Characters in Once Upon A Time in the North

There are a variety of characters in Once Upon A Time in the North, each of varying roles and importance. Lee is the main focus naturally, but there a small handful of characters that have key roles as well, a few of which are mentioned below. Discussing each character would give away too much story so I’ve only selected a few key players.

Lee Scoresby

lee_scoresby_1_by_ryerdLee is only 24 years old and early into his career as an Aëronaut. He lands on Novy Odense in search of work where he meets Iorek Byrnison and gets caught up with local issues. Despite being caught in multiple fights in his time and an excellent shooter, Lee was typically non-violent and had strong ethics, always polite and civil even with those he was about to fight.

Iorek Byrnison

Lee_Scoresby_meets_Iorek_ByrnisonLiving on Novy Odense with other bears where there is a tense relationship with locals. He is a young bear during this story, with only a helmet for armour. He meets Lee and offers to help with the problems with some of the people in the town. His character is the same as when he is older, proud and selfless, and on occasion sentimental and piteous, and like all Panserbjørne he had a strict code of contract, keeping his promises no matter what.


Pierra McConville

Pierre_McConvilleMcConville is an assassin with at least 20 murders to his name. His dæmon is a rattlesnake and has a history with Lee. He is described as being a tall man, lean with a bony face, eyes set deep in his face and large hands. He is elegantly dressed and has guns on his hips.







Captain H. Van Breda

Lee_Scoresby_and_van_BredaVan Breda is a Dutchman who gains the help of Lee and Iorek. He is the captain of the Mary Alice and his dæmon is never named but she is described as being a mongrel.

Fun Facts About Once Upon A Time in the North by Philip Pullman

2225238Once Upon A Time in the North is a prequel of sorts to His Dark Materials, another companion piece that provides more information about certain characters who appear in the trilogy and their lives before the events in Northern Lights. Despite being set before the series, Pullman references a few things that happen in the future, clues and great titbits if you understand the references, but nothing too substantial if you haven’t read the series.

Published in 2008 the narrative focuses on a young Lee Scoresby, specifically an adventure where he lands on a small island and gets involved with a few local dramas and mishaps. It also provides an insight into his aeronautical beginnings, plus the origin of friendship with the armoured bear, Iorek Byrnison. At 104 pages it is short but long enough and offers wonderful insight into the lives of two beloved characters.

This book is wonderful because it satisfies anyone who read His Dark Materials longing to know more about Lee Scoresby, Hester, and his past with Iorek Byrnison; Pullman having tempted numerous times with references to past events and the long and solid friendship. Before this book existed I would read the trilogy wanting to know more about Lee, wanting another book dedicated just to Lee’s adventures and his friendship with Iorek. With Once Upon A Time in the North these needs have been satisfied.

An exclusive extract was printed by The Guardian under the heading Winds of Chance in March 2008 before publication with the official launch taking place on 31 March 2008 at the Oxford Literary Festival where over 700 fans gathered to hear Pullman speak about his new novella.

Like Lyra’s Oxford, there are a few bits and pieces included with the book. Some of the things included are letters from Lyra, newspaper articles, plus a playable board game that is the same as the one mentioned in the story.

While it has yet to receive any awards, reception of the book was positive with the first reviews appearing less than two weeks before publication. It was described as “a joy” by The Times, while Ian Giles from dubbed it “an absolute triumph”. An audiobook has also been produced which was released the same day as the novella. Once again Philip Pullman and a full cast perform, with Garrick Hagan as producer.