Mark Reads ‘The Amber Spyglass’: Chapter 23

In the twenty-third chapter of The Amber Spyglass, Lyra and Will discover that leaving the world of the dead is going to be a lot more difficult than they ever imagined. Intrigued? Then it’s time for Mark to read The Amber Spyglass.


Oh, I don’t like you, chapter title. I don’t like you one bit. Why do you have to tease me???

There’s so much packed into chapter twenty-three that I honestly felt overwhelmed by the time I reached the end of it. There are too many things I needed to react to! There is so much information to process! And then I am full of joy and excitement and sadness and conflicting emotions! I overuse the exclamation point!

But at least this chapter starts off with a bittersweet reunion between Roger and Lyra, something I would never have expected could even happen again in this series. Roger is dead. The Subtle Knife confirmed it. And here he is, rushing to hug Lyra, but he can’t, because HE’S A FUCKING GHOST. That’s why I call this bittersweet. It is so amazing to see them back together in a way that isn’t a cop-out of his death, yet the lack of the ability to be physically affectionate just CRUSHES me. I’m a hug fiend and this would kill me and break my heart beyond repair. I mean this sentence alone:

They could never truly touch again.

Just makes me want to give up forever. Yet Lyra persists, trying to appear as strong and joyous as she can. And I actually like that idea in terms of how this world works. Even during such a reunion, it’s still hard to be happy, and it’s so prescient to be that the world of the dead sucks all figurative life out of your system. It requires a forced, conscious effort to feel anything that isn’t despair and misery. These sort of details help build a world just as much as the physical details.

I just can’t deny how touching their reunion is, their willingness to be responsible for their actions, the constant desire on Roger’s part to find any sort of comfort in Lyra’s presence, the validation of his belief that Lyra would find some way to save him, Lyra’s emotional admission to leaving Pan behind…oh god, all of it is too much for my heart to handle. 

Of course, I feel the worse for Roger because…well, he’s dead. That’s a lot worse than what Lyra has gone through. We learn just how awful it is when the purpose of the harpies is fully explained:

“You know what they do? They wait till you’re resting–you can’t never sleep properly, you just sort of doze–and they come up quiet beside you and they whisper all the bad things you ever did when you was alive, so you can’t forget ’em. They know all the worst things about you. They know how to make you feel horrible, just thinking of all the stupid things and bad things you ever did. And all the greedy and unkind thoughts you ever had, they know ’em all, and they shame you up and they make you sick with yourself…But you can’t get away from ’em.”

JESUS CHRIST WHYYYYYYYY. I got the sense that these beings existed specifically to shame people for what they had done that did not match up with what the Authority had in mind for humanity, and I think Pullman is trying to casually draw a parallel between how shame is used in Abrahamic theology. And it’s a topic that is remarkably familiar to me.

I’ll elaborate on that in a second.  I might be overreacting to something that is either small or inconsequential, but nothing else in this chapter frightened me quite as bad as Lyra admitting to Roger that she knew there was a prophecy about her. I do feel a bit shaky in my understanding of the prophecy, and I think I’ve never questioned its existence more than now. I liked the idea that Lyra could not know the prophecy because it could not come true if it violated her free will/agency, but now I’m not at all sure what sort of function that it provides. I was sort of bothered by Lyra’s admission that she knew the whole time that there was a prophecy about it, because it just seems brought up at the last minute. Well, to be fair, Lyra had A LOT going on in her life and it wasn’t at the forefront of her concerns. So I do get that, but now I’m just lost. How much do I believe about what I’m told? If Lyra really does learn of the prophecy, does that mean it doesn’t come true? She also believes that freeing the dead is the actual “important” thing she needs to do, when we know it’s not. So, by a technicality, has she not learned of the prophecy?


Well, I do understand what happens next, and I’m grateful that it essentially made my cry out in joy. The Gallivespians ask Will what he’s going to do, and he very plainly states that he’s going to cut a window into a new world, and take the ghosts of the dead with them.

“This will undo everything. It’s the greatest blow you could strike. The Authority would be powerless after this.”

“How would they ever suspect it?” said the Lady. “It’ll come at them out of nowhere!”




HOW AWESOME IS THIS? Lyra and Will weren’t even thinking about the war in Heaven and they are going to do something that will leave the Authority “powerless.” Okay, I can’t say I really understand why this would happen, but I like the idea that Will and Lyra are inadvertently fighting this war without exerting the slightest bit of effort to do so. It’s just natural to them!

Still, it’s not going to be possible to pull this off if they can’t escape from the world of the dead, and Will concerns himself with trying to find a way out with the subtle knife. Unfortunately, we learn that every single layer and window that Will can find seems to open underground. Which…I guess that makes sense! If Will could find windows that opened high above the ground, it’s reasonable he’d find the opposite. I even like the idea that the land of the dead exists “under” the earth in this sense. I mean, I don’t like that it genuinely seems like there’s no way out, but it’s a fascinating concept.

Not seeing any other way around it, Will tells Lyra he’ll have to use the knife to probably cut a tunnel if they get stuck, but it looks like they have more pressing things to deal with. From the way Pullman describes it, what little life Will and Lyra have is being sucked out of them. Will looks ill and his hand has started bleeding again (OH GOD WHY IS THIS HAPPENING). With the harpies returning (and with more than ever before, according to Chevalier Tialys), Lyra does something that to keep the ghosts occupied until the harpies arrive. Aside from them begging her to tell them of the world which she just came from (which many of them had forgotten about), there’s no real reason given aside from Lyra’s sympathy, leading me to believe it simply comes from her heart.

She tells a story. Only this time, it’s not the lie that she told the people in the suburbs of the dead, or the one she tried to tell to the harpies to get in. Using Roger as confirmation for a lot of the details, she tells these ghosts about her life. I love it because it’s a chance to remember where this whole trilogy started, and I can’t forget how vibrant Lyra’s life was at Jordan. It reminds me why she is the girl who is here, telling this entrancing tale to the ghosts of all existence, because she represents life and all the fine, great details that make up the world.

So you can imagine my shock to learn that Lyra, the ghosts still silent around her, gained a new audience: the harpies. They are not shaming Lyra, or anyone for that matter. When Lyra furiously asks No-Name why she’s not attacking her, No-Name confirms what I suspected before. The Authority put the harpies in the land of the dead to see the worst in all souls, to torment them for these actions, and to gain power and respect through the process. No-Name reveals that they know Lyra is going to try to lead the souls away from this place, and, knowing their purpose has been eradicated by an eleven-year-old girl, the harpies will hold nothing back.

I must say that by this point in The Amber Spyglass, my irritation with the Gallivespians, Tialys in particular, has pretty much vanished. And I think that’s intended on Pullman’s part, and even Will himself remarks earlier in this chapter that he has grown to respect and cherish these two. Chevalier Tialys steps up to offer the harpies something better than they have. Seriously, WHAT COULD YOU POSSIBLY OFFER HARPIES? The first clue comes when No-Name admits that she did not attack Lyra because her story was the first bit of positive nourishment she had ever experienced. All they have known is wickedness, and Lyra gave them their first taste of what the world is like.

And so Tialys offers up a proposition: every soul drifting into the land of the dead must be offered the chance to tell the story of their life, to offer up the good and the bad. YOU WOULD THINK THIS WOULD BE THE DEFAULT. I’m still interested in the reasons the Authority set up this place to begin with, personally. But it seems obvious at this point that this was merely a receptacle for all these ghosts, a dumping grounds in a way, and that the Authority had nothing to do with these souls once they got there.

Seriously, though, Chevalier Tialys helps create a TREATY with the harpies. That is ridiculous. I mean that as a compliment, but it’s just so astounding to me. He negotiates a way for the harpies to keep their honor and their purpose, and to give the ghosts who come here a more fair and just chance to tell their story and be guided out of the world of the dead.

I couldn’t believe what I was reading. The harpies were going to help Lyra and Will open a window to escape the land of the dead. Almost as if Pullman predicted my very next question, one of the ghosts yells out an important inquiry: So, dudes, what the hell is going to happen to all of us when we leave? A MIGHTY GOOD QUESTION, SIR. Will the worlds be flooded with ghosts? Will they disappear like their dæmons?

Nope. Not even close:

“When you go out of here, all the particles that make you up will loosen and float apart, just like your dæmons did. If you’ve seen people dying, you know what that looks like. But your dæmons en’t just nothing now; they’re part of everything. All the atoms that were them, they’ve gone into the air and the wind and the trees and the earth and all living things. They’ll never vanish. They’re just a part of everything. And that’s exactly what’ll happen to you, I swear to you, I promise on my honor. You’ll drift apart, it’s true, but you’ll be out in the open, part of everything alive again.”

Now there’s something I could believe in. Does this change the nature of Dust? Is Dust simply the particles that make up every life that has ever existed? It’s not just rebel angels, is it? It’s experience and knowledge. Why wouldn’t they be attracted to acts of invention and ingenuity? It’s the most lively thing imaginable.

I think that, largely, Pullman is a fairly subtle writer, even if the events that happen in these books are hardly the same. But I cannot deny that the two arguments presented by the martyr and the monk are…well, the opposite of subtle. I enjoy them, and it is sort of necessary for the story to take shape, but it was sort of like when Mary mentioned being a nun a few chapters ago. I get it, but it made me smile and think, OH YOU. I SEE WHAT YOU DID THERE.

Still, it was important that someone offered up the idea that heaven was a lie, that they were ALL lied to their whole lives, and that what Lyra just told them is a better option than staying in nothingness. I think it’s even appropriate that it is a martyr who says this, someone who died for their belief in the Authority and now feels betrayed. At the same time, I think it would have been weird if no one countered this. So, again, I get why this is here.

But seriously, does the monk actually believe what he is saying?

“But the Almighty has granted us this blessed place for all eternity, this paradise, which to the fallen soul seems bleak and barren, but which the eyes of faith see as it is, overflowing with milk and honey and resounding with the sweet hymns of angels. This is Heaven, truly!”

Either he’s deluded himself or–more interesting–he is actually telling the truth. How fucked up would that be? I’m inclined to believe the former, though I still want to know why the Authority did all of this. For Lyra, however, this monks words frighten her. What if she is wrong? She can’t properly gauge such things without Pan at her side, and Will rushes to defend her choice to her.

In terms of imagery, I cannot imagine anything more powerful than that of Will and Lyra, leading millions of ghosts of beings from every universe (INCLUDING THE MULEFA!!!) on a journey to escape the world of the dead.

“Have we almost done it, Will?” Lyra whispered. “Is it nearly over?”

He couldn’t tell. But they were so weak and sick that he said, “Yes, it’s nearly over, we’ve nearly done it. We’ll be out soon.”

Be still, my heart.


If you are just aching to discuss the many spoilery things that this chapter and others I’ll read this week, BridgeToTheStars is hosting a conversation about THE WORLD OF THE DEAD and you should probably go hang out there with other His Dark Materials fans. You still have a chance to enter the contest BTTS is hosting in conjunction with me to give away a signed copy of The Amber Spyglass!

About Mark Oshiro

Perpetually unprepared since '09.
This entry was posted in His Dark Materials, The Amber Spyglass and tagged , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

108 Responses to Mark Reads ‘The Amber Spyglass’: Chapter 23

  1. Darth_Ember says:

    Um, Mark? You've not put this chapter behind a cut…

    To be relevant to the actual story, I too very much like what Tialys suggests – especially since an exception will be made for those who died too young to have stories to tell.

  2. Ryan Lohner says:

    The thing with the monk kind of reminds me of the dwarfs at the end of The Last Battle, illustrating born-again Christian CS Lewis' idea of Hell: actually being in the beautiful world of Heaven, but refusing to let yourself accept it. And knowing what Pullman thinks of the Narnia series, that's probably completely intentional.

    • myshadow says:

      That's a spoiler because Mark plans on reading those books in the future.

      • xpanasonicyouthx says:

        Actually no? I don't plan on reading them because I've read the first four books before.

        • xpanasonicyouthx says:

          also i know how it all ends WHAT THE FUCK C.S. LEWIS

          • FlameRaven says:

            Neil Gaiman wrote a short story called "The Problem of Susan" that is basically asking that question: "WTF, CS Lewis?" I've read it a couple times and I still honestly don't understand wtf Neil Gaiman is talking about either, but it may be worth a read. You can find it in his 'Fragile Things' collection.

            • cait0716 says:

              More Neil Gaiman! Always. Now I need to go re-read that story…

            • monkeybutter says:

              I'm gonna look that up, because Mark's comment is my thoughts exactly.

            • muzzery says:

              I don't know if it's regarding the same thing, but Pullman has referenced Susan's story as one of the reasons he strongly dislikes the series. I can't remember myself how that part is resolved, but I think Pullman has said something along the lines of it being completely ridiculous for Lewis to punish Susan for taking an interest in the real world and boys and make-up and stuff, how that sends a bad message. At least I think that's what he said.

              • FlameRaven says:

                Rot13 for spoilers: Fb nccneragyl va gur Ynfg Onggyr, Nfyna rffragvnyyl fuhgf qbja gur havirefr bs Aneavn naq rirelobql tbrf bss gb Urnira– rkprcg Fhfna, jub unq erwrpgrq Aneavn be fbzrguvat. Nsgre gung jr svaq bhg gung gur sbhe xvqf jrer ba n genva juvpu penfurq, naq ure guerr fvoyvatf qvr, ohg fur qbrfa'g. *fueht* V unira'g ernq gur obbxf va sberire naq V bayl ernq sbhe bs gurz gb fgneg jvgu, ohg gung'f gur fhzznel V'ir tbggra. Vg vf qrsvavgryl ceboyrzngvp– Fhfna qbrfa'g trg gb tb gb Urnira orpnhfr fur'f tebja hc naq yvxrf oblf naq orvat cerggl? Ernyyl? Naq fur gura unf gb qrny jvgu gur nsgrezngu bs univat zbfg bs ure snzvyl xvyyrq? Abg pbby.

              • myshadow says:

                But does Lewis ever state that Susan was with the others when the train crashed? If she wasn't she wouldn't have been with in Narnia at that point anyway because she would still be alive. Though it's still awful how Lucy and the others treat Susan differently because of her interests in boys and make-up.

                • Ryan Lohner says:

                  Or even worse, the people who nowadays take the reference to Susan being obsessed with "lipstick and nylons" as meaning she can't get into Heaven because she's gay. For the record, Lewis meant nothing of the kind. Still, it's a weird divergence in an otherwise beautiful last few chapters of the series.

            • arctic_hare says:

              Oh geez, THAT STORY. 😡 I love a lot of Gaiman's work, but I wish I had never read that one.

              • Noybusiness says:

                It kept me awake.

              • FlameRaven says:

                Yeeeeah, like I said, it is very WTF. I think I read somewhere that Gaimain wanted to make something as problematic as he saw the Narnia books being (in which case, he succeeded) but I still have no idea what that story is actually supposed to mean. It is right up there with certain chapters of American Gods for me, which are part of the reason I'm less than fond of that book.

                • Oh, good! I'm not the only one who isn't in love with American Gods. To judge from my social circle, I'm some kind of misbegotten hater of fine literature for that opinion. :/

                  • FlameRaven says:

                    Gaiman himself has said that it's either a love-it or hate-it kind of book. I'm somewhere in the middle I guess? I don't hate it, but it kind of… confuses me. Sometimes I feel like Gaiman is making literary references that just go over my head, and I think that book has a lot of them. I mean, I like the core idea of the book, but I feel like it rambles on for way too long, and gets confusing. Also, I was really thrown off by the two random sex scenes (you know the ones). I keep meaning to reread it in case I just missed something as a teenager, but it's hard to muster the effort to do so.

                    • Yeah, I'm in the middle, too. It has some fine writing (obvs), and the plot isn't uninteresting. It's just … so obvious and predictable, it makes me feel like I'm missing a deeper dimension.

                      I just reread it and decided that, no, I don't think I am. It's just one of those books that isn't for me.

                    • notemily says:

                      My favorite part, by far, of American Gods is gur fznyy-gbja zvqjrfgrea ubeebe fgbel. Lbh xabj gur bar. Everything else I can take or leave.

                  • notemily says:

                    I haven't liked ANYTHING Gaiman has written as much as I like "Sandman." Everything else falls a little short for me.

              • tigerpetals says:

                It was unpleasant and I had no idea what was going on.

            • ChronicReader91 says:

              That was one of the first Neil Gaiman works I ever read, and yes, the WTF level is very high.

          • eleniel says:

            I've been thinking for a few chapters now that this is kind of the opposite of the end of the Narnia series, with people *escaping* "Heaven" and returning to the world, and THAT being joyous, instead of dying somehow being good because HEAVEN. (Assuming the ghosts DO get out of the world of the dead… O.o )

        • George says:

          Although they are under your confirmed books on the suggestions page, that might be the source of confusion.

        • myshadow says:

          Oh, sorry then. I saw it on under your confirmed books list from suggestion page so I assumed you would be.

    • breakingmyprogramming says:

      I love Lyra's uncertainty after she hears the monk's story. She's not infallible! That's why she is such a great character!

  3. cait0716 says:

    I like that we finally get the truth of Lyra's rook story. Back in the very beginning she told two versions of the same tale to Asriel and Mrs. Coulter. She told Asriel that they healed the rook and Mrs. Coulter that they ate it. But here we learn that she actually did heal it.

    I love that Lyra discovers she can be just as good a storyteller when she's telling the truth as when she tells lies. It's a nice bit of character growth for her. Maybe she won't grow into the same sort of compulsive liar as Mrs. Coulter.

    The bargain Tialys and Salmakia strike with the harpies is interesting. You have to have a story to tell to make it through the land of the dead. So are boring people going to be punished now? If you fail to ever show an interest in the world around you (or if you were one of those extreme abuse cases that is kept locked away from the world) do you just stay in the wasteland forever? Or are they counting on that not happening? Is Pullman damning bored/boring people or is he trying to say that everyone has a story to tell?

    • clodia_risa says:

      I think he’s saying that everyone has a story to tell. Even if there’s been no grand adventure, everyone has a narrative of their life that they can relate. I think that many people who claim that they are “boring” only mean “I doubt you want to hear what I’ve been up to, but it is interesting to me”.

  4. Ah this chapter! I identify with this because I love collecting stories from people. I also collect eyes, although just in my mind. I was confused when when Mark mentioned how 'Dust' is (are?) Rebel Angels. I always understood 'Dust' to be self-aware knowledge, if that makes sense. Although Rebel Angels are blocks of self-aware knowledge, as described in The Subtle Knife to Ruta Skadi (apologies if incorrect, this is from memory), I thought 'Dust' was perhaps less organised conciousness. Does anyone else not necessarily equate 'Dust' with the Rebel Angels, or is it just me?

    Question: Are we going to get any more Mark re-reads Harry Potter? They make me extra happy!

    Completely unrelated: I tried to make cheesecake and failed miserably. MAJOR CHEESECAKE FAIL!
    Happy Wednesday!

  5. Thay can never hug again!
    I want to collect all the stories!
    I can't remember Lyra's learning about the prophecy, but in Northern Lights, when Lyra was asked to pick Serafina Pekkala's spray of cloud-pine (I like the use of 'spray'), perhaps she overheard Dr. Lanselius and Farder Coram discussing the prophecy? I always thought she might have. What do you think Mark and everyone else? 🙂

  6. Becky_J_ says:

    I love two things specifically about this chapter.

    One, that all the Harpies want are life stories….. true life stories. It tests Lyra and also shows an almost human side to the Harpies.

    Two, that the ghosts will become a part of everything. That when they leave, they can be part of living things, be part of everything beautiful and wonderful in this and every world. This is what I hope really happens. Forget heaven…. I want to be alive . I would gladly give up an afterlife for that.

    • flootzavut says:

      "Forget heaven…. I want to be alive."

      The concept of heaven that I have always understood is that it IS being alive – truly alive. More alive than before – not less.

      • Becky_J_ says:

        That's totally plausible to me. I guess…. I don't know, I picture heaven as being really really boring. This could totally just be me….But I picture just sitting around, doing nothing. I guess what I was saying is I want to be part of everything, which could be part of heaven…. it just isn't what I've pictured before.

        • flootzavut says:

          I think the idea of heaven some people have – sitting on a cloud playing a harp or whatever – is an incredibly boring idea… that is not my idea of heaven at all.

          You might be interested in this, which comes from Matthew 25: it's Jesus talking about the Kingdom of Heaven.

          "“His master replied, ‘Well done, good and faithful servant! You have been faithful with a few things; I will put you in charge of many things. Come and share your master’s happiness!’"

          I think it's very interesting to note that the master doesn't say, well done, you've been faithful and done well, so come and have a rest. He says, you've done well in this small thing; now I'm going to let you have more responsibility.

          Revelation talks about a new heaven _and_ a new earth… one without pain and injustice, etc. Unspoilt and "unfallen", for want of a better word.

          People from different backgrounds will have different views of how to interpret that, but it seems to me that heaven in the bible is not some eternal retirement home. I think most people would be less than thrilled with the idea of that for all eternity 😉

    • muselinotte says:

      This is really an image of afterlife I can get behind…
      Just dissolving into our environments and living on in everything.
      Utterly beautiful and calming to me 🙂

  7. knut_knut says:

    Pullman needs to lay down a serious info dump right about now because I have SO MANY QUESTIONS! So confused! I DO NOT understand the Authority AT ALL. At first I thought maybe the land of the dead was like hell, but clearly that’s not true. True believers and non believers alike spend eternity tormented by the harpies. WHY?! And I don’t understand the point of the harpies either. When treating with Tialys they complained about neither having a task nor honor, but what was their original task? AND WHERE IS THE HONOR IN BEING A BULLY? Why does the Authority hate everyone?? I do not understand :’( Consequently, I don’t understand how freeing the ghosts will be the greatest blow to the Authority, rendering it powerless. NEED INFO DUMP NOW

    Regarding Lyra overhearing the prophecy- for some reason I thought she only overheard part of it. So she knows she has to do something but doesn’t know she’s essentially Eve? I need to go back and reread the prophecy bits

    • Noybusiness says:

      "Why does the Authority hate everyone??"

      For taking the fruit of knowledge, presumably. "The wages of sin is death". It looks to me like the World of the Dead is his punishment for that incident, which he doesn't forgive even in the case of those useful idiots who work for him. It also looks like he's afraid of mortal beings.

    • notemily says:

      I assume that Lyra only knows that there IS a prophecy about her, but not what the prophecy is. The Witches' Consul doesn't actually say the part about another Eve.

  8. summeriris says:

    I told you I loved the Gallivespians. The Chevalier and the Lady.

  9. James says:

    The whole prophecy thing. Lyra knows that there is a prophecy about her, but not what it is, so it hasn't been compromised. She has something important to do, but she's not allowed to know what that thing is and she doesn't. She just knows she has a purpose.

    The treaty they make with the Harpies is wonderful and the reintegration of the dead with the rest of the universe is so beautiful and fairly close to my own beliefs. I don't understand thinking you just stop at death because that's not how things work. Energy cannot be destroyed, only changed. As Mufasa explains it: when we die, our bodies become the grass, the antelope eat the grass and so we are all connected in the great circle of life. (Yes, I'm bringing Disney into this. Deal with it.) Even if you don't believe in a soul as something separate and eternal, comfort can be found in this basic idea that Pullman expresses it so beautifully here.

  10. FlameRaven says:

    HOW AWESOME IS THIS? Lyra and Will weren’t even thinking about the war in Heaven and they are going to do something that will leave the Authority “powerless.” Okay, I can’t say I really understand why this would happen, but I like the idea that Will and Lyra are inadvertently fighting this war without exerting the slightest bit of effort to do so. It’s just natural to them!

    I always read it this way: the Authority derives a lot of his power from death, because a big part of the belief system is "if you don't do exactly what I say, you will go to hell, but if you do things right, you'll go to heaven." Except neither of these things is actually true in Pullman's multiverse– everyone just ends up in the waiting room for eternity. If people learn this, what reason is there to follow the instructions of the Authority? That, I think, is why the Chevalier claims that this move will make the Authority powerless.

    • That's my understanding, too. Pullman introduces the question of why letting the dead out would be a blow against the Authority and then answers the question — in the same chapter, even! — with the martyr & monk show at the end. It helps me feel better about the painfully unsubtle writing there: Like the Cylons, the author has a plan.

      • flootzavut says:

        V qb frrz gb erpnyy gurer jrer frireny cbvagf va gur erfg bs gur obbx jurer V unq gb ebyy zl rlrf ng gur ynpx bs fhogyrgl. Whfg VZB, ohg ng fbzr cbvagf V srry gur "zrffntr" birecbjref gur fgbel.

        I don't think it's very spoilery but I couldn't decide, rot-13 is a good compromise 🙂

        • It's a good compromise. 🙂 I love how rot-13 has taken over!

          V srry gur fnzr jnl, naq zl nterrzrag jvgu uvf cbfvgvba ba whfg nobhg rirelguvat qbrfa'g cerpyhqr zl trggvat veevgngrq ng ubj qnza boivbhf ur vf ng fcryyvat gubfr cbfvgvbaf bhg. Gubhtu "Znemvcna" jvyy erznva bar bs zl snibevgr puncgref va nalguvat rire!

          (…Ooh, "rire" is an actual word. In French. Nice, rot-13.)

  11. monkeybutter says:

    First off, I love how the ominous chapter title NO WAY OUT contrasts with the epigraph "And ye shall know the truth, and the truth shall make you free."

    I had forgotten that Lyra knows that there's a prophecy about her (but doesn't know what it is) and while it's a little convenient for her to come out with it now, I was also bothered by how many times people would talk about it when she was nearby, but somehow indisposed. Oh well.

    "The world we lived in was a vale of corruption and tears" will never not make me laugh. It seems like that monk really took a liking to On the Misery of the Human Condition and nothing is going to shake that. What a turd. He also reminds me of the sanctimonious old man who walks with them through the suburbs of the dead in that he has to believe that the good (like himself, of course) will be rewarded and the bad punished. Maybe it's also a dig at the behavior of the elect, or at least those who believed themselves to be predestined to salvation, because if you are one of the elect, you would know it and act like it. I just imagine the monk's group constantly suspicious of one another, maybe some of them have deluded themselves into thinking that they really are in paradise, but others side-eyeing each other and wondering if they're the only ones pretending. If that's not eternal punishment, I don't know what is. At least the harpies will have company.

    I appreciate that Pullman has someone who was faithful, who even died for her faith, standing up for Lyra. It shows that religious people aren't all intransigent or suspicious, and it shifts the blame for the bad situation they're in away from temporal authority and mistaken humans (or other intelligent beings), and onto the Authority for misleading them.

  12. LilithDee says:

    YAY! so, yes. this series of chapters is the WHOLE REASON I reread the Amber Spyglass SEVERAL TIMES A YEAR even though I think as a whole The Subtle Knife was more well-written and oh-so-beautifully-effing plotted. THE HARPIES. I think I'll wait until the next chapter to go into detail cause I can't remember whether certain things have been said yet or not but…

    Lyra's description of what happens to the ghosts completely… CHANGED me the first time I read it. I was already pretty atheistic, but I was still struggling with the bleakness of it all. I felt cheated and lied to about God and Heaven and the whole thing just had me so bitter, but Lyra's take here, this collection of chapters as Will and Lyra visit the dead, made a SHIFT in my mind, where suddenly the idea of a godless (or, authority-less) world wasn't something awful I had to learn to accept, but something beautiful and awe-inspiring. It started the path down a road to being less afraid of death as I contemplated it in terms of what Lyra is saying, and then in terms of what we know about death from the living end of it all, and it just… calmed me. I mean, a good three or four years of rage and anger and constantly turning back to the idea that God MUST exist, this is all just too bleak! were completely soothed by this book.

    I'm so happy to see you reading these chapters. they are awesome.

  13. Noybusiness says:

    "Even during such a reunion, it’s still hard to be happy"

    Clearly I am a bit tired, because I first read this as "it's still hard to be a harpy."

  14. Didgy says:

    This might just be my favourite chapter. Where to begin?

    I love the way that one of Lyra's traits, her ability to tell wonderful lies, was stripped away from her by the harpies, so she found power in truth instead. I think that if it wasn't for the attack of the harpies earlier, her instinct would have been to make something up, and because she tells her own story, she realises that truth can be better than fiction.

    The idea of telling stories is a rather beautiful one. This isn't a Get Out Of Jail Free card. You have to deserve your freedom. But it isn't through following a load of arbitrary and often pointless rules, or devoting your life to some supposedly powerful being. It's by living, and truly experiencing the world, and loving the world, and loving life, and appreciating it for the miracle it is. And if you go through life without doing this, you don't deserve to be part of the living world again, because life and the world shouldn't be taken for granted.

    Now *that* is a message I believe in.

  15. eleniel says:

    I love this chapter so, so much. Lyra describing what will happen to the ghosts when they leave the world of the dead is just beautiful. It's also one of the most blatantly atheist moments in the entire series so far; not just anti-Christian, but a positive aspect of atheist thought. (I feel like atheists are often seen as or portrayed as negative happiness-ruiners, but to me, there is actually a lot about atheism that is very positive or even beautiful.) Love it.

  16. pica_scribit says:

    I can see how, reading this section for the first time, it would seem fascinating. However, I'm on my fifth re-read of the series, and this whole adventure into the land of the dead just feels like it d-r-a-a-a-a-a-a-g-s o-n f-o-r-e-e-e-e-e-v-e-r. The greyness gets to me a saps my will to read. *Monty Python knights standing on a hill, shaking their swords and shouting "GET ON WITH IT!"*

  17. Many Rainbows says:

    "But the Almighty has granted us this blessed place for all eternity, this paradise, which to the fallen soul seems bleak and barren, but which the eyes of faith see as it is, overflowing with milk and honey and resounding with the sweet hymns of angels. This is Heaven, truly!"

    to me, this sounds like a parallel to, in The Chronicles of Narnia: The Last Battle, where the characters die and pass through a doorway into a stable. On the other side is seen a great sunny field, good food, etc. but the dwarves(?) who don;t believe in Aslan, who 'only believe in themselves', perceive themselves as still being in the cramped, dark, dirty stable, filled with rotting straw and unknown roots for the horses. It is said that because they 'do not believe' they have deluded themselves into seeing/experiencing only what they expect to. and since Pullman has said before that this series is a sort of 'response' to the Chronicles of Narnia, well, having this as a parallel makes sense.

  18. stellaaaaakris says:

    So, it's not that I agree with the monk (I really, really don't) but I was doing a little comparison and I think, with the harpies not tormenting you all the time, the world of the dead wouldn't be too bad. Yes, I would rather be part of the raindrops and wind and stuff, but I'm just saying, compared to the previous situation, it's not so bad. My version of heaven is kind of like in The Lovely Bones where you get a house filled with stuff that's important to you (I refuse to believe there can be heaven that doesn't have a Beauty and the Beast library filled with books from before and after my lifetime). In this world, you can talk with the other ghosts while they wait their turn to share stories with the harpies and find out what's going on in the universes, maybe the mulefa will teach you their language. You can hang around until some loved ones join you and then you can all leave together. If only it was above ground and they played some relaxing music, then I might be tempted to stay.

    Hmmm, it sounds like I would be one of those people in the HP world who would want to stick around as a ghost. I actually don't think I'd find haunting a very enjoyable hobby. I guess I should stick to the rainbows and blades of grass. I would really really miss sunshine if I stayed with the harpies.

    • Didgy says:

      You might think that at first. But it would be for eternity. Nothing ever happening, nothing ever changing, until eventually you forgot who you were. Sounds like hell to me

      • stellaaaaakris says:

        True true. Which is why I included waiting for your loved ones so you can leave together. I might want to make that one final change with the people who meant the most to me in life. If the harpies aren't bothering me, I can wait around for a while, without losing myself I'd think. Waiting, staying, with no option of leaving, and creatures insulting and degrading you all the time sounds more like hell to me. Just hanging around seems more like the idea of limbo.

  19. arctic_hare says:

    This is such a beautiful chapter. <3 Yes, there's the bittersweet nature of Roger and Lyra's reunion to deal with; and one of the saddest little parts of it to me isn't just that they can never touch again, but that moment when she starts to tell him about Will. She has no idea how her whole demeanor changes when she talks about him, but Roger can see it, and he watches it with "the sad, voiceless envy of the unchanging dead". He can never grow up, never go on adventures with Lyra, he's stuck forever as he is… but she's growing and changing and moving forward with her life. She's acquiring other people in her life that are very important to her, and he may even feel like he's being replaced, that she's closing up that Roger-shaped hole in her world. I don't think that we ever replace the people we lose; but we do move on and learn to deal with the pain and loss; and Roger, being a child, may not understand the distinction.

    But! After all that sadness, is Lyra's amazing story of her life at Oxford, which is a wonderful reminder of where this all began; and her words to the ghosts about what will happen to them when they go out into the world. Being a part of everything alive again sounds a lot better to me than any religious afterlife, and I felt full of hope at the end of the chapter, despite the physical and mental toll it's clearly taking on Will and Lyra, because I believe that they can help these spirits find something better. And major props to Tialys and Salmakia. Keep on being awesome, you two.

  20. ChronicReader91 says:

    When I saw the chapter title, I had the same reaction.”Oh Pullman, NOW what are you doing?”

    The whole thing about Lyra hearing the prophecy… that’s the only major plot twist so far that had me not going “That’s brilliant!” I just think the fact that the past three books have spent so much time focused on her, and yet there wasn’t even so much as a hint that she had any knowledge of the prophecy, makes it feel like a cop-out, like Pullman decided to throw it in there at this very moment on a whim.

    Compared to how desolate and inert the world of the dead is, the agreement that Tialys comes to with the harpies is beautiful: you die, go on a short journey, tell someone your entire life story, both the good and the bad, then you walk through a window and become part of the world. When you consider that most of the ghosts have forgotten EVERYTHING about their life, even their own NAME, it doesn't seem so bad to cease to exist with the details of your life fresh on your mind.

  21. flootzavut says:

    "I’m a hug fiend and this would kill me and break my heart beyond repair."

    Me too, Mark. Me too.

  22. flootzavut says:

    PS is anyone else reminded of Astrid (Kylie Minogue in The Voyage of the Damned Christmas Doctor Who) with the idea of the ghosts drifting into atoms?

    It's been a while since I've read this, how does Lyra know what the ghosts should expect, to be able to promise them with such certainty?

  23. hassibah says:

    The monk was I think the only thing I straight-up hated in the series. I didn't really care if the church are one dimensional bad guys-lots of stories have those-and they can fuck with god as many times as they want. But that bit totally reeked of implying that people with faith are deluded and don't understand that by being religious that they're oppressing themselves. Sure there might need to be an opposing voice in the scene but the reference here is so overthetop obvious and it's a cliche that I've always hated.

  24. enigmaticagentscully says:

    Although I love the idea, the whole 'tell your stories' thing makes me kind of nervous. My story…would be so boring. I mean I have literally done nothing of interest in my life. I'd be afraid the harpies would fall asleep! Maybe they could make an exception for really dull people too? 😉

    • hassibah says:

      Heh, this is me too when I got to that part. The whole idea stressed me out.

    • Tilja says:

      I thought about that too. And then I thought about what Lyra told the ghosts, about how the world looks like, what you saw, what you heard, what you felt. That should make up for enough material for a regular story at least. 🙂

  25. Rachel says:

    Look up on Lawrence Krauss on YouTube. He does a very good lecture on a similar matter to Lyra's particle speech:

    "Every atom in your body came from a star that exploded. And the atoms in your left hand probably came from a different star than your right hand. It really is the most poetic thing I know about physics. You are all stardust. You couldn’t be here if stars hadn’t exploded. Because the elements – the carbon, nitrogen, oxygen, iron – all the things that matter for evolution weren’t created at the beginning of time. They were created in the nuclear furnaces of stars. And the only way they could get into your body is if the stars were kind enough to explode. So forget Jesus. The stars died so you could be here today."


  26. Noybusiness says:

    I always think that the martyr who speaks up in favor of Lyra and Will is Joan of Arc.

  27. Hello.This post was really motivating, particularly since I was searching for thoughts on this matter last Monday.

Comments are closed.