Self began The Golden Compass having already made the acquaintance of Lyra and Lord Asriel in La Belle Sauvage (Volume One of Pullman’s new trilogy, which takes place ten years before the events of The Golden Compass).
In LBS, Lyra’s an infant. When The Golden Compass opens, Lyra’s a feisty little girl whose best friend is a boy named Roger. Together, Lyra and Roger go ranging over the rooftops of Oxford and exploring in crypts. This part of the story is sheer delight.
It’s not until Chapter 4 of The Golden Compass that she meets two other characters from LBS: Dame Hannah Reif (who is described as “an elderly, gray-haired lady” — a far cry from the woman she was in LBS. How could a person have aged so much in just ten years?) and Mrs. Coulter (who doesn’t seem to have aged a day, despite the 10 years etc)
Now, these two women (accompanied by a third, mystery woman) appear for dinner at Jordan Hall, and Lyra learns she is being sent off with Mrs. Coulter, the very next day. It doesn’t take long for self to google “Mrs. Coulter” and discover that Nicole Kidman played her in the movie adaptation, which then causes self to dislike Mrs. Coulter because self never could abide Nicole Kidman in anything, just saying.
There is a lot of cloak-and-dagger stuff even at this early stage of The Golden Compass, and self really loves how deftly Pullman navigates between the simple certainties of childhood and the edges of terror. Before Lyra leaves Jordan Hall (forever), the old Master slips her an alethiometer which isn’t actually as fabulous as it sounds because the device reveals who is lying to you, and that information always hurts because it is never who you expect.
Self loves that Lyra’s daemon is called Pantalaimon because it sounds like a cross between Shakespeare and Don Quixote, and also it is such a mouthful compared to other daemons’ names, like Ben or Asta. So the reader will never, ever forget it. And after a while, when you succeed in getting Pantalaimon to roll trippingly off your tongue, you will feel so smart. Like you’ve just aced your finals.
The daemon Pantalaimon has a tendency to shift into the most amusing animals, such as a hedgehog:
“she snapped at him, when he became a hedgehog out of pique.”– p. 72
Has self ever shared with dear blog readers that she has a special fondness for hedgehogs? She even used “hedgehog” as the worst cuss word on the planet, in her story of the far future called “Spores” (published in decomP Magazine)!
An excerpt from self’s story:
“We be needing foxes,” I said once.
“You lousy hedgehog,” the boss said, giving me a good one. My right eye swelled up almost immediately.
Would you believe that at the time self wrote the story, she had never laid eyes on an actual hedgehog? A few years ago she was at the San Francisco Zoo and finally got to see a hedgehog. It was all by itself, huddled in a far corner of a kind of pen, and it looked positively miserable.
Stay tuned, dear blog readers. Stay tuned.