Page 355. " "Bloodmoss," said Iorek. "

Sphagnum Moss
Creative Commons Attribution Share AlikeSphagnum Moss - Credit: Jurek and Trish Sienkiewicz
Bloodmoss, although fictional, shares many properties with Sphagnum Moss, more commonly known as Bog Moss, which is used to dress wounds.

Page 371. " He turned to Chapter Three of Genesis, and read "

The temptation of Eve
Public DomainThe temptation of Eve - Credit: Hieronymus Bosch
The whole passage that Lord Asriel quotes for Lyra is an altered version of the real third chapter of Genesis, which details the temptation of Eve by Satan and her and Adam's subsequent banishment from the Garden of Eden.


The most notable difference is the mention of Adam and Eve's dæmons, and how the serpent tells Eve that if she eats from the Tree of Life, she and Adam will know the true forms of their dæmons. In Lyra's world, the dæmon only chooses a form when the human reaches puberty and so begins the transition from childhood to adulthood, innocence to experience. In keeping with the theme of His Dark Materials as a whole, Adam and Eve are punished by God for their self-awareness and their newfound understanding.

Page 373. " at last there was a physical proof that something happened when innocence changed into experience. "
The original cover of The Songs of Innocence
Public DomainThe original cover of The Songs of Innocence - Credit: William Blake

As well as the work of John Milton (most notably Paradise Lost) Pullman was heavily influenced by William Blake. One of Blake's most famous works is the collection of poems called Songs of Innocence and of Experience.

They were first published and illuminated in 1789 by Blake himself, and remain among his most popular works.

The original cover of The Songs of Experience
Public DomainThe original cover of The Songs of Experience - Credit: William Blake

The Songs are two sets of intertwined, often conflicting poems from the viewpoint of both childhood (innocence) and adulthood (experience). They demonstrate the way the same event can be viewed with completely different meaning depending on the state of the person in question. This is especially true for directly linked poems such as the two Nurse's Songs (one appearing as a song of innocence, the other experience) and Infant Joy and Infant Sorrow.


Page 374. " Do you know what the word castration means? "
The Castration of Uranus
Public DomainThe Castration of Uranus - Credit: Giorgio Vasari

Castration is the process by which the sexual organs are removed, either by surgical or chemical means.

Followers of early Christianity considered castration an effective and acceptable way to counter the sinful desires of the flesh, meaning sexual arousal – based mainly on a reading from the Gospel of Matthew 19:12. Despite this, the first law of the First Council of Nicaea in 325 outlawed the practice of castration in the Roman Empire.

Lord Asriel mentions that castration proved useful to the Church because it kept young boys' voices from breaking once they reached puberty. This was beneficial to church music because women were not permitted to sing in churches. Opera composers wrote for castrato singers, and many famous pieces from this period, such as Mozart's Exultate Jubilate, now sung by sopranos were originally written for castrati.

However the Roman Catholic Church always considered castration to be mutilation and therefore a sin, and in the late 19th century it officially condemned the process.

Alessandro Moreschi was the last castrato to sing in the Sistine Chapel Choir.

Page 375. " The Africans have a way of making a slave called a zombi "

The zombie in our world is a living dead monster that has become a popular culture icon thanks to films like Night of the Living Dead (which is in the public domain). But it originates from the West African spritualism and belief system of of Voodoo. According to this belief system, a corpse can be reanimated by a powerful wizard, or bokor; it remains under the control of the sorcerer since it has no will of its own. It is said that feeding salt to a zombie will force it to return to its grave.

Creative Commons Attribution Share AlikeHaiti - Credit: Vardion

There is much research into the nature of West African Voodoo and the folklore surrounding the idea of zombies. Zora Neale Hurston, while researching folklore in Haiti in 1937, encountered a woman in a village whom it was claimed was Felicia Felix-Mentor, a woman who had died and been buried several years before.

Vodou paraphernalia, Port-au-Prince, Haiti.
Creative Commons Attribution Share AlikeVodou paraphernalia, Port-au-Prince, Haiti. - Credit: Doron

Decades later, Wade Davis, again researching Haiti, wrote two books presenting the pharmacological case for zombie mythology: The Serpant and the Rainbow and Passage of Darkness: The Ethnobiology of the Haitian Zombie. Davis postulated that the zombie state could be induced by the introduction of two powders into the bloodstream (usually via a wound), coup de poudre (powder strike) and dissociative drugs such as datura, which together would induce a death-like state, leaving the victim totally in the control of the bokor.

Scottish psychiatrist R. D. Laing suggested that mental illnesses such as schizophrenia could be the root of the psychological aspects of the zombie state.