The love that the witches feel seems to be fairly physical. They are enchanting in their beauty and cause men to fall in love with them. The physical nature of their love is also shown when Ruta Skadi speaks of her visit to Lord Asriel:
'I made myself invisible and found my way to his inmost chamber, where he was preparing to sleep.'
Every witch there knew what had happened next, and neither Will nor Lyra dreamed of it. So Ruta Skadi had no need to tell, and she went on" (SK, 546)
Pullman says that he doesn't specifically write for children, yet he is aware of the fact that many of his readers might be children or young adults, and he presents complicated ideas and adult subject matter in a way that is sensitive to his readership:
children, you know, grow up in a world in which [�] they see grown-ups doing all this interesting stuff and having conversations whose meaning they can't quite fathom, but they know it's important. Lyra feels this all the way through the book and I guess young readers will feel this way, too. (Madison)
This idea is perhaps most clearly presented at the end of Northern Lights, where Lyra sees her parents, and their daemons, coming together:
And their mouths were fastened together with a powerful greed. Their daemons were playing fiercely; the snow leopard rolled over on her back; and the monkey raked his claws in the soft fur of her neck, and she growled a deep rumble of pleasure. (NL, 323).
Here, an adult reader would see what was happening. The combination of the passionate kiss and the fierce connection of the daemons, or souls, of the two people convincingly evokes a sexual connection. Pullman writes:
When Lord Asriel and Mrs Coulter's daemons play with each other in the way that they do [�] it's pretty obvious to an adult what that says about the feelings of the two human beings, but it doesn't make it graphically clear to a young reader (Readerville)
However, to a child reader, as Lyra, it is yet another grown-up mystery, a "strange sight" (NL, 323). Lyra and Will later discover some of the mysteries that they have encountered throughout the trilogy when they touch each other's daemons (AS, 1000). The readers of the books are either reminded of feelings they have experienced, or tempted by yet another mystery.
Not all of the lovers in the book have physical relationships like Lord Asriel, Mrs Coulter and the witches. There is evidence of love as a much more spiritual feeling. This is shown by the love between Balthamos and Baruch, two angels. Like the witches, angels are much older and wiser than humans. They are also much older and wiser than witches. In the sentence quoted earlier about Ruta Skadi, Pullman writes: "She was wiser than far than any short-lived human, but she had not the slightest idea of how like a child she seemed beside these ancient beings" (SK, 442). The angels obviously hold a great amount of love for each other and have an almost symbiotic relationship. Balthamos says of Baruch "Of course I read his mind. Wherever he goes, my heart goes with him; we feel as one, though we are two" (AS, 615). This metaphysical joining of the souls seems at first similar to the relationship between humans and their daemons. However, as Balthamos says, they are two beings, who have presumably come together through love and reached that ideal, platonic connection that people have always dreamt of. We know they are not like humans and daemons because they were created at different times, they have not always been a part of each other; Balthamos says "[Baruch was alive] four thousand years ago, more or less. I am much older" (AS, 610). Like the platonic ideal, human love is just a shadow of the love the angels have for each other. Their love is a great contrast to the physical love of the witches. Balthamos and Baruch are "not of a high order of angels" and for this reason they have little physical substance; they appear to be made out of light (AS, 606-7). Their bond is spiritual and emotional and when it is broken by the death of Baruch, Balthamos suffers terribly: "he only knew that half his heart had been extinguished" (AS, 673). When Balthamos finally fulfils his duty he dies with these words: "oh, Baruch, my dear, I can do no more [�] this is the end for me, though truly I died when you did, Baruch my beloved" (AS, 975). This platonic ideal of love as a spiritual connection could give hope to Lyra and Will when they separate. Baruch and Balthamos were connected whilst in different worlds; the only way that connection could be broken was by the death of one of them.
An unbreakable bond between two people is an important part of the story and is not only demonstrated through romantic love. Lee Scoresby is drawn to Stanislaus Grumman because he holds a ring belonging to Lee's mother, and the power that such an object holds is shown by the way "he felt like a child again" (SK, 499). Parental love is a major theme throughout the trilogy. All three books start with chapters where the two main characters are a child and parent and both children search for their fathers within the books. Mrs Coulter is a very prominent character, especially in Northern Lights. Pullman writes of her: "I enjoyed very much writing the bits with her in them because she constantly surprised and shocked me and appalled me and delighted me in various ways"; he also says that she is his favourite character (Madison). Mrs Coulter sometimes seems to be barely human, and her daemon reflects this. Her daemon is unnamed and rarely speaks like the other characters' daemons. He also takes pleasure in causing pain: "[Ama] saw the woman hand the bat to her daemon, and she saw the daemon pull one of the black wings out and out and out till it snapped and hung from a white string of sinew" (AS, 639). Mrs Coulter shows a similar cruelty towards the children at Bolvangar. Two of the doctors discuss her and one says "[She seems to have] a personal interest [�] it's almost ghoulish [�] do you remember the first experiments when she was so keen to see them pulled apart?" (NL, 227). However, despite her horrific nature, Mrs Coulter shows a large amount of love for Lyra. She regrets having Lyra taken away as a baby: "I was concerned only with my own advancement. I didn't think of her for years, and if I did, it was only to regret the embarrassment of her birth" (AS, 762). Yet, even though she shows that she loves Lyra, she does it by putting Lyra to sleep with the use of drugs. Mrs Coulter puts herself in danger to try and keep Lyra with her, but she puts Lyra to sleep because she knows that Lyra will always run from her. Mrs Coulter reverts to a kind of fantasy where she cares for Lyra as she should have done when she was an infant.
My own child, the first time I had ever been able to do those things for her, my little� I washed her and fed her and kept her safe and warm, I made sure her body was nourished as she slept (AS, 763)
Although she feels love for Lyra, this fantasy seems to be a selfish one, she is trying to absolve herself of the guilt she feels about abandoning her baby.
Will also has an unusual relationship with his mother. He appears to be her carer, too scared to inform the authorities in case he is separated from her. He is haunted by the disappearance of his father and goes on a quest to see what has happened to him. The absent father is a theme that Will's story has in common with Lyra's; and which they both have in common with Pullman himself whose "father was killed in Africa while on [RAF] duty" (LION). There are similarities between John Parry and Lord Asriel. Both have left their children, although John Parry does wish to return, if what he writes in his letters is true. They are also both searching for something that will change the way of life for everyone in their worlds. They are both undertaking huge tasks. The disappearance of Will's father leaves both him and his mother in danger. Will often asks himself whether he should be on this journey rather than spending time with his mother. Mrs Coulter inserts doubts over the strength of Mrs Parry's love for her son: "his mother, after all, had not protected him; he had had to protect her. Did Mrs Coulter love Lyra more than Elaine Parry loved him? But that was unfair: his mother wasn't well" (AS, 713). Will shows the same desperate desire to be loved by his mother as Mrs Coulter's desire to play her part as mother to Lyra. However, Will is not selfish, and although the thought crosses his mind that his mother may not love him enough, he is generous enough with his love to give his mother the benefit of the doubt. However, even thinking of his mother is enough to put his mission in danger, and therefore the fate of every world. When he imagines his mother's face, the subtle knife is broken (SK, 722). He has to be like his father, Lord Asriel, and Mrs Coulter. He must put aside everything but the task in hand and do whatever he can for the greater good. However, unlike them, he will return to his mother and he will not forget her.
In Pullman's universe there is 'dark matter', made up of conscious particles. This is what makes Lyra's alethiometer work, and, because they are conscious, it means she can have a relationship with the alethiometer, an object. Lyra often seems to treat it as a loved one: "Lyra picked up the alethiometer and folded its velvet cloth over it, like a mother protecting her child" (SK, 406). When the alethiometer is stolen, Lyra is confused. She doesn't know what to do; "Without the alethiometer, she was� just a little girl, lost" (SK, 458). Pullman comments on this in Talking Books by James Carter: "[The alethiometer] serves a purpose [�] for Lyra needs a companion who can tell her things" (Carter, 190). It is certain that the alethiometer should be seen either as a conscious being or as the method a conscious being is using to communicate to Lyra. Pullman writes in another interview: "The alethiometer knows Lyra; it knows what she will appreciate and respond to" (Avnet). Will also has a relationship with an object, the knife. The knife appears to be conscious in some ways. It ensures that its 'bearer' loses two fingers to gain it and can break if strong emotions are exhibited by the bearer (SK, 471; AS, 722). Will is also strongly and emotionally connected with the knife. After Iorek fixes the knife and Will once more has it in his hand Will thinks, "It felt like being whole again; he hadn't realised how much he'd loved it" (AS, 757). This idea of 'being whole' when connected to someone or something pervades the whole trilogy. When you are in love with someone as Baruch and Balthamos are, you are whole. In Lyra's world, your daemon makes you whole, as it does in other worlds, it is just not as obvious. However, both Will and Lyra lose their abilities with the objects, Will because he has to break the knife, and Lyra because her childish intuition that helped her read the alethiometer is gone. They must learn to be whole within themselves, in the same way as they must learn to create a republic of heaven wherever they are.
Lyra and Will learn from all the human relationships they see and experience. Lyra learns to be careful about where she leads her friends with her betrayal of Roger. She says to Will: "I betrayed someone. And it was the worst thing I ever did [�] I hated myself for that, for being so stupid. So I'll try very hard not to be careless or betray you" (SK, 414). Both children also learn what it means to be loyal to your friends by the friendships they see around them. Iorek and Lee Scoresby show how to fighting comrades, whereas Mary shows them a gentle, peaceful life with the Mulefa. Perhaps the most important lesson to learn in their situation is from Balthamos and Baruch who give the children hope. They were made into angels, which means that the children may have hope to exist together again, but most importantly, they show that it is possible to love without physical presence, over the boundaries of worlds. Lyra and Will know that it will be hard to separate, but they also know that it is possible to survive apart. Pullman does not seem to believe that age, and even wisdom, necessarily mean truth. The witches show one of the poorest examples of love, for although passionate, their love is also about sex and violence. However, the love the angels show is also lacking, for they have no physical contact. Both the children's parents have failed to stay together and have also failed to care for the children. Pullman shows that despite their youth, and the fact that they must separate, Will and Lyra have the most successful relationship in the book. They have love, respect, trust, loyalty and the power to leave each other for the greater good.