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S2: For centuries, they have been trying to keep us where they want us.
S3: Watch demons disappear when you die. And yet human beings is not the skeletons behind.
S4: Back. Welcome to the Authority Slates. His Dark Materials podcast.
S5: It’s Season 1, Episode 5, The Lost Boy and where Slate’s resident scholars of experimental theology. I’m Laura and my demon is a sea otter named Saki.
S6: I’m Dan and my demon is a prairie vole named Gilda.
S1: Okay, Dan. Well, in this episode, we’re seeing a departure from Philip Pullman’s trilogy. The series here is cutting back and forth between lyra’s Adventures with the Egyptians and the North, which are pages 203 to 238 in the Golden Compass, depending on what edition you have. And we’re came back and forth between that and the introduction of Wil Perry, a boy from our own world. Will’s father is John Perry, a.k.a. Stanislav Grumman, a.k.a. the high priest from Playback, the explorer who is of such great, if still somewhat inexplicable interest to Lord Boreal. We meet both Wil and his mother al-Ain, their characters who don’t appear in the books until the second volume, The Subtle Knife. And we get a sense of how difficult life is for both of them due to Elaine’s mental illness. We also see Lyra go off on a side mission at the behest of the elite. The ometer, which instructs her to visit a spooky village in search of a ghost. And yawk Bernsen accompanies her. So in today’s episode, we’re gonna take a closer look at the elite, the ometer. How exactly does this thing work? How does Lyra read it? And where did Philip Pullman come up with this idea?
S6: As is always the case on the authority, we are not gonna be spoiling what’s gonna happen later on the show. But we are going to be talking broadly about the world of Philip Pullman’s book. So few of the details that we talk about might be considered spoiler adjacent. If you are hypersensitive about such things, so beware. I mean, just read the books.
S1: Okay. So if you’ve got questions about his dark materials are responses to our show. Email us at ask the authority at Slate dot com or find us on Twitter. Dan’s at at Dan Kois and I met at Magician’s Book this week. We’d like to thank listener Lizzie wayde for riding in with her theory about the homeland of Egyptians. She points out that as it’s described in the book, this place, which is between the eastern coast of Britain and the Netherlands, sounds a lot like dogger land. If you’ve never heard of that before, that’s the name given by archaeologists to land that was inhabited during the Mesolithic period and then submerged. Eighty five hundred years ago, at the end of the last ice age, Lizzi speculates that perhaps more glaciers remain in the Arctic of lyra’s world than in our world, and that sea levels did not rise as high there as they did here. So dogger land still exists, still exposed as marshy fens, and the GYPTIAN are the descendants of the original hunter-gatherers who live there, making them the indigenous people of Britain. Fascinating.
S6: I found this totally fascinating. I love this email from Lizzie. Thank you so much. And it has not only made me think a little bit more about the Egyptians and the role that they play and this somewhat arcane but very thematically appropriate notion of where the Egyptians might be from a lot of what this East Anglia might be. It’s also set me back, you know, in sort of a tangent, but a delightful one to an early play by Carol Churchill, my favorite playwright called Fenn, which is set in the fence of East England and which incorporates a similar kind of combination of sort of hard bitten reality and and a people who are just getting by but proud of their unique culture and a kind of ancestor based, very old seeming theology or even mysticism with, you know, in the fens of these books, we see Marsh Ghosts and monsters and spirits and Willow, the wisps. And in Carol Churchill’s play found, there’s also the sense of this of this mystical energy flowing through this place.
S7: And I like the idea that that maybe all comes from this ancient lost place that in the book still exists, because in the book says, as those who read the books know, this question of of how high the seas have risen, how high they will rise, how the earth is affected by the things that happen over the course of this book becomes a major issue at some point in this book. Rivers are going to start running backwards places that were once land become flooded. And the idea that this has not yet happened to the fans, but might I find super fascinating.
S1: We also received a question from Mitch Marx about the pronunciation of Demon. Mitch writes, When I read the books, I figured that the word demons should be pronounced more or less like Damon or perhaps very fancy diamon. And he wants to know how the rest of us imagine the word was pronounced when reading the books. And I have to admit that at first I was somewhat confused and thought it might be Damon. The demon spelled with the orthographic ligature between the A and the E is just an alternate spelling of the word that is pronounced demon.
S8: My understanding is that the only demon that’s pronounced Damon is Matt Damon’s demon.
S1: Okay, that’s really helpful. I though I don’t know if we know whether Matt Damon exists in libraries world since they don’t seem to have movies.
S9: That’s fat. I wonder. I wonder. He goes to he goes to Cambridge College in Boston, one of the enduring mysteries of the Pullman verse.
S1: OK, so let’s start by talking about Will Perry and the decision to introduce his storyline so early on. I have to say that while it makes perfect sense to do this because it would completely not work to have the second season start out with completely unfamiliar characters in a different world and go on and on and on until they finally connect. I still miss the way the books kept blowing my mind by enlarging the stage of the story with these big cosmic reveals. How did this work for you, Dan?
S6: I drove me crazy. No, I was I was sort of on board with Lord Burrill and his excursions to other worlds as giving us hints that the series will get bigger and bigger and bigger. I too love the sort of mind-blowing move that this book series makes in ending the first book the way that it does and then beginning the second book with suddenly an all new character in a new place that’s recognizably our world. We don’t understand at all how he fits into the story, then tell later on until later in that book. I mean about 30 pages in that book, we suddenly start to understand how he fits into that story.
S7: But that sense that everything you think you understand about this story and this world that you’re living in is in some way wrong and that there’s this completely parallel thing happening. Seems like a very sharp move on Philip Pullman’s part and something that always amazed me. And it is a little disheartening to me to see it transformed in a in a very familiar way into what I think of as just sort of the mode of prestige television. I sort of think of it as this is the Game of Thrones ification of his dark materials, right. Where the books are very satisfied to just tell one story until the time comes that another story must be told. And then only as time goes on do we start to have the kind of story where you’re in one place, then you’re in another, then you’re with other characters only as the action expands. Does the story itself expand here. It seems to have been very important to these producers. Perhaps I think it in the desire to mirror the success or to hope for the success, the Game of Thrones had to immediately turn this into a multi valence story that’s happening in multiple places all at the same time. Instead of just sticking with Lyra, focusing on Lyra and taking us through it as she goes through it before allowing the world to expand. I also understand why they did it. I also understand that it makes for a familiar TV language, right, of intercutting from Mrs. Coulter in the Magisterium to Lyra, wherever she is, to a bear in a cave to something else.
S8: But it but it depressed me a little bit that this kind of very familiar language seemed necessary.
S5: Yeah, it’s it’s what I would call pedestrian. You know, it’s it’s inflected with the worry that the audience is going to become very impatient if they aren’t kept up to date on various characters or is going to forget about them. And B, maybe there’s an argument that if you’re writing a drama instead of a literary narrative, you can’t get away with some of the same things or you have to have more of this sort of unity of of at least plot line. It’s not exactly an Aristotelian unity. And maybe there’s some truth to that. I don’t know. It’s interesting to think about and maybe some of our listeners can write in about dramatic texts, you know? I guess we should say basically television series, because they’re the only thing are quite as long as novels that do make a bold move. This way, they do just stop one narrative and go and invest a lot in a new narrative and ask the viewers to watch that and get caught up in that and only much later explain how it’s relevant to the narrative that we thought we were being told. Possibly there are forms that have done that. I just can’t think of any offhand the example that.
S10: Comes to my mind, it’s not exactly the same, but it’s the show Lost, which yeah, which specialized in and revelled in several instances of dramatic Rugg pulling in which things that you thought to be true turned out to completely not be true. And they were left unexplained for a long, long time. And now I think TV show runners are very cautious about stuff like that now because of how famously poorly the ending of Lost was received the way it didn’t seem to actually in the end war and all those Rugg Pullings and didn’t seem to tie it all together. But you don’t have that problem with Hitler. His dark materials, you know where his term materials as. You have a whole blueprint. So you have the opportunity to try something really outrageous and crazy narrative television, something that people don’t do that much. And it’s a bummer that they didn’t have the confidence in the material to either do it or to do something like. I mean, look, it’s not I don’t think anyone watching the series, even if they haven’t read the books, is not getting the impression that at some point. Right. Laren will are going to meet them the way that they meet in the book series, though, the rewards of that moment after us having our our brains twisted for the first 30 pages of the subtle knife. That second book in the series is so great that imagining a version of the series that started off Season 2 a year from now with Lyra, not even in the picture with us, just meeting Will getting to know him and then say at the end of episode 1, all of a sudden there’s Lyra and us all being like, Oh, fuck it. I just think it’s a bummer that they didn’t seize that opportunity because you’re not going to blow it the way lost. Did you know where the story’s going?
S5: Yeah, maybe they had sort of the idea that a child audience is not going to be able to follow this. I don’t know. I mean, I love the way that plotline is dramatized. I just don’t like so much where it’s inserted. I think that I kind of like the weird sort of mid-century modern house that will in al-Ain live in. I think that the performances are really good. And then I think Lord Burrill showing up and pretending to be a friend of Elaine’s husband and then Elaine freaking out. And and that’s when the audience, if they don’t know the story, realizes the LANERS has some kind of mental illness. But then Zaim Time, who wouldn’t be freaked out by this guy since we know what. What a scoundrel he is. And so, you know, I liked all that, you know, the feeling of menace and also the sort of compassion that we feel for Elaine and Wil, who are just struggling with this thing and dealing with really unsympathetic other people. I again, I think I find myself not liking the way big picture stuff is handled, but really liking the way the human scale stuff is handled right there, executing it well.
S6: But the larger decisions I’m not convinced will pay off. And maybe the story is strong enough again that it doesn’t matter. I’m gonna be compelled enough by will. It’ll end. And what’s about to happen? Will that whether you put it now or you put it the beginning of Season 2, I’m gonna want to follow it and want to know what’s happening. The one big divergence from the book in some ways and the story of Will and al-Ain, it’s not just that it’s Lord Burrill who in particular is menacing them in the book. It’s sort of anonymous, you know, military guys or or spies or someone. We never really exactly know who they are.
S8: But it’s that Will doesn’t believe it at all.
S6: In the book, we’re led to understand that that Alain’s mental illness, there seems to be some sense that she is suffering from OCD or some other kind of compulsive disorder that that has been going on for some time, but that recently at the moment, the subtle knife begins that recently Will has become aware that she’s not imagining things, that there are men who are outside the house, that there are in fact, people have come into the house and questioned them about his father and where it is that he went. And so he knows that for all of the problems that seem to be only in her own mind, some of them are very real and they’re the ones that are most troubling to him. And that’s why he takes the action that he takes at the beginning of the book and action. I expect we’ll see some version of at some point in the series. But right now what we have is we have on Elaine who knows something is wrong and a will who as of yet has no idea that something is wrong. And so that turn, I’m assuming, is going to come pretty soon. It has to come pretty soon, because otherwise I feel like will Will’s relationship with his mother and with the story becomes a little bit skewed. And he is a character who benefits from knowing what’s going on and having a plan. And so keeping him in this state of just I’m he’s just a kid who doesn’t know what’s up yet is not that interesting to me.
S11: I hate being like this man this morning set me off.
S12: I love you, too, Mom. You’re not to say that I eat meat. You could like him as well. What I remember is.
S11: He didn’t need much to rustle up a genuine feast.
S12: It’s an idea.
S11: They fished and you’re kind. He is. You’ve got his temper. We always, always wanted to protect the vulnerable. And he went out into the world and.
S1: Found a way to do it. Well, we also have lyra’s expedition to the fishing village, which gives Lyra and Yorke’s some quality time together to develop their true grit dynamic. They do kind of remind me of the characters in in that novel.
S10: Yorick as Rooster Cogburn Yeah. I like yeah. I just need to get my eye patch.
S5: Yeah, you would think Koray with an eye patch. There is the one of the most favorite scenes in the book happens here which is Lyra writing Yorick Across the frozen wastes. And it seems like a good occasion for me to just mention that this how much the scene reminds me of the scene where Lucy and Susan Pevensey ride on aslant toward the end of Line the Witch and the Wardrobe. And to talk a little bit about Philip Pullman’s very fraught relationship with C.S. Lewis. I remember well, we went to a pub in Oxford called The Eagle and Child or Tolkien. And Lewis and their friends used to go and drink together. And there was a picture of C.S. Lewis up on the wall. And Philip and I had a drink there. And we talked about C.S. Lewis. And every once in a while he would look over at the picture and just give him the fisheye. But I do think that he was has a little bit more influenced by The Chronicles of Narnia than he sometimes lets on.
S6: It seems almost like it’s that he’s just very smart about knowing to steal the good stuff from Chronicles of Narnia. Right. The power of that scene of Lucien Susan rising at writing Azlan is so great that he knows, you know, how primordial Lee, how primarly powerful that is. And you know, I think of the way this book begins with Lyra literally in a wardrobe as as a world as a world expands just outside her view, like it seems like it seems like he’s having fun with those story elements while also using them to his advantage in a way that definitely reflects the way these books are meant to be talking to a whole bunch of different texts, not just, you know, Blake and Milton, as you talked about last episode, but a number of children’s books that have explored similar notions and similar worlds to the worlds of his dark materials.
S5: That’s very true. It’s just that he is so down on ceaseless sometimes that that it seems a little over the top. What did you like or dislike about this scene, Dan?
S6: Well, the first thing I’ll say is that it is true that for everyone who reads these books, the moment of Lyra riding across the snow with Yorick is so wonderful and it’s described so beautifully in the books. And this now marks the second occasion in which the best special effects teams in the world could not make it look not stupid.
S1: Yeah, that’s true.
S6: There’s just no way to put a kid on a pole. Her parents back in real life and make it seem like good or real, or like she wouldn’t just fall off instantly or or like she isn’t just like like she’s so far up. So to his head in this version that I just thought he would just like trip and flip over a couple of times. But it just does. There’s no grandeur to it. It’s because he’s he’s clumping and she’s holding on for dear life. And the music is soaring. But yet it looks so silly.
S8: And, you know, it’s so resolute, Lee Earthbound, that there’s just no way, I think, to give it the magic that it has in the book when it’s viewed subjectively through lyra’s eyes as the culmination of this long dream.
S6: She doesn’t even know she’s had. And so I laughed through the scene. But whatever it it still means a lot to Lyra. And I do think that kids who have read these books will still love it and love seeing it. But it is like silly on screen, right?
S5: I mean, I have always mentioned her sort of clinging very far down on his back and holding onto his fur very tightly because he’s not a horse, as he says earlier. And that doesn’t seem like you’d be able to sit upright on his back. Let’s move on to the village scene. This part of the Golden Compass where Lyra comes into the village, she finds this little boy who in the in the book is named Tony Makarios and has no actual connection to any of the other characters and has been sort of shunned by the people in this village. And he’s just sort of huddled in this fishing hut with this little piece of dried fish asking for ratter, his demon and holding the dried fish, because it’s like almost like a transitional object for the demon he’s lost is probably the most heart rending thing that Philip Pullman has ever written. And while this is this sort of sequence in the series, it looks really great. I don’t think that it has the same pathos, partly because Billy Costa is not conscious, which is I guess, their way of sort of showing how affected he is, how he is essentially lifeless. And so they kind of. So the series kind of tries to give us an emotional end of the situation by showing the grief of the Costas, which is fine. But I don’t think it is as quite as affecting as seeing the little boy actually suffering instead of just being an unconscious lump.
S6: Yeah, I felt like we lost a lot in this sequence. We lose, as you mentioned, the villagers who won’t even speak to the two, Tony Makarios, who won’t allow him into their homes, who when Lyra comes, all they want is for her to get what they view as a monster out of their village. When Lyra brings Tony back to the GYPTIAN camp, there are men there who can’t even look at him. And and Yorick reprimands them, scolds them for telling them, you know what lot. You know, this child has done something brave and you can’t even bring herself to look at this boy. Pull yourself together.
S5: And so you raise. That is such a great moment. Yeah.
S13: And we end we lose this other incredible moment in which, as you mentioned, Tony Makarios has this little bit of fish that he’s holding onto because his his demon has ratter is gone. And after he dies, Lyra comes to his funeral pyre to look at him one last time and discovers that the fish is gone. And she demands of all the Egyptians around there what happened to that piece of fish. And they’re all embarrassed. And they you know, they say, we didn’t really know it meant anything. We’re sorry. We took it. And we each we you know, we gave it to our dogs to eat. And she I mean, she like tares them a new one. Yeah. And her grief and her sadness and rage and her compassion for that boy is so intense.
S14: And it made me so sad to lose that because, you know, I don’t care about my Costa like Mark Cossa is great. She’s a great character in support of Lyra that the actor they have portraying her is very, very good. But Mark Corseted does not matter to me in the long run. And this set of scenes lyra’s bravery in going to this village, her compassion in taking this boy who she finds horrible to behold, and then her defense of him, even after his death tells us so much about her and about demons and about how unnatural it is to everyone for someone to not have a demon that’s replace. Her all that stuff with a very dramatically familiar form of motherly grief, a mother grieving for her child, which is sad, but which I’ve seen 10 trillion times before, and other series that just seemed like a real misstepped.
S1: And it misses an opportunity to for the for the series makers to show us lyra’s courage and her her bigness of heart. Yeah. Yes. So I think we feel pretty similar about that. It’s interesting that just in the story overall that the Lethe ometer has such a hard time communicating to Lyra. What’s wrong with Tony Slash Billy that it that or that? She can’t read it possibly.
S15: Because while she is an intuitive reader of the Lethe ometer, it like the idea of a person without a demon is just unthinkable to her, even though most of the time the elite amateur is just really effective at conveying very detailed information like exactly how many charters are posted on guard at ball of anger and that kind of stuff. Let’s talk a little bit about the elite, the ometer. It’s amazing that it can communicate all this stuff because its language consists entirely of 36 symbols, which are tiny pictures of things like a baby in a cauldron and a dolphin. And so you wonder, how can she she get these very precise responses for John far out of these symbols. What is the Alethea ometer, Dan, and how does it work?
S6: So the name for it. Philip Holman’s name for it comes from the Greek word for truth, Alethea. I think I’m pronouncing that right. And and the first thing we learn about it is the thing that the master at Jarden tells laywer, which is it tells the truth. Lyra has this ability to read it, which she develops in both the book and the series very quickly, despite never having any training.
S9: And she describes it at one point in both the book and in this series as feeling like going down a ladder in the dark.
S14: You know, the next step is there. So you put your foot down and there it is. That is the way the meanings of the Lethe obiter come to her as easily as that strength. Tell me something else.
S16: Trying to warn me of something. I suspect it’s trying to warn you on everything.
S17: We’re walking into a bloodbath here. But we’re ready.
S7: Here’s how it works practically. Now we’ve seen it in action. You arrange three big needles over three different symbols to pose the question, you have to create the question out of the various meanings, you know, intuitively or through study. Those symbols mean. And then the fourth needle responds to that when you are in the right mind frame by swinging back and forth from one symbol to another. To answer that question, you have to hold the question in your mind while simultaneously falling into a kind of trance state, a state that we see Lyra in, in those scenes where where she and pan. are together, sort of just watching the Lethe ometer do its work. Later in the Amber Spyglass, the third book in the series, a character compares it to looking in two directions at once to see those like magic eye 3-D pictures among the dots, which I think is a useful way to think about it. One of your inner eyes is always focused on the question, but one of your inner eyes must become kind of vague and gauzy so that the leafy arbiter, if you can get into that kind of flow state where the elite, the arbiter can do its work, all the symbols, all 36 of those symbols have many meanings, multiple meanings, infinite meanings that suggested. And the simplest way to think of it is that the needle comes to each symbol a certain number of times, and that number of times conveys which of the meanings it means. Sometimes it’s very simple, right? When Lyra wanted to know what happened to the two kids who went off on that mission to Mrs. Cultures House, the Lethe obiter pointed to an hourglass with a skull on it, and it meant death. Not that complicated, but sometimes it can be really complicated, as in this this time when she when they leave the outer shrine to explain to her about Billy or Tony and the village in the book, she tells Father Corum she couldn’t understand it because the message the elite the amateur gave her was bird and not bird and not and it didn’t make any sense because it meant no demon.
S14: And she didn’t have any context for understanding how that could be. So she could not put the clues together.
S16: It gave out bulls-eye. Hello. Yes, hello. And it told me about the next valley as a village with something horrible and efforts by a. It goes, I think, or something. It’s connected to Autosport. I don’t know how.
S7: I think I need to go to it. One thing that is fascinating about this series and something that’s going to develop through the TV series as it develops through the books is the difference in the way Lyra reads the Lethe ometer and the way that other people in her world read the Lethe ometer we see in elite geometries. Right. We saw from Pavel, who is the Magisterium, Zilly Fiamma Trist, who who is you ask him a question and he’s like, OK, I’ll have an answer for you in a couple of days, maybe a week. Who knows? Lyra reads it instantly in the in the books. A character tells her that she reads the Lethe ometer by grace, whereas adults read it by work. Adults have to study for years. The ancient texts to understand all the deeper meanings and to train themselves to get into that flow. State biologist does it somehow. She just knows. I’ve been reading this really interesting essay in a book called His Dark Materials Illuminated, which is a lovely collection of academic essays on the books. It’s by Shelley King. And one point that the King makes in this essay is that these two different ways of being able to read the Lethe ometer, either through grace or through work, the grace of a child or the work of an adult. Parallels in many ways, Pullman’s sort of own parallel readers for these books, their children. Right, who read the books as children’s books, who read them intuitively, who understand the power of the story and follow it. And then there’s adults, scholars who find within it layers of levels of meaning, often with the help of the books that they’ve previously read, not just the C.S. Lewis, but the Milton and the Blache that you, Laura, have read.
S8: And and I found that I find that fascinating to think of the leafy obiter as a kind of as containing within it, not only the truth of the universe that we’re in, but but it being a kind of Sinek Triqui of the books themselves.
S1: Yeah. Well in the books, the elite, the ometer is a very rare device. Only six of them were ever made and they were invented by a fictional 17th century experimental theologian in Prague named Pavel Conradt. And you can see the name Conradt on the dial of the Lethe ometer in the in the series, and he made them out of this rare metal alloy of an alloy of two rare metals. So the art of making them has somehow been lost. And it was originally meant to be an astronomical device. But he soon discovered that he could use it to get answers to questions. Conradt was burned as a heretic by the Magisterium. So technically the elite, the ometer is a heretical device, although we know that the Magisterium has one and they use it. They’ve got a guy who reads it. So that you give us a sense of just, you know, how complicated the Magisterium relationship to its own official morality is.
S15: Conradt seems to be based on this actual historical 16th century monk named Giordano Bruno, who is also mentioned in his dark materials and who spent some time in Oxford while travelling around Europe. And on him on on Bruno, and then also on a German alchemist named Heinrich Conradt, who lived at around the same time. Now, Bruno himself was also excommunicated and burned as a heretic in Rome.
S1: And this is important in part for arguing not only that the earth revolves around the sun, but also that there are other worlds and that there’s probably intelligent life on planets revolving around other stars. Pullman has said that a book about Bruno, written by the great 20th century esoteric cultural historian Frances Yates, was a major inspiration for his dark materials, and Bruno himself once wrote that to think is to speculate with images, which is obviously one of the things that you do when you’re reading a Lethe ometer and is also a very sort of medieval slash renaissance notion.
S6: Yeah. And Dr Lance aliased, the witches console, mentions that when he’s talking to Lyra and Father Corum in the books on page 173, Dr Lance Alea says this was in the 17th century. Symbols and emblems were everywhere. Buildings and pictures were designed to be read like books. Everything stood for something else. If you had the right dictionary, you could read nature itself.
S15: Yeah, a very popular thing at that time was something called an emblem book, which had images like the images in on the Alethea ometer that had many layers of meanings. One of the particular ways that is that that. There’s a similarity between Kuehn Wrath and the books and Bruno is that both were really interested in memory theaters or palaces, which were a system of expanding your memory so that it could hold just an immense amount of information at a time when books were really rare and it was really hard to get writing materials. They were expensive. You could use images, a system of images to which you could assign meaning and pieces of information and then organize the mentally in a way so that you could just remember an incredible amount of stuff.
S5: And this was called The Art of Memory, which is another thing Francis Yates wrote a book about. And hopefully we’ll put a link to a piece I wrote about Francis Yates and the art of memory for Slate on our on our show page. You know, the idea that these images were just filled with many, many layers of meanings. The way that Venus could be a planet and it could be a goddess and it could be a, you know, an allegorical representation of love. This is this is a way of thinking that was widespread in Europe, from what you know, for many centuries. But it’s also a sort of esoteric tradition that has to do with Gnosticism and her medicines system that Pohlman is sort of alluding to here as a sort of secret body of knowledge that was not exactly sanctioned by the religious authorities. And so using this device with these images and having it be a heretical device is full of resonance in our own history.
S13: At about $5, a liar can access seemingly naturally that she can fall into that she can step down on to like a ladder in the dark. I think that’s a really potent when you compare it to the arduous task that FRAP Havel must undergo in, you know, in consulting books just to figure out how to ask the question. And then watching so carefully and counting every every stop that the needle makes and then consulting these enormous tomes. We actually saw one of these books earlier in the series during Mrs Coulter’s raid on Jorden College. It was the book that she showed the master of Jordan College. These things are huge and extensively cross-referenced and presumably they take days just to sort through and and and the ease or grace with which Lyra does it, the Jewish lyra has access to these centuries or maybe internal knowledge. I find really fascinating.
S5: Well, one thing that Conradt supposedly realised after he made the elite the ometer is that he thought that he invented the symbols, but then he later decided that he discovered them. There’s the sense that they pre-existed his own devising of them. You know, he like pulled them out of the air, which is sometimes the way that’s what Pohlman talks about, motifs in his own storytelling, like the demons.
S6: Right. And about stories in general that they stories are eternal and he’s just tapping into them in that way. All right. Two other things I want to say about the Alethea ometer. Number one, it should not click. It shouldn’t make that clicking sound as the needle goes around. It should flow smoothly from item to item. Maybe it clicks gently as it stops on an item. But it definitely shouldn’t be like like a like a playing cards stuck in bicycle spokes.
S9: That’s stupid. Also, maybe more interest Hamley. What I find fascinating about the leafy ometer is that it’s not just answering questions empirically. It has an agenda, right? It’s not just that Lyra doesn’t understand what the Lethe ometer are saying about a boy with no demon in a village. It’s that she didn’t even ask about that. She asked what the defences are, where the kids are being kept at Vanger. The Lethe ometer thought it was necessary to tell her about this other thing she didn’t even ask about the Lethe ometer said it was important that Lyra should know this and that Lyra should take action. And what that suggests to me is that there is a consciousness of some kind driving these answers, driving what the Lethe ometer does.
S7: These answers are not just coming out of the ether. It’s not just reflecting the objective truth of the moment. The elite, the OBITER has a goal. Whatever is making me Lethe amateur move has a goal. And and as much as the elite, the ometer is an instrument for Lyra. Lyra is also an instrument of the Lethe ometer.
S5: Or another way you could look at it is, is Lyra communicating with the Alethea ometer or is she using the elite the ometer to communicate something else?
S14: Right. And I love that exchange between John Fire and Lyra, which is in the books and is also replicated in the series. John Viarsa, that similary during play in the fall with you, is it L.R.A. Says it never does. And I don’t think it. Good. And that’s sort of true, but it’s not exactly true that the elite, the arbiter, doesn’t have a will because it does not just a scientific instrument.
S5: That’s what I tell you how hot something is, right? Yeah. Yeah.
S10: It’s like if you’re a thermometer, could also tell you, well, you should cook this a little bit more because it’ll taste better.
S1: Or you should really be drinking more fluids if you feel this bad. Yes. Okay. So where do we end this episode? Which is an episode that I think it’s safe to say neither one of us really love. Because some things were handled in a disappointing way, although who knows, maybe someone who’s totally new to the story will be perfectly fine with it, or we’ll find it still potent in ways that I missed because we were dreaming of the versions in our head. Yes, exactly. That’s always the hazard with this kind of interpretation. But but anyway, so where are we? In a very scary place. Shadowy figures sneak into the Egyptian camp and they kidnap Lyra, taking her to a prison like location that she soon realizes is Bull Vanger, a woman doing a topnotch impression of a bond. Villains, henchmen orders her to be prepared for treatment. And we know what that means. And I got to wonder how it was so easy for these people to snatch her and whether her friends are really capable of saving her before whatever terrible procedure lies ahead of her. And you just have to wonder if her friends who somehow didn’t notice that she was being stolen, will be able to succeed in rescuing her from this terrible fate.
S6: Meanwhile, in our world, Lord Burrill is up to some skullduggery, has his specialty, of course. Yeah, well, has decided that he’s not going to read his father’s letters, the letters that his mother has hidden underneath the sewing machine in a closet. The letters that his father sent over time while he was on particularly his final Alaskan expedition. The expedition from which he disappeared. The expedition that he knew we learn he might disappear from because he set up an annuity to be paid to Will’s mother over decades just in case he went somewhere for a very, very long time. But it looks like Lord Burrill and his own henchmen, his hench guys, are poised to break into the Perry family’s flat in search of something of anything that might give them a clue. And I bet those letters I read looks like Will’s about to find out that his mom is not so deluded after all, because as Kurt Cobain said, just because you’re paranoid doesn’t mean that Lord Burrill isn’t after you.
S4: And that’s our episode. We’ll be back next week to discuss episode six, the demon cages, or as Mitch would put it, the Damon cages, dive in cages. The authority is hosted by me, Laura Miller with Dan Coates on Twitter. Dan is at Dan Kois and I am at Magician’s Book or drop us a line as the authority at Slate.com. That’s as the authority. All one word at Slate.com. Our producer is Phil Circus Engineering Assistance from Rosemarie Bellson, Slate’s editorial director for Audio. Is Gabriel. And remember, without stories, we wouldn’t be human beings at all until next week.