Northern Lights (known in North America as The Golden Compass), the first book from Philip Pullman's famous His Dark Materials trilogy, was first published way back in 1995 and has since become a classic along with its two following installments, The Subtle Knife and The Amber Spyglass. In fact, BBC even named it one of the 100 Novels That Shaped Our World!
It's no wonder that the trilogy would eventually be adapted for big or small screens in some form. And while 2007's The Golden Compass was not as well-received as was expected, the new fantasy HBO series seems to have more chances to become a hit. Here are 10 Things The Show Changes From The Golden Compass Books (as of Episode 1 and 2).
10 Billy Costa
This is a comparatively minor change, but it's still worth mentioning. In the first episode, we saw one of the Gyptian boys, Billy Costa, being abducted by the Gobblers. Throughout the episode, Billy referred to his daemon as Ratter, though that is the name of a different daemon in the books. Initially, Ratter was Tony Makarios's daemon, but it seems that in the show, just like in one of the stage versions, the characters of Billy Costa and Tony Makarios will be merged.
9 Father MacPhail
In the second episode, we see Mrs. Coulter meeting with Father MacPhail, an official from Magisterium. In the books, however, this never happened. In fact, Father MacPhail (played by Will Keen) does not appear until the second novel, but he seems to have a bigger role in the show. You will see a tendency in how some characters and events that happen much later in the books have already appeared in the show.
Magisterium, the not-so-good ruling body that is ever-present in the books, has made a small appearance in the show. In the first book, on the other hand, we only hear its name rather than see any kind of building.
Some characters connected to Magisterium such as Father MacPhail and Lord Boreal will probably be more important for the story this time around. Lord Boreal, in particular, will be the one that discloses a lot about the future events in the show (but more on that later).
7 Lee Scoresby's Appearance
Lee Scoresby is an experienced "aeronaut" balloonist who Lyra meets during her journey and becomes close friends with. In the show, he is played by Lin-Manuel Miranda whose appearance is quite different from the one provided in the books. Nevertheless, his version of the character promises to be just as authentic.
The Gyptians are an ethnic group from the world of Philip Pullman that Lyra, our protagonist, has a close relationship with. So far, it appears that they will be more present in the show than they were in the books. We already saw a scene that wasn't in the books: Tony Costa, Billy Costa's older brother, getting his coming of age ceremony as his daemon has chosen a permanent form. In the second episode, we also see them actively looking for abducted children. This was only hinted on in the books, but never actually described.
Lyra's best friend Roger got a new backstory. Instead of having a family, he is now an orphaned boy who works in the kitchens of Jordan College. He also mentions that he was brought there by his aunt. In the first episode, Lyra wants to have Roger come to London with her and Mrs. Coulter, but in the books, he had already gone missing by that point.
In the show, he is also a huge part of Lyra's motivation to go to London, because that means she has a bigger chance of finding him (in the books she was a bit more selfish). In the second episode, Roger also meets Billy, which happened much later in the books.
4 Mrs. Coulter
It's not just a matter of Mrs. Coulter herself, but also of her monkey daemon. In the second episode, her daemon appears to be spying on Lyra and Pan, Lyra's daemon, who hears weird noises coming from the walls. Afterward, they find out that the monkey had been going through secret passages to do the spying. In the same episode, Mrs. Coulter declares that Lyra's uncle, Lord Asriel (played by James McAvoy), is actually her father. Such a revelation came much later in the books and Mrs. Coulter is not the one Lyra hears the information from.
3 Opening Scene
Perhaps one of the biggest changes is the opening scene of the show. In the books, we start off with Lyra already living in Oxford. In the adaptation, however, we first see Lord Asriel giving baby Lyra to the Master for care.
This is sort of a nod in the direction of Philip Pullman's other spin-off series The Book of Dust which chronicles the events both preceding and succeeding the original trilogy. Radio Times reports that the creators of the show spoke with Pullman in order to make sure that he was fine with them including this detail.
It is probably not that big of a deal for those who haven't read the books, but there are actually some changes made for Lyra and her daemon Pantalaimon. Lyra's hair is blonde in the books, but Dafne Keen who plays her has brown hair. By the way, Dafne Keen and Will Keen (who plays Father MacPhail) are daughter and father in real life. Lyra's daemon Pan is portrayed quite accurately, though he does take on the form of a pine marten which is an animal he turns into much later in the books.
1 Plot Change
If all the changes we've covered so far were comparatively insignificant and did not affect the plot much, this particular one might have a much greater influence. In the second episode, we see Lord Boreal visit a different world that looks suspiciously a lot like our own. This concept of multi-universes was not introduced until the second book. The first book, on the other hand, focused more on Lyra's world rather than traveling between different worlds. This might only be a tease for what to expect later in the show, but it could also develop much faster into something bigger even in the first season.