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Symbols are objects, characters, figures, or colors
used to represent abstract ideas or concepts.
Daemons, the external expressions of people’s souls, take
forms that symbolize their owners’ character. Witches’ daemons,
for example, take the form of birds. This form represents, most
literally, the witches’ ability to fly. It also represents the witches’
freedom from the constraints of society. Daemons also represent
their owner’s strength or weakness. Someone who can separate from
his or her own soul is someone who has great power and a strong
will. Witches are able to stay far away from their daemons without
harm. John Parry and his daemon, Sayan Kötör, have the same ability. Sayan
Kötör can fly far away without causing pain to either himself or
Parry. Separating from one’s daemon is a painful task, as Lyra finds
out on the banks of the river of the world of the dead. Leaving their
daemons behind is a difficult coming-of-age ritual for the witches.
Because His Dark Materials is in some
ways a retelling of Adam and Eve’s fall from grace, Pullman stresses
the symbolism of feeding one’s lover as Eve fed Adam. For Mary,
Lyra, and Will, receiving food symbolizes physical pleasure and
mental maturity. When Mary was a teenager, a boy fed her a piece
of marzipan. Like Adam and Eve, she realized how sweet the food
and the sensation were and realized that she should not stifle her
physical urges. Similarly, when Lyra and Will are searching for
their daemons after they have escaped into the world of the mulefa,
Lyra feeds Will a piece of fruit and they kiss. It is this reenactment
of the Fall through one lover feeding another that heals the world.
The aurora borealis, the beautiful play of lights that
stretches across the sky in the northern reaches of Lyra’s world
(and our own), has always intrigued Lyra. The lights reveal the
flimsiness of the layer that separates worlds. Though she’s had
experience with ghosts at Jordan College, Lyra’s vision of the strange
shifting lights of the aurora borealis are the first hint she has
that something much bigger than her life in Oxford might exist.
The witches play in the lights and angels pass between worlds in
places like the aurora, where the layers between worlds are thinner.
It is beneath the aurora borealis that Lord Asriel opens up a breach
into another world by killing Roger. In the light of the aurora
borealis, Dust is also more visible.
Ace your assignments with our guide to His Dark Materials!