Locations in His Dark Materials

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This article covers the fictional locations in the His Dark Materials trilogy and related works by Philip Pullman.

Locations[edit]

Jordan College[edit]

Map with list of fictional colleges from Lyra's Oxford.

Jordan College is a fictional college.[1][2] It exists in Oxford in a universe parallel to our own, and is the home of the trilogy's young heroine, Lyra Belacqua.

The location and layout of Jordan College is analogous to the location of Exeter College,[3] Philip Pullman's alma mater, at the University of Oxford. However, unlike the fictional college, Exeter College is not the oldest (it is the fourth-oldest), nor is it the largest or richest college at Oxford.

Jordan College is an exaggerated version of the real Exeter College, rambling above and below ground in a motley arrangement of buildings, cellars and tunnels constructed over several centuries:[4]

What was above ground was only a small fraction of the whole. Like some enormous fungus whose root-system extended over acres, Jordan (finding itself jostling for space above ground with St Michael's College on one side, Gabriel College on the other, and Bodley's Library behind) had begun, sometime in the Middle Age, to spread below the surface. Tunnels, shafts, vaults, cellars, staircases had so hollowed out the earth below Jordan and for some yards around it that there was almost as much air below ground as above; Jordan College stood on a sort of froth of stone.
(Pullman, Northern Lights)

The name 'Jordan' was inspired partly by the area of Oxford known as Jericho,[4] through which the Oxford Canal passes; an area called 'Jericho' also features in Northern Lights as a mooring point for the Gyptians's boats.

The location of Jordan College used for the film, The Golden Compass, was Christ Church, Oxford.[citation needed] The location used for filming Jordan for the TV series was New College.[5]

Trollesund[edit]

In Lyra's world, Trollesund is the main port of the country of Lapland, which Lyra and her Gyptian protectors visit during their journey to Bolvangar. Trollesund has a witch consulate, which the Gyptians go to in order to get support from the witches.

In Trollesund Lyra first meets Lee Scoresby, an aeronaut and prospector who has been stranded in the town as a result of a failed expedition, and Iorek Byrnison, an exiled armoured bear whom the townspeople had tricked into working for them as a metalworker with alcohol as payment. Both Lee and Iorek leave Trollesund with Lyra.

Svalbard[edit]

In Lyra's world, Svalbard is the location of the panserbjørne palace and the centre of the ice bear government, Iorek Byrnison lives there, Svalbard takes its name from a Norwegian archipelago in our world.

Bolvangar[edit]

In Lyra's world, the far north location of the research facility where the Magisterium conducts experiments with intercision, a process which involves severing the link between a human and their dæmon, children are kidnapped and brought to Bolvangar for this to happen. The name Bolvangar means 'Fields of Evil'.[6] In Old Norse, "bǫl" means bale or evil and "vangar" is a plural word meaning fields or meadows.

Cittàgazze[edit]

Cittàgazze, sometimes abbreviated to Ci'gazze (Italian pronunciation: [tʃiˈɡaddze]), meaning "City of the Magpies" in Italian, is a fictional city within a parallel universe which is reached through a "window-between-worlds" created by Lord Asriel at the climax of the first volume of the trilogy, Northern Lights.

It is in Cittàgazze that the two central characters, Lyra and Will, first meet in The Subtle Knife. The first reference to the city appears earlier, as 'the city in the sky', the city visible in the Aurora borealis, an occurrence which, according to the novel, thins the barrier between the universe in which Northern Lights takes place and the universe of Cittàgazze. Lord Boreal describes it as having previously been a crossroads between all the worlds.

Cittàgazze is a seaside town, reminiscent of those near the Mediterranean, which seems to have Italian roots. Its main features are quaint restaurants, parasols hung over circular tables beneath trailing plants, wide cobbled roads, and ancient architecture. However, it also has electric lights, refrigerators and department stores, thus, this world appears to be similar to ours in many respects while inferior in others such as medicine and transport. Its most significant feature is the Torre degli Angeli (Tower of the Angels in Italian), in which the Subtle Knife is first encountered.

The city is plagued by ghostly beings called Spectres. Spectres are invisible to pre-adolescents, but once individuals are old enough to see them, the Spectres eat away their dæmons, leaving them zombie-like and lifeless. Hence, the city is entirely devoid of adults, and populated only by small gangs of children. Spectres cluster around children approaching adolescence and consume them as soon as they come of age.

The multitude of Spectres in the world of Cittàgazze is due to the constant use of the Subtle Knife in its vicinity. The knife can create windows between worlds, but each window creates new Spectres. Asriel's opening of the passage from his world to Cittàgazze caused a massive surge in Spectre population, swarming the Cittàgazze world with the soul-devouring wraiths.

St Sophia's School and College[edit]

St Sophia's School is where Lyra goes to study the alethiometer after the events of The Amber Spyglass. She then goes on to study at St Sophia's College. Its location is approximately equivalent to Lady Margaret Hall in Oxford.

Worlds[edit]

The following are the known worlds in the Multiverse:

Lyra's world[edit]

The world in which Lyra and most of the characters in His Dark Materials come from. Northern Lights takes place entirely in this world. There are six known planets in this world and the month of April has an extra day.

Will's world[edit]

Our own world. It is the setting for much of the early part of The Subtle Knife and features briefly at the conclusion of The Amber Spyglass. It is the home of Will Parry, his parents Elaine and John Parry, Mary Malone and several minor characters. While they still exist in this world, Dæmons are invisible here.

The Cittàgazze world[edit]

A modern Mediterranean world with beautiful seas and temperate weather. It is the setting for much of The Subtle Knife and parts of The Amber Spyglass. The Cittàgazze world serves as the crossroads to the worlds because all the windows lead here. The spectres have been common in this world for generations.

Mulefa world[edit]

A world inhabited by the Mulefa and Tualapi. It has a savannah and prairie climate. The creatures here have a diamond-like skeleton. It is the setting for much of The Amber Spyglass.

The World of the Dead[edit]

The underworld in The Amber Spyglass. Lyra and Will are carried across a lake to reach its gate by a ferryman reminiscent of Charon of mythology. Within the books, anyone who has ever died from any world goes there eternally where their ghosts are guarded by Harpies. The Authority turned this world into a prison.

Republic of Heaven[edit]

The name given to the world in which Lord Asriel builds his army in preparation with war against The Authority. The only known inhabitants prior to the Asriel's forces are cliff ghasts, like those in Lyra's world. The land is mountainous and shows signs of volcanic activity.

Gallivespian world[edit]

The Gallivespian characters come from this world, but the trilogy itself never goes there. It is a world inhabited by humans and Gallivespians who are in conflict.

Minor worlds[edit]

  • Three worlds are briefly glimpsed when Will is experimenting with the knife in The Amber Spyglass:
    • One contains a desert.
    • The second contains an industrial city where the factory workers are in chains.
    • The third contains a meadow inhabited by blue bison-like grazers.
  • Will, Baruch, and Balthamos escape from the Regent Metatron by cutting through to a moonlit beach in yet another world.
  • Will opens a world with a tropical rainforest when demonstrating the Subtle Knife's powers to Iorek Byrnison. While rescuing Lyra from Mrs Coulter's cave in the Himalaya of Lyra's world, he cuts through a world where the moon shines brightly over insect-infested ground the colour of bleached bone.
  • Will, Lyra, Tialys, and Salmakia reach the world of the dead from a world with what looks like a Dutch or Danish farmstead, where the villagers have just been massacred by armed soldiers and their village razed (this conflict is never explained).

See also[edit]

References[edit]

  1. ^ "His Dark Materials — Dictionary — J". Arts and Drama. BBC Radio 4. Retrieved 22 January 2019.
  2. ^ Thorpe, Vanessa; Heawood, Jonathan (6 April 2003). "Pullman brings back Lyra for Oxford mystery". The Observer. Retrieved 22 January 2019.
  3. ^ "From Exeter to Jordan". Oxford Today. 14 (3). 2002. Archived from the original on 8 July 2007.
  4. ^ a b Pullman, Philip (27 July 2002). "Dreaming of Spires". The Guardian. London. Retrieved 22 January 2019.
  5. ^ Medd, James. "Where is Philip Pullman's His Dark Materials filmed?". CN Traveller. Retrieved 6 January 2020.
  6. ^ "His Dark Materials — Dictionary — B". Arts and Drama. BBC Radio 4. Retrieved 22 January 2019.