endless list of favorite books → northern lights by philip pullman

“We are all subject to the fates. But we must all act as if we are not, or die of despair. There is a curious prophecy about this child: she is destined to bring about the end of destiny. But she must do so without knowing what she is doing, as if it were her nature and not her destiny to do it. If she’s told what she must do, it will all fail; death will sweep through all the worlds; it will be the triumph of despair, forever. The universes will all become nothing more than interlocking machines, blind and empty of thought, feeling, life…”


There are many universes and many earths, parallel to each other. Worlds like yours, where people’s souls live inside their bodies, and worlds like mine, where they walk beside us, as animal spirits we call dæmons.


endless list of favorite characters → lyra belacqua, his dark materials

“We have to be all those difficult things like cheerful and kind and curious and patient, and we’ve got to study and think and work hard, all of us, in all our different worlds, and then we’ll build…”

“And then what?” said her dæmon sleepily. “Build what?”

“The Republic of Heaven,” said Lyra.


The Land of the Dead

“They found themselves on a great plane that extended far ahead into the mist. The light by which they saw was a dull self-luminescence, that seemed the exist everywhere equally, so that there were no true shadows and no true light, and everything was the same dingy color. Standing on the floor of this huge space were adults and children–ghost people–so many that Lyra couldn’t guess their number. At least, most of them were standing, though some were sitting and some lying down listless or asleep. No one was moving about, or running or playing, though many of them turned to look at these new arrivals, with a fearful curiosity in their wide eyes. “Ghosts,” she whispered. “This is where they all are, everyone that’s ever died…””

The Land of the Dead is the underworld. Lyra and Will are carried across a lake to reach its gate by a ferryman reminiscent of Charon of mythology. The town on the edge of the lake is small and run down, families constantly in the presence of their own deaths.  Anyone who has ever died from any world goes there eternally, where their ghosts are guarded by Harpies. The escape that Lyra and Will facilitate leads the spirits of the dead to dissolve into the air and be reabsorbed into the land. 



“The water was deliciously between cold and warm. He splashed out to the diving platform and pulled himself up to sit on its weather-softened planking and look back at the city.
To his right the harbor lay enclosed by its breakwater. Beyond it, a mile or so away stood a red and white striped lighthouse. And beyond the lighthouse, distant cliffs rose dimly, and beyond them, those great white rolling hills he’d seen from the place he’d first come through.”

Cittàgazze is a seaside town.Its most significant feature is the Torre degli Angeli (Tower of the Angels), in which the Subtle Knife is first encountered.

The city is plagued by beings called Spectres. Spectres are invisible to children, but once individuals are old enough to see them, the Spectres eat away their dæmons, leaving them lifeless. Therefore, the city is devoid of adults, and populated only by small gangs of children. Spectres cluster around children approaching adolescence and consume them as soon as they come of age.

The multitude of Spectres in the world of Cittàgazze is due to the constant use of the Subtle Knife in its vicinity. The knife can create windows between worlds, but each window creates new Spectres. When Lord Asriel opened the passage from his world to Cittàgazze, he caused a massive surge in Spectre population. 

the stars are alive, child!
did you know that?
everything out there is alive,
and there are grand purposes abroad!
the universe is full of intentions, you know.
everything happens for a purpose.
your purpose is to remind me of that.

- philip pullman, “northern lights”


Serafina Pekkala

““Mr. Scoresby,” said the witch, “I wish I could answer your question. All I can say is that all of us, humans, witches, bears, are engaged in a war already, although not all of us know it. Whether you find danger on Svalbard or whether you fly off unharmed, you are recruit, under arms, a soldier.”

Serafina Pekkala is a witch queen from a tribe in Inari, Finland. She once had a child by the Gyptian Farder Coram, who saved her life when she was attacked by another witch’s dæmon. For witches to fall in love with men is common. There are men within the witch society who serve the witches, or who are taken as lovers or husbands. Witches are capable of appreciating men for their beauty, intelligence, and bravery; but due to the witches’ long life-span, the men appear to grow old and die almost at once. Witches live for many hundreds of years. Serafina claims to be three hundred years old or more. Witches own nothing, and so have no means of barter save mutual aid. They have no notions of honor, and therefore insults mean nothing to them. Temperature extremes appear not to harm witches: although they feel the cold, wrapping up against it would prevent them from experiencing other things that the humans of the text may not feel. Witches see themselves as subject to fate, yet argue that they, and all people, must act as if they possess free will. They believe that when they die Yambe-Akka, the goddess of the dead, comes to collect them.


“i’ll be looking for you, will, every moment, every single moment. and when we do find each other again, we’ll cling together so tight that nothing and no one’ll ever tear us apart. every atom of me and every atom of you… we’ll live in birds and flowers and dragonflies and pin trees and in clouds and in those little specks of light you see floating in sunbeams…and when they use our atoms to make new lives, they won’t just be able to take one, they’ll have to take two, one of you and one of me, we’ll be joined so tight…”

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