Literary Mixtape: Lyra Belacqua


If you’ve ever wondered what your favorite literary characters might be listening to while they save the world/contemplate existence/get into trouble, or hallucinated a soundtrack to go along with your favorite novels, well, us too. But wonder no more! Here, we sneak a look at the hypothetical iPods of some of literature’s most interesting characters. What would be on the personal playlists of Holden Caulfield or Elizabeth Bennett, Huck Finn or Harry Potter, Tintin or Humbert Humbert? Something revealing, we bet. Or at least something danceable. Read on for a cozy reading soundtrack, character study, or yet another way to emulate your favorite literary hero. This week: the spunky heroine of the His Dark Materials trilogy, Lyra Belacqua.

At the beginning of Philip Pullman’s His Dark Materials trilogy, 12-year-old Lyra Belacqua, later christened ‘Lyra Silvertongue’ for her spectacular lying abilities, is an intelligent and intuitive girl, abandoned by her parents to Jordan College at Oxford, where she basically rules the rooftops and secret alleyways, a scrappy, unruly tomboy who only shows up for her lessons when she gets caught. However, when her best friend is captured, Lyra sets off on a journey to the North to save him, along with her trusty dæmon, Pantalaimon, and a strange object, the alethiometer, which slowly begins to reveal the truth to her. The witches whisper that she is “destined to bring about the end of destiny,” and she falls into a battle against the religious overlords known as Magisterium, who would reverse original sin at any price, a quest that will ultimately take her to many coexisting worlds, and even the spaces between them. Here’s what we think Lyra would battle Mrs. Coulter, deceive Iofur Raknison, and read the alethiometer to.

“Supertheory of Supereverything” — Gogol Bordello

For the anti-Magisterium girl in books about killing God: “I don’t read the Bible/ I don’t trust disciples/ Even if they’re made of marble/ or Canal Street bling/ From the maelstrom of the knowledge/ into the labyrinth of doubt/ frozen underground ocean/ melting, nuking on my mind/ Yes, give me Everything Theory/ without Nazi uniformity.”

“Svefn g englar” — Sigur Rós

It’s cold out there in the deep, destructive North, and Lyra needs something to curl up in her furs to at night, whispering to Pan and staring out at the stars.

“Box Elder” — Pavement

Maybe it’s just us, but we think any 12-year-old, too-smart-for-her-own-good, eloquent rebel who hangs around Oxford getting into battle royales with the gypsies would probably be into Pavement. Just an idea.

“The High Road” — Broken Bells

This is one of those songs that might play in Lyra’s head as she’s deciding where her loyalties are, and what she must do. Though for her, the high road is never that hard to find.

“Ripped Knees” — No Age

Though her caretakers are often scandalized by her complete disregard for her hair and clothes and her devil-may-care attitude towards her studies and personal safety, Lyra just can’t help it — she’s a little bit punk at heart. So she should have a little bit of punk on her iPod, too.

“Earth Intruders” — Bjork

Battle music for hyper-intelligent girls of destiny, marching towards the Northern Lights.

“Making Flippy Floppy” — The Talking Heads

A smart, worldly girl like Lyra would obviously be into the Talking Heads, even at a young age. But that doesn’t mean that the 12-year-old in her wouldn’t be attracted to their sillier tracks. Plus, this song’s basically about Dust, right?

“Big Science” — Laurie Anderson

This is the kind of song that makes us think traveling between worlds is possible.

“Get Me Away From Here I’m Dying” — Belle & Sebastian

Maybe Lyra would think of this song mostly while being held down to receive lessons from a crotchety Jordan scholar, but we think it translates pretty well to many of her experiences. Not least having to listen to those boring professors, gosh.

“The Time Has Come” — Pretty Lights

If nothing else, this is what we imagine it sounds like as Lyra speeds along on the Gyptian boat, frozen air in her face, eyes set dead ahead.