Character: Lyra Belacqua (also known as Silvertongue)
Text: His Dark Materials trilogy by Philip Pullman.
In many ways Lyra was a barbarian. What she liked best was clambering over the College roofs with Roger, the kitchen boy who was her particular friend, to spit plum stones on the heads of passing Scholars or to hoot like owls outside a window where a tutorial was going on, or racing through the narrow streets, or stealing apples from the market, or waging war.
When the series begins Lyra Belacqua is a precocious and mischievous twelve-year-old girl, unconcerned with appearances or doing what is “proper”.
Orphaned when she was young, Lyra has been raised by the Scholars of Jordan College and as such has had a rather scattered upbringing. She is well versed in a range of subject areas, yet exhibits no real desire to apply any of this knowledge to anything productive. She has no formal schooling as such and instead spends most of her time roaming around the College and the surrounding grounds causing mischief.
Lyra’s carefree existence is shattered when her friend Roger is taken by the “Gobblers” and Lyra finds herself catapulted into a world of mystery and danger.
Part of Lyra’s appeal is that she is such a refreshingly normal protagonist. As a twelve-year-old she is occasionally bratty, quick tempered and sneaky; she doesn’t like acting like a young lady and is a bit rough around the edges. She gets her clothes dirty, she slouches and grumbles, talks back to her elders and speaks like a gypsy child. She is curious about events around her, but doesn’t give much though to them until they have some direct impact on her life.
What Lyra does not know, is that she in fact the prophecised saviour of mankind. This knowledge is hidden from her as in order for her to fulfil this destiny she must do so in ignorance of what she is doing. This makes Lyra’s determination and bravery even more significant as she acts purely based upon what she believes is right.
When faced with danger, Lyra is without fail, completely practical. She is not by any means immune to feelings of fear, but she is, however equipped with a sharp and rationale mind that allows her to quickly deduce the best possible scenario.
It wasn’t Lyra’s way to brood; she was a sanguine and practical child, and besides, she wasn’t imaginative. No one with much imagination would have thought seriously that it was possible to come all this way and rescue her friend Roger; or, having thought it, an imaginative child would immediately have come up with several ways in which iy was impossible.
As the series progresses and we see Lyra grow, those qualities that made her so unique remain. She is still unflinchingly brave, loyal to her friends and determined to do the right thing. Even if she is occasionally prone to displays of childish selfishness, she will always apologise and always endeavour to do better, next time.