Oil and Lacquer
Oil and Lacquer is the title of chapter 17 of the Amber Spyglass.
|"Now the serpent was more subtil than any beast of the field which the LORD God had made."|
|Genesis 3:1, "The Bible"|
Title Reference and Icon
The icon is a drawing of two hands polishing a piece of lacquer. The title refers to the combination of oil and lacquer that Mary Malone discovers.
Atal tells Mary about Sraf, which is the Mulefa equivalent of Dust. The Mulefa changed from being Grazers 33,000 years ago when they learned about the wheels. There is a snake in their creation story, but the snake represents knowledge not sin. It tells the female how to use the wheel and the importance of the oil. When young Mulefa are old enough to use the wheels, they begin to generate sraf as do the other adults. Mary wants to see the sraf and makes a mirror out of sap lacquer. Mary tries using the wood-backed piece of lacquer as a mirror, but it doesn't work without a silvered backing. A Zalif shows Mary an acid-like substance that will remove the wooden backing in a few hours without harming the lacquer. After some experimenting, Lyra cuts the piece of lacquer into two pieces and is able to see a single image by looking through both of them, but she doesn't see sraf. Mary takes time out to share a grooming ritual with Atal. When she looks through the two pieces of lacquer again, she can see sraf. She realizes that it's the oil from the seedpods that have made the difference. Mary uses the two pieces of lacquer to look at a young child. She sees a golden haze around him and around everything that he Mulefa have made. The sraf around the child is filled with current of intention. Around the mother, the amound of sraf is greater and the currents are powerful and more settled. Now that she has seen the sraf, Atal leads Mary to a gathering of the Mulefa, including the elder Sattamax. He tells Mary that 300 years ago the trees began to sicken and some even died. They hope Mary can find a cure for the trees and a means of dealing with the tualapi. Mary promises to do what she can.