A previously unseen His Dark Materials story about a teenage Lyra, written by Philip Pullman over a decade ago and that he never intended to publish, will be released this autumn.
Serpentine, out in October, follows Lyra Silvertongue as she returns to Trollesund, the remote town where she first met the armoured bear Iorek Byrnison and aeronaut Lee Scoresby in Northern Lights. A novella, it is set after the end of the trilogy His Dark Materials, but before the start of Pullman’s recent book, The Secret Commonwealth. The story sees Lyra and her daemon Pantalaimon “older and a little wiser, and in search of an answer to a shocking, secret condition – their ability to separate – from the witch-consul, Dr Lanselius”, revealed the publisher, Penguin Random House Children’s.
Pullman wrote the story for a charity auction in 2004, at the request of Nicholas Hytner, then director at the National Theatre, during the company’s production of His Dark Materials. The manuscript was acquired for a “substantial sum” at the time, with all proceeds going to charity.
“Why are we publishing this story now?” said Pullman. “Because with the development of The Book of Dust, especially after the events described in The Secret Commonwealth, we can see a change in the way Lyra understands herself, and her relationship with Pantalaimon, which is prefigured in this little Arctic episode.
“When I wrote Serpentine, I had no idea that I was going on to write another trilogy, showing Lyra as an adult, but she and her world wouldn’t leave me alone. When it comes to human affairs, a billion invisible filaments connect us to our own pasts, as well as to the most remote things we can imagine; and I hope that, above all, these books are about being alive and being human.”
The story, said its publisher, is “tender”, “revelatory” and “foreshadows Lyra’s future struggles as a young woman”. The actor Olivia Colman will narrate the audiobook edition, and artist Tom Duxbury will illustrate the book.
His Dark Materials, comprising Northern Lights – first published 25 years ago this year – The Subtle Knife and The Amber Spyglass, has sold 17.5m copies worldwide and been translated into 40 languages, winning prizes including the Carnegie medal, the Guardian children’s book award, and the Whitbread book of the year. A BBC/HBO television adaptation aired last autumn, with season two, based on The Subtle Knife, out later this year.
Ending as Lyra crossed the boundary from childhood to adulthood in The Amber Spyglass, Pullman followed His Dark Materials trilogy 17 years later with the first in The Book of Dust trilogy, La Belle Sauvage, in which Lyra appears as a baby. The second novel in the second trilogy, The Secret Commonwealth, jumped forward to follow Lyra as an adult and was published last year. The details of the third and final book have yet to be revealed.