In the thirty-fifth chapter of The Amber Spyglass, Will and Lyra set off to find their dæmons and instead stumble on to a universe-changing epiphany. Intrigued? Then it’s time for Mark to read The Amber Spyglass.
CHAPTER THIRTY-FIVE: OVER THE HILLS AND FAR AWAY
The mere appearance of Father Gomez in the mulefa village gives this chapter a painful sensation of dread. He knows where they are. He knows that he is close, and he has a rifle. Who is he going to confront? Mary alone? Will and Lyra? CAN THIS NOT ALL END IN DISASTER?
I’m glad that Mary doesn’t hesitate to either stop the kids from going to find their dæmons, yet she’s not reluctant to tell them that this is dangerous. She respects them and their choices, but that doesn’t mean she can’t be concerned for them. Her instinct is correct, obviously, but Will and Lyra are far too set on locating their dæmons to listen.
A lot of chapter thirty-five also acknowledges some of the logistics of this trilogy, and I’m glad that it’s done in a way that doesn’t seem forced. I’ve been so enamored and immersed in this story that I truly forgot how far they all were from home. I forgot that Will had left his mother behind in the care of Mrs. Cooper. They’ve only been gone a few weeks, right?Maybe a month? It hasn’t been terribly long, but I’ve also been reading this series for quite some time, so it seems like an eternity ago that I was first introduced to Will Parry.
More questions are asked, and some are answered. I think we’ll see Lyra’s settled dæmon before the end of the series, though I’m not really sure what animal Pan will settle as. But there are hints that I noticed in retrospect that this chapter is all about Will and Lyra growing up and growing together. From the acknowledgment of the shame of touching one another’s dæmons, to the later conversation about marriage, it was pretty obvious that these two were beginning to develop something with one another that was far more than friendship.
But I’ll get to that in a second. While I was hoping that the reunion of Pan and Lyra would have been this perfectly joyous occasion, I’m beginning to realize that it’s much more realistic that Pan would have felt betrayed by her decision, so much so that he is resistant to return to her, even if that’s what he truly wants. It is frustrating to read Will and Lyra playing this reverse game of cat-and-mouse, pretending that their dæmons aren’t following them, hoping to lure them out and win their trust again. Of course, I just want them to get back together and for everything to be one gigantic hug party, but there’s something else at work here. It provides a vehicle for Pullman to give these two time to discuss their future, and it’s actually a conversation I think is necessary. They know that they’re near the end of their journey, as Lyra believes she’s fulfilled her end of the “prophecy” that the witches spoke of. Where are they going to go? Where is Will going to end up?
It is a tad obvious when Lyra asks Will if he’ll get married and he replies that there’s no one in his world that understands all that he’s gone through, but it does serve the purpose of getting these two to finally put forth some honesty about what they want. And it’s not like Pullman hasn’t been foreshadowing this moment for quite some time, either; there have been numerous moments throughout The Amber Spyglass that these two have traded looks or had thoughts that suggested a much deeper affinity for one another. And as they headed towards a grove at the bottom of a cascading stream, I knew that we were rapidly approaching the moment where Lyra was going to be tempted. But how was that going to play out?
Oh, by Pullman switching over to Father Gomez, WHO HAS BEEN FOLLOWING THEM THE ENTIRE TIME. Oh god, YOU BETTER NOT FUCK THIS UP. Especially considering this:
The one thing he didn’t want to do was hurt the boy. He had a horror of harming an innocent person.
I HOPE YOU CHOKE TO DEATH ON A BAG OF CACTI. Oh, what a convenient way for you to categorize all of this. But this is how this man’s mind works: this is a holy act for him, one ordained by God. Seriously, only Father Gomez would think about murdering Lyra and then planning to proselytize to the mulefa. YOU ARE THINKING OF CONVERTING THOSE CREATURES TO CHRISTIANS.
The first thing to do here would be to convince the four-legged creatures, who seems to have the rudiments of reason, that their habit of riding on wheels was abominable and Satanic, and contrary to the will of God. Break them of that, and salvation would follow.
WHY DOES THIS SOUND SO FAMILIAR TO ME? Oh, right, because Christians spent OVER A DECADE trying to tell me that my body, my desires, and my thoughts were abominable, Satanic, or contrary to the will of God. i h8 u catholic church
And just when I was convinced that Father Gomez would reveal himself, forcing Lyra and Will to do something terrible to defend themselves, something grabs his dæmon and he cries out in pain.
“Keep still,” said a voice form the air, “and be quiet. I have your dæmon in my hand.”
“But–where are you? Who are you?”
“My name is Balthamos,” said the voice.”
;ASJDF;ALSKDJF A;LKSDJF A;SKDLFJ A;SDLKFJA;SDKLFJ ASDF;LKAJSDF; KLADJSF A;KSLDFJ;AKSDFJ
THERE IS NO GIF IN THE WORLD FOR WHAT I AM FEELING!!!!1 BALTHAMOS CAME BACK A;SLKDJFA ;SDKLFJAS ;AKLSJDF ;ASA SS;DKFJASD A;SDKLFJAS ;DFKLJSDF
Pullman then has the nerve to immediately switch back to Will and Lyra as I want to leap into the air with joy, but I quickly forgave this when I realized what was happening. The two take a break from their reverse dæmon chase to snack on the food that Mary packed them, and that is when it happens: Lyra is tempted. (I think?)
Then Lyra took one of those little red fruits. With a fast-beating heart, she turned to him and said, “Will….”
And she lifted the fruit gently to his mouth.
She could see from his eyes that he knew at once what she meant, and that he was too joyful to speak. her fingers were still at his lips, and he felt them tremble, and he put his own hand up to hold hers there, and then neither of them could look; they were confused; they were brimming with happiness.
Like two moths clumsily bumping together, with no more weight than that, their lips touched. Then before they knew how it happened, they were clinging together, blindly pressing their faces toward each other.
I am absolutely enamored with this reversal of roles, that Lyra has offered the fruit to Will first, that it was done with the full knowledge that she loved him, with the expectation of joy, and that when they kissed, they experienced ecstasy and hope and connected with one another in a way that is pure and genuine. This is a complete rejection of the first Fall, and as symbolic as all of this is, I just have to smile at how well-conceived this is. Mary gave Lyra the fruit, but it was out of love and concern, not malice. Pullman does not do as God did to Adam and Eve. He does not excoriate or shame them for this choice. He celebrates the physical body, the sensation of knowledge, the experience of love. In every way, this is the opposite to the story of Genesis, and it fills me with such a unique sense of satisfaction. This is even better than I expected of the second Fall, and I cannot wait to see how this plays out.
Things are not so serene with Balthamos, however, who is battling multiple things at once: Father Gomez, the man’s beetle dæmon, and the worry he has over what is happening to Will and Lyra. He initially has the advantage: he is holding the priest’s dæmon and Father Gomez can’t see him. But Pullman doesn’t ignore how clever Father Gomez has been this whole time, enough to keep him alive up until this point. And so the priest gives the appearance that the angel has control of the situation, up until he can see the angel’s form, and in a moment of Balthamos’s weakness, he leaps at him, causing the angel to release his dæmon. But the angel is not a solid form, and because of this, the priest falls forward and Balthamos kicks aside the hand he reaches out to support himself.
Father Gomez fell hard. His head cracked against a stone, and he fell stunned with his face in the water. The cold shock woke him at once, but as he choked and feebly tried to rise, Balthamos, desperate, ignored the dæmon stinging his face and his eyes and his mouth, and used all the little weight he had to hold the man’s head down in the water, and he kept it there, and kept it there, and kept it there.
When the dæmon suddenly vanished, Balthamos let go. The man was dead.
WHAT THE FUCK?????? Oh my god, Balthamos, do you even realize what you’ve done? You’ve just saved Lyra’s life. You’ve saved EVERY UNIVERSE EVER.
“Baruch,” he said, “oh, Baruch, my dear, I can do no more. Will and the girl are safe, and everything will be well, but this is the end for me, though truly I died when you did, Baruch, my beloved.”
A moment later, he was gone.
Oh my god. My heart swelled with pride at what Balthamos had done, but I was so shocked by his sudden lost. Would he see Baruch in the world of the dead? Do angels even go there? Ugh, I DON’T WANT TO THINK ABOUT THIS.
But there is hope for the future, and that’s what this chapter ends with. Back in the mulefa village, the creatures are ecstatic over a new change in Dust, which Mary observes through the spyglass: the Dust has stopped flowing away.
In fact, if anything, it was falling like snowflakes.
Which means that the Dust has returned to its original form in the mulefa world. And this is when Will and Lyra return to Mary, holding hands, “oblivious to everything,” and the true meaning of the second Fall is spelled out for us:
They would seem the true image of what human beings always could be, once they had come into their inheritance.
The Dust pouring down from the stars had found a living home again, and these children-no-longer-children, saturated with love, were the cause of it all.
My only questions remaining deal with this end result: Why Lyra? Why was it Lyra who had to do this, and why was it her actions that repaired the holes in between worlds? And is this the temptation, or is there something worse coming for our characters?
There’s a spiffy new banner this week (HOW COLORFUL), and here’s the link to the full image it is cropped from. Additionally, this week’s spoiler thread on BridgeToTheStars is up!