His Dark Materials: Final Thoughts

20thAs my celebration of all things His Dark Materials comes to an end (kicking and screaming mind you), it is amazing to look back and see the journey that has happened. I started this month thinking I would just post a few fun facts, add a review here and there and show off this great series, but in doing so I have immersed myself into this series and reminded myself just how magnificent it truly is.

There are always questions that are raised when reading the trilogy, the keys ones being ‘Why was Mrs Coulter’s dæmon never named?’, ‘Was Moxie ok?’, ‘Did Lyra’s world recover?’, and of course the big one being ‘Why would you do this to me, Pullman? Why?’.

There is so much to love in this series, grand intricate plots; complicated, flawed characters; powerful emotions and a beautiful approach to huge ideas, all of which are all explored with flawless execution. Pullman is a master at big ideas in small bundles. He says so much indirectly and what he says directly has a great impact.

Another thing Pullman is great at is reaching deep within you and playing with your emotions, which is an amazing experience. He builds you up, raising your tolerance and making sure you are totally invested before he pounces. While Northern Lights was hard to read at times, it was nothing compared to what The Amber Spyglass would do to you. And while you thought The Subtle Knife was emotional, it was nothing compared to what The Amber Spyglass would do. Basically, The Amber Spyglass for all its brilliance will ruin your life. It’s wonderful.

HDM trio

There were many benefits in having this celebration, not only because I got to show off my favourite series to everyone, introducing it to people who haven’t read it yet and shared my love with fans who have, but I also got a great deal out of it as well. There were the little things such as learning more about the series I didn’t know, discovering fun facts about characters, title origins, discovering some brilliant fan art. But there were bigger things as well. Something much more profound happened to me these last couple of weeks. I came to the realisation that these books are my books. These are the books that make me proud and make me cry, and bring me so much joy and make me cry, and they teach me so much about things I didn’t know I needed to be taught about.

his_dark_materials_by_pyreoI have always felt strange listening to people talk about books they love, Sabriel, Harry Potter etc, books that have been their books. The books they know inside and out, the books they read as kids and loved, the books that are ingrained in their lives, that they obsess over and feel deep emotional connections with. I stupidly felt guilty for not feeling the same way about those same books. I thought I clearly hadn’t been reading Sabriel properly, a book so popular and loved and big. And while I adore Harry Potter I wasn’t at that ‘love above all else’ adoration for it either. I didn’t think I had been reading any books properly because I didn’t have this level of love for any of them, even the ones I had claimed to love for years like the Tomorrow Series or Thursday Next. That is until I reread His Dark Materials. It had been a few years since I had last read this series and while I remember loving it as always, and knew the scenes that always stayed with me, that was all I remembered. But being more than five years later a lot has changed, and upon rereading them now I realised that this was what I had been missing out on: the intense passion and admiration for a book. Northern Lights, The Subtle Knife, and The Amber Spyglass. These are the books that I have held in my heart without knowing it; that made me cry (a lot) despite having read them so many times. That can still break my heart and astound me to no end. And as silly as it may sound, I am glad to have gotten that out of this past month if nothing else.

I realise it sounds terribly trivial, and that this isn’t a thing most people think about or care about, but the moment I realised that these books filled that empty feeling I had, it was a truly wonderful moment.

alethiometer_wallpaper_by_wingedcelerityThere is so much magic to a series like His Dark Materials. There are things in this series you won’t recover from; they will be burnt into your heart and soul forever. There is so much beauty that you want to climb into the pages and experience firsthand. There are gut wrenching emotions and absolute joyous experiences of admiration and pride and triumph which will brighten your entire day. Even just admiring Pullman creativity and imagination is bewildering enough. It amazes me that someone could do all that with just words, to make this pain, joy, and heartache, not only for the first time but each and every time after that.

I am aware as I type this it sounds like the ramblings of a madman, which I am totally willing to accept. One of my biggest loves for this series, away from the characters and the grand ideas and the intricate plot, is just the complexity. Pullman fills these books with so much, all fitted neatly beside one another, interacting and bouncing off one another. The detail is astonishing, the tiny details that have huge consequences like the wings of a butterfly is impressive. The entire book is one big butterfly effect and Pullman knows it, it all started with Lyra in the Retiring Room. If you look at this series closely you get lost amongst the complexity and the adoration of just how well it all works.

tumblr_nk92s8XjUX1qiwuabo1_1280I will be sorry to see this month come to an end, but I do believe if I kept going any longer I would fall so far into the rabbit hole I may have a hard time convincing myself to climb back out again. I truly and sincerely hope you have all enjoyed this past month. I know I have had an absolute ball bringing it to you. Thank you for sticking by me through it all and who knows, I may do it all again in a couple of years for the 20th anniversary of Harry Potter!

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Quotes and Links

Discover more about the world of His Dark Materials

There are numerous places where people can go to discover more about His Dark Materials. Over the past month I have used numerous websites to get new information and clarify my own memory and in doing so I have discovered a range of things I never knew.

His Dark Materials Wikipedia

As usual, Wikipedia is a wonderful place to get quick information, but it is also surprisingly detailed. From the main His Dark Materials page there are pages to read plot summaries, character biographies, there are numerous side pages that discuss the races and creatures mentioned in the series, everything from Mulefa and Angels, to Arctic Foxes and Witches. There are also links to pages for each book to get a detailed breakdown of each story as well as information about controversies, and influences of the series as a whole.

Pullman’s website

Philip Pullman’s official website includes a range of great information about the series. There is a page dedicated to FAQs from fans about the series which Pullman has answered, there are also pages with links to all of his interviews (an invaluable source of great and random information), his hand-drawn illustrations for the books, and details about each book in the series.

BridgetotheStars.net

This is one of the largest fan sites on the internet. Started in 2001 it has grown to be a place where fans can upload their artwork, discuss the series in forums, learn about the science of His Dark Materials, and discover a range of things about the trilogy, adaptations, and companion books plus so much more.

 

Quotes

There are so many quotes I love from this series, some more controversial than others, and some that have a huge impact storywise but seem innocent out of context. Many of my favourite quotes ruin storylines and contain spoilers so I won’t include those. What I will include are some of the beautiful lines Pullman has written from all of the books, they are not all there because as I say, they are different out of context and I am a big fan of no spoilers.

“That’s the duty of the old,’ said the Librarian, ‘to be anxious on the behalf of the young. And the duty of the young is to scorn the anxiety of the old.”
― Northern Lights

“We are all subject to the fates. But we must act as if we are not, or die of despair.”
― Northern Lights

“I found folly everywhere, but there were grains of wisdom in every stream of it.”
―  The Subtle Knife

“For a human being, nothing comes naturally, we have to learn everything we do.”
― The Subtle Knife

“All the history of human life has been a struggle between wisdom and stupidity.”
― The Amber Spyglass

“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.”
― The Amber Spyglass

“The Christian religion is a very powerful and convincing mistake, that’s all.”
― The Amber Spyglass

“There were so many vivid currents of feeling between them that the very air felt electric to him”

The Amber Spyglass

 “Everything has a meaning, if only we could read it.”
Lyra’s Oxford

 

Upcoming, Extra, and Other

The His Dark Materials series may have ended with the three books, but there is always something extra going on, whether it is Pullman’s companion pieces and titbits of information, or it is the long awaited The Book of Dust which has been on fans wish lists for more than a decade.

Over the years Pullman has released snippets of information about what his characters have been getting up to and some have even been given full stories of their own, a look at their past or a moment in their future. Lyra, Lee, and Mrs Coulter have all been given additional attention, Lyra having an adventure after the series has ended, while Lee and Mrs Coulter have stories that take place in their past.

The Collectors

The Collectors is an audio book that is a short story focusing on the early life of Mrs Coulter. Mrs Coulter is one of Pullman’s most evil characters, and even the smallest glimpse into her early life is beyond brilliant. The Collectors was written exclusively for Audible, and is narrated by Bill Nighy. You can listen to an extract here.

 

Lantern Slides

In the release of the His Dark Materials Omnibus, Pullman has added little postscripts about what he thinks the characters are up to. These do not change the story because Pullman believes it is not the author’s place, saying “it’s too late: you should have done that before it was published, and your business now is with new books, not old ones”, but he does play.

There are numerous slides for each book, adding adventures and moments in the character’s lives, Lyra, Will, Dr Mary Malone, Lee Scoresby, Lord Asriel and Mrs Coulter included. They are only little things, snippets from within the books expanded, moments outside the series that show what happens to them, all marvellous and all brilliant.

Because the internet is a glorious place of sharing with those who cannot have, you can read what Pullman has included in Lantern Slides for yourself here.

Where are they now?

Will Parry

In the post-script ‘Lantern Slides‘ in the omnibus, it is revealed that Will goes on to become a doctor. His time bearing the subtle knife gave him the gift of easily diagnosing patients, and while he hides this when he is a med student where it would be seen as suspicious, when he becomes a qualified doctor he is more comfortable about using his abilities.

Lyra Silvertongue

As revealed in the extra bits and pieces included in Once Upon a Time in the North and Lyra’s Oxford, Lyra is studying the alethiometer and when she got older started working towards her dissertation. Whatever else she may be doing is yet to be revealed, no doubt in The Book of Dust.

To Look Forward To

The Book of Dust

This will be a companion novel to the His Dark Materials trilogy and features Lyra as the main character. Initially the book was to be set two years after the events in Lyra’s Oxford and would tie in with that book (Lyra’s Oxford originally being a story taken from The Book of Dust), but this has since been changed. Pullman now thinks that the book may be in two volumes, one set before His Dark Materials and one taking place afterwards. As the title suggests the book will also be about Dust, addressing the lack of positivity about religion as seen in the trilogy while not being a continuation in itself.

From its first mention all the way back prior to 2003, The Book of Dust has been a long and slow progress, Pullman continually pushing back the date and changing expected completion dates, settling on “eventually” for when it was due to be completed. After more than ten years it seems the end is near with Pullman announcing in 2014 that the book will probably be finished in 2015 and published sometime in 2016. A release date that currently remains unchanged.

The Little Green Book

In absolutely exciting news, Pullman also mentioned that in addition to Lyra’s Oxford, Once Upon a Time in the North and The Book of Dust, there may be another book, a small green book about Will which may appear someday.

“Lyra’s Oxford was a dark red book. Once Upon a Time in the North will be a dark blue book. There still remains a green book. And that will be Will’s book. Eventually…”

Knowing what Pullman is like with books and what “eventually” has meant, it may be another ten years like The Book of Dust, but I hope Pullman knows that in ten years time I will still be there waiting to buy a copy of that little green book no matter what.

 

Once Upon A Time in the North (#0.5) by Philip Pullman

Published: 8th April 2008Goodreads badge
Publisher: 
Knopf Books
Pages: 104
Format: Hardback
Genre: Fantasy
★   ★   ★   ★   ★  – 5 Stars

2225238In this prequel episode from Philip Pullman’s His Dark Materials universe, Lee Scoresby — Texan aeronaut and future friend to Lyra Belacqua — is 24 years old. The story reveals the origins of Scoresby’s friendship with Iorek Byrnison as well as Scoresby’s aeronautical career.

After winning his hot-air balloon in a poker game, Scoresby finds himself floating north. On the Arctic island of Novy Odense, Scoresby and his dæmon Hester become involved in a deadly plot involving an oil magnate, a corrupt mayoral candidate, and a hired killer who is Lee’s longtime nemesis from the Dakota Country. Forming an alliance with one of the island’s reviled armored bears, Scoresby fights to break up the conspiracy.

This novella is a prequel of sorts to His Dark Materials; it is an episode in the past of characters Lee Scoresby and his dæmon Hester. It has little to do with the actual trilogy, it is more an expansion at the characters themselves.

The language is beautiful, it is simple, elegant, clever, humerous and sarcastic. Lee is a true gentleman and an honest fighter which adds a great deal of class to the story. The plot itself is one of corruption and scandal, with the right amount of wit and action to make it engaging.

Pullman hides many clues and hints through this story about the armoured bears, about Lee’s past and future, and those who know the references will delight in discovering them. But these clues are not spoilers, nor do they feel out of place in the story. Pullman connects everything remarkably well, but also makes sure the story stands on its own, a story about an adventure in Lee’s past and not a story that acts as an obvious prequel.

Lee’s character is explored in extra detail but he remains the same person we see later in his life. His sense of justice and doing the right thing, as well as the way he assesses people and discovers true intentions with charm and wit. His strong ethics are on show as well which makes the story even more wonderful to read. A lot of this is evident in the trilogy, Lee’s good character shines through remarkably well, but it is great to see it play out in numerous situations and to see it is just as refined when he is younger. In addition, the relationship between Lee and Hester is as always a delight to read about. Hester looks out for Lee and him her, and she is a great asset in everything he does.

The length may be short, but it has everything you need within it. It is complete, complicated, interesting and engaging. There are conflicts and friendship, and a whole world captured with detail and creativity. The design on the book makes it even more fun, not only the additional extras that come with it but the pocket-sized adventure makes it feel like the mini adventure it is supposed to be.

You can purchase Once Upon A Time in the North via the following

Amazon | Barnes & Noble

Book Depository | Booktopia

Bookworld | QBD

 

 

Characters in Once Upon A Time in the North

There are a variety of characters in Once Upon A Time in the North, each of varying roles and importance. Lee is the main focus naturally, but there a small handful of characters that have key roles as well, a few of which are mentioned below. Discussing each character would give away too much story so I’ve only selected a few key players.

Lee Scoresby

lee_scoresby_1_by_ryerdLee is only 24 years old and early into his career as an Aëronaut. He lands on Novy Odense in search of work where he meets Iorek Byrnison and gets caught up with local issues. Despite being caught in multiple fights in his time and an excellent shooter, Lee was typically non-violent and had strong ethics, always polite and civil even with those he was about to fight.

Iorek Byrnison

Lee_Scoresby_meets_Iorek_ByrnisonLiving on Novy Odense with other bears where there is a tense relationship with locals. He is a young bear during this story, with only a helmet for armour. He meets Lee and offers to help with the problems with some of the people in the town. His character is the same as when he is older, proud and selfless, and on occasion sentimental and piteous, and like all Panserbjørne he had a strict code of contract, keeping his promises no matter what.

 

Pierra McConville

Pierre_McConvilleMcConville is an assassin with at least 20 murders to his name. His dæmon is a rattlesnake and has a history with Lee. He is described as being a tall man, lean with a bony face, eyes set deep in his face and large hands. He is elegantly dressed and has guns on his hips.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Captain H. Van Breda

Lee_Scoresby_and_van_BredaVan Breda is a Dutchman who gains the help of Lee and Iorek. He is the captain of the Mary Alice and his dæmon is never named but she is described as being a mongrel.

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