The Amber Spyglass

From Academic Kids

Missing image
Will and Lyra (in yellow)

The Amber Spyglass is the third and final novel in the His Dark Materials series, written by British novelist Philip Pullman, and published in 2000.

The Amber Spyglass won the 2002 Whitbread Book of the Year award, a prestigious British literature award.

The Amber Spyglass deals most strongly with religious and metaphysical ideas, depicting the foreshadowed re-enactment of Milton's Paradise Lost, and finally elaborating upon the nature of Dust.


His Dark Materials

The three books of the His Dark Materials trilogy are:

1. Northern Lights
2. The Subtle Knife
3. The Amber Spyglass

The trilogy is set in a multiverse. The third volume moves between a large array of diverse worlds, most notably our own, Lyra's, Ci'gazze, the world of the Mulefa, and the world of Asriel's fortress.


On Radio

The entire trilogy was dramatised on BBC radio in the United Kingdom.


A theatrical version of the three books was produced by Nicholas Hytner as a two-part, 6 hour performance for London's Royal National Theatre in 2004.

On Film

A film adaptation, titled His Dark Materials: The Golden Compass, is slated for release in 2007 by New Line Cinema, supposedly as the first of three films.

See the IMDb ( website for more information.

Plot Synopsis

Brief and Introductory

This book deals with Lyra and Will's quest into the Land of the Dead to overcome death, the overthrow of The Authority by a force lead by Lord Asriel, the sealing of the passageways between the worlds by the angels, and the destruction of the Subtle Knife.

Other plotlines in the novel involve Mrs. Coulter, Lyra's mother, as she goes on a self-employed mission to find out about Metatron, The Authority's Regent, and at the same time do all she can to protect Lyra.

Also, there is the story of the scientist, Mary Malone, who must play the serpent for Eve (Lyra), but in the meantime inhabits the world of the mulefa, a race of wheeled beings with a diamond-shaped spine. While there, she constructs the Amber Spyglass of the title, which allows anyone looking through it to see Dust, which to most beings is normally invisible to the naked eye.

Further subplots include that of a priest who is trying to assassinate Lyra, and the story of Balthamos, an apparently homosexual angel who disappears early in the book but reappears and dies in the chapter "Over the Hills and Far Away". (Regarding Balthamos and Baruch's apparent homosexuality, Pullman has stated that since they are angels, they are in fact sexless, despite having chosen male human forms. Clearly, they love each other, but their love is entirely asexual.)

Having overcome death, and fallen in love, Lyra and Will discover that the cutting between universes with the Subtle Knife depletes the world of Dust, and are faced with some difficult choices; reversing their achievement by resealing the Land of the Dead to leave a way between their own worlds; one of them moving to the world of the other to be together, but severely cutting the lifespan of the one who moves; or abandoning each other by sealing themselves in their own separate worlds.

In High Detail

Reading the following will severely reduce the enjoyment of then reading the books.

Lyra has been taken by Mrs Coulter to a distant land and a recluse cave. Therein, Lyra is kept drugged, in an enchanted sleep. Coulter tends to her and cares for her (and keeps her dormant) like a true mother. There is some genuine motherly emotion in her. Coulter is controlling with lies a village of simple people below, who bring her food. The messenger for this food is a little girl named Ama, whom Mrs Coulter allows to see the sleeping Lyra.

Ama wants to please Mrs Coulter, so she gets a cure for afflictions of unending sleep, and brings it to the cave secretly. However, in doing this, she sees that Coulter is in fact keeping the girl asleep. She realises Coulter is not so wonderful.

In Lyra's dreams, a set of chapter-interspersed and highly dissected excerpts, she dreams that she is in the Land of the Dead, talking to her dead best friend, Roger. She promises to come to save him, and she knows she can do it because Will will help her. Roger asks her why she's so sure, and she replies, "Because he's Will."

In Cittàgazze, Will is being escorted by the two angels who found him, to Lord Asriel. The angels are named Balthamos and Baruch. They are lovers, extremely passionate lovers, but angels are asexual. Will says that he will not take any Knife to Lord Asriel until they've rescued Lyra, and the angels have to assent, for humans are in fact much more powerful creatures—having real flesh. Besides, Balthamos and Baruch are of a low order of angels.

Baruch locates Lyra, by flying. At that moment, they see in the sky, the Chariot. They are attacked by the archangel Metatron, the Authority's Regent. Metatron is the most powerful of all angels, and is now the effective ruler of heaven, for God is old and frail. They closely escape, cutting into another world to do so.

The angels explain Angels to Will. God is not a God. He is an angel. He was the first angel that ever existed. For a long time, the multiverse contained only unconscious matter, but then when matter began to understand itself, it condensed into Dust, and angels were born. Once the second angel was born, the first, 'God', told it that it had created everything, including the angel. This continued, and 'God' created his Authority. When some angels discovered the truth, they rebelled against God—the great rebellion—but God won, and the rebels were cast out. Now, Lord Asriel is reviving that rebellion against the lies and oppression of the first angel.

Baruch, the stronger of the two angels, must go to Lord Asriel right away. They have something vitally important to tell him. Balthamos will stay with Will to help him find Lyra. They part.

Balthamos takes the shape of Will's dæmon to disguise him, and they begin to walk through Lyra's world. The climate there is changing due to the rent in the sky made by Asriel. Iorek Byrnison the armoured bear has had to move his melting snow-kingdom.

Baruch reaches Asriel's fortress—though he has been attacked by angels loyal to God, and he is weak. Asriel brings him in, and Baruch explains that God no longer rules heaven, but Metatron. Instead, God is kept locked inside a crystal chamber, inside the Clouded Mountain—or the Chariot—a vast floating mountain that is the Authority's headquarters and governing point. It is a multidimensional airborne fortress that passes constantly through the multiverse.

Metatron, as ruler of heaven, thinks that humans are getting too independent—being conscious and all—and he wants to directly intervene—to set up a permanent Inquisition, to make heaven's oppression absolute.

Baruch finally tells Asriel where Lyra is being held by Mrs Coulter, and that Will Parry is journeying towards her to save her. Then he dies, with Balthamos' name the last on his lips, before he dissolves into the air.

A sect of the Magisterium (the Church), called the Consistorial Court, know where Lyra, the next Eve, is being held. They send out a small army to go to kill her. Alongside this, they know that there is also a woman who is playing serpent. Mary Malone. Just as the serpent in the Adam and Eve story tempted Eve into Original Sin, Mary's role as the serpent will be to tempt, and cause Lyra to commit her second Original Sin. Therefore, they also send an assassin called Father Gomez after Mary Malone; not to kill her, but to follow her, for her path must inexorably cross with Lyra's: then to kill Lyra.

Back in Lord Asriel's Adamant Tower, his huge fortress, he sends out a small army of gyropters to where Lyra is being held, to counterattack the army of zeppelins from the Consistorial Court. He also sends two Gallivespian spies specifically to Lyra. Gallivespians are tiny humans that fly on dragonflies and have deadly poisoned spurs in their heels. Because of their size, they are the best spies. The two spies that he sends are called the Chevalier Tialys, and the Lady Salmakia.

Meanwhile, Will and Balthamos disguised as his dæmon draw closer to Lyra's position. In a town, at the port, they see that a group of armoured bears are fighting with the men. Will takes initiative and, loudly, calls the whole thing to a standstill. Instead of fighting, he proposes, he himself shall challenge the head bear to a duel. The whole clearing is deadly silent. The head bear laughs, for he could crush Will with one blink of an eyelash. Will agrees it is an unfair fight, so he suggests that the bear hand over one piece of his armour to Will, to make it fair. The bear is enraged, and does so. However, Will takes out the Subtle Knife and shreds the rock-hard helmet to pieces, then looks the bear in the eye. The bear surrenders.

Of course, the bear is none other than Iorek Byrnison, fleeing with his race from his melting kingdom. When Will explains that he is a friend of Lyra's, the bear becomes friendly, because he is very affectionate towards Lyra (and Lyra only, of all humans, apart, perhaps, from his dead friend Lee Scoresby). Will travels with Iorek towards the Himalayas where Lyra is being held.

So Will, Iorek and Balthamos, Asriel's army, and the Church's army, are all coming towards where Mrs Coulter is holding Lyra asleep.

Amidst all this, Mary Malone steps through a window into another world, and finds herself, after much walking, in a strange land. The only conscious beings on the planet are strange elephantine creatures with diamond-shaped spines, called Mulefa. They travel by attaching round seed-pods to their feet, and then use them as wheels. These Mulefa have a complex culture, language, and a large village; in all ways, they are people.

Mary learns to communicate with the Mulefa, and on occasion consults her Chinese divination device, the I Ching, and it tells her to stay with them. She becomes particularly friendly with a female zalif (Mulefa word for a single Mulefa) called Atal. Atal explains that roughly 30,000 years ago, Mulefa were not conscious. Then, one day, in Mulefa legend, a serpent told a female zalif to try on a seedpod. When she did so, she became conscious, and could suddenly see Dust—though the Mulefa call Dust by the name of Sraf; they see it as golden flecks that fill the world. Once the Mulefa began to use the seed-pods for wheels, they began to see the sraf, and became conscious.

Meanwhile, Will reaches Lyra's cave. There, Will goes straight to see Mrs Coulter, and she is too much for him—she instantly asserts her female control. She explains she's keeping Lyra asleep to protect her from the Church; her claims are plausible, just, but Will does not believe her. She also mentions Will's mother—his sick mother whom he loves but has left behind in the care of his piano teacher—this comment was designed to throw him, and it does. He leaves. He will use the same method that he used to steal the alethiometer off Sir Charles Latrom. He will cut a window directly over to where Lyra is sleeping, and rescue her.

At night, he does this, and finds the cave empty. He has met with the girl Ama, and using her cure for unending sleep (a herb), they wake Lyra. Will is just cutting a window back into another world, when suddenly Mrs Coulter is there. She's holding a gun, and for a moment, Will sees the face of his own mother in hers. A tidal wave of emotion thrills across him as he slides the Knife into the air, and a moment later it seems to catch onto something, and cracks into seven pieces. The Knife is broken. He's at gunpoint.

The two Gallivespian spies, the Chevalier Tialys and the Lady Salmakia, fly into the cave, and hold Coulter and her monkey-dæmon at poisonous-spur-point. They are locked into an impossible stalemate. Outside, the forces have clashed, and a deadly battle is going on. The two Gallivespians break the stalemate, and Will and Lyra escape the cave with them. Balthamos flees in cowardice. Will cuts into another world, he and Lyra go through, the two spies follow, and they leave the battle behind.

The battle ends, and Mrs Coulter is captured by Lord Asriel's forces. She is taken back to Lord Asriel's Adamant Tower, where she meets Asriel. She tries to learn as much as she can of his blasphemous actions, but he is controlling her as much as she thinks she's controlling him. There is also a certain ambiguous warmth, or absence of coldness developing in her, though we don't know what to make of it.

Coulter however escapes by stealing a special craft, and flies of to tell the Consistorial Court of the Church about everything she's learnt. Asriel is quick; he sends his chief Gallivespian spy, Lord Roke, after her, and Lord Roke manages to get into her craft.

Back with Will and Lyra, the two Gallivespians want to take Will and Lyra to Lord Asriel, primarily to deliver the Subtle Knife, Æsahættr, to him. Will does not let them know that the scabbard at his side contains only shards; instead, he uses the assumption that he has the Knife, to do what they want to do. Instead, they want to mend the knife, and do something quite outstanding.

Thinking about things, Will and Lyra realise that humans are tripartite beings. They have a body, a soul, and a mind. The body is what dies at death, and so too does the soul—the dæmon—but the mind, which can think about both the soul and the body, does not. It goes to the land of the dead: in Lyra's dreams, she'd dreamt of the Land of the Dead, and Roger. Assuming it truly exists, and that their revelations are correct, they determine to go to the Land of the Dead: Lyra wants to say sorry to Roger for leading him to his death, and Will wants to see his father.

They find Iorek, who has resettled him kingdom where it is still cold. He is an expert with metal, and only because it is Lyra that is asking does he agree to mend the Knife. It is a tough process, but successful. Before they leave, Iorek warns Will that the Knife has a power of its own, and to be wary. Also, the sly Gallivespian spies become ever the more irritated with the two children, but gain a small respect for them too.

They begin cutting through worlds until they find the Land of the Dead—or the World of the Dead. Eventually they, quite astoundingly, find it, perhaps by fate—for Lyra's great fate indeed involves the World of the Dead. They find processions of ghosts in a colourless dull town roaming towards a port. In this town, the Suburbs of the Dead, many people are simply waiting around in dilapidated huts, to die. The strange thing, however, is that every person has an accompanying 'Death'—a physical embodiment of the end of their life. Apparently, these 'Deaths' are like Dæmons—they are always there, whether you can see them or not.

When Lyra becomes infuriated with the single-mindedness of the Chevalier Tialys, the passion drives her suicidal, and by this sudden emotion, her Death appears to her. It agrees to guide her to the true Land of the Dead. There they go.

They come to the port, where a Charon-like skeletal boatman awaits dead passengers. Lyra's Death leaves, and she knows that the next time she sees him, it'll be the end of her life, many many years in the future. For now, however, they get into the boat.

There's a problem. Dæmons cannot cross this metaphysical river; it is a law like gravity: insurmountable. Lyra must leave her beloved dæmon Pantalaimon, or just 'Pan', behind on the shore, and they cry out to each other as the boat draws away. The connection between human and dæmon gets wrenched on with unbearable pain, but eventually it snaps; this is different however, to the Gobblers' incision; it was consciously done, and represents a newer strength and freedom of soul. Nevertheless, it is torturous as the image of Pan disappears under the mist. Of course, at the same time, though it is invisible, Will, Tialys and Salmakia all have their dæmons torn out too; the boat ride to the Land of the Dead is as painful as any death itself may be.

Back with Mary Malone in the world of the Mulefa, she is taken to see Sattamax, the oldest and wisest Mulefa. He explains that 300 years ago, the seed-pod trees started to sicken and die. Without the seed-pods, the Mulefa would not be able to see the sraf, the Dust, and that would stop them from being conscious. It is imperative that they stop the seed-pod trees from dying, but they do not know how. Sattamax asks Mary to help them, and she agrees, though doesn't know how she will do it.

She does, however, make a device by which to see sraf. She noticed that there was a special lacquer in this world that had a polarising effect on light. She spends long hours creating two sheets of this lacquer, and then experimenting with them. She discovers that when they are just the right distance apart, looking through them, she can see the sraf, the Dust, the Shadows, the golden particles. To fix this distance, she fashions the whole thing into a telescope-like instrument, an amber spyglass.

She begins her investigations by climbing up one of the seed-pod trees to see what was going on up there. Using the amber spyglass she sees that there are vast Dust-streams in the air, all flying off into the distance. At the top of the trees, there are large flowers with open petals. It is clear that the Dust, the sraf, is meant to be caught by the flowers, so that the sraf may nourish the tree, and may in turn infuse the seed-pods with the sraf by which the Mulefa become conscious. However, the sraf is not falling into the flowers, but it being dragged off sideways by some unknown force, so that only the odd particle gets into the tree to keep it alive.

But what is it that is making all the Dust fly away?

Will and Lyra, with the Chevalier Tialys, and the Lady Salmakia, arrive at the Land of the Dead. They are outside its gates, and all around them, harpies fly and screech. As they try to enter, one particular harpy soars at them. It asks them questions, but when Lyra lies (her speciality), the Harpy can see straight through it. Every lie of hers makes it screech louder with more fury. They escape this and enter the Land of the Dead, a vast, dull, dark, forsaken valley, populated with the non-physical ghosts of every being that ever lived. There is no heaven or hell. On death, every single being ends up in this one dismal wasteland, to be haunted by harpies for eternity.

It is the job of the harpies to screech truth. They know every single bad thing everyone has ever done, and they make sure that every single ghost is reminded of all of their mistakes as often as possible. All in all, it's a thoroughly miserable place.

Like angels have lust for real flesh, and like witches revel in it, the ghosts immediately flock to the living forms of Will and Lyra, and the two Gallivespians. They are not hideous but piteous wisps of dead lives, many of them children. Lyra is overcome with compassion and pity. She does not just want to find Roger anymore. If she can, she wants to free every ghost from this hell.

A ghost who was once a religious zealot cries out that this valley is in fact heaven, and that Lyra is an agent of the Devil, breeding malcontent. More of the ghosts, however, are persuaded to follow Lyra and Will as they browse through the dead, with a grand purpose they don't even know.

And eventually Lyra finds Roger, and she apologises to him; he is overjoyed to see her. Will and the Gallivespians try to think about how to get the dead out of this place (for whenever they cut into another world, they are too deep underground for the window to lead anywhere). In the meantime, Lyra comforts the ghosts by telling them stories about her physical life (that all the ghosts wish they'd used better). She tells them about Jordan college and all her adventures. They, and the harpies, listen intently. When Lyra stops, the harpies want more: her outpouring of truth nourished and fed them, and they liked it.

Thus, the answer is struck upon. The harpies will lead Will and Lyra, and, indeed, all of the ghosts, to the highest point in the Land of the Dead. There, Will will cut into another world: an exit from the land. Finally, rather than tormenting people, the harpies will ask every entrant to the valley to tell them the story of their life: that will feed the harpies, and in return the harpies will guide those people out of the Land. In other words, people should live their lives to the absolute full, so that they have an excellent, true story to tell the harpies on death.

This is agreed on, and the guidance to the highest point begins.

Back in Lyra's world, Mrs Coulter reaches the Consistorial Court of the Church, where she is placed under arrest. She tells a certain Father MacPhail about Will and Lyra, and Asriel. That night, Lord Roke, who had hidden with her, reveals himself to her. They become allies of a sort.

The same night, a young priest comes in sneakily, and steals the locket that Mrs Coulter wears around her neck. He takes this back to Father MacPhail, followed by Lord Roke. Roke learns that the locket contains some of Lyra's hairs (a sentimental emblem not expected of Coulter), and that, using a special new type of quantum bomb, the hair will be used to kill Lyra. In short, they will blow up the hair, which they will link to where it has come from—Lyra—who will in turn be blown up, no matter where she is. The device also needs a lot of energy, in other words, it requires an incision, a separation of dæmon and human; and Mrs Coulter will be the victim. Of her own procedure.

They travel to a special place (Saint-Jean-les-Eaux) to detonate the bomb. There, Coulter and Roke manage to break free and begin to fight. There are witches there too. Pandemonium sets in. At the last moment, Father MacPhail puts his own self into the incision device, determined to sacrifice himself to kill Lyra, even though his own dæmon is pleading with him to stop.

He detonates the bomb.

Lord Roke is killed. Then Lord Asriel himself, in a powerful craft, descends, and rescues his former lover Mrs Coulter.

Back in the Land of the Dead, the ghosts of Lee Scorseby and John Parry suddenly appear beside Lyra and Will. There is no time for greetings. They quickly instruct Will to find on Lyra's hair a pair where a lock has been cut off. He is there to remove the frayed ends, and quickly put them into another world. He does this, and not a moment later, the bomb explodes, creating a vast abyss, a gaping hole of nothingness, an explosion of the gap between worlds. It is infinitely deep, and through the abyss lies the void, the nothingness beyond all worlds. It is a terrifying prospect, especially when Lyra nearly falls into it, but is rescued by a harpy.

And then it's time for greetings. Lee and John tell Will and Lyra that their dæmons have made their way to the world of Lord Asriel's fortress; that is where they await; that is where Will and Lyra must go.

At last, they reach the highest point, and Will cuts a large window into another world. The first ghost to ever be freed from the Land of the Dead is Roger, who, as his atoms dissolve into nature, giggles with glee, or relief. A happy goodbye. And so, the procession of ghosts, all prepared to face oblivion, begin to walk out of the Land of the Dead, to redistribute themselves across the multiverse they miss, once more.

Will and Lyra, exhausted, fall asleep.

Father Gomez, the assassin sent after Mary Malone, makes it into the world of the Mulefa. He's constantly on her tail, and both she and he are constantly drawing closer to Lyra; his assassination will be soon.

Lord Asriel takes Mrs Coulter back to his fortress, his Adamant Tower, and there they discover that the Clouded Mountain itself, the Chariot driven by Metatron, is drawing on their position—to attack. Asriel gathers his entire army. They have now, already, learnt of the incredible thing that Will and Lyra have done in the Land of the Dead: freed it. Will and Lyra are now the top priority. Asriel knows their dæmons are somewhere close, on this world, and he orders his army to protect them at all costs.

Asriel and Marisa talk. Asriel in fact wants to preserve Dust forever, not destroy it. He does not think 'sin' as the Church defines it is bad. Like the angels desire flesh, 'sin' is no more than enjoyment of life. Without such 'sin' there'd be no story to tell the harpies. It is not really 'sin', it is in fact freedom. If the Church destroys Dust, which they think is Original Sin, that freedom will be lost forever, and the Authority's oppression will dominate all worlds.

The great, final battle begins.

Some of the ghosts, including John Parry and Lee Scoresby, are not ready to meet oblivion. They will strain to hold themselves together, and join Asriel's army: for only a being without a dæmon, such as a ghost, can fight with a Spectre; and Spectres indeed shall be attacking Asriel's army.

Will opens a window into Asriel's world, where the battle is raging, and the army of ghosts charge. Will and Lyra run through as well. Tialys and Salmakia, who by now are dying, for the Gallivespians are short-lived creatures, also go through into this final battlefield.

Will and Lyra, to their horror, realise that they can now almost see the Spectres: they must be on the brink of 'growing up'. Once they can see the Spectres, they can be killed by them. They rush off to find their dæmons.

In the meantime, the angel Xaphania shows Lord Asriel where the abyss made by the bomb has blown a hole in the mountain. Within, Dust is visible in the air, and ghosts are parading past.

At the same time, Mrs Coulter sets off in a craft for the Clouded Mountain. Landing on it, she manages to trick the first angel guard she sees into bringing her directly before Metatron; God. She quickly learns she has a great power here, for all angels desire flesh greatly, and male angels desire the flesh of beautiful women particularly greatly. Metatron is a male angel.

Pretending to be in awe of his majesty and brilliance (which is in fact particularly good), Coulter explains to Metatron that she will take him to Asriel—to kill him. In the process of this, she makes sure her female powers take over him, so that he is overcome with desire. She puts every fibre of her being into this final ultimate lie of hers: to trick God.

She and Metatron fly to the abyss where Lord Asriel is. There, Coulter instructs Metatron to wait whilst she speaks to Asriel, to set him at ease, to prepare the ambush on him. However, she is indeed fooling Metatron. Coulter has been a cold and evil woman for three books, but love prevailed within her. Her emotions for Lyra were always genuine, though her actions strange. She had a black heart with a tiny mustard-seed of compassion in it, and with Lyra in her arms, that mustard-seed grew until is suffused her whole being. She and Asriel, lovers reunited, know what they must do. They must kill Metatron to save Lyra, even if it means their own deaths. And they know that only oblivion awaits them, but the final love that breaks through is the driving force of their greatest act.

Metatron comes round the corner, and both lovers attack him. The struggle is vicious, and Lord Asriel's skull is smashed to pieces. They drag Metatron over the infinite abyss, but Metatron's wings are too strong: he flies. Only Asriel is weighing him down. With a final call of her name, Marisa Coulter jumps and grabs onto Metatron's legs, and the three beings hurtle into the abyss.

Will and Lyra run. The Chevalier Tialys and the Lady Salmakia have died. High above, a group of angels (under attack by cliff-ghasts) is carrying a crystal chamber. The angels are killed, and the indestructible chamber falls to the ground, where Lyra and Will find it. Within it, they find an angel whose age is of such epic proportions so as to be indescribable. He can't even talk.

He is the first angel. God.

Will uses the knife to open the chamber, and then the slightest gust of wind blows against God's infinitely frail form, and he dissolves into the air, with a final look of relief.

The children had no idea who he was.

They continue. They see Iorek in battle, and he bids his final farewell to Lyra. They keep running, and at last come to where their dæmons are being protected from Spectres by the ghosts. Both of their dæmons are in the same form, so they don't know (peculiarly) which one is which. Will accidentally picks up Lyra's dæmon, and Lyra Will's, and in doing so they each feel the shock of another human touching your soul. There is no time to think of this though, for a divine battle is taking place.

Will cuts into another world, and he and Lyra jump through with their dæmons. At the last moment, Will is face to face with the ghost of his father, from one side of one world, to another. Previously, John Parry told his son to be a fighter, but Will says to him now that he isn't cut out for it. John Parry tells his son 'well done', and he and Lee Scoresby dissolve into the wind. Will closes the window.

He and Lyra immediately fall asleep.

They wake the next day, and their dæmons have gone again: they have become independent creatures now, and they are resentful at having been abandoned. However, Will and Lyra are not too bothered running around after them right now. Will exclaims that he feels like he's got about a year of dirt on him, so he and Lyra take it in turns to wash in the river.

And then some Mulefa arrive.

On the backs of the Mulefa, they travel across the land to meet Mary Malone. Will is introduced, and Lyra is overjoyed. They are still utterly exhausted at their three-book epic of an ordeal, so they fall asleep again. Mary in the meantime goes to check out something the Mulefa are alerting her to.

It is the opening into this world, that Will made, from the World of the Dead. An endless procession of ghosts is streaming out into the air, and dissolving. The Mulefa have made the area beautiful, declaring it the most sacred of all.

One ghost-woman approaches Mary and says, "Tell them stories." She is referring, of course, to the harpies. Then she dissolves, and Mary is confused, and awed. She returns to the children, now set to 'tell them stories'.

First, they tell her all about their entire story. Then, she begins her own. She gave up being a nun because she saw it as constricting. Love, for instance, was a place like China: it existed, but you didn't necessarily need to go there. However, there was once someone she loved, though she didn't even realise it. It was a young boy, when she too was very young, who fed her a small piece of marzipan one time at a party, and she never forgot it. She realised that China, or, love, was too good a place to miss out on, just to be a nun.

This had all come into perspective when abroad once she had met a man, and it had been incredibly easy to talk to him. He made her happy. That night by the beach, she chucked her crucifix into the sea. She could not throw away every pleasure of the world just to serve a God.

So Mary gave up her religion in favour of that memory of marzipan: of love. This whole story affects Lyra profoundly, and silently. She even feels the effects of it physically, and she blushes.

That night, Mary visits the seed-pod trees once more. Suddenly she realises that the wind, the moon, and every force of nature, is opposing the outflowing of the sraf. Nature is trying to stop the sraf from leaving. 300 years ago, when the seed-pod trees started dying, the Subtle Knife was first made, and Spectres were first seen. Before returning to the Mulefa village, Mary sees Father Gomez, the Church assassin. Luckily, he does not find Lyra and Will, for they are not sleeping where he looks. He leaves.

The next day, Will and Lyra go out over the hills and far away, to find their dæmons. Father Gomez follows them. They spot their dæmons hiding from them, but don't want to let them know they can see, so they keep on moving, looking for them in silly places. Eventually they come to a forest, which they are entering when Father Gomez high above lines up his sniper rifle for a shot to Lyra's head. At that precise moment, he is attacked by something invisible. When he called out 'who is there?', the reply is, "My name is Balthamos."

Balthamos drags Gomez far away, but is becoming weaker. Suddenly Gomez breaks free and punches wildly. However, Balthamos' weak angel-form provides no resistance to his swing; it throws Gomez to the ground instead, where his head smashes against a rock, and he dies. Then Balthamos calls his lover Baruch's name, and dissolves into the air.

Will and Lyra enter the luscious forest, safe. In a beautiful clearing, they sit down to eat the food that Mary has packed them. As they are sitting them, quiet and calm, Lyra hesitantly takes a piece of fruit in her hand, and then puts it up to Will's lips. Instantly, Will recognises the semblance to Mary's story of marzipan, and he knows precisely what Lyra has meant. He trembles at the thought of it, and Lyra trembles as well, as he puts his hand to hers to keep it steady.

Then, like two moths bumping together, as gentle as that, their lips touched. In a moment they find themselves passionately kissing, saying at last that they love each other.

And so the prophecy completes. Mary played serpent by telling them the story of marzipan, tempting Lyra to think about Will differently. She plays the second Eve, offering fruit to Will's lips, jumping from the innocence of her childhood, to adulthood when they realise the wholly adult notion of love. She again commits the Original Sin, but it is glorious.

And with this final ascension to full consciousness, enhanced by the sudden love infused within them, Dust begins to flock to them in such quantities, that, through Mary's amber spyglass, they would seem to glow like fire. If you had to divert a stream, but had only one pebble, where would you put it? Will and Lyra's sudden pull on the Dust-streams caused that redirection, and suddenly the Dust of the Mulefa world began to fall directly downwards once more, infusing all life, including the tree-pods, with its conscious essence.

That night, Lyra and Will's dæmons meet the witch-Queen Serafina Pekkala. She names Will's dæmon Kirjava. Serafina also meets with Mary, and tells her that she too has a dæmon, an alpine chough. The next day, Lyra and Will reunite with their dæmons. They are now both deeply in love, and spend every second of the day together.

They are told by Serafina that the Gyptians are coming. They have travelled far, and finally at the end of the story are coming to pick Lyra up and return her to her world. Will can of course go with her.

But therein lies a dilemma. They were told by Will's father's ghost that a human cannot stay apart from his home world for very long. John Parry had been away for maybe ten years, and it withered him away. If either Will or Lyra went to stay in the other's world, they die far too soon. Then, of course, Will has his mother to care about.

Lyra decides to ask the alethiometer, but to her horror, she can no longer work it. With her fall from grace, she's lost the negative capability, the unconscious innocence that enabled her to read it so easily originally. She cries, but Will comforts her.

What can they do then, to be together?

The alternative is to keep jumping between worlds to be together. At this point the angel Xaphania comes to them and explains that it was the windows between world created by the Subtle Knife that was causing the Dust to leak away. In the microscopic gap between each window lies the non-existence of the abyss, and into this, the Dust leaks. Every window open causes the all-essential Dust to deplete.

Furthermore, every single time the Knife cuts a hole into the worlds, a part of the void in between escapes into the word: that nothingness that escapes is a Spectre. For every cut, a Spectre is created.

In other words, they cannot keep opening and closing worlds, for they'd be throwing Spectres across the multiverse.

Instead then, keep just one window open. A secret one, that they could go through every now and then. To be together. This is also impossible because not enough Dust is made in the worlds to counterbalance the loss of any more than one open window; and there can only be one open window: the window that makes the exit from the Land of the Dead.

Will and Lyra, desperately in love, realise that their separation, which shall begin tomorrow, is inescapable. Xaphania tells them there is a way to cross between worlds without the Knife, but she does not tell them.

Will shows Xaphania how to close a window. The angels will henceforth go around until every single one is closed, apart from the one in the Land of the Dead. This will also realign the multiverse, which had been slipping apart.

What must Will and Lyra—and people in general—do? Dust leaves the world at the Land of the Dead, but it is made through consciousness. By living full lives, teaching others about love and compassion and morals, and wisdom, the essential Dust of the multiverse can carry on to let life be aware of itself.

But Will and Lyra cannot be together.

The angel leaves, and Will and Lyra, and Pantalaimon and Kirjava, are left on the beach under the sky, to spend their last hours together. Will places his hand on Pantalaimon, momentously, and Lyra does the same to Kirjava. And they know, that from that moment on, their dæmons would never change form again, fixing at last into the forms of a pine marten (Pan), and a cat (Kirjava).

Will's bench and the bridge in the Oxford Botanic Gardens
Will's bench and the bridge in the Oxford Botanic Gardens

The next day, the Gyptians arrive, and Lyra is set to go back to her world. Will is set to go back to his. Briefly, Lyra comes into Will's Oxford, and there they visit the Botanic Garden. Within, there is a bench, and it exists in both Lyra's world and in Will's. Will and Lyra make a pact. Every year, at precisely the same time and day—midsummer's day at noon—they will both go to sit on this bench, for an hour. That way they will know that somehow they are still together. They agree, and they will do it every single year for the remainder of their lives.

Then they part.

Will and Mary remain in our world, reality. The Knife must be destroyed. By thinking of Lyra, Will's emotions overflow in the way they did the last time the Knife broke, and again this time it shatters. The Subtle Knife is destroyed.

Mary has been taught how to see her dæmon by Serafina, and she and Will are now the only two people in our universe to have dæmons. Will accepts Mary's offer to stay with her, and help him out. His prospects of future are bright, even though he has lost Lyra. "Being cheerful starts now," he tells himself. He assents with a cheerful "Yeah!"

Back in Lyra's world, three weeks later, Lyra, a changed girl, is back in Jordan College. She relates her story to the Master and Dame Hannah, in part, on the condition that they believe her, accepting that she's been a liar before.

At the last, she agrees to dedicate her career to alethiometry; she wants to learn it again, if, this time round, the hard way. She will study with Dame Hannah.

The trilogy concludes with Lyra upon the bench in the Botanic Gardens. She and Pan speculate on things. There was something they had now to build. It was for what their parents sacrificed themselves. For what this was all about. And they know the answer:

"The Republic of Heaven."

See also

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