Lee Scoresby was a Texan aëronaut of New Danish descent. His dæmon was a plain arctic hare named Hester. Lee was born in Lyra's world and his experiences as an aëronaut led him to meet many friends including the panserbjørn (armoured bear) Iorek Byrnison, the witch Serafina Pekkala, and fellow human Lyra Silvertongue. On his various adventures in the service of Lyra, Lee encountered John Parry, Will Parry's father who went with him to find the bearer of the subtle knife and also reunited Lee with his mother's ring something that connected him with his youth.
Lee Scoresby grew up in Texas. During his childhood, he would often play games about the battle of the Alamo. These games would take place in an old fort, where groups of children pretended to be the Danes and the French.
Meeting Pierre McConville
Lee first met a man called Pierre McConville in the summer of 1961 whilst working for the rancher Mr Lloyd. A border dispute led to a minor war with six men killed. The enemy had hired Pierre to shoot each of Lloyd's men individually. He met with the nephew of Mr Lloyd, Jimmy Partlett, and provoked a quarrel, ending up with shooting him in front of everyone. Lee, who had witnessed the action, was asked to be a witness at his court hearing.
In October of 1961, Lee won a balloon and half a copy of The Elements of Aerial Navigation in a poker game in Texas after being attracted north by the gold rush (though requiring none). His flying skills were non-existent, gradually getting better over the years. After all of his aëronautical jobs, Lee would send some gold to the Wells Fargo Bank as part of his retirement plan. A witch from the Karelia region fell in love with him but she was killed in battle. Lee often claimed she had spoiled him for women under three hundred, but he had plenty of lovers all the same.
On 14 April 1962, as a twenty-four year old, Lee flew into Novy Odense at the Barents Sea Company Depot, after nearly crashing onto the roof of the hangar, in search of work. There he met Iorek Byrnison, the panserbjørn, for the first time, and together they helped Captain H van Breda to escape with his cargo. In return for his aid, van Breda gave Scoresby his Old Winchester rifle.
Fight against the General Oblation Board
Lee met Lyra Silvertongue and the gyptians at Trollesund, where his business was idle due to the expedition which he wanted to join being cancelled before reaching Amsterdam because of a lack of funding. Here, he pledged his support to John Faa in his mission to rescue the kidnapped children from Bolvangar.
He took a liking to Lyra and the gyptians, offering to play them at cards for which they were notoriously good at. Lee's dæmon, Hester, told Pantalaimon and Lyra about how to find Iorek Byrnison's sky-iron armour so that he would oblige on assisting Lyra.
Lee's job was originally to spy from the air and see what was going on, which Lyra wanted to help with, however intense fog halted this. Lyra was caught and taken to Bolvangar before a second attempt could be done.
In the battle at Bolvangar, Lee rescued Iorek, Lyra and Roger Parslow and, with the aid of witches, they escaped in his balloon. During this journey, Lee spoke with Serafina Pekkala about the impending war. He promised his loyalty to Lyra. When the balloon was attacked by cliff-ghasts, Lyra fell out and Iorek and Roger went to rescue her.
When Lord Asriel tore open the path to another world, Lee and the witches were buffeted by winds and swept far away. They managed to regroup and a witch's council was held, which Lee was given the privilege of attending. Lee informed the witches he had heard of an object which can protect the bearer and that Stanislaus Grumman knew of its whereabouts. Lee set off to find him with the blessing of a fair wind by the witches.
On his mission, he stopped at the Samirsky Hotel where he made some inquires about Grumman. He was told that Grumman was dead, the barman said he had been crushed under an avalanche on Sakhalin. He then walked to a nearby observatory where he asked about Dust. A servant of the Holy Church, a Skraeling, heard Lee's inquiries and, deeming them heretical, set off to kill him after he left the observatory. Lee was forced to shoot the Skraeling in the leg to defend himself. The wound eventually killed the servant who considered his own death a martyrdom. He took his ring, which could command some power and authority.
Lee and Hester found Grumman, learning that he was in fact John Parry, the father of Will Parry. John had become a shaman, claiming he drew Lee to him with Lee's mother's ring. The two set off together to find the bearer of the subtle knife.
Into a new world
Using the Church's ring, the pair recovered Lee's balloon. As the pair made their escape they were pursued by several zeppelins. The shaman used his powers to destroy all but one of these zeppelins and Lee, in order to survive, landed his balloon in a forest, pulling the material beneath the canopy to be less conpicious. The crew from the final zeppelin (which was circling above the forest, looking for them, spraying flammable liquids over the plantation) set fire to the forest and waited for them to escape.
Although Grumman believed their pursuers would take them prisoners, Lee insisted he continue alone. As Grumman escaped, Lee held the pass fighting off the enemies that spoke Russian and wore blue uniforms. He managed to kill them all off, but got hit by a bullet in the process. Before dying, Scoresby called out for Serafina Pekkala with the flower she gave him, but she arrived too late to save him.
Serafina placed a spell over Lee's body to prevent it being desecrated by carrion beasts. Several days later, Iorek came across Lee's body and in a final act of respect for his friend, the bear thanked him before devouring his body, giving him the strength to save Lyra, which was Lee's greatest wish.
Lyra and Will found Lee, in ghost form, in the land of the dead and he returned to fight the Spectres before stepping out through the window in the world of the dead and letting his particles rise which reminded Lyra of the way his balloon flew.
Personality and traits
Lee was non-violent and had consistent ethics. He would always honour the contracts that he made with individuals who hired his balloon and even worried, before his death, whether his duties for the gyptians had been completed.
Lee despised killing other humans, doing so sparingly and only where he needed to. Every time he shot a soldier who was coming to kill him, he felt sorry for them, telling his dæmon they were the same as himself and deserved to live on.
He wanted to assist people wherever he could, trying to stop Stanislaus Grumman in Cittàgazze so he could save a group of teenagers being attacked by Spectres saying that cruelty should be fought when you come across it and you should provide help when others need it.
Lee was a skilled aëronaut and a sharp shooter. A particular rifle he was skilled with was an Old Winchester. Lee had the power of being a seer allowing him to glimpse the future. The night before his death, Lee glimpsed what was happening to Stanislaus Grumman and how he had destroyed two more zeppelins.
Lee's dæmon was a female arctic hare (summer phase) named Hester.
Appearance and personality
Hester's fur was grey-brown and her eyes were gold-hazel flecked with peat-brown and forest-green. Her hearing was excellent, and this saved Lee's life on more than one occasion. Likewise, she was sure-footed, and, when climbing, Lee followed her steps. Like Lee, Hester was witty and dry, and did not often show her emotions, for example her crying and blaming herself left Lee shocked after their shooting at the gulch where they later died. In life, Hester often showed a gritty courage, for example on Novy Odense when fighting Pierre McConville, Hester dragged the assassin's dæmon away from him, putting herself at great personal risk so that Lee could make a clear shot.
During childhood and when re-enacting the Battle of the Alamo with friends, Hester would change between a variety of iconically American forms: a cougar, a wolf, sometimes a rattlesnake, but most often a mockingbird.
Iorek and Lee first met in Novy Odense sharing a common enemy. They bonded afterwards, a friendship that would last until Lee died in battle. As a sign of friendship and respect, Iorek was the one who devoured the remains of Lee's body meaning the two would be together.
Lee first helped Lyra in Trollesund when she was looking for Iorek Byrnison's armour. Soon, he pledged his allegiance for her cause, changing the course of his life to help her. Lee made sure that he did whatever he could to ensure that Lyra lived on, giving his life to her in the end. During his time as a ghost, Lee had one last chance to help Lyra by fighting off Spectres.
Lee and Serafina both had the same cause in mind: to protect Lyra at all measures. They grew closer through this and Serafina gave Lee a flower to call her if ever she was needed. At his death, Serafina made sure that Lee's body would not decay so the panserbjørn could eat it.
During the short time that Lee and John had to work together, they began to trust each other and their instincts. When they first met, John told Lee that Lee's mother's ring was what brought them together. Lee held off the army while John got away.
Behind the scenes
- Lee was portrayed by Sam Elliott in the film adaptation of The Golden Compass. The author of the book Philip Pullman had singled out Elliott's performance as one the film got 'just right'. Kathy Bates voiced Hester in the movie.
- In the TV series, he will be played by Lin-Manuel Miranda while Cristela Alonzo will voice Hester.
- Northern Lights
- The Golden Compass (film)
- The Golden Compass (video game)
- The Subtle Knife
- The Amber Spyglass (Ghost form)
- His Dark Materials (TV series), Series 1, 2
- Once Upon a Time in the North
- Serpentine (Mentioned only)
- The Secret Commonwealth (Mentioned only)
Notes and references
- Lee is said to have died 35 years after the events of Once Upon a Time in the North and is 24 in that book
- The Subtle Knife, Chapter 14
- Once Upon a Time in the North
- Northern Lights, Chapter 11
- Northern Lights, Chapter 10
- The Subtle Knife, Chapter 14
- Northern Lights, Lantern Slide 3
- Northern Lights, Chapter 18
- Northern Lights, Chapter 12
- The Subtle Knife, Chapter 6
- Scholastic - Philip Pullman's interview transcript
- The Independent
|World of the dead|
|Locations||Abyss • Holding area • Land of the dead • Suburbs of the land of the dead|
|Natives||Boatman • Gracious Wings • Martha • Magda • Peter • Martha and Peter's son • Martha and Peter's child • Martha and Peter's baby|
|Ghosts||Castor's human • Dirk Jansen • John Parry • Lee Scoresby • Matapan's human • Roger Parslow • Sandling's human|
|Important||Deaths • Harpies • Ghosts • The Authority|