Symbols are objects, characters, figures, or colors used to represent abstract ideas or concepts.
Daemons, the external expressions of people’s souls, take forms that symbolize their owners’ character. Witches’ daemons, for example, take the form of birds. This form represents, most literally, the witches’ ability to fly. It also represents the witches’ freedom from the constraints of society. Daemons also represent their owner’s strength or weakness. Someone who can separate from his or her own soul is someone who has great power and a strong will. Witches are able to stay far away from their daemons without harm. John Parry and his daemon, Sayan Kötör, have the same ability. Sayan Kötör can fly far away without causing pain to either himself or Parry. Separating from one’s daemon is a painful task, as Lyra finds out on the banks of the river of the world of the dead. Leaving their daemons behind is a difficult coming-of-age ritual for the witches.
Because His Dark Materials is in some ways a retelling of Adam and Eve’s fall from grace, Pullman stresses the symbolism of feeding one’s lover as Eve fed Adam. For Mary, Lyra, and Will, receiving food symbolizes physical pleasure and mental maturity. When Mary was a teenager, a boy fed her a piece of marzipan. Like Adam and Eve, she realized how sweet the food and the sensation were and realized that she should not stifle her physical urges. Similarly, when Lyra and Will are searching for their daemons after they have escaped into the world of the mulefa, Lyra feeds Will a piece of fruit and they kiss. It is this reenactment of the Fall through one lover feeding another that heals the world.
The Aurora Borealis
The aurora borealis, the beautiful play of lights that stretches across the sky in the northern reaches of Lyra’s world (and our own), has always intrigued Lyra. The lights reveal the flimsiness of the layer that separates worlds. Though she’s had experience with ghosts at Jordan College, Lyra’s vision of the strange shifting lights of the aurora borealis are the first hint she has that something much bigger than her life in Oxford might exist. The witches play in the lights and angels pass between worlds in places like the aurora, where the layers between worlds are thinner. It is beneath the aurora borealis that Lord Asriel opens up a breach into another world by killing Roger. In the light of the aurora borealis, Dust is also more visible.