Teacher's Guide: His Dark Materials: The Amber Spyglass (Book 3)


Plot Summary

Book III begins with Will and Lyra separated. Lyra is being drugged by her mother, Mrs. Coulter, in a cave. Mrs. Coulter learned from the witches that Lyra is Eve and that if Lyra is allowed to fall, Dust will remain in the world. Mrs. Coulter’s plan is to prevent this fall. Will is trying to find Lyra with the help of the renegade angels, Baruch and Balthamos. Will knows he must get to Lord Asriel as his father advised, but his first concern is Lyra. During his travels, Will meets and barely escapes from Metatron, who has taken over control from the Authority. Metatron is after Baruch and Balthamos who have left the ranks of angels.

The characters in the multiple strands of the story are all moving toward the final battle. Serafina Pekkala finds Iorek Byrnison and tells him about Lee Scoresby’s death. Lord Asriel, who has spies in the Magisterium, sends a force to capture Lyra and Will, the knife bearer. The Consistorial Court of Discipline sends Father Gomez to kill Lyra before she has a chance to fall. Dr. Mary Malone is welcomed into the Mulefa culture: an intelligent, antelope-like creatures that nurtures trees and their seed pods, but are dying because Dust is escaping from the universe.

Will uses his wits to stop the bloodshed in a fishing village which is being attacked by Iorek Byrnison and the armored bears. Iorek agrees to help Will find Lyra and the two head south to find the cave where Mrs. Coulter is keeping her daughter. Lyra is dreaming of the dead and realizes she must help her friend, Roger, who she felt she betrayed. Lord Asriels’s forces, the Magisterium’s army and Will are all converging on the cave. In the battle that ensues, Will rescues Lyra with the help of Lord Asriel’s Gallivespian spies and the village girl, Ama, but he breaks the knife in a moment of distraction when he sees his mother’s face in Mrs. Coulter while trying to cut through to another world to escape. Iorek agrees to mend the knife but tells Will that the knife has intentions of its own.

Lord Asriel takes Mrs. Coulter back to his fortress and pretends to trust her. She steals his newest weapon, the intention craft, and flies to Father McPhail. Lord Asriel sends Lord Roke, a Gallivespian commander, to spy on Coulter’s doings. At the same time, Dr. Mary Malone makes a spyglass which allows her to see that the Dust is leaving. She knows she is still Lyra’s temptress, but feels the need to help the Mulefa survive. The Dust nourishes the Mulefa’s trees which produce the seeds they ride on.

Lyra and Will decide they must visit the land of the dead. Lyra wants to save Roger; Will wants to see his father. They learn about their deaths-daemon-like beings that assist with the transition into the afterlife–before separating from their daemons in order to enter the world of the dead. Lyra tries to lie to the harpies who protect the entrance and they attack her. Tialys and Salmakia, the Gallivespians, help lead Will and Lyra safely into the land of the dead. Lyra knows their survival depends on the tiny spies.

They finally meet Roger’s ghost and Lyra tells all the ghosts that her destiny is to free them from the land of the dead. The Gallivespians make a deal with the harpies. The harpies agree to lead Will to a place he can cut through to let the ghosts out. In return, the harpies will be the honored guides. All ghosts from now on will tell the harpies beautiful stories as they lead them through the land of the dead.

Father McPhail and the Consistorial Court make a bomb that will find Lyra and kill her. The plan is to power the bomb with the energy from the intercision of Mrs. Coulter and her daemon. But after Mrs. Coulter escapes, Father McPhail ignites the bomb by sacrificing his own daemon. Will’s father, John Parry, and Lee Scoresby turn up in time to save Lyra from the bomb and make a plan to fight the specters in the final battle. Lyra is rescued by the harpies as she is falling into the abyss created by the bomb. Will’s father explains that daemons cannot live in a world that is not their own for very long.

The stage is set for the final battle. Metatron waits inside the Clouded Mountain to make his move, but Mrs. Coulter flies to him first. His desire to possess her and to kill Lyra blinds him to Mrs. Coulter’s trickery. She leads Metatron to Lord Asriel and together they drag him into the abyss. Will and Lyra elude the specters and find the Authority on a crystal litter. They release his spirit into the air and then are led by Iorek Byrnison to their daemons. Each grabs the other’s daemon before escaping into the world of the Mulefas and Dr. Malone.

Mary tempts Lyra with her story of falling in love, even as she notices that Dust is escaping at a faster and faster rate. Lyra feels unlocked and she and Will search for their missing daemons together. As Lyra falls to the temptation of the physical world, her body and carnal knowledge with Will, Father Gomez is killed by Balthamos. The Dust stops escaping and pours onto Will and Lyra instead.

Because their daemons can’t survive in another world, Will and Lyra can’t be together. All the doors into other worlds must be closed in order to stop the Dust from escaping. The problem of cutting new doors is that each time a door is opened, a specter is created. Will and Lyra must decide to live apart. They return to their worlds with experience, their daemons having settled, to build a Republic of Heaven on Earth.


Comprehension Questions

Chapter One–The Enchanted Sleeper

1. What is Mrs. Coulter doing to Lyra?
2. What is Lyra’s dream about?

Chapter Two–Balthamos and Baruch

1. Who does Will meet and how will they
help him?

2. What does Balthamos become to help Will
fit in?

3. How does Will escape from the dark angel? Who is he?

4. Where does Baruch go?

Chapter Three–Scavengers

1. What does Iorek do when he finds Scoresby’s body? Why?

2. Why does Iorek go south?

Chapter Four–Ama and the Bats

1. What does Ama get from the healer?

2. What does Ama learn about Mrs. Coulter when she returns to the cave?

3. What does Ama decide to do?

Chapter Five–The Adamant Tower

1. How does Baruch help Lord Asriel?

2. What are Lord Roke’s powers?

Chapter Six–Preemptive Absolution

1. What does Fra Pavel reveal about Lyra to the Consistorial Court?

2. What is the Court’s purpose?

3. What is Father McPhail’s plan?

4. What is preemptive absolution and why is it offered to Father Gomez?

Chapter Seven–Mary, Alone

1. Where is Dr. Malone?

2. What does she learn from the beings that find her?

Chapter Eight–Vodka

1. What does the priest tell Will about witches?

2. What does Will encounter when he enters the town?

3. How does Will show his ability to negotiate?

Chapter Nine–Upriver

1. What does Iorek agree to? What does he think of Will’s knife?

2. How have the Consistorial Court and the Society of Work of the Holy Spirit joined forces?

3. How is Lord Asriel getting his information?

Chapter Ten–Wheels

1. What is the relationship between the Mulefa, the trees and the seedpods?

2. Who attacks the Mulefa settlement?

Chapter Eleven–The Dragonflies

1. What happens to Will in the presence of Mrs. Coulter?

2. What agreement does Will reach with the Chevalier Tialys and Lady Salmakia?

Chapter Twelve–The Break

1. How does the knife break?

2. What is the situation that results in a

Chapter Thirteen–Tialys and Salmakia

1. What happens to break the stalemate?

2. Where does Ama go, and where does Balthamos go?

3. What does Lyra learn from the alethiometer?

4. Where does Lyra want to go?

5. What is the situation of the second stalemate? What is the outcome?

Chapter Fourteen–Know What It Is

1. How does Will trick the spies?

2. What does Iorek tell Will about the knife?

3. What does the alethiometer say about the knife and Dust?

Chapter Fifteen–The Forge

1. How do Will and Lyra help Iorek mend knife?

2. What responsibility do Will and Lyra feel after Iorek leaves?

3. Where are they headed and why?

Chapter Sixteen–The Intention Craft

1. How does Mrs. Coulter win over Lord Asriels’s commanders? What does Lord Asriel think?

2. What is the Intention Craft? How does it work?

3. What was Lord Asriel’s plan? How did it work to perfection?

Chapter Seventeen–Oil and Lacquer

1. What does Mary want to make?

2. What is the Mulefa’s creation myth?

3. What does the mirror help Mary see and how will she help the Mulefa by seeing it?

Chapter Eighteen–The Suburbs of the Dead

1. What does Lyra learn about the Gallivespians?

2. What does the dead man know about himself?

3. Where are all the dead going?

Chapter Nineteen–Lyra and her Death

1. How do the people in the house explain death to Will and Lyra?

2. Who appears after Lyra has a tirade?

3. What is not allowed in the land of the dead?

Chapter Twenty–Climbing

1. What is sraf and what is happening to it?

2. Where is Father Gomez now?

Chapter Twenty-One–The Harpies

1. How do Will and Lyra get to land of the dead? What must they leave behind?

2. What is a harpy? Why do they attack Lyra after her story?

Chapter Twenty-Two–The Whisperers

1. What does Will learn about the harpies?

2. What do Tialys and Salmakia think of Lyra’s decision?

3. What does Lyra want to do for the dead?

Chapter Twenty-Three–No Way Out

1. What does Lyra tell Roger about her destiny?

2. What does Lyra descibe to the ghosts?

3. What offer is made to honor the harpies in return for their assistance?

4. What will happen to the ghosts?

Chapter Twenty-Four–Mrs.Coulter in Geneva

1. Where does Mrs. Coulter fly the Intention Craft?

2. Who assists Mrs. Coulter with information?

3. What is Brother Louis looking for in Mrs. Coulter’s room?

4. How does Father McPhail’s bomb work?

Chapter Twenty-Five–Saint-Jean-Les-Eaux

1. How does Mrs. Coulter escape from manacles?

2. What is Father McPhail’s plan to power the bomb?

3. Without Mrs. Coulter, how does Father McPhail make the bomb work?

4. Who rescues Mrs. Coulter?

Chapter Twenty-Six–The Abyss

1. Which ghosts show up to advise Will and Lyra? What is their advice?

2. How do they avoid the bomb? What effect does the bomb have?

3. What plan do the ghosts make?

4. Who rescues Lyra from the abyss? Why?

5. What does Will’s father explain about daemons?

Chapter Twenty-Seven–The Platform

1. What happens to Mary on the Platform? How does she hold herself back?

2. How does Father Gomez subdue the tualapi?

Chapter Twenty-Eight–Midnight

1. What is the Clouded Moutain? Who is inside it?

2. Why does Metatron want Will and Lyra’s daemons?

Chapter Twenty-Nine–The Battle on the Plain

1. What does Lyra give to the harpy that led them from the land of the dead?

2. What almost happens to the knife?

3. What do the ghosts do when released into the battle?

4. Who is piloting the intention craft and where does it fly?

Chapter Thirty–The Clouded Mountain

1. Who does Mrs. Coulter meet inside the Clouded Mountain?

2. What does he see in her?

3. How does she deceive him? What does she promise?

4. What does the cliff-ghast see?

Chapter Thirty-One–Authority’s End

1. How does Mrs. Coulter keep deluding Metatron?

2. What are Metatron’s two obsessions?

3. Who is the old man in the crystal litter and what happens to him?

4. Who helps Will and Lyra reach the forest and their daemons?

5. What taboo is broken in the rush to escape the specters?

Chapter Thirty-Two–Morning

1. What is the status of Will and Lyra’s daemons?

2. What does the wise-woman in Mary’s dream tell her to do?

3. What does the ghost tell Mary to do? What does the ghost mean? How does Mary interpret the message?

Chapter Thirty-Three–Marzipan

1. What is Mary’s story? How is it a temptation for Lyra?

2. What effect does the story have on Lyra?

Chapter Thirty-Four–There Is Now

1. What happens to Mary’s tree?

2. What does Mary understand about matter and Dust?

3. Who does Mary see enter her house?

Chapter Thirty-Five–Over the Hills and Far Away

1. What are Will and Lyra looking for?

2. Who is pursuing them and who kills the pursuer?

3. How do Will and Lyra make the Dust stop flowing away? Where does the Dust settle now?

Chapter Thirty-Six–The Broken Arrow

1. What does Serafina Pekkala tell Will and Lyra about their nature and about their daemons?

2. What is the name of Will’s daemon?

Chapter Thirty-Seven–The Dunes

1. How can Dust be prevented from leaking from the world?

2. What are Will and Lyra reminded of about the nature of daemons?

3. What happens each time a window is opened?

4. What window must be left open?

5. What form do Will and Lyra’s daemon’s take?

Chapter Thirty-Eight–The Botanic Garden

1. What gifts are exchanged?

2. Who arrives to bring Will and Lyra home?

3. Where do Will and Lyra plan to meet?

4. What does Lyra realize she must build?


Essay and Research Topics

1. Serafina Pekkala can concentrate and make herself invisible. Will has always been able to keep himself out of view. Lyra disappears in the museum. Discuss the ability of main characters to make themselves invisible.

2. Although Lord Asriel’s battles throughout the trilogy with the Magisterium, his rebellion is waged against the Authority himself. This is an example of hubris. Define the term and write about the hubris of a character who wants to kill God.

3. The witches are against the Magisterium because the Church tries to control natural impulses. Write an essay about the human need to balance rationality (the mind) and natural impulses (the body).

4. Daemon’s are a natural part of Lyra’s world, but not Will’s. Write about what the daemon is and how Will comes to aquire his own daemon.

5. Dr. Mary Malone was formerly a nun in a convent. She gave this up to devote her life to science. She learns she is to play the role of serpent to Lyra. What temptation (fruit, apple) does she offer to Lyra? Write about Mary as a different kind of temptress.

6. Look up the story of Orpheus from Greek mythology. Write an essay comparing his experience in the underworld to that of Will and Lyra’s.

7. Lyra introduces the concept of negative capability (The Amber Spyglass, p. 410).
Find John Keats’s essay on negative capability and write how it applies to Lyra’s use of the alethiometer and Will’s use of the knife.


Beyond the Book

1. In the Bible, Eve is tempted by the serpent with knowledge. What role does the serpent play in her fall? What do human beings gain from having knowledge and what do we give up? Is the serpent evil or good?

2. Examine the names of characters in the books closely. Lyra could mean a harp-like musical instrument or it could mean she is a liar. Belaqua, Lyra’s last name, means beautiful air. Iorek calls her Silvertongue. Select a character and give examples of how his/her name fits their personality.

3. Will is represented as a warrior and the knife bearer which point to the aggressive, irrational nature of man. But throughout the trilogy, Will displays an increasing intelligence which helps him avoid physical conflict. Give examples of Will’s intelligence and his growth from coersion by force to diplomacy through negotiation.

4. In making the subtle knife, the men of the guild in Cittagazze released power they could not begin to understand. Write an essay about the dangers of scientific exploration in the fields of nuclear fission and gene research. Is there enough benefit to outweigh the unknown risks?

5. Compare Will’s ability to use the knife, Lyra’s ability with the alethiometer and Mary’s use of the I Ching stalks? What must they do to use their instruments? What state of mind are they in?

6. Specters only suck life from adults. Dust attaches to adults. Daemons settle into one form when a child becomes an adult. All of these are examples of the difference between innocence and experience. Write about Will and Lyra’s innocence. How does it help them achieve their goals and fulfill their destinies? Write about their experience. What do they learn along the way that helps them grow
up into adults?