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Modeled after Satan in Milton’s Paradise Lost,
Lord Asriel is the gentlemanly devil who plans to overthrow God
and establish a Republic of Heaven. In other stories, Asriel would
almost certainly be the villain. In Pullman’s trilogy, Asriel is
complicated, arrogant, and unlikable, but in many ways he is also
a heroic figure.
The name Asriel is derived from Asrael,
the name of a biblical angel. In the Bible, Asrael’s appearance
heralds the apocalypse. He is also an angel of death who severs
human souls from human bodies. Lord Asriel hopes to induce an apocalypse
of his own by waging war on God, and he separates Roger’s soul (his
daemon) from his body.
In Milton’s Paradise Lost, Satan tempts
Eve with the fruit from the tree of knowledge. In Pullman’s trilogy,
Lord Asriel’s compelling slides of Dust and the aurora borealis
convince Lyra to go on her quest for knowledge. Though Lord Asriel
doesn’t ultimately play the serpent to Lyra’s Eve, he does instill
in her the thirst for knowledge.
Ace your assignments with our guide to His Dark Materials!