Will is introduced in The Subtle Knife, the second book of His Dark Materials. He is an unsociable boy, but we learn this is through no fault of his own. His mother, Elaine Parry has a strange illness and his father, John Parry is believed to be either dead or lost on one of his expeditions. From a very young age Will has to take responsibilty for himself and his mother - it is this thrusting into adulthood that does much to form Will's character. Will is determined to keep a low profile as he fears his mother will be taken away into care.
Will kills a man
Will's story begins when he kills a man. Two men, possibly in the employ of the British secret services, or Sir Charles Latrom, are hunting after the coordinates of a window into another world that John Parry had discovered. Will knows nothing of this at the time: all he knows is that the men are harrassing his mother for information.
The two men come back to Will's house and break in. Will has found the information they were looking for - letters from his father, detailing the expedition to the window in the north.
N.B.: Will doesn't actually kill a man- he is not a murderer. Hiding upstairs, Will bursts out upon one of the men, who tumbles down the stairs breaking his back- having tripped upon Will's cat, Moxie.
|"Then the door began to move. Wll waited till the man was framed in the open doorway, and then exploded up out of the dark and crashed into the intruder's belly. But neither of them saw the cat. As the man had reached the top step, Moxie had come silently out of the bedroom and stood with raised tail just behind the man's legs, ready to rub herself against them. The man, who was trained and fit and hard, could have dealt with Will, but the cat was in the way, and as the man tried to move back, he tripped over her. With a sharp gasp he fell backward down the steps and crashed his head brutally against the hall table."|
|Philip Pullman, The Subtle Knife, (Knopf 7)|
This moment horrifies Will and throughout his travels he voices his opposition to killing and murder, as he does not want to be a warrior as his father was. Will eventually kills another man (a Swiss soldier) with his bare hands in The Amber Spyglass.
|"It had taken no more than two or three seconds, but it was enough for the Swiss to regroup, and now their leader was raising his crossbow, and Will had no choice: he swung up the pistol an clamped his right hand to the butt and pulled the trigger, and the blast shook his bones, but the bullet found the man's heart."|
|Philip Pullman, The Subtle Knife, (Knopf 170)|
|"Later that day, toward midnight in fact, Will was walking out of the city of Oxford, forty miles away. He was tired to his very bones. He had hitchhiked, and ridden on two buses, and walked, and reached Oxford at six in the evening, too late to do what he needed to do. He'd eaten at a Burger King and gone to a cinema to hide (though what the film was, he forgot even as he was watching it), and now he was walking along an endless road through the suburbs, heading north."|
|Philip Pullman, The Subtle Knife (Knopf 13)|
Will meets Lyra
After the man's death, Will is forced to flee Winchester for Oxford. He escapes from his world through a mysterious window into Cittàgazze, where he meets Lyra Belacqua; who has also found her way into this world quite by accident. Together, with the aid of 'Æsahættr', a strange and wonderful knife to which Will becomes the bearer, they set off to try and find Lyra's father, Lord Asriel.
|"As he stood wondering, the door burst open and something came hurtling at him like a wild beast. But his memory had warned him, and he wasn't standing quite close enough to be knocked over. He fought hard: knee, head, fist, and the strength of his arms against it, him, her- A girl about his own age, ferocious, snarling, with ragged clothes and thin bare limbs."|
|Philip Pullman, The Subtle Knife (Knopf 20)|
Will and Lyra are helped along the way by many people, including witches, an armoured bear, and tiny spies who ride on dragonflies, called Gallivespians. Their journey not only takes them through many worlds, but also to the World of the Dead itself, where Will learns that he too has a dæmon, as Lyra does. Using the knife, he sets the dead free from millions of years of imprisonment and torment by the harpies.
After a brief but intense battle, Will and Lyra are reunited with their dæmons. They discover many things about life and themselves, but is it also here, in the peaceful world of the Mulefa, that they have to make the greatest sacrifice of all: they must live apart with each in their separate worlds in order to live normal lifespans.
Will is the kind of person who prefers to be by himself, unnoticed. But when he has a task to do, he does it with all his strength, and does not back down. He stands true to his beliefs, and has been forced to kill men at throughout his journey. Even so, through his experiences by himself and more importantly, together with Lyra, Will grows up. Will is "young, but very strong, and deeply stricken".
Mark Ransom is the name Will assumes when he and Lyra return to his world. The reason for doing this is that he is wanted by the police of his world for murder. He has Lyra pretend to be his made-up sister, Lisa Ransom.--Although Lyra changed this to Lizzie, due to an alias she had in the Golden Compass.