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Frequently Asked Questions
- The Mechanics -

Spoilers for the series abound, so tread with caution.

Why is Northern Lights called The Golden Compass?

The title change for the first book of His Dark Materials has been the source of endless confusion for fans on both sides of the Atlantic, and the rationale behind the change isn't entirely clear. When the book was first published in the United Kingdom, it was called Northern Lights. However, when it was published in North America, it was renamed The Golden Compass.

Apparently, Pullman's original name for the series was The Golden Compass Says..., and that was the name under which he sent it off to American publishers. He heard nothing from them for months, and in the interim, decided (with his British publisher's full blessing) to rename the series His Dark Materials. Months later, RandomHouse sent a letter to inform him that they would be thrilled to publish The Golden Compass and, when Pullman explained that the name had changed, insisted that the cover artwork was already slated to publicly appear the following month, and it was too late to change the title.

Regardless of the name, the two books are essentially the same beast (minus the art by Philip Pullman that headed up the chapters in the UK version). Since The Golden Compass fits with the naming pattern that the rest of the series maintains, this site will generally refer to the book under that title.

(With much thanks to Sophie for explaining the reasoning behind the name change)

To what does the title His Dark Materials refer?

Broadly, it refers to the tools that the Creator used to build the world and mankind. Specifically, it's a reference to a line in Paradise Lost by John Milton, the epic poem that provides a great deal of inspiration for His Dark Materials.

The "he" being referenced in the original quote is God.

How do I pronounce certain names?

The limitations of the printed word mean that a wide variety of personal pronunciation flourish inside each reader's head. With the release of the audio version of the series, however, actually legitimate pronunciations are surfacing and readers are having to twist their minds around unfamiliar spins of familiar names.

Cittagazze: Chee-tah-gazzay
dæmon: dee-mon
Iorek: Yo-rek
Iofur: Yo-fur
Kirjava: Kir-yah-vah
Lyra: Lie-ra
Serafina Pekkala: Ser-a-fee-nah Peck-al-ah
Stelmaria: Stell-meri-ah
Xaphania: Zaph-ar-nee-ah

With much thanks to Nick and the
Forum denizens for establishing the above.

How do I type a certain character?

His Dark Materials is littered with unfamiliar and archaic letters that are somewhat difficult and cumbersome to reproduce. If one is typing up a document, unusual characters can be accessed through your system's Character Map. If you're using Windows, go in through your START menu, then your Programs, then Accessories, then System Tools, and then Character Map. Selecting the character in question will show you the font and keystroke needed to reproduce it (though you may need to hunt around somewhat to find the initial character).

For example, the "æ" of "dæmon" can be reproduced through font Verdana and keystroke Alt+0230.

If typing up something to be posted on the Internet, however, you may need to go through HTML (Hyper Text Mark-Up Language) in order to be compatible with other browsers. If that's the case, then go through the HTML Document Character Set to find the specific code for your character, and then plug that precise code in whenever you want your character to appear in an HTML document.

For example, the "æ" of "dæmon" can be reproduced through code æ

On the other hand, if that seems like too much work for you, rest assured that most people will understand the substitution of "daemon".

Is The Amber Spyglass really the end of the series?

It depends on your definition of "series". The story of Will and Lyra came to a definite conclusion, but Philip Pullman has mentioned the possibility of a story about Lyra four years after the end of The Amber Spyglass. He is also working on a companion volume, The Book of Dust, that deals with specific aspects of the worlds and supporting characters found in the series.

Will there be another book about Lyra?

Possibly. In a discussion with James Naughtie at the 2002 Hay Festival, Pullman reluctantly admitted that he had an idea for a story about Lyra four years after the end of The Amber Spyglass, but he declined to discuss further details as he dislikes talking about books before he writes them.

What is The Book of Dust?

According to Philip Pullman:
"The Book of Dust will not be a simple reference book--far from it. I want to go into the background of Lyra's world, and the creation myth that underpins the whole trilogy, and to say something about some of the other characters, and about the alethiometer and the history of the subtle knife, and so on. Furthermore I want it to be richly illustrated. It'll be story-driven, not reference-driven, and I'll need to brood over it in silence before I find the right form for it."

-(in "Letter from London", Publisher's Weekly, March 05 2001)

Will there be a His Dark Materials movie?

Probably. New Line Cinema has acquired the rights to the series and tentatively plans to begin production after Lord of the Rings finishes its run in theaters (in Winter 2003). Let the wailing and gnashing of teeth begin. Go to the Facts and Speculation page to find out more information.

How can I be cast in the His Dark Materials movies?

Short answer: at the moment, you can't. The movies have not yet begun casting roles.

Back to the FAQ



Last modified on June 23rd, 2002

His Dark Materials, The Golden Compass, The Subtle Knife, The Amber Spyglass and all related characters, concepts, and commercial offspring are the property of Philip Pullman, Scholastic Books, Random House Inc, New Line Cinema and all other right-holders. This unofficial site is neither affiliated nor endorsed by any of the former parties. This site is not for profit and is not intended to infringe upon any commercial endeavors. E-mail: webmaster@darkmaterials.com