So the snake said, “Put your foot through the hole in the seedpod where I was playing, and you will become wise.” So she put a foot in where the snake had been. And the oil entered her blood and helped her see more clearly than before, and the first thing she saw was the sraf.

In this part of The Amber Spyglass, Atal tells Mary the legend of the mulefa’s origin. Once, the mulefa were no better than animals. They grazed and ate in ignorance and innocence. Then a snake spoke to a female mulefa (a zalif) and persuaded her to put her foot through a hole in the seedpod. When she did this, the mulefa became conscious and learned how to think. The sraf she saw was the free-floating consciousness that runs throughout all the universes. Sraf is what Lyra knows as Dust.

In this legend, which is a retelling of the story of Adam and Eve, the anonymous female zalif stands for Eve. But in the mulefa story, in contrast to the biblical story, the moment when the species gains wisdom is not a tragedy, but a moment to celebrate. After putting her foot through the hole, the zalif sees the ills of the world for the first time, but she also sees the wonders of the world. For Pullman, the moment when Lyra finally “falls,” or recognizes her love for Will, is a similarly happy moment. Her fall gives her clarity and frees her and every other intelligent being from the shackles of ignorance imposed by Metatron and the Church.