My daughter (credit where due) was struck by Mrs Coulter’s hair changing colour between La Belle Sauvage and His Dark Materials – do we know anything about why?

In His Dark Materials1, the third chapter of Northern Lights, Lyra’s Jordan, ends with this sentence describing Mrs Coulter:

Her sleek black har framed her cheeks, and her dæmon was a golden monkey.

In La Belle Sauvage2, Chapter 14, Lady with Monkey, we read:

She was the most beautiful lady he had ever seen: young and golden-haired and sweet-faced, …

Possible partial explanations: a mistake, Nicole Kidman is fair in the film, Mrs Coulter dyes her hair on a whim or for a deeper reason …

1Everyman (UK), 2011 (single volume edition with preface by author and introduction by Lucy Hughes-Hallet)

2David Fickling Books (UK), 2017


From His Dark Materials Wiki

Although Northern Lights originally described Mrs. Coulter as having "sleek black hair", after Nicole Kidman's performance, Philip Pullman has said in an interview that he "was clearly wrong" about her hair colour. All works published after The Golden Compass have described her as blonde and more recent editions of Northern Lights have been amended to describe her as having "sleek fair hair".

From Wikipedia

She is described as appearing 'beautiful and young' with 'sleek black hair' that 'framed her cheeks' and slim, though later accounts of her describe her as having blonde or 'golden' hair.

From Wikiwand

Nicole Kidman plays Mrs. Coulter in the film adaptation, The Golden Compass, Pullman had previously indicated that he would like to see Kidman play the role. Kidman is blonde, though Pullman approved of the hair colour change made from the book's description, saying he regretted not making her blonde in the first place.

Looks like it was a simple mistake or change of heart on Philip Pullman's part...

  • That sounds fairly comprehensive, though it is then surprising that my one-volume 2011 Everyman edition still has dark hair, four years after the 2007 film. It would also be satisfying to have some citations – preferably the earliest – of the later works describing her as blonde. – PJTraill Nov 9 '17 at 12:39

Your Answer

By clicking “Post Your Answer”, you agree to our terms of service, privacy policy and cookie policy

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.