Page 177. " made of skin from the reindeer's forelegs "
Reindeer skin boots
Creative Commons Attribution Share AlikeReindeer skin boots - Credit: Birit Schenk

Indigenous people of the Arctic regions often use reindeer skin to make clothing.


Page 178. " a New Dane by the name of Lee Scoresby "

New Denmark is the name in Lyra's world for the USA - Lee Scoresby is from Texas. 

Page 179. " Lyra had an impression of blood-stained muzzle and face, small malevolent black eyes, and an immensity of dirty matted yellowish fur. "
Svalbard Polar Bear
Creative Commons Attribution Share AlikeSvalbard Polar Bear - Credit: Hannes Grobe

The panserbørne (literally "armour-bears" in Danish) are based on polar bears, which are native to the Svalbard in our world and have become the islands' symbol and primary tourist attraction.

The polar bear is the world's largest land carnivore, with adult males growing up to 680 kg. Their fur is in fact clear and their skin black, but due to the thickness of the fur it appears white, allowing them to blend with their habitat. The fur sometimes yellows over time, suggesting Iorek is not a young bear.


A roadsign used in Svalbard to warn people of polar bears
Public DomainA roadsign used in Svalbard to warn people of polar bears







Polar bears are far less territorial than other bears, and tend to be more cautious when confronted. However if they are hungry they can be unpredictable and have been known to kill and eat humans.

They are classified as "vulnerable" in conservation terms, because of the rapid depletion of their habitat due to the melting of the Polar ice caps.


Page 179. " His voice was so deep it seemed to shake the earth. "

Ian McKellen
Creative Commons Attribution Share AlikeIan McKellen - Credit: Stefan Servos
Iorek Byrnison's voice was provided by Ian McKellen in the film adaptation of the novel, and the audio book version was voiced by Sean Barret, who also voiced Lord Asriel.

Page 183. " Lyra thought she could even hear them "

There is little scientific evidence for the Aurora producing an audible noise – the atmosphere is so thin that sound waves would not be carry, and the Aurora itself is so far away that it would take sound waves 5 minutes to reach us.

However, there are several reports of people hearing, as Lyra does, a "swooshing" sound when viewing the aurora. There is a very interesting paper here which investigates the subject more thoroughly.

Page 183. " Looking at it gave her a sense of vertigo, "

Vertigo is the feeling of movement when one is actually stationary. It causes dizziness and potentially nausea.

Page 184. " a beautiful grey goose whose head was crowned with a flash of pure white. "
Blue snow goose
Public DomainBlue snow goose - Credit: Arpingstone

Kaisa is a snow goose, common in Siberia, Greenland and Alaska. He is the slightly rarer "blue" snow goose, whose plumage is a smokey bluish-grey, except for the white head and tail tip.

Page 186. " Hence the name Bolvangar: the fields of evil "

vangar means "grass plains" in Norwegian

Page 192. " Say, are any of you gentlemen in the mood for a game of hazard? "

Hazard is an old English game of chance played with dice.

It seems this is not the game Lee is proposing, as he proceeds to shuffle and deal a deck of cards.

Learn to play the dice version here.