Philip Pullman

His Dark Techniques


Introducing Philip Pullman!

Pullman was born in Norwich in 1946, he went to school in England, Zimbabwe, and Australia, before my family settled in North Wales. He received his high school education at the excellent Ysgol Ardudwy, Harlech, and then went to Exeter College, Oxford, to read English, though I never learned to read it very well. Pullman went into the teaching profession at the age of 25, he taught at various Oxford Middle Schools before moving to Westminster College in 1986, where he spent eight years involved in teaching students on the B.Ed. course. He still maintained a passionate interest in education to this day.

Pullman's first children's book was Count Karlstein (1982, republished in 2002). That was followed by The Ruby in the Smoke (1986), the first in a quartet of books featuring the young Victorian adventurer, Sally Lockhart. He did a great deal of research for the background of these stories. Pullman has also written a number of shorter stories. They include The Firework-Maker's Daughter, I Was a Rat!, and Clockwork, or All Wound Up. His says it's kind of story he find very enjoyable, though immensely difficult to write. He wrote the famous trilogy His Dark Materials, beginning with Northern Lights (The Golden Compass in the USA) in 1995, continuing with The Subtle Knife in 1997, and concluding with The Amber Spyglass in 2000.

Northern Lights won the Carnegie Medal in 1996, and ten years later it was awarded the Carnegie of Carnegies, chosen by readers from all the books that have won this medal in the 70 years since it was first awarded. In 2001 The Amber Spyglass became the first children's book to win the overall Whitbread Award (now known as the Costa Award). The Whitbread could, and should, have gone to a children's book long before, but someone had to be first, and he was the lucky one. In 2005 Pullman was surprised and delighted to win the Astrid Lindgren Award, and shared it with the Japanese illustrator Ryoji Arai.

Common Themes

Philip Pullman's books often deal with characters are going on an adventure to find something/one, going though obstacles and challenges. Pullman usually has a happy ending for the characters at the end of series/book. In Sally Lockhart, an a young girl Who recently lost her father is on a quest to find out how he died. Eventually, Sally finds what her father has left for her. In The Golden Compass, a young girl named Lyra, is on a adventure to go to the Arctic, on her way she finds out who her real father is. In Clockwork, There is a story about a prince trying to save his "son". He has to sacrifice to save his son. Most of Pullman's books are quests or dangerous adventures to find sometime, and they usually end up getting it.

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Pullman's Techniques

Listing, Pullman uses listing to put in more infomation without dragging it on. He uses listing to add information about the time, place and differences.

  • The Golden Compass” He uses listing to add information about the past, “When Pantalaimon was a cat, he was lean, ragged and harsh, but Sophonix, for that was her name.” (142)

  • “Clockwork” Pullman uses listing to show differences “She was alone with two little figures one all malice, the other all sweetness,” (68)

  • Ruby in The Smoke,” Pullman uses listing to add information about the location. “The road was broad and pleasant, there was busy and carriages.”

Dashes, Pullman uses dashes to show that the speaker’s dialogue is being interrupted,

  • Clockwork”, The speaker has been interrupted in the middle of her speaking, “He was the dev-.” (41)

  • The Golden Compass,” Pullman is showing that the speaker has been interrupted. How he was getting on with his spying and -,”

  • Clockwork,” Pullman is showing that the speaker has trailed off and has been interrupted, “They were thinking-”

Ellipses, Pullman uses ellipses to show that the dialogue has a gap from speaking, or that the speaker’s talking has trailed off.

  • Ruby in The Smoke” The speaker has trailed off because he is unsure if what he is saying is true. “Our arrangement being made in perfectly legal terms…,” (23)

  • “The Golden Compass” The speaker uses ellipses to show that she/he is unsure of what she is seeing. “Death…Is that Death?” (143)

  • “Clockwork” The speaker doesn't know what to say so he/she is stuttering, “I didn’t mean... Oh I don’t know what I mean!” (40)

Rhetorical Questions, Pullman uses rhetorical questions to engage the reader more and make them think about what’s happening next,

  • Clockwork,” Pullman uses rhetorical questions to see if you know if who someone is, and gets you thinking about it. ”The philosopher of the night?,” (27)

  • The Golden Compass” Pullman has the character talking to herself so it makes you want to know the answers. “ Had he remembered the snow goggles?, did he know where to get the best Artic maps?” (141)

  • “Ruby in The Smoke” The speaker is worried about whether a character can do it, this makes us wonder whether the character can do it since the speaker is questioning it. “Can he find his own way?”

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His Dark Materials

Pullman's most well know book is His Dark Materials, an epic trilogy of fantasy novels including Northern Lights (1995, published as The Golden Compass in North America), The Subtle Knife (1997), and The Amber Spyglass (2000). It is about the adventures of Lyra Belacqua and Will Parry, as they wander through a series of parallel universes. These books have been honored by several prizes, including the Carnegie Medal, the Guardian Children's Book Award, and (for The Amber Spyglass) the Whitbread Book of the Year Award the first time in the history of that prize that it was given to a children's book.


Pullman, Philip. Ruby in the Smoke. Mark Stutzman. New York: Random House, Inc, 1985.

Pullman, Philip. Clockwork. Peter Bailey. Great Britain: Random House, Inc, 1996.

Pullman Philip. The Firework Maker’s Daughter. Peter Bailey. Great Britain: Doubleday, 1995.

Pullman, Philip. The Golden Compass. Ian Beck. Great Britain: Random House Inc. , 1995.