Mark Reads ‘The Amber Spyglass’: Chapter 32

In the thirty-second chapter of The Amber Spyglass, Will and Lyra awake to discover that their dæmons seem to be nowhere near them. When they set out to find them, they run into a familiar face. Intrigued? Then it’s time for Mark to read The Amber Spyglass.


Well, this is not what I expected. And that excites me, because I still don’t feel like I can predict where this book will go, and how this series will end.

I imagine that with just over a fifth of this book left, it may have irritated people that Pullman opens up this chapter by stretching out and…well, waiting. Figuratively, of course. But I think that after spending so much time in the world of the dead, in that place devoid of life and joy, and then heading straight into a horrific and absurd battle, it makes sense that these characters would sleep, and that Pullman would explore the details of what it means to be alive.

(Just a heads up, there are some brief mentions of abuse below, as well as a bit of a discussion to the emotional repercussions of being SUPER MAX REPRESSED as a kid, so if this is not something you want to read or deal with right now, I just wanted to give you a trigger warning!)

Ever since I was a kid, I’ve had a fascination with being outdoors. I spent seven years in Idaho, and I blame this on living there. We had white Christmases ever year. (Is that how you pluralize Christmas? Huh, spell check says I’m right!) I always looked forward to the snow drifts in the backyard, of the hills you could sled down at school, of the way that icicles would form at the end of the roof, hanging over the edge, threatening to fall. I remember distinctly believing that if I didn’t rush under the icicles fast enough, they would plunge down on me and attack.

We were never far from the Snake River, and it was in those early years, before we moved to Southern California, before I knew what God was, before I knew what being gay meant, and long before we were poor, that I was introduced to camping. My parents heaped lots of passive-aggressive scorn on anyone who chose to go camping in an RV. Both of them thought it was cheating, and if they didn’t have children with them, I’m sure they would have considered a tent cheating as well. That river is where I learned to fish, learned what my dad would smell like after a day out on the water, learned what plants to avoid and which I could rush into, and which trees were the best for climbing. I learned about water currents, temperatures, how to ward off mosquitos, how to hide food so bears didn’t come wandering into camp. (Incidentally, the second time I went camping, a bear didcome into camp and merely poked around a bit before scampering off.)

When we moved to Riverside in the spring of 1992, I was eight years old, terrified of change, and was becoming more aware that there was something wrong with me. But I didn’t get a chance to develop a lot of those thoughts for a year or two because of wherein Riverside I moved to. We were at the edge of the Hidden Valley Wildlife Reserve, just minutes away from trails and paths, hiking, bamboo forests, and the Santa Ana River, from animals that were frightening or adorable, and that first year I lived there, I spent a lot of time on those trails with my brother and my father. I know that part of my joy came from the freedom of being outside. Before I realized that my parents were not treating me as other children were raised, I didn’t really have a concept of the bubble they were forcing me to live in. So it came down to something as simple as this: I spent most of my life indoors. Getting to go outside was a symbol of freedom.

It became something a lot more meaningful when the protective parenting got worse, and most especially when it turned into abuse. Being outside was freedom, in the most literal sense, because it was the only place I felt I had agency. I know that may seem like an absurd idea to a lot of you, and I actually have no problem stating that it’s pretty damn bizarre to me, too. And I lived it! But the household environment I lived in for all those years feel as if I was in an experiment in predestination. My life was planned out for me, so even the tiniest of choices did not matter. I had no say in it all.

Those mornings where I tied my running shoes to my feet (we were too poor to afford hiking boots) and set out to the path behind my house are among the few memories I have of my childhood and teenage years that I can look back upon and smile, and that smile is not ironic or painful or coated in shame or embarrassment. I loved the sound the soles of my shoes made as they scraped across the dirt trails. I loved the smell of sagebrush after a few hours in the summer sun. I loved the sensation of space, of spreading my arms out and not feeling constrained by walls, of looking in every direction and knowing that, both literally and figuratively, there was a world of possibility surrounding me.

It gave me hope of escape.

This hasn’t changed at all, and one of many reasons I decided to uproot myself and move to the Bay Area was a desire to be closer to the things about this world that I enjoy. I needed a place with the ocean closeby, with hiking trails only a few minutes away, with neighborhoods dense with trees, with long, stretching roads where I could sit on my bike and enjoy the journey. I was starting to feel trapped in Los Angeles, and I find comfort in the fact that I did the same thing a year ago as I did when I was a kid. I went outside. I changed my geographical location. I found things I enjoyed about being on this Earth.

I think this is why I am not the slightest bit bored with any chapter concerning themulefa, and it’s also why I have such an attachment to how Pullman opens this chapter. Actually, while it is the main focus of the beginning of chapter thirty-two, it’s actually a theme for the entire trilogy: being alive is so unique. There are so many tiny things that one can find about the human experience that are deeply transformational, and even though I’ve had a difficult life, I can still recall those things, those moments of discovery and sensation that still ring true all these years later.

I don’t know that the Church (or churches, rather) in my life ever encroached upon this idea, or threatened its existence, but I also think that’s because I didn’t share this with my church. While I have been known to encourage (read: freak out) my friends to join me on hikes or outdoor adventures, I’ve largely kept this side to myself. So, on a personal level, the dichotomy that Pullman is putting forth hasn’t always applied to me when it comes to my attachment to the natural world, but it’s because I’ve been so protective of it. It’s one of the few things I had growing that made me feel whole. While my parents tried to control the music I listened to, or the books I read, or what I saw on the television, they couldn’t touch my love of being outside.

But I suppose that on a larger scale, I can’t disagree with what Pullman is saying here. The religions that were a part of my life absolutely tried to take away nearly every experience I had that made me feel alive. If that offends you when I say that, I’m not going to apologize for what is my personal truth. If that is not the case for you, just know that I’m not saying what your experience is, but for me, nothing could ring closer to reality for me.

I know that being a person of color and queer plays heavily into that. God was whitewashed. The Bible was whitewashed. Everything was not only very heterosexual, but my very existence was the most supreme state of sin imaginable. (SERIOUSLY, THANK YOU FOR YEARS OF SHAME, CATHOLIC CHURCH.) Which is not to say that you can’t be a queer person of color and be religious, as you certainly can, but I found that any attempt to find my identity, or to seek out the things that made me feel good, came with a heavy dose of both public and personal shame. But why were these things wrong? Why did God make me this way if he was just going to punish my very nature?

I think that is what this comes down to, and why I ultimately support what Pullman is trying to tell me here. While trying to avoid any gross essentialist bullshit, there are things in all of our lives that feel natural when we do them. And of course those things differ from one person to another, but imagine that those very things are forbidden in your life by God and all of the people around you who believe in God as well. It becomes an issue of conflicting identities. Am I a Christian? Will I burn in hell? But I didn’t choose to be gay, and I didn’t choose to be brown. How is that fair?

Seriously, for about ten years of my life, I genuinely believed I was going to go to hell. I once told that to a friend and they instantly laughed in my face before apologizing for the rude reaction. And I laughed it off, and then felt INCREDIBLY DEPRESSED. I believed, for about a decade of my life, that the fact that I thought about dudes in a sexual way condemned me to hell. And of course when you tell yourself not to think of something, that becomes all you can think about.

I suppose that I’ve launched into this huge story because I feel like giving all of you some context as to why I’m drawn to this idea, and I’m really happy that this community makes me feel safe enough to admit such personal things. But even on a theological level, I felt that very idea of Christianity was at odds with who I was, and I was left out from it all. I didn’t fit in and, to borrow an idea from what this book is presenting, it was like my very body was at war with every single idea of God that I could find. And after fighting that battle for years, I simply got….tired.

And that’s perfectly okay.

Thus, I write like two thousand words to describe like…three pages of a book. It happens, okay? I have ~quite a lot of feelings~. But that’s what I adore about His Dark Materials. There are just so many things that I feel about all of this beyond characters and plots. I don’t want to ignore any of that either, though, and there is one gigantically huge revelation right here in chapter thirty-two that I think is important to the trilogy as well.

So I’m not above admitting when a book is getting the best of me, and it is certainly not the first time I’ve proclaimed something like this. Yeah, I don’t understand how Pan can be separate from Lyra. It seems clear that he’s not harmed and he wasn’t left in Lord Asriel’s world, so….he’s hiding? Playing a game? Taking a bath? Actually, I’m okay with that last one, especially since Pullman doesn’t ignore that both Lyra and Will are filthy. And it’s really these little details that help the story, as their condition provides a physical reminder of the journey they’ve been through.

Not wanting to be caught looking at him, she looked the other way at the little grave they’d dug the night before, just a couple of hand spans wide, where the bodies of the Chevalier Tialys and the Lady Salmakia now lay at rest.

OH, GODDAMN IT. Thanks for the reminder that these characters are dead. But as sad as that made me, I wondered what would now happen with those who died after the door to the world of the dead had been opened? There was still the chance I might see both of these Gallivespians again, so PERHAPS THERE IS HOPE.

But let’s just get to the real shit. The dæmons are missing, and as the two discuss where they might have gone or what might have happened to them, Will spots a possible group of animals in the distance. My first thought was that the kids’ dæmons were doing something important, and that Will and Lyra would soon find out what that was. WELL. NOPE.

Lyra was watching the…whatever they were; they were very strange.

“Will,” she called, “they’re riding on wheels…”


They are in the world of the mulefa! HOW. No, I am not even going to question it (yet), because that means Dr. Mary Malone is nearby and…oh god, SHE HAS TO TEMPT HER DOESN’T SHE. Oh fuck, I NEED TO SEE HOW THIS HAPPENS. The sheer joy, though, of Will and Lyra getting to experience riding on the mulefa is just too much for me. I WANT TO DO THIS. Oh god, could you imagine commuting to work on a mulefa? Everyone would make fun of you at first, but you’d be so cool and ahead of your time and thoroughly enjoying every second of your trip.

I just love that even this close to the end of the book, there’s still time to enjoy discovery, and I am glad that these two characters get to have this experience. Of course, I was more excited for the inevitable reunion between Lyra and Dr. Mary Malone. God, those scenes at Oxford seem like they happened so long ago. I was reading that part like…seven weeks ago? That seems like an eternity right now.

I’d also forgotten that Mary and Will had never actually met, and Pullman deals with this by acknowledging how awkward this is for the two of them. I also forgot that Will looks so much older than Lyra, too, and it’s such a rad moment when they shake hands and “a current of understanding and respect passed between them, so powerful that it became liking at once and each of them felt that they had made a lifelong friend, as indeed they had.”

I’m glad that there’s not a rush of words and recapping here when they meet. Mary and the mulefa have the two travelers fed first, and even then, she merely provides answers to them about their questions regarding the world they’re in and how she got there. It’s a sign of Mary’s sympathy because she’s aware that she could overwhelm them at any point. For now, though, she’s glad they are here, and she communicates this to Atal when they fall asleep again.

Atal does bring up a good point. How can Mary be so sure that Lyra and Will are needed? That they’re a part of everything? Mary does her best to convey what had happened, trying to explain the dream she had, and she’s even embarrassed that she is following a dream at this point. But I suppose that all Mary can do at this point is hope. She has to hope that Will and Lyra can help. I can’t figure it out yet, though. How can they do anything at this point?

I got a bad feeling when Will and Lyra are woken up later by an agitated group of mulefa who insist that Mary must come see something they can’t explain. My first thought? Father Gomez had done something to draw Mary out. I expected the worst, but was then surprised when Pullman stayed with Mary’s narration. We were going to find out what it was instead of waiting for Will and Lyra to learn of the aftermath. So Mary travels for an hour to the spot the mulefa needed her to see.

In the side of the hill, just a few yards away, was one of those openings made by the subtle knife. It was like the mouth of a cave, because the moonlight shone into it a little way, just as if inside the opening there were the inside of a hill; but it wasn’t. And out of it was coming a procession of ghosts.

Wait. WAIT. The window Will cut, the field they laid in……HOLY SHIT. HOLY SHIT ARE YOU SERIOUS.

As my brain continued to rupture from being fully unprepared, I continued to read about Mary watching the dead dissolve into Dust. She is shocked and confused, both by the act of watching these ghosts disappear, and by the joy they have on their faces. It’s here that Pullman hands me the importance of His Dark Materials. 

“Tell them stories. They need the truth. You must tell them true stories, and everything will be well. Just tell them stories.”

It helps that I just finished Pullman’s The Good Man Jesus and The Scoundrel Christ, which has a similar theme running through it, but this gives a brand new context to Lyra’s constant storytelling throughout this trilogy. Even if she was lying, she was still telling a story that brought joy, that spoke of what it meant to be alive, that made life better because of the sheer act of passing along those stories.

Pullman has been telling us stories this whole time, character arcs that are tragic and joyous and redemptive. He’s been giving us plot twists that melt our minds and fill us with terror and anxiety. He’s been giving us a fully-imagined world, and that’s his form of lying, just like Lyra, and we are all the better for that lie.

“Tell them stories,” the ghost says. And I think back to how this chapter put thoughts in my mind, acts and behaviors and a history I didn’t get to talk about, and as soon as I read that final line, I knew that even on my part, I was supposed to tell stories, too. Maybe it’s all I’m good at, but you know what? I’m perfectly okay with that.


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!

About Mark Oshiro

Perpetually unprepared since '09.
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78 Responses to Mark Reads ‘The Amber Spyglass’: Chapter 32

  1. Darky says:

    A note for those reading along: In the next chapter (chapter 33) of the US edition, there's a bit of about four sentences that was censored. IMNSHO quite ridiculous seeing all the things that weren't censored, but that's US morale for you.

  2. Erica says:

    "And I think back to how this chapter put thoughts in my mind, acts and behaviors and a history I didn’t get to talk about, and as soon as I read that final line, I knew that even on my part, I was supposed to tell stories, too. Maybe it’s all I’m good at, but you know what? I’m perfectly okay with that."

    …Damn. I think I have a little something in my eye.

  3. Ryan Lohner says:

    I remember reading this the first time, I knew full well that the remaining chapters had to contain Mary's temptation of Lyra, whatever that meant, and there had to be a payoff to the Father Gomez plot, both of which logically meant that Lyra had to get to the world of the mulefa. But I still got incredibly excited when she told Will that she saw strange creatuers riding wheels.

  4. Jenny_M says:

    Have I mentioned that I love this reading one chapter at a time thing? When I first read these books (and even on time 2 and 3), I charged through full speed ahead at this part because I wanted to get to the end. Now, reading one chapter at a time, I can really focus on what's happening. And it is just gorgeous.

    Mark, your words on religion always affect me so deeply. I remember going to my fundamentalist high school and just feeling wrong. I remember being in a class where a student spouted the most hateful homophobic bigotry I have ever, ever heard (which I will not repeat because it is honestly triggering), and the teacher just nodded and smiled. I also heard horribly hateful misogynistic things while there, and the experience truly soured me on religion. Everything that I was discovering to be a good thing for me – my sexuality, my female-ness, my liberalism – was being called out as somehow inherently bad and dirty and wrong. That led to a lot of guilt for a lot of years, and I still have plenty of issues with being assertive and expressing myself due to that early repression.

    • tigerpetals says:

      Yes. I still live in that bubble of religious cultural misogyny and homophobia and racism. Everything I wanted/still want to learn about was/is suspect and/or wrong. This is what I've learned as a little girl.

    • Harrison says:

      It makes me really sad to hear about things like this. I think it's disgusting that there are still so many places in the world that are teaching people that what they are is wrong.

  5. summeriris says:

    Can I just repeat for the last time how much I loved the Chevalier and the Lady. I loved their snarkiness at the beginning and I loved their loyalty and their courage at the end.
    And no Mark, I can't imagine riding a Mulefa to work. Though it might be nice to have one for company on my way to work.

    • Harrison says:

      I am very sad to see them go as well.

      Also, like you, it seems odd to me the idea of using Mulefa as steeds. I mean, they're people. Here they let humans ride on their back because it's practical, but it really seems rude to assume that you could just use one for transportation willy-nilly.

  6. Andreas says:

    It may be a bit little late in the book to say it but what Lyra did in the world of the dead kind of reminds me of Jesus. Until his time the doors to the heaven were closed, everybody went to Hades. But then with his crucification, like Lyra's leaving her daemon back, he went there and opened the doors to heaven, like Will's window to the world of the Mulefa. And also you have to be good in your life to go to heaven as you have to tell the Harpies true stories for them to guide you out of the world of the dead. If you're not good, or if don't have any stories to tell them, you'll stay in the world of the dead which really is hell.

    Although heaven and hell are not some physical places as much as mental states. Once my religious education teacher compared heaven as the joy of a little kid who runs to tell his parents that he got A* in his test at school to make them proud of him and hell as the fear a child will feel when he breaks a vase of them while the parents are opening the door ready to find out, the fear of disappointing them.

    At least these are the things I believe in. If you don't, just move to following comment…:)

    • ABBryant says:

      "The morning comes, the night decays, the watchmen leave their stations…" -William Blake

      In case yall aint seeing the image

  7. Arione says:

    Telling stories to the harpies is what gets me through sometimes. When my head decides it wants to start tearing me apart, and gets my stomache and joints to join in on the deal, I try to throw myself into a story. It’s a fairly easy trick, close your eyes and visualise. But it’s moments like this chapter and other amazing chapters in other books, and moments that I’ve made in my own mind, that protect me when the tornado/blackhole it is my anxiety/blargggggh breaks it’s way tgrough my usual everyday functioning barriers. Sorry, being a little unstable tonight, I love this book dearly. Love love love.

    • tigerpetals says:

      It helps me too. They bring peace and rejuvenation.

    • Darth_Ember says:

      I tell stories to myself in order to sleep, sometimes, in a way. It may be strange, but I envision myself into a character, as deep in as I can go, and suddenly the worries in my head aren't so bad – what does that character care about, say, an essay? All the stuff in my life goes all distant – and because I'm not really them, their worries can't quite touch me the same way unless I'm actually trying to channel those.
      So I become someone else, to go to sleep. Perhaps that's strange.

    • Vikinhaw says:

      I pretty much do the same thing. When life gets difficult for me (which honestly is quite often, going outside is hard) I retreat into a story in my own head. It's the only way a can get to sleep.

  8. monkeybutter says:

    Ugh, I liked riding a mulefa to work better before it was popular.

    Actually, while it is the main focus of the beginning of chapter thirty-two, it’s actually a theme for the entire trilogy: being alive is so unique.

    Perfectly said. I like this chapter for a variety of reasons, but mostly because you can feel through Pullman's words what it's like for Lyra and Will to be alive. It's also a perfect time for decompression and relaxation after the hectic battle and escape.

    I didn't have a bad childhood to escape or anything, but I like going outside and wandering around alone to clear my head, or get away from my frustrations. It feels good to be alone, or sometimes with a dog galumphing about. Everything just seems okay.

    I also really like your final two paragraphs; they made me smile. I think both you and Pullman do a great job telling stories, and I'm glad you both seem so comfortable with it.

    • Jenny_M says:

      Um, I rode a mulefa before they discovered sraf and started riding around on wheels, so…

      (It is physically painful to type like a hipster douche, but so much fun!)

    • xpanasonicyouthx says:


      • Harrison says:

        So I don't know about you guys, but I was finding ugly otherworldly beings and helping them make amber spyglasses and stuff WAY before you all were. Just sayin'.

  9. cait0716 says:

    I totally get what you mean about being outside. And not just outside, but out in nature, away from everything. I grew up in the mountains of Colorado where the woods in our big back yard were my escape. In college I spent a lot of time decompressing in the Botanic Garden across the street. Now that I'm riding my bike regularly again, I'm finding that I have more energy and can go farther on dirt paths through the woods than on sidewalks and streets. It's just more fun to be out in the woods that on the hot asphalt.

    I do really like that this chapter is a bit of a breather. Pullman seems to like this style. Back in TGC, we had the big climactic battle at Bolvanger close to the end of the book, followed by a decompression chapter in the balloon, then the second climax with Lord Asriel and Roger. It's a style I like because it gives a bit more room to tie up the loose ends. Sort of like an extended epilogue (though we still have the temptation and Father Gomez to deal with)

  10. Finally, a Comment with Magic in Its Heart

    “Tell them stories. They need the truth. You must tell them true stories, and everything will be well. Just tell them stories.”
    I love love love this bit. A simple, beautiful statement on the transformative, healing power of storytelling? Yes, please. The world is stories. People are stories. We're all just stories waiting to be told.

  11. tigerpetals says:

    For me it is the inverse- my parents don't usually try to control what books I read and the Internet helps too, but they can control my going outside. Although in all cases they are the ones with money and mobility. I don't have housekeys, so I have to depend on someone else being in the house so I can leave it, and even then I can't go really anywhere since I can't drive and don't know how to use public transportation. But when I can go outside (on family trips only) it is very good (although I am never alone enough to truly be happy there).

    I'd be afraid of something happening to the mulefa if I rode it on the streets.

    Your final paragraphs remind me that I should be doing that same thing. I almost never write my thoughts down or tell my stories, but I need to.

    • FlameRaven says:

      Why don't you have housekeys? That seems strange to me, although I was kind of a latchkey kid and would frequently come home to an empty house when I was 10 or 11.

  12. @BklynBruzer says:

    Mark, your review was possibly even more beautiful and meaningful to me than the actual chapter of the book.

  13. barnswallowkate says:

    Was the woman who came to Mary in her dream supposed to be Original Eve? I guess it could be Dust personified, or maybe Mary's soul receiving messages while she sleeps? HMMM.

    I too feel better when I spend time outside, preferably alone. I grew up playing in the woods all the time so it just feels normal and familiar. A few years ago I went to this nature center almost every weekend to walk their trails and count birds for their records, and it was the happiest I've been in a long time. I really need to get back into it. Besides just feeling happier with trees around me, every walk is like a little adventure with something new happening every time (and birding is like treasure hunting).

  14. Tilja says:

    You read The Good Man Jesus and the Scoundrel Christ!!! If it's not too much to ask, could you make a post about it when you finish TAS, or a comment on BttS. I'm interested in your opinions on it and especially in your interpretations of something you certainly know better than me.

    At least now you know where Roger got his last joyous laugh and it's the best possible place for anyone to be able to laugh. 😀 This is only getting better given the things that are gathering all around. At least that's my hope.

    • Tilja says:

      Another comment on the indoors vs outdoor subject. I don't find any of what you say as silly. I've had a similar experience, only not with nature, just with not being locked up for which I'd go anywhere so long as I can stay out of the hell that I had to call home. I'd go through dangerously bad neighbourhood in the middle of the deep night and couldn't care less, so long as I could stay out of the hell I had to live in. I put up with near death illnesses just to avoid going back there, the place reeks of evil energy and staying there consumes the mind. I prefer to die an agonizing death rather than live in that place again. It was that place which caused all of my problems. I was told by many people (some of whom are dead now) that since I left I got better, that I finally resemble a person living in this world. Yet I'm still tied to the place because my family is still forced to live there so I have to go back regularly, and it's never a good thing.

      So no. Nothing of what you say is ridiculous and it all makes sense to me.

    • xpanasonicyouthx says:


  15. BradSmith5 says:

    Oh man, I love it when you stop to tell stories, Mark. I mean, I can't relate to it, but I still enjoy it. For instance, being outside is the exact opposite for me: I hate that I have no control over anything going on out there. Bugs, bears, other people, wind––it's all outside, and it isn't doing what I want it to do! I think that's part of the reason I enjoy writing, though; it gives me the control that I can't get anywhere else.

    And this chapter seems fine, despite my need to tell OTHER people how to write. Hm. ;P

  16. Becky_J_ says:

    I have officially decided to move to the world of the mulefa so that I can climb seedpod trees and make a mulefa friend who will give me rides all around the beautiful world and help me make nets and then I'll sit around listening to the stories of the ghosts with the harpies and then I'll hang out with Will and Lyra and Mary Malone and nothing sounds more perfect in the whole entire world.

    You're all welcome to join me because, really, who wouldn't want that

  17. Noybusiness says:

    Refresh my memory, didn't the chapter where Will opened the door for the ghosts say there were seedpod trees on the other side?

  18. pica_scribit says:

    Oh, Mark! *hugs* I'm so sorry you had all these experiences growing up. My parents were overprotective, too, and there were many things I was not allowed to do that seem stupid now, but yours make mine sound like the perfect parents.

    I identify as a Christian, but one of the things I really love about these books is the difference between the way God is portrayed and the way the Church represents him. Because this is something I really feel. Not that I think God is anything like what is shown in this book, but all the stupid, repressive bullshit dealt out in the name of God for the past 2000 or more years WAS NOT ACTUALLY GOD. It was PEOPLE and their own agendas and selfish interpretations of what they thought God was. Organised religion is to blame for much of the most heinous oppression in our culture. You can argue almost any point of view using the Bible, so biblical arguments are completely pointless to get involved in.

    The only reason I still call myself an Episcopalian is because I have never felt oppressed or shamed in any way by that particular Church. They seem to be doing something right. Probably the only reason I even still call myself a Christian is because that's what I was raised with, and that's the lens through which I first felt a connection to Faith and God. In the meantime, I reject a lot of mainstream Christianity, and much of the Bible, and feel free to form my own personal relationship with the Divine on my own terms. I don't worry about Hell or sin or death; I just try to do my best to do right by others and care for the world I live in. What God worth his/her own salt would demand more than that?

    ETA: For the record, I'm not saying that everyone, or, in fact, anyone should believe what I believe. Just stating the point that I have come to. All expressions of belief or non-belief are equally valid, so long as they do no harm to others.

    • RoseFyre says:

      "ETA: For the record, I'm not saying that everyone, or, in fact, anyone should believe what I believe. Just stating the point that I have come to. All expressions of belief or non-belief are equally valid, so long as they do no harm to others. "


  19. frogANDsquid says:

    Yay I can comment again! Im in new York and JUST got my power back. Honestly I got my power back and the first three things i did was: 1) turn the air conditioning on 2) Go to Mark Reads and catch up 3) check for a pottermore email…which i still havent gotten btw.

    I also love the mulefa because of how…simple their way of life is. I dont mean that they ARE simple just that they seem to have a much better perspective on things conpared to our society…or at least mine. I want to be a part of their society and just live amoung them forever and ever.

    • notemily says:

      I always have a problem with this because whenever I read idyllic, utopian "nature" settings in books, I always wonder if we could even HAVE that kind of life, or if, as people, we are just too human for it. That we would inevitably fuck it up with destruction and pollution and over-use of resources. I like the idea of living in harmony with nature, but at the same time, I doubt that it's possible in our world.

  20. knut_knut says:

    Damn you, Irene, for taking away my internet and forcing me to miss Monday’s recap! (but thankfully I’m ok and so is everyone I know so I’m not really complaining). I have nothing to say, really, other than thank you for sharing your stories with us <3 I wish I could give you ALL THE HUGS!!

  21. Many Rainbows says:

    I want to say.. thank you for trusting us all, telling us these stories of yourself and your history. Painful as it is, it also helps though of us who also have not have the greatest lives. It helps me, because while I may not have had the same life as you, I can relate in some ways. Sure, my painful past did not last as long as yours (only about 6 1/2 years from the start of the pain until the 'escape') but i still have to deal with the results daily- still have to work through the results, reminding myself that I am not as bad as my foster mother made me out to be, that overall I am a 'good' person, that I did not deserve the neglect and the home conditions I lived in with my father after my mother died- and I have to work hard to get past those things, to make myself better, to heal and get rid of the 'mental blocks'. Because no matter what, there IS good in the world, and life *is* worth living, even with the pain and misery.

  22. burritosaurus says:

    how to ward off mosquitos

    Um, teach me. Please. I am a tasty tasty morsel to mosquitoes and have yet to find anything to change that.

    Mark, I love your stories, but what I love most of all is that your willingness to be open and talk about some really difficult shit has made it easier for so many of us to do the same, and somehow that has built this really amazing, respectful community. So thank you for giving us all a space and a story, and mega thanks to all your readers for being so amazing and inspiring.

    I am totally full of sap today, guys.

    I know what you mean about the outdoors. When I was growing up, my dad was usually working and my mom didn't really pay attention, so I would always sneak out and run to the creek down the street. Sometimes, my best friend would come with me, and we would build these amazing forts and hide-outs and splash around in the water and pan for gold (we had high hopes, but there is no gold in Raleigh). It was just a whole other world, and it was amazing and freeing. I don't spend as much time out like that as I used to, but I still feel like that when I get a chance to go out. A few weeks ago, I got to spend a few days on my Uncle's farm back in Maryland for the first time in 9 years, and it was seriously magical.

    • notemily says:

      I don't know much about warding off mosquitoes, but eating garlic helps! Or you can just take garlic pills if the idea of eating it grosses you out.

  23. chrisjpardo says:

    As I'm sure Lyra and Will do, I appreciate the change of pace in this chapter. Hell, I feel exhausted and worn down by all the death and fighting, and I've only been turning pages.

    Like you Mark I just love the scene-setting at the beginning of the chapter. I must have read the first few pages 3 or 4 times before settling into my stride today; I just wanted to re-read and take in all of that wonderful descriptive language. I have trouble visualising the settings in this book sometimes (you wouldn't believe how pernickety and irritated I get by this, at myself), but the world of the Mulefa is one that seems easy for me to picture in my head.

  24. karissajoelle says:

    Tiny tiny Gallivespian graves. Sadness forever.

  25. Harrison says:

    Does it make anyone else sad to think that Chavalier and Silmakia never got to meet their daemons?

    Also, what would their daemons have been like? Would they have been really tiny? Imagine how cute that would be!

    • notemily says:


      We know that they felt the tearing-apart sensation that Will and Lyra did, right? Or at least we know that they felt SOME pain on passing into the world of the dead. I wonder how Iorek would have felt and whether he would then have a daemon.

  26. pennylane27 says:

    I'll say it again: Mark, you should write all the books ever and I'd happily devour them.

  27. notemily says:

    I'm not someone who willingly spends a lot of time outdoors. I grew up in a mid-sized city. If people suggest eating outside, my thoughts go to bugs and cold breezes and rain. I loathed camping as a child, because the only time I ever went camping was when it was mandated by school or Girl Scouts. My friends grew up going camping with their families "up North" (Northern Wisconsin), where I hear there are some wonderful woods and lakes and such, but my family was more of the stay-indoors-and-read type.

    I was an anxious child. (I am an anxious adult!) One of my strongest memories from elementary school is going camping in fourth grade and spending the entire first night there in the throes of a panic attack. I hated the bathrooms and the food and the taste of iodine-soaked water and the dirt that got everywhere and the mosquitoes. I hated the clothes I was forced to wear, itchy wool socks and long underwear. I wanted insulated walls and heating and food that *I* could choose and my familiar things around me. I felt sick almost constantly on that trip, and at the time I thought it was something physical, but it was probably the anxiety. (I had a lot of those mysterious "sicknesses" as a child and it was only as an adult that I recognized them as panic attacks.)

    I'm also not a very physically strong person, and as an adolescent I had anemia and got tired very easily. In high school another mandated camping trip came up, and this time it was hiking. Ugh. Blisters on my feet and an aching back from carrying all of my belongings all day and having to go to the bathroom outdoors. Not to mention inane "team-building" exercises with the popular kids who all thought I was a weirdo and that I was slowing the group down. I hated it all again.

    When I went to college in the middle of the Berkshire woods in Massachusetts, I didn't expect to like that either. Once, I woke up with a tick stuck to the back of my leg, and FREAKED THE FUCK OUT because there was a BUG ON ME and it WOULDN'T COME OFF. Everyone else was like "what, you've never had a tick before?" and I was like WHO ARE YOU PEOPLE. It was also disorienting to not have Lake Michigan always to the east of me. I had no idea where I was, no mental map. Everything was just woods and hills all around.

    So, imagine my surprise when I came back home for breaks and I actually MISSED the woods. The gorgeous carpet of white-pine needles that blanketed the paths that I walked to get to class. The sweet smell of decomposing leaves in the fall. The golden sunlight streaming through the trees. The clean, non-city air.

    After that, I tried to really appreciate the time I had left in the Berkshires. I took walks in the woods (making sure to check my jeans for ticks afterwards), to the huge glacial boulder that gave my college its name, admiring how the paths wound smoothly through the woods, made first by animals and then people. I breathed the air and loved the smells and took photos of the sunlight. I watched the mist skim over the ground on chilly evenings and the frost that coated everything on autumn mornings.

    Now I'm back in my mid-size city, and though I enjoy the conveniences here, I miss the Berkshires. I think about moving back there sometimes. I'm still not big on camping or hiking, especially now that I have chronic health issues that affect my diet and my tolerance for vigorous exercise. But I know how to appreciate the outdoors now, and I miss that golden sunlight and clean mountain air. I miss the white pines and the smell of fall.

    Instead of anxiety, those things now bring me peace. I think I had to learn how to appreciate them without being forced.

    Sorry for the tl;dr comment. Mark's stories about his ~feelings~ inspire my own ~feelings~ and compel me to write about my own experiences. Good writing always makes me want to do that.

    Mark, I don't know if you're (still) reading this comment, but I read a book that reminds me of your experience here. It's called "Nothing Pink" by Mark Hardy, and it's about a gay kid in the seventies coming to terms with being gay while in a super-religious family. It's short, and if you ever get the chance to pick it up, I recommend it.

    Can you imagine a better world to "become atoms" in than the one with the mulefa? Besides the tualapi, it's basically paradise. Which is of course Pullman's intent.

  28. notemily says:

    BZT, gur oreevrf ner tebjvat ba gur onaare!

  29. proudgenderqueer says:

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