His Dark Materials
His Dark Materials

Once Upon a Time in the North is a fantasy short story by Philip Pullman published on 3 April 2008 in the United Kingdom. It is a prequel to the His Dark Materials trilogy.

Plot summary[]

On 14 April, Lee Scoresby, a 24-year-old aëronaut, and his dæmon Hester land in the town of Novy Odense, a harbour town on an island in the White Sea belonging to Muscovy, looking for work.

Scoresby stays at a boarding house where he meets Victoria Lund and helps her with a matter of honour, her engagement. The next day, Scoresby meets H van Breda, a captain whose cargo is being held by Larsen Manganese, a big private mining company, and will be auctioned if he doesn't pay to get it back. With the help of Iorek Byrnison, the panserbjørn, Scoresby plans to break into the warehouse, take the cargo and leave.

Inside the warehouse is Pierre McConville and his assistant, hired by Ivan Poliakov to hold off van Breda from getting his cargo. Poliakov was the favourite candidate for Mayor in the town, promising to rid the island of panserbjørn. He was secretly working with Larsen Manganese, allowing them to take more control over the island and take power away from the public Novy Odense Provincial Customs and Revenue Authority.

Lee and Iorek enter the warehouse while van Breda and his crew sneak in behind to take the cargo. Iorek deals with a gunman on the ground floor whilst Lee travels up to the third floor of the warehouse to deal with McConville and the gunman. He kills the gunman before being shot in the shoulder by McConville. McConville sneaks round the barrels of fish-oil that Lee is hiding behind, promising to pull Lee and his dæmon, Hester, far away from each other for a long time as a form of torture. As his snake-dæmon comes around the barrels, Hester leaps on top of it, biting down and pulling it far away as Lee shoots McConville. Lee kills McConville with his second bullet, shooting him in the heart.

Lee is taken to the Barents Sea Company Depot, where his balloon is stored, under the pretence of being arrested by the Customs Authority. Lund and her now fiancé Lieutenant Haugland assist Scoresby and Byrnison in their escape by air, closely avoiding the Larsen Manganese troops that are coming to arrest Scoresby.


As well as the short story, the book includes a few extras:


  1. First Edition product details
Philip Pullman's His Dark Materials
Main Trilogy Northern LightsThe Subtle KnifeThe Amber Spyglass
The Book of Dust La Belle SauvageThe Secret CommonwealthThe Book of Dust Volume Three
Companion Books Lyra's OxfordOnce Upon a Time in the NorthSerpentineThe CollectorsThe Imagination ChamberGreen Book