; there's no (visible) creator deity in HDM, which the Abrahamics basically mandate. The word "Jesus" is only used once or twice in the entire series, I think only in the first book, and they rarely (never?) call any entity "God," just "the Authority." HDM is a criticism of authoritarianism, which, in our world, has its longest, most hideous and least rational history in religion. The alternate history of the Consistorial Courts effectively absolves any real-world religious groups of direct criticism; anyone who thinks their religion is being criticized should probably wonder why they see their religion in the face of an authoritarian institution that hates sex and knowledge that ultimately worships the liar at the center of the universe. If that doesn't make those people who feel criticized uncomfortable, it should.

What's the go with Marisa Coulter?
She sometimes smells like metal, the force of her will nearly fainted the reporter's daemon in the first book, and she can basically bewitch people, up to and including Asriel and Will. And yet, this was never handwaved away and never explained, even to the satisfaction of characters in the world. What was she doing?
  • I honestly just thought she was supposed to be a witch (and that might have been part of the reason all the witches liked Lyra so much)... :S
  • I guessed that, too, before the book explained more about witches.
  • That may just be her force of personality. Or the force of personality Pullman originally intended her to display, at any rate. (Then again, given what she goes through in the series, a certain variability of conviction is not unreasonable.)
  • She may have witch blood in her. It was mentioned that her daemon was in Lyra's room when he shouldn't have been able to go that far normally. She also understood their invisibility abilities.
  • Something bugs me about the transition between the 2nd and 3rd books. Firstly, it's blatantly stated that the portals created by the Knife don't abolish distance. This means that Cittagazze is, geographically, where England is, yeah? Secondly, the scene where Will meets his fatherdoesn't take all that long: a short walk up a hill, a conversation, walking back down. Must've taken an hour tops, depending on how slow Will is. So at the beginning of the hour, everyone's alive. At the end of the hour, the witch sentries are dead and Lyra's been kidnapped. Thirdly, at the beginning of The Amber Spyglass, it's shown that Mrs. Coulter has been at the Himalayan village for a while. I mean, she already has all the people's respect, and that little Asian girl visiting her has become a daily, routine thing.
With all of this in mind: how is it that Mrs. Coulter gets from England to the Himalayas in an hour with no technology, and how does she gain the respect of those villagers so quickly? Where did all that lost time go? Because even if we accept that the portals have shifted due to the events of the first book (as stated by Sir Charles), this does not change the fact that Will takes several days to get from somewhere in Russia to the Himalayas, whereas Mrs. Coulter still does it instantly. Also, you can't say that the first chapter of The Amber Spyglass, which establishes where Mrs. Coulter is, takes place in the future, shortly before Will arrives, implying that Mrs. Coulter took just as much time as Will to travel. This being because Baruch, very early on, scouts ahead and finds her there already. That's the whole point of Will traveling in the first place.
  • To clarify above statement, it is explicitly stated that the worlds are not perfectly aligned any more, and have been drifting apart since the Knife was created 300 years ago. Hence the worlds are overlapped as follows: Will's world's oxford is Cittagazze's northern Italy (or possibly coastal Croatia, once colonised by italy); and in Lyra's world, the arctic around Svalbard and Siberia.
    • Cittagazze has a south facing beach. This can be worked out from book two with a bit of homework and an Ato Z of Oxford. The Cottesloe Roundabout (Banbury Road/Sunderland Avenue) sits over the beach. The tower sits over Wolvercote Cemetery. From the top of the tower, Will is able to look south over the hornbeam trees to the dreaming spires.
    • The beginning of Amber Spyglass, to me, took place about a week or so after the kidnapping so that Will's travels had to slowly catch up to her. There was no reason she, or rather Lord Boreal, didn't haveair transportation nearby in their world.
  • Not to mention how she gets the Specters to not attack her and do what she wants by (as we're informed) force of personality, and convincing them they'll get more people to eat if they follow her. When they've never been revealed to even be capable of reason or communication.
    • Or how she manages to convince the Specters that they can fly.
  • I've always thought Coulter and Asriel's semi-supernatural powers were almost a "magical realism" element—that is, something that happens because it happens, even though it doesn't fit the normal laws of the world, but somehow doesn't seem at odds with the general tone of the piece. They're almost lampshades to the fictional, metaphorical nature of the conflict: people with ironclad agendas can enforce them on people. They don't need to enact specific rites or be of a certain blood; being an immensely powerful -character- is enough. The world runs on characters, and so strong characters run the world.

While I'm at it, the same applies to Asriel.
How did he band together his enormous army, and build the fortress? And his mysterious ability to make things go his way (a la Roger in Northern Lights) was explained about as well as Marisa's powers. Assuming that he's a reg'lar old human (the witch's fanciful exposition in Subtle Knife notwithstanding), what's going on? (Just as an addendum, I'll admit that I realise this might fall into WMG).
  • I think in these books intense will-power is just that powerful, to the point of being a borderline magical property, It reminds me a little of Solness in the Master Builder, who believes the things he wills always happen. Asriel and Coulter are like that, only even more so. As for the hot metal - well, blood smells like metal. Possibly "smelling like metal" was just as close as Lyra could get to describe a general feeling of wrongness.
    • Mmmph... Okay, I'll buy that. But it could've at least got a Hand Wave to explain it. (I guess hence the "It Just Bugs Me" entry). Sigh.
      • There is a handwave. Chapter 22 of The Golden Compass: "And Lord Asriel has a way special to himself of bringing about what he wants, he just has to call for something". His superpower is accruing things; by the third book, he's accruing a gigantic multidimensional army.
  • Wasn't it mentioned somewhere that Dust was on his side? The consciousness of the universe can presumably arrange for certain things.

How does the knife kill Specters?
Aren't they basically openings into nothing? It seems like it would make more sense for Will to be able to use his hands to "close" or "seal" them, just like he does with openings between worlds. Or are they actually organic creatures with anatomy?
  • I got the impression they were spirits from the nothing.
  • They were pieces of "nothing" that extended from the Abyss into the worlds, not spirits in any sense that we understand - there is nothing in the Abyss to form spirits from. However, in contact with the worlds of existence, they gained some level of materiality and intelligence of their own. Presumably the knife cuts this part of them out, returning them into complete nothingness.
  • The knife can cut anything even remotely physical, including the Spectres.
    • Does that make the knife a handheld version of [[Tsukihime the Mystic Eyes of Death Perception]]?

How is there air in the Abyss?
  • Magic.
  • There isn't. But there is air in the Underworld and the Abyss isn't simple vacuum, so it doesn't suck it out, like the void of space would.
  • Alternative: The Abyss isn't a vacuum. Go check out Riven and the Star Fissure therein.

Since Lord Asriel has access to all the worlds there are, or at least a whole lot of them, how come the force he sends to recover Lyra when Mrs. Coulter has her in the cave doesn't have laser guns, or at the very least modern assault rifles and missiles?
After all, they won anyway, and the main characters could have escaped as they did regardless, so there isn't much plot reason to keep the battle close. And Pullman has already demonstrated his love for blowing up zeppelins (five are destroyed on "camera," with two more in this engagement and who knows how many in the final battle).
  • His troops come from worlds oppressed by the Authority. Their technological levels have been stunted or led into different directions than our own by the suppression of innovation by the Authority's servants. Presumably the modern warfare is one of the elements that stripped power from religion to science.
    • But surely he could still send someone to our world or one with similar or better technology and buy a couple hundred assault rifles. Or use that summoning power he has to bring them to him.
  • He already has perfectly good firearms. He doesn't miss what he doesn't know about and I doubt that assault rifles would have made a great difference, especially since Asriel's troops aren't trained in their use.
  • Plus, energy weapons like that might well be _less_ effective against angels and the like, which are at least a significant part of the Authority's force. Wasn't the Metatron's whole motivation jealousy over the fact that physically humans are stronger, ie, weakness to kinetic force, ie, slugthrowers, swords, and a good old boot to the head are the best weapons against them... or maybe I'm just over-rationalizing.
  • They did. Remember the "intention craft"?

In the movies, how are they going to get away with the whole war on Heaven angle, not to mention killing God?
  • By only making two movies? Those Moral Guardians can get downright nasty when Hollywood dares to do something openly subversive against organized religion.
  • By constantly repeating the mantra that the Authority is an evil fake, not the real deal and avoiding the mention that nevertheless all the authoritarian religions originate from him. Hasn't there been evil would-be Gods in movies in the past? And besides, any really belevolent religous authority should be overjoyed by the concept of Republic of Heaven.
  • Damn box office returns. Looks like because it's not Lord of the Rings, the sequels aren't going to be an issue...
    • "Not Lord of the Rings"? Financially, it's barely an Eragon.
    • Of course it's not Lord of the Rings — Tolkien was a Christian. Better than Eragon, though.
  • They killed God? The omnipotent, omniscient God who created the universe(s)? Looks to me like they killed a weak, powerless poser pretending to be God.
    • Well, yes. But, in the books, there's no sign that the universes were created by anything omnipotent or omniscient, and it's made very clear that the weak, powerless poser is the very being that Jews, Christians and Muslims have been worshipping all this time.
      • They really don't kill God, I don't know why that's always said. They're there when he dies. They find him abandoned and helpless in a crystal casket in a miserable state, take the lid off to try and help him, and he disintegrates happily. I suppose he might have hung around longer if they hadn't tried to take him out, but it seemed pretty clear he was pretty much screwed whatever they do.
      • Word of God (sorry) says that The Authority was indeed just a poseur. The actual God is more of an abstract entity who/that manifests in the various worlds as Dust.
    • The simple answer is that they only use words that most people wouldn't relate to it. They say the Magisterium instead of the Church, they say The Authority instead of God. Therefore, the only people who would know what they are actually talking about are fans and religious people. The other 70% of the audience wouldn't know.

Why does Lyra in the movies have brown eyes when both of her parents have blue eyes?
Genetics Do. Not. Work. That. Way! And why did they make Mrs. Coulter blond? The geneticist in me was screaming when I first saw the actors.
  • For Mrs. Coulter's hair, do geneticists not learn about the concept of "hair dye" in school? She does have a certain level of vanity and she's living in a world where bleach can't be that hard to come by.
  • You don't know much about genetics, do you? Brown eyes and hair have dominating genes. If even one of both Asriel's and Coulter's parents had brown eyes, then there's a good chance that so will Lyra. As for blond hair, it's predicted to go extinct because of this; the likelihood that Lyra would inherit that trait from her mother is small.
    • that thing about blondes going extinct is false.
    • If both parents had blue eyes then they would only be able to give a blue allele to Lyra, so she'd have two copies of it. Even if either of her parents had a brown-eyed parent they would have had to be a carrier and given it to their child, so there's no way that Lyra would have been able to have anything but two blue alleles unless there was some sort of weird mutation.
    • To clarify slightly, you can't be a 'carrier' for brown eyes or hair as they're dominant traits. If either Asriel of Coulter had the gene necessary to give Lyra brown eyes then they would have brown eyes by default. Which they don't.
    • It's already been done to death, but the OP was correct: two blue-eyed people—genotype bb—can only produce a blue-eyed child. If one of them had had even a single brown-eyed allele—heterozygous for brown eyes, Bb—they would have had brown eyes themselves. Here's how it is. One genotype for blue—bb. Two for brown—BB and Bb. If both parents have blue eyes, they're both bb, hence no B. No B anywhere, not even if one of them had a brown-eyed parent. What you're thinking of is how people can be carriers for RECESSIVE traits—brown-eyed for generations and then you put two heterozygous dominant people together and boom, blue eyes. But in any case, you can't be a "carrier" for a dominant trait. Contradiction in terms.
    • Certain genes have more than two alleles. A third allele for eye or hair color might manifest itself as brown. This is really, REALLY basic genetics here. I'm simplifying, too, because eye color genetics is actually super complex, there's multiple shades of brown, multiple shades of blue, hell, green is technically a kind of blue, combinations...
      • Yes, but that does not make it any less impossible for two blue eyed parents to have a brown eyed child. Brown, if present, will always "trump" anything else and blue is completely recessive and will be overridden by anything else. Logically, if her parents have blue eyes, it means that they cannot possibly have any other alleles and so Lyra should not be able to have brown eyes. The only possible way for her to have brown eyes is if the blue eyes that her parents have are a result of a gene that blocks eye pigmentation (since the natural color of an eye without pigment is blue, which is why babies are born with blue eyes), so they have the gene for brown eyes, it's just not manifest. That, however, is really rare.
    • Two of my friends have brown eyes while their parents have blue. So it can't be impossible. They'll be some genetic explanation somewhere.
      • Um ... yes, that's got to be it. Anyhoo, regarding Dust...
      • Nope, that's entirely wrong, and the poster one above is correct. I have no understanding of the subject at all, but from what I get...the OP is right in terms of secondary school biology regarding recessive genes - 2 sets of gene A ought to equal a child with gene A, but eye colour's a bit more complicated than that. Blue eyes are not a product of one specific 'blue eye gene' (as I understand) but the strength of the relevant gene and the interaction between pigments in the eye. In this way, if the genes within the blue eyes of either parent contain what makes an eye brown / green/ grey is is perfectly *possible* for the child to have brown / green / grey eyes. See here (sorry I'm not sure how to embed links...). If someone who actually knows what they're talking about can come along and explain this, it'd be nice...
      •, and
  • Fail on the part of the casting department. She's described as having blue eyes in the books.
  • Or, y'know, in-universe... Maybe in Lyra's world, the recessive/dominant set-up is reversed, or the genetics are just different enough that we can't apply what we know without a bit more information.
  • Possibly mutation - while it would be very unlikely, bear in mind we're talking about a series in which a man leads an army against heaven.
  • I heard during a discussion about Harry Potter Muggleborn genetics that it's possible for recessive alleles to revert to a dominant type. It's very rare and doesn't get passed on, but would allow for a brown-eyed person with two blue alleles if I understand it correctly. Not that it matters, since the book is the definitive article.
  • Does it really bug you about the eyes that much? It's hardly a plot point. In regards to the Coulter thing, Pullman himself has said in interviews that he wanted Nicole Kidman to play the part of Mrs Coulter all along and explicitly said "I was wrong, Mrs Coulter should have been blonde."
    • As a scientist, yes, yes it does. It bugs me a hell of a lot.
    • As an English scholar, I'd like to point out that in literature, symbolism takes precedence over scientific accuracy; so it's best not to think too hard about it. You might go mad if you spend too much time on it. Trust me, I know—I was briefly committed for obsessing about who Bart, Lisa, and Maggie's real parents are.
      • Seriously, though three blonde kids— No, no I'm not going down that road again.
      • It doesn't matter though in the long run. Look at the Harry Potter films, there was a story driven reason that Harry had green eyes, but how often did Daniel Radcliffe actually wear green contacts? Pretty much only when the camera really focused on his face or when someone commented that he had his mothers eyes.
  • For all we know, a method exists in Lyra's version of Earth to change a baby's eye color. In which case, Lord Asriel might've had that done to her when she was too young to remember, to better obscure her identity.

Sadly, there are plenty of ways (besides intercision) for children to die before they reach the age of puberty.
If a child dies an untimely death, what picture do they carve on their coffin or coin or whatever since their daemon hasn't settled on a shape yet?
  • I am guessing that they carve the shape the dæmon took the most often, or their favorite shape, or some animal that was in the ballpark of their favorite shape. As dæmons get closer to settling, their range of shapes narrows. Even if they aren't close to settling, their average shape is probably a bird, a mammal, a reptile, etc., even if they do take the shapes of any possible animal under the sun. For instance, if Lyra died at the begining of TGC (God forbid! Work with me here), they would probably carve an animal from the family mustelidae, since he really liked being an ermine—if memory serves, the narrator says it is one of their favorite forms (even though, of course, he didn't actually settle as an ermine). Sure, he was a lot of other things—a mouse, a moth, a dragon—but it was when he was an ermine that he was most like Pan.
  • I'm not sure they would have done the carved coin thing at all - I think that was only practiced by scholars. When she does it for Tony, Lyra says something about hoping it'll be all right "if I provide for you like a Jordan scholar". So it doesn't seem to be expected - no one else thinks of doing it, after all - and she's borrowing the scholar's ritual as the only means of "restoring" Tony's daemon to him. And even then, indeed, she just carves the daemon's name no picture necessary.
  • The thing that made the most sense to me is that they leave it empty. That way the uncarved surface is like child or a daemon that hasn't settled into its shape. It's a blank slate. It could have been anything.

Does Christ Jesus ever make an appearance that I missed?
Why would Pullman conveniently leave out the keystone of Christianity — God's love for humans and Christ's loving sacrifice for them? Some tyrant...
  • Answer to first question is no, but there are various ways of handwaving that away, touched on at Main.God Is Evil. Apparently whoever Christ was in the HDM verse, he wasn't someone who made a big difference in the scheme of things; maybe a human reformer who created a movement that turned out to be convenient for the Authority to highjack.
  • I have speculated (see below) that in the HDM Multiverse (or the part of the Multiverse that the stories focus on), Lord Asriel is the equivalent of Jesus. No, really.
    • I always thought that Asriel was Lucifer, Lyra was Eve, Mary was the serpent (well, we knew the second two) while Mrs. Coulter and Will... I figured that Will was Adam, but I couldn't see if Marisa had a role in the allegorical aspect of it all.
      • Marisa Coulter is just another aspect of the entity recognised as "Satan"; whereas Asriel represents that Knight Templar side that fights against God, Marisa Coulter is the seductive and manipulative side. Whereas Asriel is relatively sympathetic, Marisa is hard to sympathise with until the very last book, which shows what sides of Satan's are genrally viewed as sympathetic and not-so-much in literature.
  • Word of God has it that Jesus did exist in Lyra's world, but for some reason his influence wasn't as strongly felt in the Magisterium as it was in ours, which is why they turned out different. A prospective future book might deal with this.
    • Yeah, it's called The Good Man Jesus and the Scoundrel Christ. It isn't an HDM book, but probably as close as he will get in-universe.
  • Well, considering there is apparently no Heaven at all, for anyone, Jesus is bound to be a cheap move on Authority's part to force more people into obedience (at least in-book).
  • I just figured that it was our world with demons and without the scizm or the reformation which also explains why there is only one flavor of Christianity.
  • HDM is not explicitly a criticism of religion or Christianity. Christianity does not exist in a recognizable form in Lyra's world, and we never hear anything about it in Will's world. Neither does the "true reality" of HDM correspond to anything any Abrahamic tradition would recognize as valid. HDM is a criticism of authoritarianism, specifically in its role of fighting knowledge and demonizing sex. Pullman deliberately downplayed the presence of the Jesus figure (there are maybe two mentions in the entire series, and they're in passing, not philosophical). It's not his fault that when you ask yourself "Hm, what real-world institutions appear most to loathe people knowing anything about anything, to oppose knowledge and hate joy?" that the answer is inevitably whichever religion you're feeling angriest with at the moment. I think he showed admirable restraint in presenting an alternate history low-New Testament version of the Catholic church, since the real one would've worked even better for his purposes. Religion in HDM is only loosely based on religion in reality; if you feel it's criticizing a religion you subscribe to, that should make you seriously uncomfortable about your religion.

Why does Pullman think Catholic traditions like of celibacy apply to all of Christianity?
If Mary had been a Methodist instead of a nun, she could have served the Church and had a sex life, just like the pastors at my Church.
  • Yes but she wasn't a fact she was probably brought up to believe specifically in Catholicism and perhaps dropping it in her head would have meant dropping all of Christianity.
  • The Magisterium isn't the Catholic Church of our time line. It diverged (at the very latest) when John Calvin was elected Pope. They're Calvinist Catholics.
  • Well, it Headscratchers that Pullman never figures out if he's writing alternate history, fantasy, or parallel worlds a la the Myst games.
    • How is it in any way unclear that HDM takes place across several alternate universes? The point is discussed as early as the second chapter of the first book, and frequently thereafter. Lyra's world has had a very similar history to ours, but some major turning points in its history went different ([[Noodle Incident somehow John Calvin became Pope; we can assume Britain never became Protestant under Henry VIII etc). It's an alternate world so it has an alternate history. And HDM is a fantasy series, so concepts like Dust and the witches' magic exist across the universes. There's never any confusion about the context for the alternate earths.
  • Also WHY is it such a great sin to fantazise about China and ejoy the taste of mazipin? Does she live in a world where the ten commandments read "Thou shall not even think about going to China, also marzipan is the devils food" it's been a while since I read the books so my memory maybe wrong, if so someone explain.
    • That doesn't answer the fact that Mary is supposed to be from our world.
    • Mary uses China purely as part of an analogy to explain how, initially, she chose to think about and accept a life without romantic love when she became a nun: i.e, while China is a wonderful place, it's not such a big deal never to go there. The memory of marzipan reminded her that as an adolescent she had already experienced romantic love, and jogged her mind to decide that she did want that again, thus "I DO want to go to China." While if she hadn't become a nun she could have had both religion and sex/romance, she was a nun, and had made a vow to God to give up these things. Asking herself "Is there actually a God holding me to that vow, who will be angry/betrayed if I break it?" led her to think, "...No, the sacrifice harms me and benefits no one, because there is no one there," and hence her loss of faith.
      • Although, according to Catholic theology, even if she did quit being a nun and never went back, she could just pray for forgiveness.
    • I pretty sure that it's an analogue for the fruit of the tree of which God "commanded thou shouldst not eat."note  It's a food offered by a member of the opposite sex that brings forbidden knowledge after it's partaken of.

Since when is falling in love so terrible a sin it brings about "the Second Fall"?
Especially since Pullman's "inspiration," John Milton, included in Paradise Lost the theory that Adam and Eve had a sex life before the Fall. Ultimately, Lyra and Will make the best choice and sacrifice their happiness for the good of humanity. Why not exercise their free will and choose to keep a window open for their own use? Looks like making the best decision is still an important message.
  • Falling in love isn't a sin, and neither does Pullman painting it that way. Are we talking about the end of book three? Because that's not the Second Fall, that's the salvation of the multiverse going on here. Lyra's mother, Mrs. Coulter, has an insane amount of influence over people. She can make Specters do her bidding. Lyra's father, Lord Asriel, can summon up this giant army to defy the Authority out of nowhere. Combine the two and right there's a little girl who has tremendous potential to influence the world. What is poisoning the multiverse? Dust draining from the sky. What makes Dust? When matter wants to know more about itself, Dust is born. When two people fall in love (nevermind their age), that's matter wanting to know more about itself. And Lyra and Will executed their own free will when they decided to give up their short-lived, selfish happiness together so that they could live full lives bettering their worlds, and finding happiness apart. Unless that's not what you're talking about.
  • Their falling in love is an allegory for the loss of innocence in the Genesis story. In Genesis, Adam and Eve gain the knowledge of good and evil (and sexuality, they "realized they were naked" and had to cover up with fig leaves) and lose their childlike state of innocence, and it's portrayed as a huge sin. When Will and Lyra fall in love, they learn that they have a desire for love and sex and lose their previous innocent, childlike friendship and gain a more mature, adult romance, the difference being that in HDM the acquisition of love and knowledge is portrayed as the best thing in the world rather than a horrible sin.
    • The OP's question still stands. The point is that it's portrayed as a terrible sin from the parallel!Christians' point of view and this doesn't even get handwaved as parallel-universe divergence. It was prophesied about Lyra that "she will disobey" and thus become the new Eve... by falling in love. (This would make a little more sense if they actually had sex, but Wordof God says it's up to the reader's interpretation but they probably didn't, as they were "a bit young.") Mary's marzipan story to the contrary notwithstanding, if Christianity forbade people to fall in love, its history would have been ridiculously short.
      • I have come to think the whole diabolization of Lyra and Will falling in love was part of a scheme by the Authority/Metatron. As in, they knew those two kids could seriously mess up "their" authority, especially by "ressurecting" the true God, aka Dust. Hence, all the "horror stories" about Eve and Adam, and the categorization of Lyra and Will's love as a "fall from Grace and Innocence". Even Mary, which is a wholeheartedly good person, is supposed to be "the Serpent", the "temptress"...

Why does Pullman treat free will as the result of the Fall?
There was no free will before the Fall? If Eve didn't choose to eat the fruit of her own free will, then it wasn't a sin, therefore no Fall... or she wouldn't have been able to make the choice to eat the fruit in the first place.
  • He's not treating free will as a result of the Fall, he's treating consciousness as a result of the Fall. "Their eyes wereopened, and they could see good and evil like God could," or some such.

Isn't making the Authority a fraud who lied about creating everything a cheap move on Pullman's part?
He has stated in interviews that he believes if the God of Christianity really exists, humanity should revolt a la His Dark Materials, but how does he suggest revolting against a legitimately all-powerful creator to whom everyone owes their very existence? That's an extreme artistic license to take.
  • From where I'm standing, it seems to me that Pullman probably believes that if the "God" of Judeo-Christian beliefs does exist, they are either a fraud by default (as in the books) or an oppressive being who's done little more than cause misery for humanity since creating it
  • As an aside, for every uptight religeous person decrying the books for "killing God", there is an uptight atheist decrying the books for "pussying out on killing God". In short, you just can't win.
  • I knew it. If Pullman thinks you can kill the real God, why didn't Asriel or Will or whoever do it?
  • It would probably be fairer to interpret the books as killing the concept of God, at least as (Pullman believes) the mainstream of Judeo-Christian tradition has popularized it. In Pullman's universe, creation and sentience are both essentially self-generating Mysteries, and the claim of any single being to be responsible for everything (and thus, logically, to have fair Authority over it) has to be false by definition, as must any attempt to assert temporal authority by claiming the backing of such a Creator.
    • This is also why neither Will nor Asriel (nor we) get the satisfaction of a face-to-face knock-down drag-out showdown with the Authority. As John C. Wright points out on his blog, the fundamental problem is that Pullman's ultimate thesis (that "God" is a self-contradictory false concept which can't withstand the light of reason) requires that the entity embodying that thesis cannot actually be any kind of dramatic antagonist worth the name. If the Authority was something that had to be dramatically killed it would be something with its own reality, its own potential for grandeur, which would undermine Pullman's argument that all Authority is essentially illusory or arbitrary. Thus Pullman wrote himself into a corner where he could have dramatic catharsis or philosophical consistency, but not both.
    • More to the point, if you could kill a Judeo-Christian God, then that which you killed would by definition not be God. The God of the Christian faith is by definition all powerful and everlasting. If one could destroy that "God" then it would have been, by definition, not the Christian God. This either means that the Christian God exists and one cannot destroy Him or that He doesn't exist.
      • Maybe he takes the stance that if the Judeo-Christian God exists, his powers would be limited and all statements about being all powerful would be his boasting. I'm sure I'm not the only atheist who considers that as an reasonable interpretation of the Old Testament.
    • (Where Pullman also falls down is that he sneaks in a form of infallible authority anyway through the back door, in the object of the alethiometer itself — to quote John C. Wright again, not only is the alethiometer driven by Dust like everything else and therefore just as capable of being wrong or corrupt as the Authority, but why did/does no one ever think to check the thing's gearsprings to make sure it's running right? Be a bit annoying to find out your world-saving prophecy was wrong because of grit in the gears.)
  • Actually, the Authority in the books could actually be Satan, as he is mortal, and Dust could be God.

Why does Pullman seem to think that sex is Original Sin? Has he even read any Catholic theology?
  • Sex itself isn't Original Sin, but sexuality is a result of the sinfulness inherent in human beings as a result of original sin. Which makes sense, because it's inborn. And don't even try to tell me sexuality isn't a sin for Catholics—oh, so sex is okay? Yeah, only when it's between a man and a woman, married in a Catholic ceremony, expressly for the purpose of procreation.
  • Uh, you fail Catholicism forever. (Not that you're concerned or anything, I assume.) Sex is a divinely-ordained sacred gift that can be tarnished or damaged if you do it wrong.
    • So in other words: Sex is only ok when "it's between a man and a woman, married in a Catholic ceremony, expressly for the purpose of procreation." What exactly was your point (apart from putting a lighter spin to what the previous troper had said)?
    • The point is that the so-called "lighter spin" is exactly the opposite of what was said above; sex is not sinful, but created by God. Original sin has nothing to do with sex, but rather arrogance and pride, and the lesser sins (including sexual perversion) are merely aspects of that; and, when Pullman treats sex as if it were the original sin, he is mistaken. (Also, I'm not Catholic. I'm just fighting against The War on Straw here.)
      • Well then you must admit, it's rather amusing then that the complete "opposite" now seems to mean "pretty much the same". What the first troper said was that sex is considered sinful if done wrong, what you've said is that sex is thought of as a gift that is only sinful if not done right. I think you'll find that both ideas are pretty much the same.
      • Allow me to spell it out. While the conclusions are indeed similar, the operational premises (that is, the more important part of the argument, which I think your characterization misrepresents) are opposite. What is "wrong" is, in fact, the source of the debate.
      • OK, everyone calm down. I am Catholic, even went to Catholic high school, so it's definitely true that sex is not original sin. Non-marital sex of any kind is considered a sin by Catholics - and not just Catholics, to be fair here - but it's not the first sin. Original sin was Adam and Eve choosing to disobey God. As for the sex... The first sin involved Adam and Eve going from being innocent (i.e. childlike) to having knowledge (i.e. growing up). My guess is that the implied Will/Lyra sex is supposed to symbolize that idea of lost innocence.
  • Sex isn't sinful in itself or connected to original sin in Christian theology, but a great deal of pop Christianity has been obsessed with the temptations of the flesh throughout history. This is less surprising when one considers the Jewish roots of Christian theology, and the fact that the sexual self-restraint inherent in the Jewish code of Leviticus was a literally unprecedented code of moral behaviour in the ancient world — there are compelling arguments to be made that it was the concepts of monogamy, fidelity and celibacy which laid the groundwork for the essential equality of women, who up to that point had been treated almost universally as merely sexual and child-bearing tools because no culture saw any reason to treat them differently. Following the Christianization of post-Roman Europe, when feudal lines of descent controlled land ownership and thus the majority of continental politics, nonregulated sex became equally dominant as a theological danger because bastardry, infidelity and inheritance disruption could (and did) start wars; even among the lower classes, mucking with how dowries and inheritances could be allocated was very frowned upon. It wasn't until the Pill and the Sexual Revolution that the social and material consequences of promiscuity became so diminished that its spiritual consequences became far less obvious to many.
  • Pullman's belief in sexual awareness as part and parcel of "Original Sin" seems to be tied up more with the idea that our sexually-driven decisions are usually among the first major life decisions most people make in direct defiance or disregard of parental/authoritarian instruction, as part of the movement from childlike obedience and dependence to adult self-direction and independence. (How many of us can honestly say our first Significant Other was someone our parents approved of, and how many of us chose our first Significant Other precisely because we knew he/she would be someone our parents disapproved of?) What Christian theology calls sin, i.e. disobedience of God and exaltation of one's own ego in Pride, is for Pullman precisely the virtue he advocates: self-direction, self-decision, self-definition, independence. Sexual activity is merely the area in which it usually becomes most obvious and first visible.

Conclusion to just about all of the above: Pullman has a LOT of anger to take out on religion in general and Christianity specifically.
And almost no working knowlege of how Christianity actually works. Also, it kind of bugs me that not only are all Christians suddenly close minded, Crusades-style bigots — but there don't appear to be any other religions going on, either. Oh well, I still loved the books!
  • Care to provide evidence? So far, ironically, it is these christians in this thread that are bitter and poorly knowledgeable...

  • Utterly nonsense, really. Pullman's flak isn't against religion in general, or even Christianity in particular - he's aiming his criticism at authoritarian forms of religion that seek to possess political power and control the lives of people whatever their own wishes might be. Though it's subtle, there's plenty of praise for non-authoritarian, non-organized religious thinking.
    • Provided they aren't Christian of course.
    • You must have missed all the christian schoolars in Oxfordshire.
  • On the subject of "why are there no other religions", I believe Lyra mentions the Turks in her world. I was under the impression that they would be Muslims, though granted, we are not giving any indication either way. It certainly makes it appear that the entire planet is * not* a Christian theocracy.
    • There are also pagan religions on Lyra's world; in the beginning of the second book, I think it is said Ruta Skadi killed the tigers/whatever worshipped by a tribe.

Answer to just about all of the above: the Authority lied.
He lied about being omnipotent and he lied about Heaven and he lied about nearly everything else. He lied a lot. In His Dark Materials, Phillip Pullman uses this Alternate Character Interpretation of God to suggest that modern Christianity is made up of a pack of lies.
  • Alternate answer: the trilogy takes place in a timeline in which Christianity never even tried to move away from the Old Testament fire-and-brimstone business. (Those of us who grew up in Alabama might snarkily remark that Warm and Fuzzy Jesus is an illusion of the self-satisfied and Old Testament morality still rules, but that's a different story.) It would take a Heroic Sacrifice to set everything right, but in Lyra and Will's worlds, that never happened. Ergo, Lord Asriel is Jesus for his part of the Multiverse. After all, the whole plot of the first book is, from his perspective, "Suffer the little children to come unto Me," and at the end, he dies to save the Multiverse from Sin, in the person of Metatron. That nasty business with Asriel killing Roger is just his version of smiting the poor fig tree.
  • You're not supposed to arbitrarily decide what you're arguing against is false; you're supposed to prove why. Pullman proves why the Authority's religion, but not Christianity, is evil. What's up with that?
  • Well, first, the books are fiction, not a philosophical tract. But Pullman's moral is that not thinking for yourself is evil - you shouldn't believe something just because the Church says so, or the Bible says so, or even just because God says so.
    • But we are, evidently, supposed to believe Pullman just because he says so.
      • Under that logic, everyone would never listen to anyone. Pullman is merely suggesting, and subtly at that.
    • Well, it's his book. He's making the point that Christianity might be false, by writing a book set in a world in which it is false.

In fact, there's a lot of pro-Christian theology in HDM.
In TGC, Lyra seems to be praying to the alethiometer when she asks for information. When she doesn't see how her plan to have Iorek Byrnison defeat Iofur can succeed, she thinks the alethiometer tells her to just trust it and know things will work out — in other words, have faith in its power even without knowing the whole story! What's up with that?
  • Well, it's always possible that none of the divination devices, from the alethiometer to Mary Malone's I Ching, actually work. In the Multiverse, every possible outcome of every chance event occurs. We're just following along with the versions of the characters who receive the "right" answers. In another universe, the alethiometer needle moved in some different way, Lyra's subconscious gave its random motion a different interpretation. . . .
    • The Pullman multiverse does not work that way. If it did, the one and only Authority would be both defeated and not defeated, and Asriel's rebellion would be absolutely meaningless.
    • The needle's motion is not random! It's actually objectively affected by Dust. It's not a subjective thing. The I Ching works on the same principle. I don't remember if tarot cards were mentioned at all, but if they were, they would work the same way as the alethioemter—images whose many levels of significance are assigned meaning in our minds, but, if those meanings are held in our minds properly, are pointed to by the needle. The chance element of tarot would be similar to I Ching. The fact that I Ching works in HDM has kind of bugged me, because that involves probability. How does Dust influence the ouctome of the I Ching session? In any case, I don't think the "Lyra failed" outcome happened in ANY universe—if she even has a doppelgänger, like Simon Parslow—because if it did, it might have cancelled out the version where Lyra succeeds.
      • So, could Dust be sentient? Or controlled by a sentient being?
      • Evidently.
      • Yes, Dust is sentient, that's the whole point.
      • And this sentient "Dust" has the answers to the great questions of life, the universe, and everything (through the alethiometer) and makes everything happen and tells you to have faith even if you don't understand the answers (through the alethiometer). Interesting...
      • As stated above, Pullman pretty much stated what you're probably suspecting in an interview.
      • In which case, we have something sentient and omniscient you're supposed to trust and have faith in, gives humans consciousness and the capacity to love and for free will, and is responsible for causing everything that happens... And apparently, I'm not the first to notice this sounds familiar. This would mean Pullman's beef isn't with faith but with hypocrisy, in contrast to what he claims, about the need to kill the real God and blaming hypocrites' actions on the whole Church. And nobody in the books suddenly says "Dust is the real Authority!" Can't Pullman make up his mind?
      • I think the point is that dust is consciousness. So it's sort of like being able to see what is right in front of you and evident. Think of all the dust as one giant phone line for example. The dust in one universe communicates with the dust in all the other universes and therefore Lyra is able to receive the answers she seeks because of this connection. ie we are a part of Dust and Dust is a part of us. We can communicate with it by reaching a state of mind, the way Lyra does when reading the alethiometer, Will when he's using the knife, Mary when she sees her daemon etc. This doesn't explain why she loses the ability to read it when she becomes conscious of SELF... but that's another story.
      • All of this is the reason that only Lyra, as a child, can use the Alethiometer instinctively. The answers to Life, The Universe, And Everything only come easily from an external authority for a child, adults have to think a lot harder about it because that kind of external authority leaves their life when they leave their parents, make their own decisions, and then live with the consequences of them.
  • The book isn't necessarily a tract against any kind of God. It is, however, against a kind of God who dislikes human achievement and demands unquestioning obedience. A God that expresses itself as Dust does would probably be entirely tolerable to Pullman.

I know Pullman approved of the scene in the movie where Mrs. Coulter hits her daemon, but why would you hit your own daemon? You're only hurting yourself.
  • "Stop hittin' yourself! Stop hittin' yourself!" Seriously, now. First of all, if you hit your own daemon, that could be from a variety of causes - telling your daemon to "snap out of it" or stop daydreaming, if your daemon and you are of differing opinions. In our world, where we've only got the one head, those contradictory voices can only be dealt with by certain means - when the contradictory, questioning aspect of your personality is incarnated and chattering away at you, you're bound to react differently (don't tell me you've never wished you could decide on one course of action and shut up all your doubts). It could even be an form of self-mutilation, expressing much darker purposes.
    • Self-mutilation, exactly. It's not that surprising for someone to hit her daemon, given that people in our world do hurt themselves. It would be considered just as sick, that's all.
  • Most people, at one stage or another, get mad at themselves, or do something they know is wrong, or struggle to reconcile their thoughts with their feelings, or are otherwise in a state of conflict with themselves, and beat themselves up over it (either mentally or physically). I actually found it quite an interesting way to show Mrs. Coulter's internal struggle.
    • Agreed. I saw it as a representation of Mrs. Coulter's conflicted nature over Lyra. The monkey tries to stop her from looking at Lyra's picture and she hits it (she doesn't want Lyra taken) and then hugs the monkey (she still is comfortable with her decisions on putting her desire for power before her daughter).

In the third book, am I the only one who felt that it was implied that Lyra and Will had sex in order to halt the escape of dust?
'Cause they're both 13...
  • No doubt, regardless of Pullman's Shrug of God — they touched each other's daemons, an act as intimate and... moving, powerful... I'm not sure of the right verb/adjective; the point is, it's on par with having sex. Which means they were comfortable enough with doing the real deal "off-screen." But it sure is effective — worse things than 12-year-olds having sex would be a regular ocurrence in a world with no rules where nothing is considered wrong as long as it's fun.
    • I may have lost some info by reading the French translation of the book, but he never got the whole "sex vibe" of the deamon-lover touch thing (squick goes off the scale on the squick-o-meter). I consider it more on par with the realization that they were in love and telling each other "I love you". In the end, I suppose everyone draws their own conclusion, but for me, it's "EW! No effing way".
    • "Worse things than 12-year-olds having sex would be a regular occurrence in a world with no rules where nothing is considered wrong as long as it's fun." Because that's clearly the philosophy of the books which have, as villains, a group of kids who do things just because it's fun. "No god" does not mean "No rules", nor does it mean "Do anything you want at any time." It's also worth noting that consenting 13-year-olds do have sex in the real world. A surprising number of countries world-wide have the age of consent at 13 or 14. I'm not saying I wasn't somewhat creeped out by that scene at first read, but you do have to ask: What's wrong with it? Who does it hurt? Not Lyra and Will, and not anyone else. Now, if one of them had been 18 and the other 12, yeah, that would be much more likely to be wrong, because such a age difference would tend to mean that one of them is being taken advantage of. But two kids of the same age who we know beyond any doubt deeply care for each other? Not all that big a deal, especially with it saving the entire multiverse, and all.
  • I think they just had sex because they wanted to. But they were supposed to be pretty mature for a 12 and a 13 year old, it's weird but honestly, what else do you do after running for your life for two books, going to the land of death and coming out the other side, killing god, and watching 3 out of four parents die.
  • You're not alone, and that was right about where the book really lost me. Sure, teenagers have sex, but at their age it's bordering on Squick. Yeah, it happens a lot in Real Life, but that doesn't mean I want to read about two children getting it on, even if the actual sex is off-screen and only alluded to. (Granted, I'm also a parent, so I'm approaching it from a slightly different perspective than the intended YA audience, but the idea of kids that young having sex is just deeply, deeply disturbing and wrong to me.)
  • I dunno about escaping the Dust, but Will and Lyra touched each others' daemons without feeling revulsion, which has been stated to be an intimate act, and they ate what was obviously intended to be a parallel to the Forbidden Fruit in Genosis. It was more than implied that they were having sex when the Magisterium guy with the beetle daemon who was trying to assassinate them was killed by the angel. The sex part was Squick to me because they were pre-teens, regardless of individual maturity, but that they went through all that they did and reached the pinicle of intimacy only to immediately be seperated forever was just sad.
  • Pullman once stated that scene was entirely on the readers interpretation. If you want to believe they just kissed, then that is what happened. If you believe they had sex, then that happened. It's entirely up to you.

If all possibilities exist, could there be worlds in which people, if they travel to other worlds, don't get sick and waste away living in another world?
  • Err, that depends entirely on your definition of possible. I think infinite possibilities actually refers to people's choices. that they could either turn left or right, to take a an example. And for each moment of choice, at least two new possibilities open up. Now imagine six billion alternatives walking around all at once. That's what Pullman means by infinite possibilities, infinite action trajectories. He's not saying that anything that can be conceived of exists somewhere.
    • Don't forget that Pullman changes the boundaries upon conscious decisions to include Dust, and since he states that Dust is Dark Matter(/Dark Energy), 96% of each universe is conscious. Before humans. We can therefore follow that any subatomic movement can be attributed to a conscious decision, meaning that everything is possible. To the original poster: Yes, but the whole nature of multi-verse travel may make it impossible for travel between universes of different "styles". Then again, positing a truly infinite multi-verse, there is no convincing explanation.
      • In a truly infinite multiverse, you could go to a world with a species sociologically similar to your own and the ability to live there for the rest of your natural life, but it would be like trying to hit a puppy by throwing a live bee at it, only you're at the Walk-A-Dog march times a hundred thousand, you're blindfolded, you only know what dachshunds sound like and have a vague suspicion that the world you want is a german shepherd, and can only throw the bee about six feet before you have to go pick it up and try again. In the meantime, most of the dogs are rabid, all of the dogs are annoyed at the person who keeps throwing bees at them or want to play fetch with or eat the bee, and you're not even sure if there are any german shepherds at the park, let alone friendly ones that aren't rabid. Oh, and angels want you to quit using the bee except to get to dogs that have already been stung and put calamine lotion on them so they stop being all riled up. In short: Theoretically possible, but it would probably be better to just stay with each other for another decade until one or both of them die of dimensional poisoning.
      • I do believe this is what love feels like. That was the greatest thing ever.
    • I don't believe there is an infinite number of universes in His Dark Materials. Hence why we don't see several thousand near-identical copies of Lyra and Will, all showing up in the World of the Dead at the same time. Universes diverge from each other, but rarely. Lyras's world would need a point of departure several millions of years ago to account for the evolution of armoured bears and cliff ghasts (with generous helpings of In Spite of a Nail). The point is, there is not a different universe created for every decision taken in this one. Furthermore, if there were infinite universes, there would be an infinite number of people in the World of the Dead.

If there is no such thing as sin, then there's nothing wrong with what the Gobblers, the Magisterium, Metatron, Father Gomez, etc. do either, is there?
  • A. Where does it say in the books that there is no such thing as sin?
  • B. "The only good is knowledge and the only evil is ignorance." — Socrates
    • So, if the only evil is ignorance, cutting away children's souls wouldn't be evil. Anyway, Mary tells Will and Lyra in The Amber Spyglass that everything the Church calls "sin" is really "pleasure," and there is no such thing as sin, only fun... and "good deeds and evil deeds"... which would be sin...
    • Forcing other people - innocent, impoverished children - to live without their souls, without any interest or ability to be interested in the world around them, that's advancing ignorance. And here is the quote that Mary says to Lyra and to Will, in the chapter called Marzipan: ["When you stopped believing in God, did you stop believing in good and evil?"] "No. But I stopped believing there was a power of good and a power of evil that were outside us. And I came to believe that good and evil are names for what people do, not for what they are. All we can say is that this is a good deed, because it helps someone, or that's an evil one, because it hurts them."
  • There's no precise quote to match the other conclusion you declared, that "sin" is "pleasure," but here are some more things that Mary says to them in that same monologue: "Sister Mary Malone, flirting! What about my vows? What about dedicating my life to Jesus and all that? Well, I don't know if it was the wine or my own silliness... but it gradually seemed to me that I'd made myself believe something that wasn't true. I'd made myself believe that I was fine and happy and fulfilled on my own, without the love of anyone else. Being in love was like going to China... I thought, I want to go to China, it's full of treasures and strangeness and mystery and joy. I thought, will anyone be better off if I go straight back to the hotel and say my prayers and confess to the priest and promise never to fall into temptation again? And th eanswer came back - no. No one will." (and then she goes on to describe how she concluded there was no God.)
    • That's not what "the only good is knowledge, the only evil is ignorance" means. Socrates was saying that no one does evil in full knowledge and understanding of what they are doing - through ignorance of the consequences of their actions, people always think they're justified. Thus, the more you know about the world - and that includes knowledge of other people and their needs - the less likely you will be to do harm. Thus "knowledge" encompasses all goods, thus is the "only" one, and vice versa.
    • Very well, then, but intercision as performed by the Magisterium is still an act performed in ignorance, because the participants have a warped understanding of the world, a warped idea of what is the best for humanity - if an angel explained to them "Stop cutting away children's daemons, they never did anything to you and besides, you're destroying a Dust-creating vessel that could be a thinking, individual person, and thus contributing to the death of the universe," they would have said, "If it's the will of God, then carry on and back off Angel before I smite thee with my guillotine." And seeing as how I misused Socrates' words, I apologize. However, the phrase still applies, albeit not as absolutely as I thought it had.
      • Things get very confusing with these bullet-points and who wrote what and knowing how many asterisks to use, and all. I wrote the above about Socrates' fuller meaning, I meant it to answer this "So, if the only evil is ignorance, cutting away children's souls wouldn't be evil." So I think we agree? Intercision and similar real-world actions are indeed a manifestation of ignorance, I was just adding background with the ways that the Socratic conception of evil supports that.
  • Going back to the original question: Actually, this seems to be the viewpoint of the Magisterium when they send Father Gomez out to kill Lyra, and it is exactly Pullman's point. A sin is an offense against God; if something is not an offense to God, then it's not wrong. Gomez and the Magisterium believe that they have dealt with the sin, so it's all right for them to murder a child. But the audience can see something very weird about this. What is wrong is the murder itself, the pain and death of the victim, not how God feels about it, and therefore not whether or not an act is a "sin". This is the belief that lies at the core of humanist ethics - what matters is that we as sentient beings treat one another well out of respect and empathy, not out of obedience to or fear of a divine commander.
    • To put it simply, bad things don't have to be a sin to be bad.
      • And insects don't have to have 6 legs and an exoskeleton to be insects. The fact that a bunch of Strawmen who only exist in Pullman's head consider bad actions and sin to be two different things does not mean they are.
      • I believe the simplifying troper was saying that if it isn't a sin, does not mean it is good, and the above troper did not get the point of that, thinking that the troper was saying Sin is different from bad actions.
  • Sigh. Look: There are atheists and agnostics in the real world, yes? These atheists and agnostics don't go on mass killing sprees as a matter of course, yes? Without wading deep into the fallacy that is "If God doesn't give us morals we must all rape and cannibalize each other!" from the above two facts alone we can conclude that people can be moral without God.
    • And, just for fun: Is something good because God says it is? Or does God say something is good because it is innately so? If the former, then any divine morality is utterly arbitrary (As is the case in the books). If God says things are good because they simply are innately good, then something is bad regardless of if God approves of it or not, so the fact that it's a "sin" is irrelevant because it's innately wrong anyways.
      • Mu
      • What's two plus two? Yes or no answers, only. My question and yours are logically equivalent.
  • The ripping of childrens souls from them! Not nearly as evil as MAZIPAN and CHINA!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!
  • The concept of sin doesn't have to be present for there to be right and wrong. What they do is wrong because it hurts people. It's that simple.
    • ...Why is hurting people wrong?
      • Objectively? I would argue that it isn't. For instance: I wouldn't get all MORALLY OUTRAGED if you decided to kick a baby. It's not my baby, and it's not me, so it's not my problem. The baby, on the other hand, would likely have some choice expletives for you, likely as not concerning the things your mother did with sailors back before you were born. For pennies. It's my suspicion that people only see hurting others as "wrong" because they want to be protected from other people hurting them. It's like, "If I speak up when someone hurts you, I expect the same."
      • Then their is something wrong with you.
      • Actions are wrong because we, as a society and as individuals, say they are. We decide what is wrong because of our empathy for each other (the golden rule) and the rules of life programmed into us by evolution. (Rule #1: "Dying is bad". Rule #2 ("Pain is bad"), and all subsequent rules stem from rule #1. Note that these rules hold only when we are individuals: when multiple people are involved they can be superseded.) We decide that kicking a baby is wrong because it harms the baby; we know it harms the baby because the kick does the baby's body physical damage; we know this because experience has taught us that our bodies are squishy bags of meat. We know, also from experience, that physical damage to one's body causes pain, and because of evolution we feel that pain is bad. Empathy causes us to feel pain when other people feel pain, and so action of kicking the baby causes us pain, leading us to decide that it is wrong.
      • It's more basic than that, even. Humans have an evolutionary imperative to propagate and protect our species; our development into highly social animals (more so than even other apes, even) has helped us to do that. Kicking a baby would be detrimental to that goal, so as social creatures we recognize that fact and for the most part don't do it. Any human who did would be shunned both to protect the infants and prevent the perpetrator from passing on his genes. We get outraged and call it evil when somebody kicks a baby essentially because that is the reaction that evolutionary biology has hard-wired us to have.
    • Honestly, you're all making this much harder than it needs to be. Sin isn't just evil; it's a substance that can be transferred, inherited, washed away by ritual sacrifice. The amount of sin you have isn't necessarily equal to the total amount of evil that occurred as a result of your actions. People are born with sin, after all.
      • I sincerely hope you're being sarcastic.
      • Of course he/she is, as any religious person can tell. That's a parody of religion.

Not sure how to phrase this question... Is a person's daemon taken into consideration in a job interview? Would a career aptitude test ask you what your daemon is, as specific as possible?
We see that, for example, people whose nature leads them to become servants tend to have dog daemons, and higher ranking servants have more sophisticated, regal looking dogs. Even if a person realizes before adulthood that their nature is one suited for servanthood, they can't possibly predict where in the servants' hierarchy they will be assigned, at least not when their daemon settles, surely. So, for example, were the people we see with more sophisticated looking dog daemons consciously assigned to their rank by the hiring staff at Jordan College based on the style of their daemon? If so, is that fair?
  • This assumes that certain aspects of one's daemon's manifestation is left up to chance. If nobler, regaler looking dogs are signs of someone who is more suited for command, then it makes sense to take that into account. Saying it's unfair is like saying that people should not be employed based on talent. If one person clearly has better credentials for a job, you hire that person. In this case, the nature of the daemon is just an outward manifestation of inward credentials. And, since the daemon is part of you, it won't settle on a creature that will be theory.
  • Keep in mind that in real life people used to study face shape and the bumps on someone's head to gauge personality - there's no reason that this isn't just the Lyra-world analogue for phrenology.
  • But that assumes that by the age your daemon settles on a shape your personality and life arch are immutable. An only good for servanting teen will always be less noble and not suited for command. There's no such thing as improving yourself. The peasants should get back to their fields and do what the nobles tell them.
    • This is precisely what mediaeval Europeans believed; it's called the Great Chain of Being, and according to the belief, there was a natural, immutable hierarchy which replicated itself down through the various orders of existence. God, of course, was at the top of the chain, with the angels beneath him, and humans less than the angels but still greater than the beasts, which, being animate, were greater than plants, which, being alive, were greater than rocks. Each of these hierarchies had matching sub-hierarchies: the metals were the greatest of all the rocks, with gold being at the top of the metallic sub-sub-hierarchy. Regarding humans, kings were the greatest (being essential hereditary gods on Earth), followed by the various nobles and then the commoners. These hierarchies were fixed within nature: a commoner could no more become a noble than crabgrass could spontaneously become an oak tree. Pullman knew exactly what he was doing when he fixed the shapes of the daemons, and therefore their owners' status, for all time: he was showing us that Lyra's very different world is still Mediaeval/Renaissance at its heart.
      • Yes, and therefore the social classes are pretty rigid (that's portrayed) and a lot of your social destiny depends on birth. Thus, people's personalities would be partially shaped by their knowledge of their prospects and "proper" role in society—and this would actually affect what their daemon turns out to be.

Can witches in the books do ANYTHING besides fly and live for a long time
My memory is a bit foggy and I don't actually own a copies of the books.
  • One of them stopped Will's hand from bleeding when the knife cut two of his fingers off (and then stopped it again, and again, as his wound kept on reopening).
    • As in healing hands magic (also I do recall that spy-flies had a spell put on them and I assume witches, being witches did it) or just good medical knowledge?
      • Yes, actual healing magic. Serafina was also mentioned as able to make other people in a room not notice her, and presumably other witches had the same ability. The spy-fly, as I recall, was mentioned as having an evil spirit pinned to its clockwork, and serving as its power source. I just chalked that up to the gyptian superstitions, and not as fact.
  • Also, witches are completely invulnerable to cold (they feel it, but don't mind and it doesn't hurt them), and it mentions at one point Serafina Pekkala reading entrails to see the future. So they work spells, foretell the future, commune with nature, are invulnerable to cold, fly, live for a long time, and their daemons can go thousands of miles away.
  • In the third book they can apparently make flaming arrows whose fire only gets more intense when in contact with water; considering that it was raining in the battle against The Authority's army, the angels weren't very lucky.
    • Or they had a supply of white phosphorus.
  • Thing is, all of those things can be done by knowing one thing the other person doesn't. Such as the recipe for Greek fire, and I'm pretty sure that it was some sort of poultice. The "magic" is just one thing we the readers don't know, and considering our world as opposed to the witches' and Lyra's, probably can't even comprehend.
  • A witch knows how to alter her consciousness to make herself inconspicuous, though not invisible. The books call it a projection of "aggressive modesty." They can also see people's daemons even if the person comes from a world where daemons don't exist, which is how Dr. Mary Malone knows that hers is an alpine chough and Will knows that his is a strange looking cat.
    • One of the first things that we learn about Will, though, is that he is able to do much the same—just, presumably, slightly less effectively than the witches. In fact, his ability to become inconspicuous seems to be treated more reverently by the author that that of the witches.

a nagging question
Why the hell do me, my cousin and a lot of my friends want a daemon, I mean isn't having a soul outside youre body where anybody can get their grubby hands on it a bad idea?
  • I don't believe that ANYONE who read the book has never wanted a daemon. As far as grubby hands are concerned, I'd be more worried that, if I had a smaller daemon, something would accidentally crush it, causing me to die as well.
  • Probably it's like the idea of having a special friend - it's a cool animal who can, for a limited time, change shape, it can talk to you, and is a constant companion who really understands you.
  • Not to mention that, depending on its shape, you can get all sorts of side benefits: seeing over walls, unlocking doors from the other side, eavesdropping, etc.
  • - It may not be a physical dæmon, but... c:
  • It's also because having a daemon gives you an insight into your personality. We all spend our teen years trying to figure out who we are. Having a daemon would be a benefit in that area, esp when their form settles.
  • On a more depressing note: because human beings are fundamentally lonely. The idea of a creature who completely understands you is appealing.

Three things about Daemons that have bugged me for years.
First, how do they manifest? Are the golden monkey and the snow leopard Pan's parents as well? Do they appear a couple of minutes or days after a baby is born, or do they (ew) come out of the human birth canal along with the newborn? Pullman was asked this question but avoided answering it.

Second, if Will's Daemon was ripped out of him, could you theoretically devise a process to stuff a Daemon back inside of you? I know Mary saw her Daemon, but it seems to me that was more of a symbolic thing, because if everyone in "our" world had invisible soul creatures wandering about that you could feel and you'd die if they died - you'd notice if people died for no good reason when a car hit their dog Daemon or something . . .

Third - why do domesticated cats and dogs exist in Lyra's world? Do people still keep pets, even with Daemons, or do Daemons completely that that place in Lyra's society? Why would you keep a pet when you can turn to a reflection of your own soul for comfort - complete with (usually) fluffy coats.

  • I believe it says in the books that a daemon appears next to the child very shortly after they're born. For the second I couldn't tell you. For the third I can still see the use in having domesticated dogs and cats and such. You aren't going to expect your daemon to keep mice out of your house, or herd your sheep or guard your house or other such things that domesticated animals do. Also the fact that daemons have to stay close to you limits what work they could do if people made them work. Also maybe sometimes people just want the comfort of an animal. It's like asking why people have pets when they also have parents and siblings and loved ones and such. Why go get comforted by a dog when you can call your mom, well sometimes you don't want to talk to your mom and the dogs comfort is what you need I suppose.
    • This is actually briefly touched upon in "The Subtle Knife" when Will pets and comforts the cat — it's mentioned that Lyra hasn't seen anyone treat a non-daemon cat that way before, because in her world (or at least in her Oxford) humans keep cats for dealing with mice and rats, not for cuddling and petting.
      • Which is really dumb because cats are very cuddly, they make cute noises, they chase bits of string and stalks of grass, why wouldn't you want one as a pet just because you have a daemon? Plus you can't baby a daemon like you can a pet, and it would be pretty weird to go into Cuteness Proximity Mode for a fragment of yourself.
      • Lyra's mostly lived among the servants of Oxford, where a cat would probably be a working cat, at least whenever she met one. Mrs. Coulter didn't own a cat (she probably traveled too much for it to be a good idea).
  • Since intercised daemons can't be rejoined to their owners, I wouldn't think there's anyway to turn a normal daemon into an inner soul like in our world. It always seems to be a one-way street.
    • You probably could, it would just require some strange method like how Will's daemon was externalized, but in "reverse". That as compared to cutting would be like the difference between taking a bit of chewing gum stuck inside a matryoshka doll, stretching it and maybe pulling it apart, versus dribbling enough gum-dissolving acid on the part stuck to the doll to dissolve the entire piece. You could reattach the gum, though there would still be a slight seam, or even put it back inside if you knew how to open the doll, but there would be no way to put it back after the acid dump/intercision had taken place. It's all hypothetical, anyway.
      • Either that or you can put a daemon back, but nobody's discovered how to do it, which is more than likely. Daemon separation is incredibly rare, and normally when it is done it's fully intended to be permanent. Add on to the the fact that its impossible to do by accident and can only happen in a very few specific ways, and you're left with an incredibly tiny number of people who would need to have their daemons re-inserted. Nobody would have researched it because there was never any need to.

Why are the angels depicted as traditional superhuman energy beings in The Subtle Knife and weak and cowardly due to their lack of corporeal form in The Amber Spyglass?
  • It just seems like a Take That against Platonism and its insistence on mind rather than matter.
  • In my opinion, the angels didn't had a lot of "screentime" on The Subtle Knife. They are only mentioned and they appear in like, a few scenes here and there. We don't know to what point they are weak and strong; if human characters consider them strong is probably because they are unfamiliar to their true nature. Though it is mentioned that they are made from something that is weaker than flesh later turning out to be Dust, probably hinting at their physical weakness.
    • To add on to that, the angels we see in The Subtle Knife are always seen from the perspective of a human who doesn't know any better. And it's mentioned that the traditional depiction of an angel is simply the way humans see them - so it's stands to reason that when they're first seen, humans think of them in the majestic terms they've always thought of angels to be.
  • Not all angels are equal. There are different levels of power - for example, Metatron, just by looking at Will in Amber Spyglass, was able to know everything about him in a second. However, Balthamos and Baruch are lower levels of angels. And then presumably the alethiometer has another angel attached to it that guides it.
  • This has always Just Bugged Me, because the difference between the two books seems like either a Retcon or negligence, and the angel combat scenes have feathers snapping and stuff... much better to make angels who can't affect the physical world at all than to have them be physical and so pathetic...

If your daemon stop changing after you've fallen in love, why can't there be adults with changing daemons ? And why nobody ever mentioned it before the end ?
I mean, it would be like losing your virginity, and, yeah, nobody under 13 ever heard about it...
  • Falling in love is not what settles your daemon, just puberty/growing up is. The fact that the two people whose daemons we witnessed settling had just fallen in love is coincidental.
    • Although maybe not as coincidental as it appears to be at first glance. Puberty is, after all, the period where girls stop being icky for boys and vice versa. Falling in love for the first time is more or less a 'symptom' of puberty, so to speak.
  • If puberty is what causes deamons to "settle", would a castrato singer's deamon remain unsettled for life? If it's loss of innocence, would a mentally-challenged person who never progressed beyond a small child's developmental state retain an unsettled deamon?

All this theological debate is ignoring the real problem
Namely what the hell happened to Iorek Byrnison after Will cut his helmet up? He just disapears from the book after that.
  • I believe the last time we see Iorek is during the final battle, in which it is said Lyra never saw him again or something like that. Either he returned with the bears to Svalbard or he was killed (though the later, lets be honest, is impossible)
    • I don't think it says that Lyra never sees him again, but he does say that she will always be a welcome and honored guest at Svalbard. He rides into battle with the ghost of Lee Scoresby, and I think he survives.
      • Yeah, but wasn't all the ice in Svalbard melting?
      • Only because of the window Lord Asriel had opened, which opened out into tropical Cittagazze. Once that's closed things will probably go back to normal relatively soon, for Svalbard at least.
    • Lyra mentions in the last chapter, I think, when pondering what to do with her life, that she's sure that Iorek would have let her stay with him, but she wouldn't fit in with the bears. So whatever else happened, Iorek is most definitely alive and still ruling the bears.
  • They do appear in the final battle, but not at all after. I've actually wondered if the bears—and for that mother, everyone else Asriel recruited into his forces—are trapped in that world, or if they were able to return to their native worlds before the angles closed the openings between them.

Pullman claims that the Narnia books are propaganda as though his own books aren't.
Maybe he's indulging in Hypocritical Humor?
  • I don't recall him saying his books aren't propaganda, and in any case Narnia is still christian propaganda anyway, which doesn't excuse it either.
    • But in a broad sense, all media is propaganda, so there's not really any reason to complain besides "Oh no how dare they believe in something I don't".
      • Well, some people around here seem to have a mental disorder that makes them complain endlessly about this series when Narnia also has its last book as being very Anvilicious; I'm not saying either series is bad, nor that they aren't propaganda, I'm just trying to be fair.
      • This is true.
  • Pullman has said in interviews with the BBC that he never thought of HDM as a children's book. Even when you read it, it's not very childish. Narnia on the other hand was always directed towards impressionable children.
    • Children couldn't possibly understand HDM in its completeness. I am with Pullman on this one. Even though she read when she was 13.

Do we see any animals, other than daemons, in Lyra's world? The bears aren't really animals. There may have been some husky-type dogs, but other than that I don't recall any other animals appearing. It's just weird, at any rate, that it seems like there are more daemons than normal animals.
  • Yes, we have cats and other things mentioned, as well as fish and, possibly, non sentient bears.
  • There's a very good reason for the lack of animals: most of Northern Lights is set in cities or in the frozen wasteland, or heck, on board a ship. How many animals would you see in those environments?
  • Horses are mentioned as being sold in Oxford. It's also mentioned that Lyra and Roger found an injured rook and nursed it back to health.
  • There are regular animals mentioned fairly often. If you pay any attention at all.

Let's Fight Like Gentlemen in Northern Lights?
I was always kind of bugged by the "Great Taboo" in the books, concerning touching another's Daemon, because it seems pretty impractical to me (How do trams and elevators work in Lyra's world?).

But it now just occured to me that in at last one ocassion it turned from curious to downright life-threatening. In the last chapter of Northern Lights, if you remember, Lord Asriel is about to sacrifice Roger and has Stelmaria, his daemon holding Roger's, so he can't get away. Maybe it's just me, but I think, Lyra could have rescued Roger pretty easily (and ended the whole epic trilogy early) if she had just remembered her usual Combat Pragmatist attitude and gave Stelmaria a heartily punch to the chin.

Which, I guess, would be about equivalent to kicking Lord Asriel in the groin. But, come on, if your enemies have no inhibitions to fight the same way, your best friend is about to die (or face a face worse than death) and into the bargain you have a burning rage about the person in front of you, that option isn't so far-fetched any more.

I agree, that's a kinda silly thought, but I'd like to know what you think about it :)
  • The touching of someone's dæmon isn't just a social taboo, it's a part of the very fabric of humanity. Humans in Lyra's World and in other dæmon-filled worlds inherently understand that they must never touch another's dæmon, except in the extreme case of mutual lovers. Remember that dæmons are physical manifestations of the human soul, a deeply personal thing to say the least.
  • I guess that attacking someone's daemon isn't as much as just a taboo as something very deeply rooted on the mind of the people of that world, and the mere thought of it probably induces unimaginable amounts of Squick. I agree that Lyra should indeed have taken advantage of that (and almost certainly there had to be someone doing so in battles), but its also quite understandable why she didn't did so in the first place; while kicking the nuts is very pratical, you end up being perceived as a coward after all.
    • I think it would be more like kicking someone at the base of the brain: one gets the same "jibblies" from another person touching their daemon as one does from a Primal Fear, damaging a person's daemon enough causes death, and (from our point of view), they're both inside of us where they can't be touched without making some pretty extreme changes.
    • There's also the good probability that, if Lyra didn't incapacitate Stelmaria well enough, she would have just bitten or attacked Lyra (the equivalent of Lord Asriel knocking her away, for example). Do we ever know what the recovery time of a large-ish daemon is?
    • Asking an adolescent girl to physically assault a full-grown snow leopard is probably a bit much to expect of her, whether it's a daemon or not. All humans have instinctive fears about large predators that are behaving aggressively, whatever their world-of-origin.
  • Recall that in The Amber Spyglass, two mutual lovers touching each other's dæmon is analogous to sex. So, doing it aggressively and without permission would probably be analogous to rape.

The name 'Gobblers'
How did the people outside the lab find out that the initials of the General Oblation Board were what they were so that they could call the people causing the mysterious disapperances 'Gobblers'? It just doesn't make sense that they would know that. So if they didn't, then Lyra's "deduction" that the GOB was source of the gobblers was pure coincidence.
  • My impression was that the GOB and its activities are more like an open secret in the upper crust. Lots of people seem to know some things about the GOB (like the Master, the Librarian and the journalist at the cocktail party) and there were are rumours floating around, though probably not many people know the whole truth. But some rumours might still have been about "those GOBlers picking up children from the streets now". Then maybe a maid once overheard such a conversation, made the connection and the name was born. There could also have been orders to the police not to pursue the child robbers, because "it's just the GOBlers; they know what they are doing and you better don't mess with them if you want to keep your job". The officer might not have been paid to question orders from above but he still might have told the strange story to some friends. And so on...
  • Perhaps I'm misremembering, but I thought Lyra found out about the name connection after her "deduction". She was talking to some of Mrs Coulter's friends about the Oblation Board, and told them that the children called them "Gobblers". It was the adults who pointed out the possible origin in the initials, and they could have simply been wrong about that and it really was a coincidence. Of course, now that I think of it perhaps you're talking about the film version which changes that sequence somewhat, but it's probably best not to think about the film's plot holes too much.
  • I actually thought that this might be an in-universe example of Ascended Fanon. Many Oxford children were convinced that the Gobblers ate, or 'gobbled up,' the children that they captured; leading to the nickname 'Gobblers.' It's not hard to imagine that GOB agents heard this nickname, decided it was pretty cool, and started using it themselves. The similarity to 'General Oblation Board' could just be coincidental.

The Multiverse, choices, etc
Why are there so many implicit references to there being one of "Will's world" and one of "Lyra's world" when the book also seems to go to lengths to imply a quantum multiverse in line with actual-physics many-worlds hypotheses?

To quote from above (I thought it needed its own entry, sorry):
  • Well, it's always possible that none of the divination devices, from the alethiometer to Mary Malone's I Ching, actually work. In the Multiverse, every possible outcome of every chance event occurs. We're just following along with the versions of the characters who receive the "right" answers. In another universe, the alethiometer needle moved in some different way, Lyra's subconscious gave its random motion a different interpretation. . . .
    • The Pullman multiverse does not work that way. If it did, the one and only Authority would be both defeated and not defeated, and Asriel's rebellion would be absolutely meaningless.
Clearly it does work that way, since Asriel is able to destroy the Authority, yet Pullman also has certain characters, including Asriel himself at the end of Northern Lights, explain how the universes split every time a choice is made, even on a subatomic level (this is my essential understanding of quantum mechanics; it's not really relevant if I'm wrong but feel free to correct me).

Furthermore, there are a few passages where other characters wonder if there's another world where key events hadn't happened, such as Lyra seeing Asriel's attempted murder by the Master, or Will spotting a cat jumping through a portal into the Citta'gazze world, and Lyra wonders if there is a version of herself in Will's world without a dæmon at one point.

But yes, because things have to have actually happened, and we certainly don't have multiple versions of the same character milling around, or worse, multiple alethiometers or subtle knives from finding them in parallel universese, it seems like this quantum-version of the multiverse can't possibly be true. (Obviously it could just be that Asriel was entirely wrong, but still...)

Also, I'm really confused about what happens after Lord Asriel cuts open the sky at the end of Northern Lights. First of all, we never see the sky cut open from the other side. That is, we've been told throughout Northern Lights that Citta'gazze, or at least a city, can be seen on the other side of the aurora, yet in The Subtle Knife we have reference to similar events (a great storm/fog) taking place in both worlds, yet while so many of Lyra's world are quite acutely aware of the sky having been torn open, yet the citizens of the Spectre world are quite oblivious to this, even though they should have been able to see it from their city.

Secondly, Asriel seems to disappear from view entirely during the second book and has quite promptly built a gigantic fortress out of basalt in an uninhabited world — there seems to be some confusion about timeframe here, because Lyra can't have been living in Citta'gazze for that long. And then Ruta Skadi, the witch, has to travel into the sky with angels and through an invisible window in order to reach Asriel's world... so how on earth did he get there? When he ripped the sky open did he rip ways into more different worlds or something? Because it's strongly implied that he only ripped a way into the Citta'gazze world...

  • I'll add to this: a few things have been bugging me about The Amber Spyglass too. Most of all, how do the gyptians not only get into the mulefa world, unless they found a window by complete chance, but they bring a fucking ship with them. What the hell?
  • It's possible that the Authority (possibly in addition to the angels) messes with the flow of probability while he is there, so that while there are an infinite number of Wills and Lyras who met him, there was only one pair who were meeting him, and an infinite number who didn't get through or got through an instant too late. I don't think this was the case, since it wasn't hinted at at all and the main intention just seemed like an accidental Plot Hole, but it's possible. I'm not sure what the above troper means by the gyptians getting into the mulefa world, though, with a ship. I thought the priest made it there and cooperated with or took over the parrot things that Mary thought were ships, with the gyptians never meeting the mulefa.

The Northern Lights
What was behind the Aurora before Cittagazze was built? An empty grassland?
  • Before Cittagazze was built ( and after the series ends) the worlds we in alignment. That is to say, the north pole in Lyra's world corresponded to the north pole in all other worlds, rather than to somewhere on the Mediterranian coast like Cittagazze. It was the invention of the knife that threw them out of alignment so that the arctic of Lyra's world linked to Cittagazze linked to Will's Oxford.
    • I thought that Ci'gazze was its own Earth, and linked to Will's place because there just happened to be doors there that nobody had closed, and Lord Asrael busting a hole through the walls of the world flung Lyra to Citagazze's arctic region (because of the tunnel that was already there), and she made her way south to Citagazze in the intermediate weeks because the whole area was warmer than it should have been. I don't recall anything about properly visible city at the end of my copy of The Golden Compass, as a JBM shortly above mentions. But maybe some former wielders of the Subtle Knife learned to slip the edge of the knife between the fabric of the two worlds for a distance before cutting into the second one?
    • Not at the end; at the beginning (mostly, I'm sure it's mentioned again). Re-read the section right at the start where Lord Asriel's talking to the scholars – he talks about a special photographic emulsion that can detect Dust; when photographing the Aurora with it they can see the clear outline of a city.
      • Oh, that. I thought that was the Authority's "heaven" showing through, even my first time reading it (with the exception of the Authority in the assumption being the Authority). Now I'm not sure what that was, if it was that, Citagazze, or something else.

So, the multiverse as explained by Lord Asriel in the last chapters of the first books works so that any possible outcome of anything since the beginning of time is true in another universe. Whenever you flip a coin, there's one universe where tails come up, and one where it's heads... Actually, there's an infinite subset of universes where i get tails, and another separate infinite subset of universes. Therefore, there is an infinite number of universes where Lyra never left Oxford, and there is an infinite number of universes where Lyra did exactly the same things she did in the book... Does'nt that mean there is an infinity of chosen ones ? It does'nt make sense.
  • Indeed, see the entry two up from this one for my take on the matter ...
  • Also, it means there's an infinity of universes where Will doesn't destroy the subtle knife.
  • I think this is one of those things where the MST3K Mantra or whatever comes into play. No, it doesn't make sense. Just run with it.

Well, also: OK, let's admit this multiverse is justified by Everett's theory. So the author wants us to believe that one of the paralel universes which exist due to quantum phenomenons is the universe where souls go after one die in another universe? You fail paralel universes forever.
  • Well, Pullman was never trying to portray a realistic, scientifically plausible view of the multi-universe theory: while HDM is toward the steampunk end of the fantasy scale, it;s still a fantasy, and Pullman was only using the multi-universe idea as the basis for a fantstical version of it. I'm pretty sure Pullman doesn't believe a knife could cut through the fabric of the universe, or that one Earth could be reserved for souls/ghosts. If you're pointing out that this is fantasy... well, yeah, of course it is. He does lampshade the idea that the world of the dead might not be like the other universes Will and Lyra travel to, though it's never much discussed: Will senses a difference in the knife's action when he enters the world of the dead. And Fridge Logic would tell you that this cannot be an ordinary version of Earth - the amassed ghosts from an infinite multiverse would take up rather more space than one Earth.

Will's mother
So Will's mother was supposed to not be mental, but instead haunted by specters. One thing I never understood though is why her? Why was she the only person we saw in Will's Oxford with the problem?
  • I don't think we were meant to take away the idea that Will's mum was literally haunted by Spectres, but that spectres are analogous to what ails her. I.e. Spectres destroy people in the same way mental illness is destroying Will's mother. We know that forces manifest themselves differently in different worlds - on Lyra's world, the Dust part of a human, called the soul in our world, manifests itself as a daemon. So the thing which manifests itself as a Spectre in one world does not necessarily take that form in another.

How, exactly, does the Magisterium stay in power?
No empire that lasted more than five minutes did so by being as completely repressive as the Magisterium. Even from a strictly practical point of view, you'll get more done by using "carrot and stick" methods, especially if you're trying to control a large area of land populated by many different kinds of people. (Ask Cyrus the Great or Genghis Khan about that one.)

Contrary to what many people seem to think, totalitarian regimes and organizations are more likely to be overthrown, because they put their subjects in a situation where they have nothing to lose. If there's a real possibility you'll be executed for some trumped up charge anyway, why not lead a rebellion?
  • The Magisterium might be using a heavier stick than the readership of HDM is used to, but it's not inconsistent with the level of religious repression in the real world 500-1000 years ago. As for the carrot, that would be Heaven.
    • Historically, though, the Roman Catholic Church did more than just tell people they'd go to Heaven if they were good. Even five hundred to a thousand years ago, individual priests, monks, nuns and wandering hermits would help the poor; nurse the sick (most leper colonies in the Middle Ages were, in fact, run by monastic orders); try to protect peasants, women and children in times of warfare; and in some cases, even dare to decry the Church's leaders for their greed and/or hypocrisy. That doesn't excuse the Catholic Church's atrocities but it does explain why more than a few people were willing to overlook their faults. However, we are never given any indication that any member of the Magisterium does anything but oppress people willy-nilly.
      • That's just not true: in Northern Lights we are shown a world where the oppression is invisible to the point of not really affection most of the people we see. Neither in the academic world of Oxford of the glamorous one of Mrs. Coulter's London do we see any oppression affecting the characters. The Gyptians don't have things so good, but this is nothing to do with the Church - it's the burden of a maligned social group. Only really when we get to Bolvangar is there any evidence of Church wrong-doing, and it's worth noting that Bolvangar is run by an organisation the official Church has been careful to maintain plausible deniability of. People in Lyra's world are depicted as living their lives as freely as we do. The controlling force at work becomes evident in insidious ways - for instance, the Victorian-ness of a world contemporary with out own timeline presumably being due to the Church's control of scientific endeavour (it's probably safe to assume that the Age of Reason was less... Reasonable in Lyra's world). The Church doesn't seem to have any more overt bearing on the lives of the characters we meet than it does in this world. In fact, where the Church is mentioned for the majority of the story it's in a neutral or positive light. The Intercessor (Jordan College's resident clergyman) is portrayed as boring to the thoughtless, boisterous young Lyra, but thoroughly well-meaning. When Lyra is running away in London her first thought is to seek shelter in a Oratory (a church). It's apparent that the Church, for all the evil that is later revealed, still represents many positive things to the people of Lyra's world as well: guidance, sanctuary etc. In the later books we hear more about the Church's injustices as A. we spend time with characters who have reason to know about the Church's more secretive side and B. yes, Pullman becomes more Anvillicious. But for the most part the Church don't act as tyrants. One of the few good things about the [[The Golden Compass: movie]] was a couple of lines from Mrs. Coulter that crystalised the L-world Church's attitude:
    'They don't tell people (what to do) in a mean, petty way they tell them in a kindly way, to keep them out of danger
It might be a patriarchal world, but it is not an overtly oppresive one for the majority.

What if you happen to be phobic about your daemon's settled form?
Back when the movie was still being advertised for the theater, they had a surprisingly accurate personality test to determine your daemon. After taking it I discovered my daemon would be a spider, and all of the character traits listed were pretty much my defining personality traits...but I'm intensely arachnophobic, so being eternally bound to a sentient spider would not be fun. Which got me thinking—does this ever happen in Lyra's world? And what could you possibly do about it if it DID happen? (It isn't possible to explain either with, "well, if the daemon never took that form as a child to not scare the kid, it probably won't when settled" either, because Lyra wasn't even familiar with Pan's finally settled species which would imply he never became one before, and Lee Scorseby mentioned being surprised when Hester became a hare and not any of the other animals she favored).
  • It seems probable that no person would ever have a phobia to their own daemon, which is to say if your personality is immutably "spider" you would simply not be an arachnophobe in the first place, and no arachnophobe would ever have a spider daemon. A less likely possibility is that the phobia is suspended in the case of the daemon, there's a subconscious reassurance that this is literally your own soul. In any case, it seems to me that as the daemon takes the form of one's personality in total, it would take into account phobias when doing so.
  • Or alternatively, you would learn to live with it. There is a character mentioned in one of the books who had a dolphin daemon, and as a result, he had to spend all his life at sea. He eventually got use to it, so if you did have a spider daemon, so would you.

What happened to Will's and Mary's daemons after they returned to their (our) world?
The witches imply that daemons just aren't visible in our world (although Mary can learn to see them), but Will and Lyra are able to spot Sir Charles' concealed snake daemon while all three are in Will's world. Did Kirjava and the chough vanish, die, or just hang around masquerading as pets for the rest of their lives?
  • Mary's daemon never really separated from her, she just learned how to see it, so it stands to reason that he wouldn't be visible in Will's (or any other) world. The notion that Kirjava would not be visible in Will's world is completely at odds with everything else we've learned about daemons, but she's a cat and doesn't have the usual proximity restriction most daemons have so as long as she doesn't talk when someone could overhear, she can pass for a pet pretty easily.
    • A pet that follows him to school, work, restaurants? If Kirjava isn't invisible, Will is going to have a heck of a conspicuous life.
    • After their time in the world of the dead, Will and Lyra's daemons can go as far away from them as witches' daemons can. That means out of sight, maybe even hundreds of miles away. Will's going to be fine.

What humans so special?
Why is it that humans have daemons while other species don't?
  • Bears have armours. Their armours are explicitly stated to be their analogues of daemons.
  • It's not just humans. Sapient creatures that attract dust have demons. The Gallivespian are implied to have demons when they cross the river of the dead with Will and Lyra. It's just happenstance that in the only world we see with external demons they only manifest themselves in humans. It's entirely likely that the bears and other races that attract dust have internal demons like pretty much every human not from Lyra's world that we see. I always got the feeling (since I ended up reading the first book after the other two) that Iorek's claim that his armor is his demon is just to show the closeness they feel to their armor and a way of telling the people of their world that they are just as sapient as humans. They probably have actual demons too though given that possibility could a bear have a bear demon?
    • I think it's worth mentioning that daemons can also take the form of mythological (at least in our world) creatures and even humans (one of the dead scholars had a woman as his daemon. So probably, yes.
  • This makes me wonder: is it inbuilt that a daemon appears as described in the books: i.e. a shapeshifting animal that settles into one form in adulthood? Or is that a human cultural construct, or something that's evolved in human culture at some point since the rise of Homo Sapiens? Might there be other forms a daemon could take - like a ghostly advisor, or a voice in the head, or something? Daemons, like angels, are stated to be made of Dust (although I think Pullman is a little fuzzy on this point) who only appear in the books as traditional winged angels because of the human observers' preconceptions. Maybe daemons operate in the same way - early religions are often animalistic in nature, with gods appearing as animals/animal-headed. Perhaps the same urge resulted in daemons emulating animals. In a culture where there wasn't this traditional animalism - the Armoured Bears, we might assume - daemons might take another form. For instance, one's 'daemon' might manifest as one's spirit - something that can literally infuse ones armour. The Gallivespians, for whom animals traditionally represent only a threat, might have their souls manifest differently again.

Death's Bottleneck
Ghosts no longer have to suffer in the world of the dead for all eternity thanks to Will and Lyra. That good news is dulled, if not outright crushed, by the fact that there's only one window to let them out. Right now on our planet, around 104 people die each minute. Multiply that the number of other realities with sentient creatures, and you have more ghosts entering the world of the dead than are leaving by probably several dozen orders of magnitude, so has anything really changed?
  • Perhaps the world of the dead can expand in area if necessary.
    • The size of the world of the dead isn't the problem (though it does seem to raise some other questions). The problem is that people die at a much, much, much faster rate than dead people can exit the world through a single window. Imagine how long one has to wait in line at a large amusement park. Now imagine that the line ahead of you doesn't just consist of people who want to ride Space Mountain, it's made up of every sentient creature who ever lived in every universe, ever. Even with FastPass, you'd still be in for tens of thousands of years waiting for your turn. And during that wait, trillions more have died, so the line gets that much longer.

Daemon's Attachment to their Humans
They can't voluntarily go too far from one another, but what would happen if one were dragged away where the other couldn't follow, say, into the air by a helicopter (or a hot air balloon in this universe, but this is all theoretical)? Would the balloon be physically unable to lift off due to the psychic connection, would the daemon float impossibly a few meters under the human or vice-versa, or would this actually kill them?
  • If I recall correctly, this actually happened in the books. A man got caught in the tie ropes whilst trying to stop Lee's balloon from flying away and he died when they got too high because the distance between him and his daemon on the ground stretched too far.

Befriending another person's Daemon
Sure it's taboo to touch them, but they have their own personality separate from that of their human, and hey, maybe somebody has a daemon that happens to be your favorite animal. It seems strange that people wouldn't befriend other people's daemon's while not being as close to the human attached to it.

Witches and Severed Children
Why does everybody become immediately revolted when faced with a person who's been separated from their daemon? Daemons can be too small to see unless you know where to look, like a mouse or a moth. Shouldn't their first reaction be to think "oh, it must be under her hat/in his pocket," not "Oh lord, what the hell is that, I'm going to be sick?"
  • I got the impression that it was the same sort of instinctual revulsion that many people feel when the see someone with a grievous wound—the kind that even medical workers have to learn to get used to seeing. If you read the Tony Makarios scene again, it's pretty clear that anyone, even people from our universe, would immediately realize that there's something very wrong with the boy. Seeing that, anyone from Lyra's world notice that his daemon isn't anywhere to be seen, and immediately put two-and-two together. We wouldn't know what the problem is—possibly we would assume that he's suffering an acute stress reaction, is an abuse victim, or something of that sort—but we would know something is very wrong. I think that's supported in the second book when Lyra and others from her world travel to ours. They all seem rather nonplussed and a little frightened by all of the people without daemons, but they never really seem to be revolted; presumably because it's apparent that they're not missing a huge piece of themselves.
    • At one point in the first book, Lyra sees Mrs. Coulter, and it takes her a moment to notice that the golden monkey isn't in sight. He's been in another room, just as far apart as they could stand. So the reaction isn't just "Don't see a daemon, that means there is no daemon" — probably it's an instinctive thing that tells a person "There is no daemon there."

Daemon Duration
  • How long would someone have to live in Lyra's world from ours before their child earned a daemon? because if you ever developed practical multiversal travel that seems like you could start up a pretty profitable business. How many parents would love their kid to have a constant, trusting, loving companion if all it took was to live there from conception till birth?
    • Not sure about a child from our world being born in Lyra's world, but for people who have already been born in anywhere other than Lyra's world, not possible. The only way to get a daemon if you weren't born with one is to cross a place where your soul will be physically ripped from your body. Will got his from crossing into the world of the dead and his father is implied to have gained his from a similar place in Lyra's world, where the witches go to allow their daemons to exist miles away from them. While I suppose you could start some sort of weird business to get people daemons, remember it is extraordinary painful (would you really put your child through that?) and also apparently turns the soul against the body, if Will, Lyra and Serafina's daemons are any judge. Not to mention that death seems quite likely.

Will is a "killer."
  • The person Will "killed" tripped over a cat and fell down some stairs while trying to burgle Will's house. What kind of inflated guilt complex does it take to blame yourself for that?
    • This is a case of Truth in Television, really. Children often think that they're responsible for things they have no control over, and a huge part of treating childhood trauma is convincing victims that what they went through wasn't their fault. This doesn't explain the alethiometer calling Will a murderer, though.
      • That said, after listening the passage from audiobook again, it was a homicide, in that Will attacked the man, and that attack lead to the man's death. "...Will waited until the man was framed in the open doorway and then exploded up out of the dark and crashed into the intruder's belly..." It wasn't Will's intent to kill, and he was justified in doing so, but he did kill that man.

Salmakia and Tialys's Daemons?
  • What happened to them after they got back from the World of the Dead? The most plausible guess I can make is that A, they didn't survive but it took a while for Salmakia and Tialys to die afterwards due to willpower or different biology, or B, they didn't bother looking for or thinking about them because they were so close to death anyway.
    • Presumably, they hung out with Pan and Kirjava until their deaths. Salmakia and Tialys made it pretty clear that when they crossed the ocean they were leaving their daemons behind with Pan.

Dust Loss
  • They shut all the portals because of the Dust loss they cause, and don't open any more because it creates Specters. But Dust is generated by the existence and happiness of sentient beings. If they brought technology to primitive worlds, ideas about freedom to totalitarian ones, cures to plagues, food where there were shortages, et cetera ad infinitum, that would make enough people enough happier and save enough lives to offset a lot of the Dust loss, and certainly would dwarf the damage caused by the resultant Specters (esp. if they explained Specters to and gave subtle knives to people in the universes they entered). They could always close all the portals after a huge amount of that has been done and huge numbers of people left better off.
    • The angels seem to have a way of destroying Specters. Either the angels could teach the humans how to destroy Specters, or some angels can be on constant Specter duty and vanquish any as soon as they are made. Angels live for thousands upon thousands of years, and there's supposedly a ton of them (more will be made if more Dust comes into existence), so it's not an unreasonable idea.
    • In other words, this would make a terrific And the Adventure Continues sort of ending. I don't think Pullman's buying it.

The Heroes of OlympusHeadscratchers/LiteratureThe Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy

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