His Dark Materials

by: Philip Pullman

Lyra Belacqua

Lyra, the protagonist of the trilogy, is the second Eve. To Pullman, the original Eve depicted in Genesis was not the cause of all sin, but the source of all knowledge and awareness. In the universe of the novels, when Eve ate the fruit of the tree of knowledge, she became the mother of humanity and introduced Dust into the worlds. If Eve hadn’t eaten the fruit, humans would have remained forever in a childlike state of ignorance in the Garden of Eden. But this is not the dominant interpretation of events because a power-hungry Church has taken control of Eve’s story and twisted it to serve their own plans. They call knowledge “sin” and try to prevent people from learning more and growing wiser and more experienced. They think Dust is evil and contrive ways to keep people away from it. Lyra, as the new Eve, must fall again in order to restore respect for knowledge. She must also pass from childhood to womanhood in order to restore Dust, which has been leaking out of the world.

Lyra Belacqua, whose first name means “lyre”in Latin and whose last name means “beautiful water,” experiences a sexual awakening over the course of the trilogy. Just as Eve and Adam had their first sexual experience after eating from the tree of knowledge and leaving innocence behind, Lyra passes from childhood to adulthood only after learning about herself and her body. In Pullman’s novels, the body is not sinful or dirty, but rather a source of beauty and strength.

Lyra, who is more or less raised as an orphan, has a streak of adventurousness that makes her the perfect heroine for Pullman’s story. Lyra is hungry for experience. She is rebellious and willful and obeys no one unless she thinks she has good reason to do so. Pullman’s story about an imposter God and a rebellion against an all-powerful Church demands a character as headstrong, adventurous, and strangely innocent as Lyra.