Dame Hannah Relf was the head of St Sophia's College. Her dæmon, Jesper, had the form of a marmoset.[1]


Hannah Relf was a member of a research group consisting of seven scholars studying the layers of meaning to the symbols of alethiometers in Oxford. Two years before the floods, she was recruited by George Papadimitriou to work for the agency of Oakley Street, taking some of her time with the Bodleian alethiometer to answer questions for the secret service.[2] Carved acorns left at and collected from certain drop-off points were used for this communication.[3] Although this covert work made the progress of her researches slow, Professor Papadimitriou noted that Dr Relf was easily the best of the seven Oxford scholars.[4]

In 1986 Hannah befriended Malcolm Polstead and informally recruited him to report on anything unusual he observed during the changes in Oxford at the time. She was also visited by Marisa Coulter who suspected (correctly) that Hannah had information regarding the whereabouts of her infant daughter, Lyra Belacqua.

When Oakley Street recovered the alethiometer stolen by Gerard Bonneville from an alethiometrist at the University of Bologna, they asked that Dr Relf publicly abandon her membership of the research group and read the Naples device for them full-time. After consulting the althetiometer on her answer, Hannah Relf agreed.[4]

Hannah first met Lyra before dinner in the Master's Lodging at Jordan College, which she attended with Marisa, a member of St Sophia's.[5]

Some time later they met again in the same dining room, and Hannah proposed that Lyra become a pupil at St Sophia's School.[6]

Physical appearanceEdit

Hannah Relf was an elderly lady who had grey hair.[1]

Abilities and skillsEdit

  • Alethiometrist: Hannah was considered to be one of the best scholars in the field of alethiometry.[6]

Behind the scenesEdit

  • The character of Hannah Relf was inspired by an elderly lady in the village where Philip Pullman grew up, who let him borrow books from her library as a child.[7]



  1. 1.0 1.1 Northern Lights, Chapter 3
  2. La Belle Sauvage, Chapter 5
  3. La Belle Sauvage, Chapter 7
  4. 4.0 4.1 La Belle Sauvage, Chapter 13
  5. Northern Lights, Chapter 4
  6. 6.0 6.1 The Amber Spyglass, Chapter 38
  7. El Templo de las Mil Puertas - Entrevista a Philip Pullman (in Spanish)
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