I’ve read His Dark Materials twice all the way through. The first time I was about…. ten, I think, and my main memory of that is going to see Philip Pullman give a talk just before The Amber Spyglass came out, during which I covered my ears when he read an excerpt because I hadn’t read the book yet and I didn’t want to get spoiled. (Sorry Philip.)
The second time, I was sixteen and on a family holiday in the summer after my GCSEs. I read all three books curled up on the bed in the tiny cavern room in the converted train station we were renting and eventually staggered out at the end, weeping, for emergency cereal.
With The Book of Dust just released this week, I thought it would be a good time to reread His Dark Materials again before carrying on with the series. I don’t have Lyra’s Oxford or Once Upon a Time in the North with me, so I can’t reread those, but I’m going to get through the main three before picking up Book of Dust. WHAT A FUN EMOTIONAL TIME WE WILL ALL HAVE. A JOY. NO EMOTIONAL TRAUMA HERE. NO SIRREE.
I figured it would be fun to see what I remembered from the series before rereading it again as, you know, a nominal adult. Then when I’m done I can look back and be like WOW WELL DONE MOOG THOSE SURE ARE SOME C-PLOT MEMORIES.
Warning for spoilers below for all three books, just to be safe.
THE GOLDEN MONKEY IS THE MOST TERRIFYING THING. That’s it, that’s what I have on that one. Just the whole gamut of NOPE, from the creeping realisation of unease to full on heart-pounding GET THE FUCK AWAY FROM IT. No to you, golden monkey. Thank you and good day.
The elephants with wheels! I remember basically nothing about these either except that they are ELEPHANTS WITH WHEELS and they speak with their trunks and basically I would like a tiny herd of them for my very own. They could live in the spare room! I’m sure they’d be really happy there with the pug duvet cover and the piles of cushions.
The creepy ghost… things… in Subtle Knife. I think they are dangerous to adults only? And they turn you into, like, empty shell people if they touch you? An excellent time for a terrifying loss of childhood innocence narrative! Just really bring that on in there. How are our adolescent protagonists doing oH THEY CAN SEE THE GHOST THINGS NOW SOMETIMES OH GREAT ADULT RESPONSIBILITY COMES FOR US ALL.
The gay angels! That is the extent of my memory barrels about this, except that I think maybe one of them dies? (This seems likely, given the overall heartbreak and heartache of this series.) And then the other one… is intensely grief-stricken and this might be a turning point in his decision to help/not help Lyra and Will. COOL MEMORY MOOG TELL IT AGAIN.
I’ve put this last but it is my most enduring memory of this series: Lyra and Will forcing themselves to be separated from their daemons for plot reasons (these I am foggy on). What I do remember is Pan and Will’s daemon screaming and crying for Lyra and Will on the shores of the dead, while Lyra and Will are carried further and further away in a boat. This largely passed me by as a ten year old, but when I was sixteen, it completely broke me to bits. One of the most traumatic parts of anything I’ve read? OH FOR SURE.
Some other special mentions that I think really show my priorities:
- LEE SCORESBY AND HIS BALLOON
- IOREK BYRNISON
- The WITCHES <3___<3
- The alethiometer being one of the coolest things anyone has ever made up
- Vague but certain pain regarding Lord Asriel and Mrs Coulter’s relationship by the end of the series. Lord Asriel yells MARISSA in CONCERN at one point and I did not handle it well
- …. do they kill God?
Check back when I’ve finished my reread and we can see, you know, what I magnificently forgot and what hurt me the most this time. ~~~reading!~~~
Moog Florin writes things, reads things, and likes things.