Being such a short and isolated story, there are only two key characters in Lyra’s Oxford, this being Lyra herself, and of course Pantalaimon. Both characters have changed a lot since being introduced in Northern Lights, Pan has settled on his form and Lyra has wisdom and strength from her time away and it’s great to see she hasn’t forgotten what she went through.
Lyra is such a complex character, she is filled with contradictions but there is no denying what a wonderful character she is. Seeing her grow up as you read is delightful, she begins as curious and indignant, mischievous and wild, but as she experiences new things and is exposed to new people and situations there is a gradual change evident in her behaviour that she herself reflects on which is touching to see. By the time we revisit Lyra when she is 15 it is clear how much she has grown up from the child in Northern Lights, but there are still signs of the old Lyra there as well, a part of her never changing, maintaining the sense of doing what’s right and following that spark of curiosity.
Pan’s name comes from the saint in the Orthodox churches, St Pantalaimon, which means “all-compassionate” in Greek. He has a wide range of changes through the entire series, introduced to readers as a dark brown moth, changing into numerous forms such as an eagle, an owl, and a seagull, to a tiger, leopard, and a cheetah, even at one point a dolphin. His favourite forms however are a snow-white ermine, a mouse, and a wild cat.
Pan is a great companion to Lyra, he balances her perfectly; his cautious and level-headed nature balancing her impulsive, curious, and sometimes reckless behaviour.