Lyra Belacqua
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Lyra Belacqua (), also known as Lyra Silvertongue, is the heroine of
Philip Pullman Sir Philip Nicholas Outram Pullman (born 19 October 1946) is an English writer. His books include the fantasy Fantasy is a genre of speculative fiction involving Magic (supernatural), magical elements, typically set in a fictional univ ...
's trilogy ''
His Dark Materials ''His Dark Materials'' is a trilogy of Fantasy literature, fantasy novels by Philip Pullman consisting of ''Northern Lights (Pullman novel), Northern Lights'' (1995; published as ''The Golden Compass'' in North America), ''The Subtle Knife'' (1 ...
''. In ''His Dark Materials'' Lyra is a young girl who inhabits a universe parallel to our own. Brought up in the cloistered world of Jordan College, Oxford, she finds herself embroiled in a cosmic war between Lord Asriel on one side, and a deity figure known as The Authority and his Regent,
Metatron Metatron ( ''Meṭāṭrōn'', ''Məṭaṭrōn'', ''Mēṭaṭrōn'', ''Mīṭaṭrōn'', ''Meṭaṭrōn'', ''Mīṭṭaṭrōn'') or Mattatron ( ''Maṭṭaṭrōn'') is an angel in Judaism mentioned three times in the Talmud in a few br ...
, on the other. Lyra also features prominently in the subsequent trilogy ''
The Book of Dust ''The Book of Dust'' is a trilogy of Fantasy literature, fantasy novels by Philip Pullman, which expands his trilogy ''His Dark Materials''. The books further chronicle the adventures of Lyra Belacqua and her battle against the theocracy, theoc ...
''.


Background and life

Lyra Belacqua, aged around eleven at the beginning of the trilogy, is the daughter of Lord Asriel and Marisa Coulter in a fictional Oxford, similar to our own. She was brought up at Jordan College, where the scholars, professors and servants treat her as an adopted daughter. She was raised believing that her parents had died in an airship crash, and that Lord Asriel was her uncle, and later learned the truth from John Faa, leader of the Gyptians. Lyra spends much of her time socialising with other children of the city, sometimes harmoniously, frequently mock-violently, and often in order to avoid schoolwork. Her closest friend among the other children is a Jordan kitchen boy named Roger Parslow, who disappears early in '' Northern Lights''. The search to find Roger, and other children, is Lyra's motivation throughout much of ''Northern Lights''. Lyra is described as having wavy dirty-blonde hair and pale-blue eyes, and is thin and short for her age. Lyra is unruly and
tomboy A tomboy is a term for a girl or a young woman with Masculinity, masculine qualities. It can include wearing Androgyny in fashion, androgynous or unfeminine clothing and actively engage in physical sports or other activities and behaviors usual ...
ish and her complete disregard for her appearance and personal hygiene exasperates her adult carers. She receives a scant and haphazard education at the hands of Jordan scholars, being neither interested in study nor officially a student of the college. However, she is highly intelligent, and is particularly talented at deceiving others; she is capable of making up complex yet plausible lies on the spur of the moment. Initially she uses this talent to avoid punishment by her guardians, and to entertain and deceive other children, but later in the series employs it to save her own life and the lives of others. She deceives Iofur Raknison, king of the panserbjørne ("armoured bears" in Danish) of
Svalbard Svalbard ( , ), also known as Spitsbergen, or Spitzbergen, is a Norway, Norwegian archipelago in the Arctic Ocean. North of continental Europe, mainland Europe, it is about midway between the northern coast of Norway and the North Pole. The ...
, by suggesting that she can become his dæmon if Iofur defeats Iorek in combat. Tricking a panserbjørn was a feat that her friend Iorek Byrnison had believed to be impossible for a human, and her success prompts Iorek to informally christen her "Silvertongue", which is the surname by which she is known in The Secret Commonwealth. The character's first name comes from Lyra Davidica, which means "harp of David." Lyra Davidica is the title of a hymnal collection, but Pullman mistook it for the author's name of an Easter hymn he liked, as it was printed under the number of the hymn. He later realized it wasn't actually a person’s name, though due to the popularity of the character, it has now become one. Lyra's original surname, Belacqua, is the name of a character in
Dante Dante Alighieri (; – 14 September 1321), probably baptized Durante di Alighiero degli Alighieri and often referred to as Dante (, ), was an Italian people, Italian Italian poetry, poet, writer and philosopher. His ''Divine Comedy'', origin ...
's ''
Divine Comedy The ''Divine Comedy'' ( it, Divina Commedia ) is an Italian narrative poetry, narrative poem by Dante Alighieri, begun 1308 and completed in around 1321, shortly before the author's death. It is widely considered the pre-eminent work in Ital ...
'', a soul in the ante-purgatory, representing those who wait until the last opportunity before turning to God. The mood in the ante-purgatory is said to be one of helplessness, nostalgia, and yearning – Belacqua and the other souls in ante-purgatory are caught between two worlds and lack clear understanding of themselves. Whether this has any connection to Lyra is not known.


Pantalaimon

Lyra's dæmon, Pantalaimon , is her dearest companion, whom she calls "Pan". In common with dæmons of all children, he can take any animal form he pleases; he first appears in the story as a dark brown moth. His name in
Greek Greek may refer to: Greece Anything of, from, or related to Greece, a country in Southern Europe: *Greeks, an ethnic group. *Greek language, a branch of the Indo-European language family. **Proto-Greek language, the assumed last common ancestor ...
means "all-compassionate" (Παντελεήμων ''Panteleēmon''). He changes into many forms throughout the series, ranging from a
dragon A dragon is a reptile, reptilian legendary creature that appears in the folklore of many cultures worldwide. Beliefs about dragons vary considerably through regions, but European dragon, dragons in western cultures since the High Middle Ages hav ...
to an
eagle Eagle is the common name for many large Bird of prey, birds of prey of the family Accipitridae. Eagles belong to several groups of Genus, genera, some of which are closely related. Most of the 68 species of eagle are from Eurasia and Africa. Ou ...
, but his favourite forms are a snow-white ermine, a
moth Moths are a Paraphyly, paraphyletic group of insects that includes all members of the order Lepidoptera that are not Butterfly, butterflies, with moths making up the vast majority of the order. There are thought to be approximately 160,000 spec ...
, a
wildcat The wildcat is a species complex comprising two small wild cat species In biology, a species is the basic unit of Taxonomy (biology), classification and a taxonomic rank of an organism, as well as a unit of biodiversity. A species is of ...
, and a mouse. At the end of the trilogy, as Lyra is entering adulthood, Pantalaimon finds his final form when Will Parry touches him, and is later described as a beautiful
pine marten The European pine marten (''Martes martes''), also known as the pine marten, is a mustelid native to and widespread in most of Europe, Asia Minor, the Caucasus and parts of Iran, Iraq and Syria. It is listed as Least Concern on the IUCN Red List. ...
, red-gold in colour with a "patch of cream-white fur" on his throat. Pantalaimon is portrayed as a cautious and level-headed counterpoint to Lyra's impulsive, inquisitive, and sometimes reckless character. Lyra must separate from Pantalaimon when she enters the
Land of the Dead ''Land of the Dead'' (also known as ''George A. Romero's Land of the Dead'') is a 2005 post-apocalyptic fiction, post-apocalyptic horror film written and directed by George A. Romero; the fourth of Romero's six ''Night of the Living Dead (film s ...
in ''
The Amber Spyglass ''The Amber Spyglass'' is the third novel in the ''His Dark Materials ''His Dark Materials'' is a trilogy of Fantasy literature, fantasy novels by Philip Pullman consisting of ''Northern Lights (Pullman novel), Northern Lights'' (1995; pub ...
'', causing extreme pain to both of them; Pantalaimon avoids Lyra for a while afterwards. However, surviving this separation allows the two to move great distances from one another, an ability only
witches Witchcraft traditionally means the use of Magic (supernatural), magic or supernatural powers to harm others. A practitioner is a witch. In Middle Ages, medieval and early modern Europe, where the term originated, accused witches were usually ...
and shamans generally possess in her world.


Role

In the first novel of ''
His Dark Materials ''His Dark Materials'' is a trilogy of Fantasy literature, fantasy novels by Philip Pullman consisting of ''Northern Lights (Pullman novel), Northern Lights'' (1995; published as ''The Golden Compass'' in North America), ''The Subtle Knife'' (1 ...
'', '' Northern Lights'' (known in US and some other countries as ''The Golden Compass''), Serafina Pekkala tells of the
prophecy In religion, a prophecy is a message that has been communicated to a person (typically called a ''prophet'') by a supernatural entity. Prophecies are a feature of many cultures and belief systems and usually contain divine will or divine law, la ...
of a girl who is "destined to bring about the end of
destiny Destiny, sometimes referred to as fate (from Latin ''fatum'' "decree, prediction, destiny, fate"), is a predetermined course of events. It may be conceived as a predeterminism, predetermined future, whether in general or of an individual. Fate ...
". The witches' prophecy states that this girl will be able to pick the "correct" cloud-pine branch out of several, as indeed Lyra does. It transpires that Lyra's destiny is to be the second
Eve Eve (; ; ar, حَوَّاء, Ḥawwāʾ; el, Εὕα, Heúa; la, Eva, Heva; Syriac: romanized: ) is a figure in the Book of Genesis in the Hebrew Bible. According to the origin story, "Creation myths are symbolic stories describing how t ...
and fall into the temptation of the serpent, represented by
Mary Malone This is a list of characters from the two Philip Pullman trilogies, ''His Dark Materials ''His Dark Materials'' is a trilogy of Fantasy literature, fantasy novels by Philip Pullman consisting of ''Northern Lights (Pullman novel), Northern ...
. Will Parry and the
Dust Dust is made of fine particles of solid matter. On Earth, it generally consists of particles in the atmosphere that come from various sources such as soil lifted by wind (an aeolian process), volcanic eruptions, and pollution. Dust in ho ...
in the abyss are corrected, and the
universe The universe is all of space and time and their contents, including planets, stars, galaxy, galaxies, and all other forms of matter and energy. The Big Bang theory is the prevailing cosmology, cosmological description of the development of ...
s start to work in harmony. In order to ensure the stability of the universes and protect people from the creation of Spectres, Will and Lyra must close all of the inter-world windows with the help of
angels In various theistic religious traditions an angel is a supernatural spiritual being who serves God. Abrahamic religions often depict angels as wikt:benevolent, benevolent celestial intermediaries between God (or Heaven) and humanity. Oth ...
and keep them closed forever – and since their dæmons cannot survive long outside of their own birth worlds, they must part forever. Despite this, they decide to sit on the same bench each year for an hour at noon on Midsummer's Day, in the
Botanic Gardens A botanical garden or botanic gardenThe terms ''botanic'' and ''botanical'' and ''garden'' or ''gardens'' are used more-or-less interchangeably, although the word ''botanic'' is generally reserved for the earlier, more traditional gardens, an ...
in their separate Oxfords – so that they might feel themselves to be in each other's presence. She fulfils her destiny to "bring an end to death" by leading the ghosts out of the world of the dead. In the most recent edition of ''
The Amber Spyglass ''The Amber Spyglass'' is the third novel in the ''His Dark Materials ''His Dark Materials'' is a trilogy of Fantasy literature, fantasy novels by Philip Pullman consisting of ''Northern Lights (Pullman novel), Northern Lights'' (1995; pub ...
'' released in the UK, the post-script "Lantern Slides" section shows Lyra studying the
alethiometer In Philip Pullman's ''His Dark Materials ''His Dark Materials'' is a trilogy of Fantasy literature, fantasy novels by Philip Pullman consisting of ''Northern Lights (Pullman novel), Northern Lights'' (1995; published as ''The Golden Compass ...
(a rare truth-telling device) with Pantalaimon at age 18. She is excited to start recognising a pattern in the readings, and Pullman tells us that this discovery of a pattern is the "second thing she said to Will next day in the Botanic Garden", implying that the next day was Midsummer's Day, when she and Will would be sitting on the same bench in their separate worlds. Letters written by Lyra included in the companion book '' Once Upon a Time in the North'' reveal that Lyra is researching her dissertation for a M.Phil. in Economic History, showing she is still studying in her twenties. The title of her dissertation is ''Developments of patterns of trade in the European Arctic region with particular reference to independent balloon carriage (1950–1970)''. In the first letter, Lyra also mentions that she is continuing to study the alethiometer. Once she finishes her studies, she will be able to read the alethiometer not with grace, as she used to, but with certainty and knowledge.


In other media

In the 1999 unabridged audio production, Lyra was performed by the voice-over actress
Jo Wyatt Jo Wyatt is an English actress. She is known for her voice as Tweak in '' The Octonauts'', Little Miss Helpful, Little Miss Naughty, Little Miss Scary and Little Miss Sunshine ''Little Miss Sunshine'' is a 2006 American tragicomedy road ...
(as Joanna Wyatt). In a 2003 BBC radio adaptation, Lyra was voiced by child actress Lulu Popplewell. The National Theatre in London staged a two-part, six-hour-long adaptation of the novels. The production ran in 2003 and 2004; Lyra was played by
Anna Maxwell Martin Anna Maxwell Martin (born Anna Charlotte Martin; 27 May 1977),Births, Marriages & Deaths Index of England & Wales, 1984–2006 listed birth name as ''Anna Charlotte Martin''; Registration year 1977; Registration District Beverley, Yorkshire som ...
in the first run and by Elaine Symons in the second. In '' The Golden Compass'', the film adaptation of the first book, Lyra is portrayed by Dakota Blue Richards. British singer/songwriter
Kate Bush Catherine Bush (born 30 July 1958) is an English singer, songwriter, record producer and dancer. In 1978, at the age of 19, she topped the UK Singles Chart for four weeks with her debut single "Wuthering Heights (song), Wuthering Heights", ...
wrote and recorded a song, "
Lyra Lyra (; Latin for lyre, from Greek language, Greek ''λύρα'') is a small constellation. It is one of the 48 listed by the 2nd century astronomer Ptolemy, and is one of the modern 88 constellations recognized by the International Astronomical ...
", for the film which features choristers from Magdalen College School in
Oxford Oxford () is a city in England. It is the county town and only city of Oxfordshire. In 2020, its population was estimated at 151,584. It is north-west of London, south-east of Birmingham and north-east of Bristol. The city is home to the Un ...
.
Dafne Keen Dafne María Keen Fernández (born 4 January 2005) is a British-Spanish actress. She made her debut starring as Ana "Ani" Cruz Oliver on the television series ''The Refugees (TV series), The Refugees'' from 2014 to 2015, before her breakthroug ...
plays Lyra in the BBC television adaptation.


See also

* List of ''His Dark Materials'' and ''The Book of Dust'' characters * ''
His Dark Materials ''His Dark Materials'' is a trilogy of Fantasy literature, fantasy novels by Philip Pullman consisting of ''Northern Lights (Pullman novel), Northern Lights'' (1995; published as ''The Golden Compass'' in North America), ''The Subtle Knife'' (1 ...
'' * Races and creatures in ''His Dark Materials'' * Locations in ''His Dark Materials''


References

{{DEFAULTSORT:Belacqua, Lyra His Dark Materials characters Child characters in film Child characters in television Child characters in literature Female characters in film Female characters in television Female characters in literature Orphan characters in film Orphan characters in television Orphan characters in literature Literary characters introduced in 1995 Characters in British novels of the 20th century Characters in British novels of the 21st century Fictional University of Oxford people Teenage characters in literature