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His Dark Materials | Study Guide

Philip Pullman

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His Dark Materials | Quotes


Men and women are moved by tides much fiercer than you can imagine.

Master of Jordan College, The Golden Compass

The Master says this to Lyra Belacqua after giving her the alethiometer and just before she leaves with Mrs. Marisa Coulter. He is warning her she is about to enter a world that is much more perilous than the one she is leaving behind.


Dust is something bad, something wrong, something evil and wicked.

Mrs. Marisa Coulter, The Golden Compass

Mrs. Marisa Coulter presents Lyra Belacqua with this definition of Dust to make her believe saving children from it, even in the most brutal ways, is justified.


All of us ... are engaged in a war already, although not all of us know it.

Serafina Pekkala, The Golden Compass

As she discusses free will with Lee Scorseby, the witch Serafina explains everyone is already engaged in the war between good and evil, either consciously or unconsciously. She also tells him the people are controlled by fate but pretend otherwise to keep from going mad.


The universe is full of intentions, you know. Everything happens for a purpose.

Jotham Santelia, The Golden Compass

Lyra Belacqua hears this warning from Jotham Santelia, a prisoner in Svalbard, who seems to have gone mad during his imprisonment. But his words are echoed later by others who say that people, Dust, and even the subtle knife all have purposes known only to them.


I'd rather not know what's in the future. I'll stick to the present.

Roger, The Golden Compass

This is Roger's response when Lyra offers to use the alethiometer to see if Roger is in danger. His choice results in his death.


Human beings can't see anything without wanting to destroy it, Lyra. That's original sin.

Lord Asriel, The Golden Compass

With this statement Lord Asriel changes the definition of Original Sin from sex and disobedience to God to the dark and destructive impulses within human beings.


Was there only one world, after all, that spent its time dreaming of others?

Lyra Belacqua, The Subtle Knife

In the museum in Will Parry's Oxford, Lyra Belacqua becomes aware of the similarities between their worlds and begins to wonder if all but one of the parallel worlds she is learning about are simply dreams in the "mind" of the original one.


To rebel was right and just, when you considered what the agents of the Authority did in His name.

Lord Asriel, The Subtle Knife

This is Lord Asriel's rallying cry, used to recruit others to his cause. He uses it to explain that both God and religious doctrine have been used to justify some of the most unspeakable acts in human history, so rebelling against both is justified.


The place you fight cruelty is where you find it, and the place you give help is where you see it needed.

Lee Scoresby, The Subtle Knife

When Stanislaus Grumman prioritizes his mission over helping a child that is in immediate danger, Lee Scorseby disagrees, feeling that the moment one person can help another is an opportunity that should never be ignored.


It's impossible, and if it isn't impossible, it's irrelevant, and if it isn't either of those things, it's embarrassing.

Mary Malone, The Subtle Knife

With these words Mary Malone explains the most frustrating thing about scientific research is that new discoveries often seem impossible, so no one is willing to pay attention to them.


Dust is only a name for what happens when matter begins to understand itself.

Balthamos, The Amber Spyglass

The angel Balthamos presents Will Parry with this explanation of Dust when he reveals to the boy that angels, including the Authority, are "born" from Dust when they become self-aware.


The Christian religion is a very powerful and convincing mistake, that's all.

Mary Malone, The Amber Spyglass

Mary Malone, a former nun, makes this surprising statement to Will Parry and Lyra Belacqua when she explains why she left religion behind. When she realized it was forcing her to forego intellectual challenge, love, and physical pleasure, she suddenly felt "heaven was empty" and she preferred the paradise waiting for her on Earth.


Good and evil are names for what people do, not for what they are.

Mary Malone, The Amber Spyglass

Mary Malone tells Will Parry and Lyra Belacqua that when she stopped believing in God she stopped believing people were good and evil. She learned instead to judge their actions: good deeds were those that helped people, and evil ones hurt them.


All the history of human life has been a struggle between wisdom and stupidity.

Xaphania, The Amber Spyglass

The angel Xaphania, a rebel in the first heavenly battle, explains to Serafina Pekkala that those who were wise—she and the rebel angels—have always tried to open minds while the Authority and Church have always tried to keep minds closed. She warns Serafina that the war will never be over and people must always be ready to resist agents of the kingdom.


We have to build the Republic of Heaven where we are.

Will Parry, The Amber Spyglass

To console Lyra Belacqua when the two of them realize they must be separated, Will Parry echoes the words his father said to him. He wants to show her they have a great mission ahead of them and they can be happy in achieving it even though they are apart.

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