Title of volume one of Philip Pullman’s three-part work, The Book of Dust, revealed to be La Belle Sauvage

Philip Pullman, Author. Photographed by Michael Leckie in Oxford 11th January 2017

Image © Michael Leckie


The title of the first volume of Philip Pullman’s highly-anticipated The Book of Dust has been announced today, Friday 26 May, as La Belle Sauvage. The identity of its hero has also been revealed, along with an extract released exclusively via The Guardian.

La Belle Sauvage will be published simultaneously on 19 October 2017 by Penguin Random House Children’s and David Fickling Books in the UK, and Random House Children’s Books in the US.

In the first extract from La Belle Sauvage, readers have been introduced to the story’s hero: 11-year-old Malcolm Polstead and his dæmon, Asta, along with his boat La Belle Sauvage. It is revealed that Lyra is being sheltered – from her own father – by the nuns at Godstow Priory near Oxford. The extract comes from chapter ten, where Malcolm is persuaded to help Lord Asriel secretly see his infant daughter.

On the title, Pullman says, “Who or what is La Belle Sauvage? She is a boat, a canoe to be precise, and her owner is a boy, Malcolm Polstead, the hero of this story whom we have seen in an earlier part of Lyra’s story (if we were paying attention. He only had a walk-on part there). The canoe is important in this part of The Book of Dust, because some of the story is set during a massive flood.”

Two decades after Northern Lights (1995) (The Golden Compass in the US) — the first book of Pullman’s world-famous His Dark Materials trilogy, which has sold more than 17.5 million copies in over 40 languages — The Book of Dust (#BookofDust) will return to the parallel world that has enthralled readers young and old. La Belle Sauvage is set 10 years before Northern Lights and centers on the much-beloved Lyra Belacqua. Alethiometers, daemons, and the Magisterium all return to play their part.

Since the ‘equel’ to His Dark Materials was announced, fans around the globe have cheered the return of Lyra Belacqua, heroine of His Dark Materials. In a short film released by his publisher, Pullman revealed the ingredient for success behind His Dark Materials: Lyra’s ordinariness.

He says: “When I wrote the first book of His Dark Materials - sometimes called Northern Lights, sometimes called The Golden Compass - I certainly didn't anticipate that so many people would find Lyra as interesting a character as I did.”

“The thing about Lyra is that she's not a special child. She's not especially gifted or talented - she's a very ordinary child. When I was a teacher, I taught many girls who were like Lyra. They were brave, inquisitive, curious, disobedient: all those interesting things for storytellers. I think the reason that people have read this long and complicated story is because they're with Lyra. She doesn't know the things that are threatening her and she's in the same position as the reader, because the reader shares her sense of danger and excitement and curiosity about what's going to happen next. I hope the same thing will be true of Malcolm in La Belle Sauvage.”

Published between 1995 and 2000, Pullman’s spellbinding His Dark Materials trilogy is widely regarded as a modern classic that has captivated readers for over twenty years and won acclaim at every turn. Its heroine, Lyra Belacqua, frequently tops polls as an all-time favorite character, and the series is praised as one of the best, including being named an All-Time Greatest Novel by Entertainment Weekly and a Top 100 Book of All Time by Newsweek, which also said, “Pullman is quite possibly a genius.” The New Statesman wrote of the trilogy: “Once in a lifetime a children’s author emerges who is so extraordinary that the imagination of generations is altered. . . . The most ambitious work since the Lord of the Rings, [His Dark Materials] is as intellectually thrilling as it is magnificently written.”

Individually, the three books of His Dark MaterialsNorthern Lights, The Subtle Knife, and The Amber Spyglass—have won several literary prizes, among them the Carnegie Medal (1996) and the “Carnegie of Carnegies” (2007) and the first Whitbread (now Costa) Book of the Year Award to be given to a children’s novel (2001). The books have been adapted for stage and screen countless times, and His Dark Materials will appear once again in a BBC One adaptation in 2018, produced by Bad Wolf and New Line Cinema.

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