Page 77. " you musn't eat bear liver. That's full of a poison that'll kill you in minutes. "
Lamb's liver
Creative Commons AttributionLamb's liver - Credit: Beck

Although bear's liver doesn't literally contain poison, it does contain so much vitamin A that it is toxic to humans and can cause Hypervitaminous A, a distressing and potentially fatal condition.

Many animal livers are suitable for human consumption and are widely eaten, including calf, chicken and lamb (pictured).

Page 82. " what sweetbreads tasted like. "
Lamb sweetbreads served with gnocci
Creative Commons Attribution Share AlikeLamb sweetbreads served with gnocci - Credit: stu_spivack

Sweetbreads aren't as sweet as they sound.It is in fact the culinary name for several edible glands, usually from a calf or lamb (although pork sweetbreads are also eaten).

Traditionally, sweetbreads refers to the thymus (throat sweetbreads) or the pancreas (heart or stomach sweetbreads). However, other glands have been served as sweetbreads including the testicles.  


Page 83. " As soon as she said that, Mrs Coulter's dæmon snapped his head up to look at her, "
Golden Lion Tamarin
Creative Commons Attribution Share AlikeGolden Lion Tamarin - Credit: Ltshears

Mrs Coulter's dæmon, more than any other in the book, exposes the true nature of the human character. Whereas Coulter herself is sweet and charming, her dæmon is vicious and cruel. He remains nameless and almost mute throughout the series. He was named "Ozymandias" for the radio adaptation, although Pullman stated that he didn't like the name choice. When asked in the fan-conducted Readerville interview in 2001, Pullman said that everytime he tried to think of a name for the golden monkey, "he snarled and frightened me".

Although the species of  Mrs Coulter's monkey dæmon is never specified, many of its physical features, including the golden fur, suggest it is a Golden Lion Tamarin. But the one pictured looks far better-natured than Mrs Coulter's nameless dæmon.

Page 92. " a hot smell, like heated metal "

Mrs Coulter is described on more than one occasion as having a metallic odour underneath her perfume. She is reminiscent in this way of the character of Nurse Ratched from Ken Kesey's One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest, who is also described in terms of metal and machinery, is coldly cruel yet outwardly incredibly feminine.

Page 97. " Do I detect the Zoroastrian heresy? "

Zoroastrian Tomb
Public DomainZoroastrian Tomb - Credit:

Zoroastrianism is a religion based on the teachings of the prophet Zoroaster.

The principle belief is that good and evil have distinct sources, and that the creator Ahura Mazda is all good, with evil trying to destroy the creation and tip the balance.

Page 100. " Chthonic Railway Station "
Victorian Railway
Public DomainVictorian Railway - Credit: Zzrbiker

This appears to be a reference to the London Underground, or something much like it, although in Lyra's world the trains are all still steam-powered.

The word Cthonic comes from the Greek word "chthonios", meaning earthy or pertaining to the earth.