His Dark Materials
His Dark Materials

Alice Lonsdale (née Parslow) was a girl and later a widow who worked at The Trout Inn near Oxford and, later, at Jordan College. Her dæmon was named Ben and he settled as a retriever.[1] During her time there, she got her bottom pinched by an old farmer named Arnold Helmsley.[2]

During the floods, when Alice was 15,[3] she and Malcolm Polstead rescued Lyra Belacqua and took her to Lord Asriel in London aboard La Belle Sauvage. She was from the Parslow family. Many members of this family worked as servants at Jordan College. Alice lived with her mother and two sisters in Wolvercote.[4]


Work at The Trout Inn[]

The Trout Inn

Alice worked as a potwash in The Trout. From the day she arrived, she teased Malcolm about things like whether he had a girlfriend or if he had been kissed before. Malcolm endured it for a while, until Asta, his dæmon, lept at Ben, pushing him into the washing-up bowl and biting him over and over again until Alice screamed for pity. Alice and Malcolm then ignored each other's existence despite having to hand each other glassware and other things that needed washing up.[5] It wasn't until a while later that the two of them started talking, and even then they didn't get on well together.

Gerard Bonneville[]

Gerard's dæmon

Alice met up with Gerard Bonneville one night in Jericho. They went down Walton Well Road and to the bridge where Gerard kissed Alice and told her she was beautiful. No one else had said that to Alice before. Gerard wanted to continue kissing Alice but Ben couldn't stand Gerard's dæmon, a foul hyena who behaved nothing like Gerard.[6]

Work at Godstow Priory[]

Alice found work, shortly before the floods of 1986, in the kitchens at Godstow Priory. She would help make the bread and even look after the baby Lyra with Sister Katarina whilst Sister Fenella was recovering from an illness. She became aware that Katarina would go to the potting sheds outside the priory and have sex with Gerard Bonneville. Gerard was telling her to get Lyra for him. Alice, who had begun speaking to Malcolm since, told him about it, as Malcolm was close with the baby.[7]

The flood[]


River Thames[]

The bridge connecting the priory and inn

The bridge collapsing

She had told Malcolm to go over to the potting sheds to have a look at the couple whilst she stayed in the kitchens and looked after Lyra. During this time, the River Thames burst its banks and the gatehouse of the priory was destroyed. The ceiling of the building above Alice's head fell in, dazing her.

Malcolm entered the kitchen, stirred Alice and taken Lyra and they were escaping the building as Gerard came in. Alice bashed his head with a chair and they flew over the bridge connecting the priory to the inn.

After trying and failing to get into the inn, and having lobbed a large stone at Gerard when Alice saw him, they escaped down the Thames via Malcolm's canoe, La Belle Sauvage.[7]

City centre[]

Malcolm in the city centre

A pharmacy

The canoe first got carried towards the heart of Oxford, after spending the night tied up to a tree and waiting for Gerard in his dinghy to pass, where they tried to get into Jordan College and be offered, despite not knowing how to get it, scholastic sanctuary. However, many of the roads were blocked with turned over stalls or semi-collapsed buildings, so Malcolm decided to get supplies at a pharmacy. Here, Alice discovered Malcolm's secret plan about travelling to Lord Asriel. She seized the paper from his pocket and then started kicking him and shouting at him for not telling her.[4]


Lord Murdstone's house[]

They then set off down the river towards London, which Malcolm guessed would only be a day away. They first docked at a white house to feed and change Lyra. Alice went inside the house and found a kitchen with a fireplace where she began to heat some water. Soon, Malcolm joined her before Alice told him to check on the man who was supposed to be guarding the house for them. When he returned to say that he was dead, they fled to the trapdoor in the room.[8]

Lord Murdstone's house

They took shelter in the cellar, waiting for the chance to run. Whilst Malcolm started talking to Gerard and then left silently as Gerard went on answering the question, the three left the cellar and sprinted to La Belle Sauvage. They were just getting ready to push the canoe into the water, when Gerard came running down the lawn to meet them. Malcolm, pretending to offer him the baby, stabbed Gerard with a knife he had taken from the room they had been in when when Gerard got too close. Alice then shot with the gun the only remaining foreleg of his dæmon so it was smashed beyond repair. They preceded along the water, now carrying Gerard's rucksack which Malcolm had taken from his dinghy in order to bargain with him for Lyra before the stabbing. They believed Gerard dead.[8]

The cave[]

The stew served at the Berkshire cave

When a CCD engine-launch was approaching, they stopped amid a clump of trees and came across George Boatwright, who was hiding from the CCD after pulling down one of their posters for Adnan Al-Kaisy at The Trout. George took them to a cave nearby where they ate and rested for the night. There were other survivors of the flood here, both adults and children, who were keeping away from either the flood or the CCD. The following morning, a boy whom Malcolm had talked to, Andrew Whicher, had gone, but soon returned with a group of armed men. He was a member of the League of St Alexander and had told the Office of Child Protection about the baby in the cave thinking it might be important. The men took Lyra off Audrey Boatwright, who was holding her at the time, knocked out George and pushed to the floor Malcolm and Alice who were trying to defend the baby.[9]

Wallingford Priory[]

Wallingford Priory

Malcolm and Alice, after interrogating and punishing Andrew about where the men had gone, which turned out to be Wallingford Priory as the Office of Child Protection had an office there, and talking to Mrs Simkin, who used to work at the priory, they set off for the large building. Once they arrived, they sailed around the building, looking for any way in. They found a drain tunnel and Malcolm crawled through and up into the kitchen scullery whilst Alice waited in the canoe. Malcolm managed to return with Lyra safe in a box. Just before they had left, Alice had called Malcolm 'Mal' for the first time, as their connection had grown.[9]

The Enchanted Island[]

The stolen alethiometer

They quickly left and made their way to an Enchanted Island. Whilst Malcolm rested in the canoe, Alice and Lyra got out and found a fairy, Diania there. The fairy then started to do Alice's hair, Alice seemed embarrassed at this stage.

Alice soon awoke Malcolm from his slumber and told him that they had to go. The Queen of the Fairies was feeding Lyra milk from her breast. When they approached her, she said that Lyra was now her child as she had fed her milk. Malcolm decided to bargain with her, thinking of the fairytale Rumplestiltskins and remembering that names might be important. He said he had a gift fit for a queen, which was a stone in the box the alethiometer came in. The box opened by a special mechanism that Malcolm doubted she'd be able to operate. The deal was that if the fairy could say how the three had come to be on the island in three guesses, she could keep Lyra and the treasure. If not, they would take Lyra but she would still get the treasure as a gift.

On her third try, the fairy guessed correctly how they'd come to be on the island, including the details about Gerard Bonneville. However, because they had given the fairy fake names (Sandra, Richard and Ellie instead of Alice, Malcolm, and Lyra)Malcolm was able to tell the fairy that her overwise-accurate final guess about how the children had arrived was incorrect, as she had referred to them by the wrong names.[10] They left the island with the distraught fairy trying to open the puzzle box. Alice called him a genius for that.[10]


The island[]

Some resin

The canoe was swept into a current heading towards a waterfall that sent them down underneath an island. Lyra, who enjoyed the ride, was laughing however Alice was knocked out after bashing her head against the gunwale. There were two islands either side of the river, one was a large lawn leading up to a big house, the other was blocked from view by a column of fog.

They landed on the lawn and saw a large party going on. They got off the canoe and went up the lawn, heading towards the main house, but found that however much they moved, they couldn't get any closer. Instead, they stopped in one of the gardens by three fountains and gathered their supplies. None of the people they approached noticed their existence, and would walk around them, even the birds wouldn't notice them.

Alice and Lyra rested, while Malcolm retreated to the canoe, where he saw Gerard, in a carriage/wheelchair with flocks of the guests gathered around him. Malcolm rushed to get Alice and Lyra. They made off down the river in the canoe. When they looked by, they saw the guests carrying Gerard down the path, pointing at the canoe.[6]

River Giant[]

At the end of the river, there were two large gates leading to the outside, and they couldn't see how to open them. Soon, the River Giant approached them, saying he was instructed by Old Father Thames not to open the gates unless he had permission (if the humans were suffering a drought, for example).

Malcolm and Alice told the giant about how Lyra was actually the Princess of England/Albion and he should let them through. Malcolm held up one of Gerard's documents as false written permission to get through. The river carried them through a tunnel and out into the open again.[11]



The witch's dæmon

After spotting a CCD craft behind them, they hid on an island that wouldn't offer them much protection from being spotted. Alice and Lyra were asleep in the canoe when a witch, Tilda Vasara, visited Malcolm and put an invisibility spell over the canoe. The witch soon flew off back to the North saying she had completed her business away from the North.[11]

The mausoleum[]

The mausoleum

Some time later, fleeing yet another CCD boat, they stopped at a small island. Alice felt fearful about the place, it was a mausoleum and a graveyard. They had to feed and change Lyra there, as there was nowhere else near. Malcolm collected some wood for a fire. Alice knew something was wrong and knew that he had seen Gerard on the island.

Malcolm quickly lit the fire and Alice cleaned and fed Lyra before getting under the safety of the canoe tarpaulin. Gerard had snuck up on the boat and soon whispered Alice's name, at which point she started to panic. When the CCD boat came round again, she thought she was going to faint and so handed Lyra to Malcolm. Gerard then cut a slit in the coal-silk and reached inside to grab hold of Alice's throat. The hand then moved down and felt her lap for Lyra. Ben bit down on Gerard's wrist but Gerard grabbed him and pulled him out of the canoe.

Because of the bond between dæmon and human, Alice jumped out after him and ran out. Malcolm soon followed after.[12]


The paddle he used to kill Gerard

Ben was being squeezed by the hyena-dæmon's jaws and Gerard was pinning Alice down on the steps to the mausoleum when Malcolm came up the slope. He brought the paddle down feebly on Gerard's head to which Gerard laughed. He then allowed strength to flow inside him and hit his dæmon on the head until she dropped Ben and tumbled down the slope. He then approached Gerard and brought the paddle down on him until he killed him.[12]

Lord Asriel[]

La Belle Sauvage

They lit a fire again on the island the next day, with another coffin lid, as Lyra had possibly caught a cold. Malcolm then found out that the paddle had been broken, being held together by only a small piece of wood. He managed to find a bit of rusty wire from the fence posts.

They then continued down to London where they found a man who supplied them with what they needed for Lyra. However, his wife had gone round the back of the shop to phone someone, possibly the CCD. They fled quickly and managed to find Lord Asriel on his ship after being pursued by a CCD boat. After an exchange of bullets between Asriel and the CCD, in which Malcolm got shot, all three children got up onto the ship.

On Malcolm's advice, Lord Asriel took all three children, by gyrocopter, back to Oxford, to invoke the right of scholastic sanctuary from the Master of Jordan College. Malcolm placed the alethiometer in Lyra's blankets for its protection and as a gift.[13]

Mrs Lonsdale[]

Mrs Lonsdale.png
"God knows, I even care about you, and you give me little enough reason and no thanks."
—Mrs Lonsdale to Lyra Belacqua[src]

After returning from the floods, Dr Carne offered her a place among the staff at Jordan where she became the housekeeper there, a new role in the college. She took a liking to a carpenter called Roger Lonsdale before she was 20. Roger later died in a building accent and Alice was left a widow.[14]

She was the governess of Lyra when she lived at the college. She was quite strict with Lyra, despite caring about her, and would sometimes smack her.[1]

There was no hiding from Alice, when Lyra was on the roofs of the college and she called, Lyra would go down at once. Alice would help wash and dress Lyra, making sure her hair was brushed before she met with Lord Asriel. When Lyra brought back the alethiometer Dr Carne had given her, Alice was curious and asked her what it was however Lyra had no time to answer as Mrs Lonsdale hurried her off after finishing packing her belongings.[1]

After Lyra returned to Jordan from her voyage to the North, she became much more friendly with her and even, at the age of twenty, considered Alice as a friend.[15]

After Lyra left Jordan College and travelled to Europe and the Near East, Alice continued working as a senior servant at the college. She resented the new Master Werner Hammond for coercing Lyra into leaving her home. Later, Alice was questioned by Manton and Topham, two agents of the Consistorial Court of Discipline (CCD) about Lyra's whereabouts. When she refused to cooperate, the two men arrested her and her dæmon Ben. Hammond was present during the questioning and arrest and did not object, siding with the CCD. Hannah Relf and Brenda Polstead remonstrated with the CCD agents but were unable to stop Alice's arrest. Later, Alice and other dissidents arrested by the CCD were taken aboard a train to be transported. She comforted an eleven year old boy named Anthony.[16]

Physical description[]

"She was fifteen years old, tall and skinny, with lank dark hair that she scraped back into an unflattering ponytail. Lines of self-discontent were already gathering on her forehead and around her mouth"
—Malcolm's description of Alice when he despised her[src]

Alice had dark hair and was tall and skinny.[5] As an adult woman, Alice was slim. While she was not considered beautiful or attrative, she could emobdy intense sexuality.[16]


"She's a dark horse"
Reg Polstead on Alice[src]

Alice wasn't nice, she would mock people and was generally gloomy. She thought she scared off quite a lot of boys from liking her.[6] Alice was loyal and protective of Lyra, refusing to disclose her whereabouts to CCD agents, even risking arrest. She comforted a young boy and fellow prisoner named Anthony.[16]


Gerard Bonneville[]

Alice took a great liking to Bonneville and went on a walk with him. However, she despised his dæmon and refused to be with him anymore.[6] Alice was greatly afraid of Bonneville from then on, as he targeted her to get to the baby

Malcolm Polstead[]

Once they were on better terms, Alice and Malcolm did a lot of things together and worked well as a team. Alice ended up sharing some of her feelings with him and even started calling him 'Mal'.



Malcolm Polstead: "What would you like him to settle as?"
Alice Parslow: "Summing poisonous"
— Malcolm and Alice talking about their preferred dæmon's settled form[src]

Ben was a tough dæmon who often took the form of a terrier. Alice said he didn't fool around often.[6]


The name Parslow, a common Oxford name, comes from the Latin 'to cross' and old French for 'the water' which have links to Alice's story.[17]

Behind the scenes[]

  • In the US edition of La Belle Sauvage, Alice's age is changed from 15 to 16.
  • In The Golden Compass, Mrs Lonsdale is played by Magda Szubanski. In the film, she had a teary farewell scene with Lyra before Dr Carne gave Lyra the alethiometer which was later cut.[18]
  • Despite not appearing in Series 1 of the TV series, Jack Thorne announced on Twitter that she appeared in early drafts of the series but that the part of Charles took over.[19]


Nl 02.jpg
HDM Wiki has 4 images of Alice Lonsdale.
Nl 02.jpg
HDM Wiki has 3 images of Ben.


Jordan College
Locations ChapelCommon RoomHallJordan catacombsJordan LibraryJordan OratoryMaster's LodgingRetiring RoomSheldon BuildingYaxley QuadrangleLodge TowerPalmer's TowerScholars' GardenLibrary GardenLecture Theatre
Staff Bernie JohansenBillDr CarneCharlesFather HeystMr CawsonMrs LonsdaleP. TrelawneyParslow familyRoger ParslowSub-RectorShuterWerner HammondWrenRaymond StringerJanetSolicitorDomestic BursarCousinsMr Wood
Occupations ButlerMaster of Jordan CollegeSteward