Philip Pullman is back with his first addition to the His Dark Materials saga in almost two decades. We now know what the first novel in The Book of Dust trilogy will be called and, roughly, what it’s about. There’s even an excerpt out for fans eager to dive back into Lyra’s world.
The Guardian has published the debut of Pullman’s upcoming novel, revealing it to be called La Belle Sauvage. The excerpt from Chapter 10 introduces us to the newest hero in the series, an 11-year-old boy named Malcolm Polstead and his daemon Asta. Surprisingly, this isn’t the first time he’s been in the series. He indirectly appeared in Lyra’s Oxford as the scholar Lyra wrote to seeking advice about her dissertation at St. Sophia’s College.
In the excerpt, Malcolm helps Lord Asriel pay a secret visit to baby Lyra as she’s being looked after in a priory, as he’s forbidden to see her after killing Marisa Coulter’s husband, Edward. The series will journey from Lyra’s infancy to her adulthood, showing how and when Lord Asriel took her to Jordan College, and further exploring the role of “Dust” and Lyra’s connection to the Alethiometer.
The title La Belle Sauvage, which roughly translates to “Beautiful Wild” (though there are various interpretations as discussed in the comments, including “Beautiful Savage,” “Wild Beauty,” or “Savage Beauty,” the latter of which seems more likely), refers to the name of Malcolm’s canoe, which he uses to help Lord Asriel get to Lyra (and later lets him borrow so he can escape). Pullman said the canoe plays an important part in not just this book, but the entire series since part of the story involves a massive flood. Side note, it’s also the title of an 1808 ballad-opera about Pocahontas, which solidified the modern American romanticism of her story (later depicted in films like Disney’s Pocahontas).
Here’s a small piece from the much-larger excerpt— be sure to head to The Guardian to read the entire thing.
“Malcolm, you en’t in bed yet—good. Come downstairs for a minute. There’s a gentleman wants a word with you.”
“Who is it?” said Malcolm eagerly, jumping up and following his father out.
“Keep your voice down. He’ll tell you who he is if he wants to.”
“Where is he?”
“In the Terrace Room. Take him a glass of Tokay.”
“Hungarian wine. Come on, hurry up. Mind your manners and tell the truth.”