At the heart of Philip Pullman’s Northern Lights, which first lit up our imaginations over twenty years ago, is the exceptionally close bond between the heroine, Lyra, and her dæmon, Pantalaimon (a dæmon, for those not versed in Pullmanic lore, is an external manifestation of a human’s soul that takes animal form and has its own thoughts). Where Lyra was impulsive, Pan was there to counsel; when she was lonely, his soft fur was a comfort. For any child, having grown up clutching a soft toy or not, this was the most electric component of an extraordinary piece of work, bringing Pullman’s universe alive in a way that our own sad world of tax returns and bus stops never quite seemed to be.
Pullman has always been learned, unafraid to approach such complex subjects as Milton, quantum physics and theology. This new trilogy, of which the first volume, La Belle Sauvage, appeared two years ago, probes deeper, expanding our knowledge of Lyra’s world and delving further into philosophy. Where La Belle