Characters in Lyra’s Oxford

Being such a short and isolated story, there are only two key characters in Lyra’s Oxford, this being Lyra herself, and of course Pantalaimon. Both characters have changed a lot since being introduced in Northern Lights, Pan has settled on his form and Lyra has wisdom and strength from her time away and it’s great to see she hasn’t forgotten what she went through.


lyra_in_the_dark_by_happineffLyra is such a complex character, she is filled with contradictions but there is no denying what a wonderful character she is. Seeing her grow up as you read is delightful, she begins as curious and indignant, mischievous and wild, but as she experiences new things and is exposed to new people and situations there is a gradual change evident in her behaviour that she herself reflects on which is touching to see. By the time we revisit Lyra when she is 15 it is clear how much she has grown up from the child in Northern Lights, but there are still signs of the old Lyra there as well, a part of her never changing, maintaining the sense of doing what’s right and following that spark of curiosity.



pantalaimon2_595Pan’s name comes from the saint in the Orthodox churches, St Pantalaimon, which means “all-compassionate” in Greek. He has a wide range of changes through the entire series, introduced to readers as a dark brown moth, changing into numerous forms such as an eagle, an owl, and a seagull, to a tiger, leopard, and a cheetah, even at one point a dolphin. His favourite forms however are a snow-white ermine, a mouse, and a wild cat.

Pan is a great companion to Lyra, he balances her perfectly; his cautious and level-headed nature balancing her impulsive, curious, and sometimes reckless behaviour.

Characters in The Amber Spyglass

Many of the characters from the previous two books make appearances in The Amber Spyglass, both brief and otherwise. The main reoccurring characters include:

Lyra Silvertongue          Will Parry

Dr Mary Malone          Iorek Byrnison

Balthamos          Baruch

Mrs Coulter          Lord Asriel

Serafina Pekkala

There are also numerous new characters as well. The Amber Spyglass is a wonderful place where reunions of beloved characters come together with new faces, all working together and against one another in the final battle that brings this series to a thrilling end across numerous worlds and with uncharted dangers.

Chevalier Tialys

chevalier_tialys_by_meadowerThe Chevalier Tialys is a Gallivespian, a race described as being as tall as the length of a human hand. Because of their size they are excellent spies and ride around in saddled dragonflies they raise from larvae. Tialys is described as having dark hair, bare feet, wearing Capri-length silver trousers and looking “strong, capable, ruthless, and proud”. Like all people of the Gallivespian race, Tialys has spurred feet, able to inject various levels of poison into enemies.

Lady Salmakialady_salmakia_595

The Lady Salmakia is a Gallivespian spy, just like Tialys. They are partners on their mission for Lord Asriel. Like Tialys she is described as being “strong, ruthless, and proud” and is depicted as quite maternal, and much more diplomatic and calm than her partner. Lyra describes her not as beautiful, but as having a face someone suffering would want to see. Salmakia is dressed similar to Tialys, bare spurred feet but with a silver skirt and a green blouse.


The Authority

The Authority’s Church and organisations are mentioned frequently throughout the series but he himself only appears in The Amber Spyglass. He is the first angel to come into existence, followed by the other angels, and resides and rules from the Clouded Mountain, a mobile city believed by those in that universe to be Heaven. He took power over the Kingdom of Heaven under false pretences and lies but when other angels discovered his illegitimate claims they began the rebellion against the Kingdom of Heaven. The Authority assumes several names, including “Yahweh”, the “Lord”, “El”, “Adonai”, and “the Almighty”. As he got older he withdrew into the city and appointed Metatron as his regent.


xaphania2_595Xaphania is the leader of the rebel angels who have allied with Lord Asriel. Like other angels she is described as being naked, winged, and luminous, not shining but having an unseen light shine upon her. She is higher up than Balthamos or Baruch and is clearly visible to corporeal beings.



metatron2_595Metatron is the Regent of Heaven, appointed by the Authority but also seeks to overthrow him and seize power himself. He is a medieval Judaic Archangel and is the ultimate antagonist of the series even though he doesn’t appear until the end. He is said to be the biblical character Enoch, who is in the line between Adam and Noah.


atal_by_jennarotancrede-d36eq16The Mulefa are not so much a character as a species, but one in particular, Atal, is a reoccurring figure and friend to Dr Mary Malone. Mulefa is the plural while Zalif is the singular. The Mulefa are a sapient species who inhabit the universe Dr Malone escapes into. They have four legs, short horns, and a prehensile trunk that is used as hands as well as communication. They are elephant-like creatures but have a diamond shaped skeleton without a spine and they use giant seed pods as wheels, attached to the spurs on their front and rear legs. Adding a seed pod is classed as a rite of passage when a Zalif is old enough to fit one. The seed pods fit the front and rear legs, with the side two being used to propel them alone, much like a cyclist without pedals.

Characters in The Subtle Knife

Many of the characters from Northern Lights make an appearance in The Subtle Knife, but there are many new characters introduced as well. The story focuses a lot on the new characters and the new worlds, but there is a great mixture of existing characters and introduced ones, woven into the story superbly to show off the new world, introduce new faces, as well as continue the story on. Returning characters include Lyra and Pan, Mrs Coulter, Lee Scoresby, and Serafina Pekkala, while the minor character, Lord Boreal, from Northern Lights reappears. Most returning characters have small but important roles, but all work together to move the story on with important details and plot points.

 Will Parry

his_dark_materials___will_by_citrus_shoodWill is a character that comes from a place that is presumed to be our own world. He lives in England and is the only child to Elaine Parry. Will is a tough kid, he is strong willed and protective. Having had to grow up fast after realising his mother had mental problems, he does everything he can to protect her and himself from any unwanted attention. Wil’s life seems simple but after learning there were men who were after something that belonged to his father, he defends his home and his mother. After being attacked by and accidentally killing home invaders, Will flees his home and finds a window into another world. There he finds Lyra and Pan and becomes the bearer of the Subtle Knife. He is around the same age as Lyra, if not slightly older, but still prepubescent.

Pullman is brief on physical descriptions, but Will is described as having dark hair with straight black eyebrows, with eyes that are noticeably fierce and wide with a jutting jaw and broad cheekbones. Will travels with Lyra through multiple worlds, new ones as well as his own. Will has real world smarts that Lyra lacks, especially as his world is so much different than her own, but they both balance out in intelligence in a range of areas and Lyra knows things he doesn’t, especially regarding Dust. Being from the real world, Will has no daemon, but like people from others worlds, his daemon is on the inside.


John Parrytumblr_n8pniyNxSm1sk2kvno1_400

John Parry is the father of Will Parry, who in Will’s world went missing when he was an infant. In his world John was a famous explorer and during a trip to the Alaska he wandered through a window to another world and couldn’t return. In this new world John changed his name and become an explorer there as well, upon entering Lyra’s world his daemon appeared, an osprey named Sayan Kötör.



Lord Boreal

green_ink7_595Lord Carlo Boreal makes an appearance briefly in Northern Lights, but has a bigger role this time around as a main antagonist. Going by a different name and in a new world, he has interests in the Subtle Knife, as well as the alethiometer. He has connections with many characters, Lyra and Will initially, but also Mrs Coulter and Dr Mary Malone. Coming from Lyra’s world he has a daemon which takes the form of a serpent.

Dr. Mary Malone

tumblr_mk9639hlDI1r0388go1_500Dr Mary Malone is a physicist from Will’s world. She is investigating dark matter, the name of Dust in her world. Lyra meets her first, trying to find information about Dust, and with Lyra’s help finds a way to interact with dark matter, much like Lyra and the alethiometer. Mary discovers she has an important role to play in both Will and Lyra’s lives and she embarks on a journey of her own, discovering a new world with strange creatures. She will be the one to construct and utilise the Amber Spyglass.


balthamos_by_ryerdBalthamos is an angel and part of the rebellion from the Kingdom of Heaven looking to join Lord Asriel’s army. Balthamos plays a larger role in The Amber Spyglass where his mission is to guide the knife bearer (Will) to help Lord Asriel. Angels are described as being luminous and humanlike, barely visible to the human eye. They can transform and are capable of flight though their wings have no corporeal form. Balthamos is cautious and sarcastic, and his relationship with Will has an air of ironic contempt. He also has a same-sex partner, Baruch, another angel who is also part of the rebellion.


balthamos_and_baruch_by_blackmage339Baruch is an angel who is part of the rebellion from the Kingdom of Heaven alongside his same-sex partner, Balthamos. Baruch is courageous and often is the one to fix any of Balthamos’ failings. The connection and affection between the pair is evident, they are deeply loyal and in love. Both Baruch and Balthamos are low ranking angels, but they are determined to carry out their mission at all costs. Like Balthamos, Baruch plays a larger role in The Amber Spyglass, but is introduced first towards the end of The Subtle Knife.

Characters in Northern Lights

The characters introduced in Northern Lights are all wonderful, and each of them is unique and plays a role in the story. Many of these characters reappear in later books while others only have a brief but important role to play. I could easily start talking about in depth all the characters I enjoyed reading about, the well-known ones and those rarely mentioned, but then we’d be here forever. There are also many more characters than those that I list here, and I could easily discuss each of them, even briefly, but I won’t.

What is brilliant about Pullman and how he has created these characters is that many of them play the smallest roles in Northern Lights, but they are still important roles and important characters. Many of the characters I’ve listed here are reoccurring in the other novels, and their roles grow, but even their brief appearances in the first book offer so much history and depth and questions that they becomes complex in just the simplest of words.

The inventions of dæmons is also another brilliant indicator of who a character is, which is the point of dæmons, they show you who you are as a person. The animal form or actions of the dæmon can describe a character better than a paragraph, especially with unsettled children dæmons because they reflect the character’s emotions phenomenally. but there’ll be more on those later.

Of all the characters in this book, I am a big fan of Lyra and Pan, as well as Iorek. And in a small sentimental way I am rather fond of the Master. I understand where he was coming from and I have so much sympathy for what he was trying to do.

I have also added in some fan art. I know people have different ideas of what characters look like, and Pullman to his credit limits the descriptions allowing readers to fill in the gaps, but I also like seeing how people have interpreted these characters. I know my own images aren’t exactly like the ones I have added, but I can’t draw so you won’t be seeing those ones anytime soon.

If you guys have a favourite character/s, or some art you’ve done I’d love to hear about it!

Lyra Belacqua and Pantalaimon

his_dark_materials___lyra_by_citrus_shoodThere is so much you can say about Lyra, she is strong willed and determined, she has a natural ability to lie, and she uses this to make up fanciful stories about her life and to get herself out of trouble. Lyra’s dæmon is Pantalaimon, nicknamed Pan, and together they are full of mischief. Lyra is crafty but curious, always asking questions and wanting to know about new things she discovers. She is driven by destiny and as many of the characters note, she has an important role to play in saving not just one world, but them all. What makes Lyra great is that while she is brave, she is still only a child, and she gets fearful and unsure. But it is her strength to keep going and face things even when filled with fear, and her determination to do the right thing that make her an admirable character.

Roger Parslow

Roger is one of the main reasons Lyra left Oxford in the first place. He is a kitchen boy who works at Oxford, and a lifelong friend and playmate of Lyra’s. After being kidnapped by the Gobblers, Lyra was determined to bring Roger home. While not in the story very often, Roger plays crucial roles, not just in driving Lyra on, but also in key events. Roger looks up to Lyra he admires her fearlessness and values her friendship. Roger himself isn’t scared or frightful, he is as adventurous as Lyra but he is also the voice of caution. Roger’s dæmon is called Salcilia.

Lord Asriel

tumblr_mdyxszalQl1ru9z2ho1_500Lord Asriel has a commanding presence, one of power and intimidation, but he isn’t cruel per se. He is tough but fair I guess. He knows what he wants and isn’t above being a bit sneaky to get it. His dæmon is a snow leopard named Stelmaria, and just from studying her you can tell the kind of person Lord Asriel is. He is calm on the surface but powerful, he exudes power and class. While not as evil as Mrs Coulter, Lord Asriel does have his own agenda; he just doesn’t go about making it a reality in as nefarious ways. Trying to determine if Lord Asriel is a good person is hard, he is good to Lyra, as good as he can be, but he also gets blinded by his goal.

Marisa Coulter

marisa_coulter_and_daiamon_by_larkabella-d38nn1pWhen discussing Marisa Coulter, the first thing is to ignore Nicole Kidman and the movie. While the Harry Potter fans won’t let go of “calmly”, I am still annoyed Mrs Coulter suddenly went from having “sleek black hair that framed her cheeks”, to a blonde bob. Having said that though, Pullman apparently wanted her blonde so there’s that. Mrs Coulter is actually one of the scariest characters in Northern Lights. She is manipulative, ruthless, and certainly ruthless, but she can also be charming and alluring when she wants to be, and worst of all thinks she is doing the right thing. As an agent of the Magisterium, she has no problem manipulating the Church for her own gain. She is blinded by her beliefs and does not care who is sacrificed in the process. The fact she can switch so quickly from calm and nurturing to callous and back again is dangerous enough. Adding in her self interests, the total disregard of other people, and tampering with the very make up of the natural world means she is a dangerous force to come across. Her dæmon is a golden monkey, who interestingly is never named through the entire trilogy, despite many other character’s dæmons being named.

Iorek Byrnison

love_for_the_panserbjorn_by_rohanelfIorek is a character who got my affection very early on. He is tough and formidable, but he is kind and fiercely loyal. He is the rightful king of the panserbjørne, armoured sentient bears, and is recruited and rescued from enslavement by John Faa and Lyra to help with their journey North. Iorek becomes very protective of Lyra after she helps him on more than one occasion and it is beautiful to see the bond between them. Iorek is essentially a large polar bear with an opposable thumb that helps them build. The armoured bears make their armour from sky iron and like a daemon is a soul to humans, so too is the armour the soul of a bear.

Iofur Raknison 

tumblr_ls5u5qqCoe1qkn9uko1_1280Iofur Raknison plays an important role in Northern Lights, despite only being in there for a brief time. A lot revolves around him, and he is a launching point for many events and situations in the story. Iofur stands out as being different from other panserbjørne. He has claimed the throne that belongs to Iorek, and makes many changes to the kingdom and practices of the bears. Much like King Louie in the Jungle Book, Iofur wishes to be human with a dæmon of his own.


Serafina Pekkala

Serafina is a witch that assists Lyra and the others in their mission North. Serafina is an important character because while her role is small, it is important and valuable. She offers information about the grander things, away from the immediate situation and about future events. Through her we are told about Lyra’s destiny, the coming war, and the introduction to the world of the witches. Being a witch, their dæmons have different rules, and Serafina’s snow goose dæmon Kaisa, can travel far from her and is also important in helping Lyra on her journey.

Lee Scoresby

green_ink3_595Lee is someone I grew to love in later books, but is still intriguing in the first book. He has a lot of past adventures that he references, and a detailed history fighting beside and helping Iorek. He is a Texan and an aeronaut, and his dæmon Hester takes the form of an arctic snow hare. Lee is rough around the edges and a good man though always trying to get reimbursed and paid for his contributions and assistance. It doesn’t make him greedy, it makes him honest, and with only a few brief conversations and comments a true understanding of who Lee is can be established.

Ma Costa

ma_costa_h_595Ma Costa is a great character, she is a wonderful mother figure to Lyra, looking out for her, caring for her and hiding her when necessary. She is a Gyptian woman, one of the people Lyra and other Oxford children have been “fighting” for decades. Ma Costa is also one of the people who helps start Lyra’s journey, sending her in the right direction and introducing her to the right people to start the journey North. She is also interesting because there is an inconsistency in Northern Lights about her dæmon. While not named, it is described as both a hawk and a wolf-like dog. Something not possible as adult dæmons are unchangeable.