Mark Reads ‘The Golden Compass’: Chapter 10

In the tenth chapter of The Golden Compass, this is the best book ever and I will remain feeling incomplete until I finish it. Intrigued? Then it’s time for Mark to read The Golden Compass.

I honestly feel like I’ve been living a false life up until this point. There is seriously no book I have read before that feels so specifically tailored to the type of story and tropes that I enjoy. I SHOULD HAVE READ THIS SO MANY YEARS BEFORE NOW. Instead, though, I am just going to appreciate that I get to read this book in this manner, as it allows me to get a much more in-depth experience with the story.


In just ten pages or so (maybe more, as I’m not sure, since I’m reading this in the Kindle app on the iPad), Pullman has now made the world of The Golden Compass expand at least twice in size, introduced us to two new beings that inhabit this universe, and then given us one gigantic (and utterly terrifying) clue to what is happening to children taken by the Gobblers.

In short: oh my god WHAT.

The gyptians continue to head to Lapland, located in the northern part of Finland. (Actually, it’s the northernmost part, right?) They’re moving ever closer to the Arctic Circle, and temperature reflects that. Pullman takes the chance to describe this new world (to Lyra, at least) with a lush beauty.

The sun was shining brightly and the green waves were dashing against the bows, bearing white streams of foam as they curved away. Out on the deck, with the breeze blowing and the whole sea a-sparkle with light and movement, she felt little sickness at all; and now that Pantalaimon had discovered the delights of being a seagull and then a stormy petrel and skimming the wave tops, Lyra was too absorbed by his glee to wallow in landlubberly misery.

I’m glad that Lyra gets to be above deck at this point, and though it’s not discussed, I think that because they’re no longer near England and out at sea, it’s much harder for people to spy on the ship. It also allows Lyra to be much more comfortable with the people she is with, and she gets a chance to spend time with the other crew member’s.

Farder Coram makes a point to state that once they arrive in Lapland, it will be necessary for him to contact the witches that live there. Specifically, he saved a witch from certain death nearly forty years before, and she owes him a favor.

And while the story of this witch is certainly important to this chapter, and probably to the whole book too, I was way more taken by the fact that all of these men reacted with such horror at the concept of not having a dæmon. Well, that’s partially not true, as we learn that a person can never be quite too far from their dæmon, but that witches found a way to send theirs hundreds upon hundreds of miles away. But it’s becoming clearer that having a dæmon is just the way things are in this world. Everyone is born with one, they can change shapes until a certain age, and then they later set into one form when you figure out what type of a person you are.

This goes hand in hand with what Lyra later talks about with Jerry, one of the seamen on the ship. Pantalaimon had been taking great pleasure changing forms often as a way to distract Lyra from her seasickness, and a lot of the time, he’d changed into a dolphin just to swim alongside the creatures. While Lyra appreciates how much this helps her feel better, she worries about Pantalaimon sticking into a form that requires he live in the ocean. Jerry reassures her that while this can happen, it’s what you make of it that ultimately matters. He knew of a sailorman who had a dolphin dæmon, and he could never leave the water, yet Jerry’s dæmon, the seagull that saved Pantalaimon in the last chapter, actually helps define him as a person. As he puts it:

“There’s plenty of folk as’d like to have a lion as a dæmon and they end up with a poodle. And till they learn to be satisfied with what they are, they’re going to be fretful about it. Waste of a feeling, that is.”

But it didn’t seem to Lyra that she would ever grow up.

I’ll plant myself solely on TEAM LYRA at this point. Of course, I’m new to this, so that’s also probably why I’d rather have a dæmon that changes.

After just a few days, the ship reaches Lapland and they embark on a journey to find the witch consul, where, like Lyra, I was greeted with someone who did not look like what I imagined in my head:

Presently the consul himself came in to greet them. He was a fat man with a florid face and a sober black suit, whose name was Martin Lanselius. His dæmon was a little serpent, the same intense and brilliant green as his eyes, which were the only withlike thing about him, though Lyra was not sure what she had been expecting a witch to look like.

Neither was I. omg i am a WITCH BIGOT. So they just have bright green eyes? That’s pretty cool.

Anyway, these are just small details I’m fascinated by, as this chapter has MUCH MORE IMPORTANT STUFF WE NEED TO DEAL WITH. The conversation between Farder Coram and Martin Lanselius is order in this strange way, and I think this was the first time I made a point to pay attention to the way that Pullman has different characters from all of the various cultures speak with unique rules of grammar. We all have seen how the gyptians talk, and now we read as it appears Coram actually changes the way he speaks so that he can best converse with the witch consul before him.

The conversation between the two is frightfully honest and direct, and it partially reminds me of the way that John Faa spoke with his people during the Ropings. Perhaps the gyptian culture just speaks this way all of the time, but I loved how open both of these men were (for the most part) about what they needed. Coram lays it out plainly: He needs to speak to the witch Serafina Pekkala, and he needs to know if the witch community has heard anything about the organization that is taking children and taking them up to the north. Dr. Lanselius plainly answers back that he is not keen on upsetting the relationship the witches have with the Northlanders, and tells Coram where to find Serafina. And then, to my excitement, he says:

“As for your other question, it is of course understood that this information is not reaching you through me.”


I did that sort of thing one does when you know you are about to finally get an answer to a long-asked question in a show or in a book where you sit way too close and you tune out everything and the apocalypse could be occurring outside my window and I could just not give any fucks because I AM GOING TO LEARN WHAT THE GOBBLERS ARE UP TO IN THE NORTH.

We learn that the Great Oblation Board has set up a “fake” organization called the Northern Progress Exploration Company, who say they are searching for minerals, but the witches know they are importing children. God, that sentence ALONE gives me the creeps. But not as much as when Coram asks Dr. Lanselius what the organization is doing with the children they are importing:

For the first time, Dr. Lanselius glanced at Lyra. She looke stolidly back. The little green serpent dæmon raised her head from the consul’s collar and whispered tongue-flickeringly in his ear.

The consul said, “I have heard the phrase the Maystadt process in connection with this matter. I think they use that in order to avoid calling what they do by its proper name. I have also heard the word intercision, but what it refers to I could not say.”

I DON’T EVEN. I am going to avoid looking these terms up, just so I can surprise myself, but that word looks quite similar to incision and now I’m thinking they actually do cut children in half. Which…WHY. WHY. WHY.

Contrasted with this, though, I couldn’t help but smile as the conversation moved towards ARMORED BEARS. BEARS. WITH ARMOR. Dr. Lanselius gleefully shares the location of one of the only armored bears that is not under the employ of the Northern Progress Exploration Company and suggests that they want to have a successful mission in the north, they should get an armored bear on their side. Oh, and that bear HAS A NAME: Iork Byrnison. Oh god IT IS SO MAJESTIC oh my god ARMORED BEARS!!!!!

And just when my excitement is at an all-time high, Dr. Lanselius tells Lyra, point blank, that he knows she has an alethiometer. My guess is that his dæmon told him, but how did she know? Regardless, he asks to see it, and Lyra obliges. Initially, Coram hides the fact that she knows how to read it, and Lyra, who sees that Dr. Lanselius’s dæmon is irritated by this, decides to tell him the truth. (I think that’s another sign that his dæmon somehow knows more than we think she does.)

We get a bit more backstory on how they actually came to be, constructed (apparently) in Prague, entirely by accident, and meant to be a way to measure the “influences of the planets,” yet they clearly respond to something else. That is used as the same explanation for the symbols, which were a product of their time, but Dr. Lanselius describes them as being used to “interpret knowledge that came from a mysterious source.”

Ok, what is this? There seems to be a steady reference to this idea, and I’m wondering how this ties in with both what’s going on up North and the Dust. I mean…they have to be connected somehow, right? But I’m jumping ahead of myself, as I always do, because there is even more ridiculous shit thrown at us regarding the greater point of this story. I don’t really have any desire to comment or summarize Lyra’s reading about the Tartars to Dr. Lanselius, because we all already know how bizarrely talented she is at this, and it’s just another scene to take us further in-depth to how the alethiometer works. (Lyra figures out that the number of times the fourth arm takes to become “clear” means that’s what level the meaning exists on.)  Dr. Laneslius sends her on a second mission to do a reading to find which spray of cloud-pine Serafina used (that’s how witches fly in this world!), and it’s only now on my second read-through that I realize he did this on purpose to have a chance to speak with Coram about Lyra.

Their conversation, just like the one between the Librarian and the Master, hints at Lyra’s strange destiny, which I still don’t understand myself:

“The witches have talked about this child for centuries past,” said the consul. “Because they live so close to the place where the veil between the worlds is thin, they hear immortal whispers from time to time, in the voices of those beings who pass between the worlds.”

WHAT. Is this a reference to a spirit world or is this another clue that there is another parallel world? What the fuck??? Also, where is this “place”? Is it up here in the north? Is that why the Oblation Board is working up here too? WHY DO I HAVE SO MANY QUESTIONS.

“And they have spoken of a child such as this, who has a great destiny that can only be fulfilled elsewhere–not in this world, but far beyond.”

WHAT! Pullman, you are so lucky the context and details of this story are so fascinating to me, because I’m not too into the “Chosen One” trope these days because it’s been done so many times. And one of those details is this idea that Lyra will have to travel outside of this world.

my god.

“Without this child, we shall all die. So the witches say. But she must fulfill this destiny in ignorance of what she is doing, because only in her ignorance can we be saved. Do you understand that, Farder Coram?”

I prefer this more than the concept of telling Lyra her “destiny” and dealing with the inevitable struggle that comes with. This is far more interesting to me, that she’ll have to do this all without knowing what she is supposed to do.

All in all, though, I’m left feeling good about their meeting with Dr. Lanselius, and I’m hoping that the trust I feel for him will not be used against me later. The two of them pick up supplies, including winter clothes for Lyra, before heading back to the ship to speak with John Faa, who we learn has acquired a prospector with an air balloon that will be joining the crew. (He’s from the country of Texas?? AMAZING.)

But really, this chapter’s greatness rests solely on the magnificent shoulders of Iorek Byrnison, the armored bear that Coram and Lyra go to find in town. They find him behind a gate outside of a bar, gnawing on reindeer and FUCKING GETTING DRUNK. Oh my god bears with armor getting drunk. how is this book not mandatory reading for every child on the planet. As we’re introduced to him, we’re made clear that he is not a particularly likeable character and that employing him for the gyptians will not be easy. Iorek’s story seems depressing enough as it is: He works for the sledge depot, doing the work of men, in exchange for meat and alcohol. And that’s it. When presented with this reality by Coram, who is confused as to why a panserbjørne would choose this life, Lyra becomes terribly worried that Coram just ruined their prospects.

Iorek puts his face to the gate and blows my mind.

“I know the people you are seeking, the child cutters,” the bear said.

I mean, DO I NEED ANYMORE CONFIRMATION BETTER THAN THIS. When an armored fucking polar bear tells you something it is probably never a lie.

Iorek continues to explain how the people in the north turn their eyes away from what is happening because of the business these “child cutters” bring. And then he shares with us the fact that the he got drunk and the men here in Lapland stole his armor while he was passed out. Which….WHY. WHY WOULD YOU DO THAT TO IOREK. 🙁 🙁 🙁

“If you want my service, the price is this: get me back my armor. Do that, and I shall server you in your campaign, either until I am dead or until you have victory. The price is my armor. I want it back, and then I shall never need spirits again.”

I have just two words for you.



About Mark Oshiro

Perpetually unprepared since '09.
This entry was posted in His Dark Materials, The Golden Compass and tagged , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

165 Responses to Mark Reads ‘The Golden Compass’: Chapter 10

  1. Ellalalalala says:

    OH to the EM to the muthafookin GEE shit just got so awesome!

    – a cape made of intestines ewwwwwwwwwwwwww
    – is Iorek pronounced Yorick, or is the io like in iodine? My inner monologue needs to know.
    – intercision? cutting? DO NOT WANT.
    – why do I not have an armoured bear?

    The daemon stuff… I officially <3 Philip Pullman. Every question I had about them, he gets to. Oh no, what if your daemon was a fish? You silly fool, do you think I haven't thought of that? But what if you get a really sucky animal? Why, poodles and lions my dear. Are witch daemons more perceptive than other daemons? Dammit Pullman, just give me a daemon already.

    Although I'm definitively an adult, I'm still pretty vague on who I am ~as a person~. A daemon would help with that, for sure. I have so much daemon-envy, it's unreal.

    How many times can I say daemon in one comment?

  2. @sab39 says:

    When an armored fucking polar bear tells you something it is probably never a lie.

    Most practical life lesson ever y/y?

    (Seriously why do I not get the chance to make use of this pearl of wisdom every day?)

    • majere616 says:

      Because our world suffers from a near-terminal awesome deficiency.

    • Mia says:

      Way more practical than that it's not safe to eat polar bear liver. A while back my dad was chatting to one of his students and they discovered that they both know not to eat polar bear liver. How useful will that information be to them?

      Whereas when an armored fucking polar bear tells you something it is probably never a lie. WAY more useful. And don't eat his liver 😀

  3. burningpumpkins says:


    i have a feeling you might like this series more than harry potter now

    • leighzzz31 says:

      I'm getting this feeling too 🙂 Or else he'll forever be conflicted about which he loves most (which is definitely truue in my case)!

      • carma_bee says:

        It'll be like they are his children and he could not possibly love one more than the other, because they are both great in their own ways

    • Brieana says:

      For me I love Harry Potter better probably because of the experience. I grew up with it, and without Harry Potter, I might not have ever read His Dark Materials or any of my other favorite books.
      But HDM does still have a very special place in my heart. They're so amazing, and so my kind of books.

    • knut_knut says:

      Why can't he love both, equally, in their own special way? <3

      I'd have to say I love Harry Potter more, though, probably because it's been a huge part of my life (literally half my life if you include the movies).

      • Avit says:

        Two series, alike in dignity! Let this story end in less sad a way than that of Juliet and her Romeo.

      • Mia says:

        Totally. I hate the one or other culture with books these days. Either you're a Harry Potter fan, or you're a something-else fan. Why can't we all just get along??

        • Brieana says:

          John Green made a video about accepting that different stories have different goals and shiz. I try to forget that he was talking about Twilight, because I'm sure we all know that it's not just lowbrow. It's flat out bad. [youtube PkoBoF9FDXg youtube]
          I think it's fine to pick favorites as long as you know that you can enjoy different things differently from each other. That makes little sense, but anyway.

    • saya says:

      D8 D8 D8 D8 D8 D8 D8


  4. redheadedgirl says:


    That's really all I have to say.

  5. pennylane27 says:


    I love to see you struggling to put everything together. Dust, the North, the Gobblers, the alethiometer, you get the feeling that there's a link between everything. And Pullman is great at answering questions and immediately getting you to ask a thousand more.

    Also, IOREK BYRNISON. Drunk polar bear? AWESOME

  6. Mauve_Avenger says:

    Because I only download ebooks to use their search function The Golden Compass edition:

    In between the fourth chapter and this one, the book has revealed either twenty-two or twenty-three of the thirty-six symbols on the face of the alethiometer. Probably twenty-two.

    I do have to say that I have one criticism of this chapter, but that it's sort of a cumulative thing. Namely…
    From "The Cocktail Party":

    "Lyra found it was quite easy to pretend to be lighthearted and charming, though she was conscious every second of Pantalaimon's disgust, and of his hatred for the golden monkey. Presently, the doorbell rang, and soon the room was filled up with fashionable dressed ladies, and handsome or distinguished men."

    From "The Throwing Nets":

    "Presently Tony Costa swung down into the cabin. Like his mother, he was pearled with damp, and he shook his woolen hat over the stove to make the drops jump and spit."

    From "John Faa":

    "They tied up close to the Zaal itself, at a mooring Tony said had been used by their family for generations. Presently Ma Costa had the frying pan going, with a couple of fat eels hissing and sputtering and the kettle on for potato powder."

    From "Frustration":

    "'Is there anyone else who wants to speak? Speak if you will.'
    But no one did, and presently John Faa reached for the closing bell and rang it hard and loud, swinging it high and shaking the peals out of it so that they filled the hall and rang the rafters."

    From "Spies":

    "It wasn't long before another sensation joined them, as the vessel began to roll in the German Ocean swell. When someone called Lyra down for a bite of supper, she found she was less hungry than she thought, and presently she decided it would be a good idea to lie down, for Pantalaimon's sake, because the poor creature was feeling sadly ill at ease."

    From "The Consul and the Bear":

    "Lyra was keen to know more about the witches, but the men had turned their talk to the matter of fuel and stores, and presently she grew impatient to see the rest of the ship."


    "A servant showed them into a little parlor and brought them coffee. Presently the consul himself came in to greet them."

    Just something I noticed in rereads.

    • cait0716 says:

      I hadn't noticed that, and now it's probably going to bug me, too. 🙁 I do notice that in my own writing sometimes. I'll come across a new word I like and suddenly it gets peppered into everything I write for a month or so until I realize what I'm doing. I think sometimes your brain just gets stuck.

      I hadn't realized so many symbols had been revealed already. For some reason, I thought we never quite got the full complement of symbols, keeping the alethiometer shrouded in a little mystery. But if we already know 22, my memory could be faulty. I have an urge to make a list. Or look one up.

      • Mauve_Avenger says:

        There are fourteen of them revealed in the fourth chapter alone, all within about a page or so, and without any explanation of what they mean (because obviously Lyra hasn't learned yet). I definitely didn't think that there were that many revealed so early on, and I think the fact that they're listed in quick succession before we know anything about the alethiometer probably has a lot to do with it.

        I compiled my own list and then checked it against another list on the Random House website. It turns out that I combined into one what they had listed as two separate ones, and separated into two what they had listed as one symbol. So it should've evened out, but I double checked and they left off one of the symbols completely.

        • monkeybutter says:

          I hadn't realized we'd been through so many symbols, either. I'm impressed by your list! Thanks for keeping track!

      • Mia says:

        OK, how sad am I? I used to just enjoy looking at the front cover of the book, puzzling what the various symbols might mean. Pullman himself says they are all genuine, we just don't see them all. We do see a heck of a lot though, and I think I may have gone through the book once and tried to find out which ones we don't ever see.

    • Brieana says:

      I noticed that he says presently a lot too! I also read the Sally Lockhart books from him which also heavily features the "presently".

    • theanagrace says:

      Well, at least it seems he only uses it once a chapter. I can imagine Pullman sitting at his desk with a big jar of those poetry magnets, putting his book together one chapter at a time (because pens are too mainstream), only he's sad because he has just one 'presently' magnet. (Also, where can I get a set of poetry magnets with such awesome words as trepanning and panserbjorne?)

    • knut_knut says:

      At least it's not chagrined (…Smeyer…)

      • John Small Berries says:

        Or “clench”, “mien”, “quailed”, or “cynosure” (Stephen R. Donaldson)

        [WORDPRESS HASHCASH] The poster sent us ‘0 which is not a hashcash value.

        • sabra_n says:

          Or "wolfish(ly)" – Jim Butcher's weakness in the Codex Alera books.


    • muzzery says:

      I noticed this too but it doesn't bother me. But there was something I meant to bring up WAAAY back when Mark was reading DH that this reminded me of. Did anyone else notice the excessive use of "and" in that book. Like seriously, sometimes a lot of "and"s are effective in a sentence, but it's like for some parts Rowling just forgot how to write well: And this and that and this and that and this and that. Minor complaint about a really minor thing, but boy does it bug me.

    • BradSmith5 says:

      Oh, man. Not only is it an adverb, but one that doesn't even need to be there. I mean, you can take it right out and the sentence would stay the same! Excellent job, Mauve Avenger. XOXO

    • Danielle says:

      I've been listening to the audiobooks, and I don't think this really turns up until book 2 but we get a sudden influx of "more _____ than ever". Once you notice these things you never stop seeing them. Like the FedEx arrow.

    • Favorite word syndrome!

      Readers and/or fans of the Chronicles of Thomas Covenant series (Stephen R Donaldson) have a pastime known as "clench racing" which I believe involves several people opening copies of books in the series at random and then frantically scanning to be the first to find the word "clench." This can also involve alcohol.

      Ah, found it: Reference is made to this game in Ansible's "The Well-Tempered Plot Device".

  7. Sparkie says:

    I have a giant grin on my face from reading this review, you've brightened my day from all this revision I have to do! 😀

  8. cait0716 says:

    How fantastic is this chapter?

    I love that Lyra makes friends with Jerry by throwing stuff and cursing at him. And I like that he teaches her the importance of sewing. I had a similar attitude to sewing when I was younger, considering it old-fashioned and boring. Then I had a wonderful physics professor who explained that sewing is basically the same as welding and knowing how to put things together is an important skill. We started a quilting club and I learned to sew and solder (in lab) at the same time. Sometimes you just need the right teacher.

    The story about the man whose demon turned into a dolphin is beautifully tragic. As much as you might love the ocean, never being able to set foot on land again is a pretty high price.

    Serafina Pekkala might be my favorite name ever. It's like a song.

    This is also roughly the point in the book where I realize that very few people go by just one name/title. Lyra is just Lyra, but we have Mrs. Coulter, Lord Asriel, Ma Costa, John Faa, Farder Coram, and now Serafina Pekkala and Iorek Byrnison. I don't know that it means anything, but it's a bit different from most other books I read. I always thought it was kind of a neat detail.

    • redheadedgirl says:

      We started a quilting club and I learned to sew and solder (in lab) at the same time. Sometimes you just need the right teacher.

      Oh my god, that's the best thing I have ever read.

      • Billie says:

        I was thinking about that the other day. It's really consistent how the other characters are called by their full names by Lyra is just Lyra. I'm happy someone else noticed it! I have a theory about it but it is spoilery so I might talk about it on the forums…

    • Ellalalalala says:

      I love your teacher SO MUCH.

    • linguisticisms says:

      Lyra has a last name: Belacqua.

      • reonyea says:

        Yes, but the others are repeatedly referred to by their full names whereas Lyra is just Lyra. It’s probably a respect thing: we see the world through Lyra’s eyes so the adults get respectful titles or full names as she is not on their social level.

  9. Ryan Lohner says:

    I'm now reading along with this using the audio book, where the omniscient narration is done by Phillip Pullman himself, and actors handle all the dialog. It's a very fun way to experience the story, kind of like an old radio show, and all three books are now available on Audible so I highly recommend getting them all.

    Iorek was first voiced by a little-known British stage actor in the film, but then the execs insisted he be replaced with Ian McKellan. The guy sounded perfect in the one line we got to hear in the trailer ("Yes, I have a contract with the child") while McKellan just made me picture the actor in a recording studio every time he talked. Just one of the more obvious ways the film was doomed.

    • Patrick721 says:

      The Audiobooks are absolutely amazing. Everyone who loves these books should listen to them, because they are utterly flawless.

    • That bugged me! I enjoy Sir Ian as much as the next person, but he does not need to be in every fantasy/geeky project ever, Hollywood. The original Iorek voice was perfect!

      And now that we've met Iorek (FUCK YES), I can say that one of my favorite aspects of the audiobooks is that Asriel and Iorek are performed by the same actor. Who, clearly, contains magnitudes of awesome that mere mortals can only dream of.

    • carma_bee says:

      I'm on a trip right now so I've been listening to the book instead of carting the actual thing around, and it's just wonderful, I have a hard time stopping when I need to do something else.

    • DFM Marlink says:

      YES. I adore Sir Ian, but I never could accept him as Iorek Byrnison. McKellan didn't sound like a strong warrior bear; he sounded like an old man doing a voiceover. And that made me sad. Both because Iorek deserved a strong warrior-ly voice, and because it reminded me that Ian McKellan is an old man. 🙁

  10. drop_and_roll says:

    Yeah, who needs booze when you have ARMOUR!

  11. knut_knut says:

    As you can see from my icon, clearly I am a polar bear and obviously I can speak (or at least type). All I need is armor!!

  12. Tory says:

    Oh Mark. You are so desperately unprepared.

    And I love that you're getting so into these books. They really are such a huge part of me now–I read them when I was 8 (9 and 11 respectively for the other two–I was too young for Amber Spyglass when it came out) and they really were sort of the building blocks of my worldview and my consciousness. Re-reading them is making me realize just how true that is, so it's so exciting to see someone else going through that process for the first time.

  13. Avit says:

    I don't remember — do all witches live in Lapland, or is that just the closest community? Do we know yet?

    • Mauve_Avenger says:

      So far, it's only been Lapland witches, as far as we know.

      • xpanasonicyouthx says:

        Yep, it's as far as we know. They're never mentioned as living anywhere else.

      • linguisticisms says:

        The fact that witches is preceded by Lapland as a descriptor and a definite article indicates that they don't all live in Lapland, but rather the Lapland witches are a specific community of witches.

        Fear my mad linguistic analysis skills.

        • Avit says:

          Oh, that's a good observation. I don't have a copy on me, so I've been riding on shaky memory >>

  14. SporkyRat says:

    Oh Mark. I am so enjoying you reading this, you're mirroring all the same reactions I had when reading it.

    Prepare yourself. (Even though you'll never be prepared enough.)

  15. Jenny_M says:

    Iorek is my hero. When I was studying abroad in London, the National Theatre was doing a production of HDM, and the actor who played Iorek happened to also be in a production of Macbeth that my Shakespeare class went to see. The professor got him to come speak to our class, and I couldn't deal with the fact that I was SPEAKING DIRECTLY TO IOREK even though he was actually just a dude who wore an Iorek costume. BUT STILL.

  16. Tilja says:

    Oh, no! Now we have to wait until Monday to get the rest of the Lapland story done! I don't like it. 🙁


    Because you're reading it one chapter a day. NO MORE ANSWERS NOW.

  17. Maya says:



  18. samibear says:

    In the tenth chapter of The Golden Compass, this is the best book ever and I will remain feeling incomplete until I finish it

    Can I just say how HAPPY I am that you are loving this book and it's genius?

    I think it was this chapter, the minute I read about Iorek, that I decided that this was my favourite book. Of all time. And I was like 9 or 10 yrs old then. Seriously, Iorek Byrnison, why are you not real and living in my house?

    • SporkyRat says:

      Seriously, Iorek Byrnison, why are you not real and living in my house?

      Because your house is too small?

    • linguisticisms says:

      Because he is a motherfucking armored bear and motherfucking armored bears don't live in dinky little manpeople houses. DUH.

  19. @Shoganate says:

    I LOVED this chapter! I think it was because I hadn't realized that the armored bears were actually sentient beings before this. I honestly just thought that they were bears in armor that had been trained to fight. Like the same way you can train any animal, I did not realize they weren't just animals!!! I am so in love with them now, it's just so damn awesome!! Also, I WANT TO KNOW MORE ABOUT THE WITCHES!!! So far, this is my favorite chapter!

    Oh, did anyone else think it was kind of suspicious that they just "happened" to come across that guy from Texas. John Faa was just so excited about how "lucky" it was that I can't help but it think it's some sort of trap left by the Gobblers and that he's a spy for them of some sort! But maybe I'm just being overly paranoid, I don't know I've never read this book before!!!

  20. monkeybutter says:

    (He’s from the country of Texas?? AMAZING.)

    MY DREAMS HAVE FINALLY COME TRUE. FUCK. YES. INDEED. Ah, no more listening to how they're totally gonna secede because Texas is soooo awesome and misunderstood. Heaven~

    I love reading along with you, because even though I vaguely remember the main plot lines, I've forgotten all of the details, like side characters and their daemons, or the geography of Lyra's world. I've forgotten how fantastic these books are, and I'm glad I get to read them a little slower this time!

    Iorek Byrnison and witches…every chapter is better than the last.

  21. Kris says:

    Long time reader first time commenter

    These are my favourite books. I went to see the stage play in London years ago. 6 amazing hours.

    Living in Japan, about to re read this trilogy for the fifth time thx to you

    I love you

    From whiskey kris

  22. FlameRaven says:

    Just so you know: "Intercision" and "the Maystadt process" ARE terms unique to this world, so definitely don't look them up if you don't want to be spoiled.

    Also: Iorek Byrnison, fuck yes. That is the only response.

  23. Brieana says:

    "I honestly feel like I’ve been living a false life up until this point. There is seriously no book I have read before that feels so specifically tailored to the type of story and tropes that I enjoy. I SHOULD HAVE READ THIS SO MANY YEARS BEFORE NOW."

    It warms my cold heart to see you fall in love with this series.
    Too bad it's Friday yet again. :'(

  24. Rachel says:

    I agree with your entire first paragraph/preamble before the chapter heading. Just wait til you get to books 2 and 3…. I'm pretty sure my whole life philosophy changed after that and it made me a different person, as cheesy as that sounds (then again I first read this series as a 16 year old so maybe I'm just being angsty here).

    • Laurel says:

      Naw. I read them as an adult with my kids and they totally changed my life too 😉 I suggested to my kids' middle school teacher that this series should be required reading.

    • Skelly says:

      Well hello, comrade in angst! I also read the series at age 16 (all the while thinking "WHY DID I NOT READ THIS TRILOGY WHEN I WAS ELEVEN") and had the whole personal-philosophy-turned-inside-out reaction. Every year since then, I buy the trilogy for someone for Christmas, and use it as a litmus test of "are you as awesome as I think you are? LET'S FIND OUT."
      yrs in cheesiness!

      • theanagrace says:

        That's way better than my regular litmus test. My friends got sick of me dousing them in red cabbage juice to see what colour of awesome they turned.

  25. Mauve_Avenger says:

    Because I apparently think about this book too much, here's the geographical stuff from this chapter (and a little bit of last chapter), with bonus speculation about political boundaries and going off on a tangent about ethnic terminology…

    Near the end of the last chapter, Farder Coram said that they were in or near Colby, at the estuary of the River Cole. In our own world, there's a Colby and two Colebies (all very small villages) in the UK as well as a River Cole, but the river is nowhere near the towns. In fact, Colby is in Norfolk and the Coleby and Coleby are both technically in Lincolnshire (and all three count as East Anglia), but the River Cole is in the West Midlands and gives its name to a town called Colehill. So they set out from Colby/Coleby/Coleby in East Anglia and head into the German Ocean going North.

    In the German Ocean, Lyra makes a big deal about signalling a “Hollands frigate,” which would probably indicate that they're in Dutch waters at that point, which makes perfect sense.

    They're on their way to meet with the consul to the witches, who tells them that the witch they're seeking out is now the queen of a clan near Lake Enara. This lake seems to be the same as Lake Inari in modern-day Finland, one of the largest lakes in the country. It looks like Pullman changed the spelling based on the Swedish word for the same place, Enare.

    And then there’s Trollesund…
    Pretty much the only thing to be gleaned from the name is that it’s in a strait ( ‘-sund‘ in Swedish and Norwegian). In real life, there's a town called Trollesund in Sweden that's roughly southeast of Stockholm and Uppsala (the town where Farder Coram saw the other alethiometer), but it’s unlikely that this is actually the location of Trollesund in Lyra’s world. For one thing, it sounds as if their encounter with Trollesund is the first time Lyra has seen land in days, which probably wouldn’t be the case if the gyptians had to navigate around or through Denmark (which we know exists in her world if only because there’s a place called New Denmark, though obviously it could look a lot different from our own Denmark).

    • Mauve_Avenger says:

      It seems much more likely that Trollesund would correspond to a town in Norway (some think that the city of Tromsø is a good candidate), but that brings up another question: we know that there’s a Norroway in Lyra’s world but is it considered part of what they call Lapland? The Sami, the indigenous group that give Lapland its name, come from anywhere from northern Sweden to the Kola Peninsula, but the term 'Lapp' was coined by Scandinavians rather than the Sami themselves,* and as far as I can tell the term never really attached itself to the Norwegian and Russian Sami.

      We know that Trollesund is in Lapland, and that Lapland has its own king (who Lord Asriel pretended to be visiting when really looking for Grumman), but what do we know about Norroway? There’s only been one mention of it in the entire book so far:

      “[The General Oblation Board’s importation of children] is not generally known in the town; the Norroway government is not officially aware of it.”

      The first few times I read this, all I really took away from it was that there's a place called Norroway and it has a government. It never really occurred to me to think that Trollesund could be in both Lapland and Norroway. But the sentence structure implies that lack of town awareness is a direct result of the Norroway government’s lack of acknowledgement, which would only be likely if the town takes its cues from Norroway, which would probably only be the case if the town is actually in Norroway. Describing it as “the Norroway government” would also confirm that Norroway has its own government that, even if it is part of Lapland, has at least a little bit of autonomy; this is not a problem that the Lapland government refuses to acknowledge, this is specifically a Norroway government problem. It would seem, then, that Norroway is something of a political subdivision of Lapland, though it's unclear at this point if the country is further subdivided along Finnish and Swedish lines.

      *Though off course, on that last note, it seems that in this book pretty much all “official” terms for non-white ethnic groups are created by white people: ‘Gyptian’ comes from a European misconception of the Romani peoples’ origins. ‘Skraeling’ is the Norse word for the Inuit. ‘Lascar,’ a term used to describe Tony Makarios’s heritage, is kind of a weird one; it’s a Persian term that was used by Europeans for South Asian (usually Indian) sailors working on European ships. The British East India Company in particular ended up basically abandoning a lot of them in London where they ended up settling and frequently intermarrying; it‘s possible that all or almost all Indian or South Asian people in Lyra‘s Brytain are descended from Lascars, and the history of the term got lost while its use as an ethnic term continued. “Tartar” is a bit of a strange one, as well. The word “Tatar” (the preferred spelling/pronunciation) comes from a Turkish word for mounted messengers. While the Tatars seem to have applied the term to themselves from the very beginning, for some reason when Westerners used it they always added an extra ‘r’ to the word, and there seems to be some evidence that the extra ‘r’ connects the word with the more hellish ‘Tartarus’ (St. Louis of France, 1270: "In the present danger of the Tartars either we shall push them back into the Tartarus whence they are come, or they will bring us all into heaven."). It would seem that out of all the distinct groups we've heard of so far, the only ones that have retained their own term for themselves would be the Turks, who I think have only been mentioned once or twice in passing.

      • eleniel says:

        Wow, this is great! Thanks for sharing all this research, it's really interesting.

      • monkeybutter says:

        Wow, two impressive posts in one day. I especially like how you've summarized the use of exonyms in the series. They fit in well with (what I see as) the turn of the 20th century British Empire atmosphere in the book (though Brytain hardly seems like the only empire).

        What you say about Norroway being a part of Lapland makes sense, so thanks for clarifying that for me!

      • tigerpetals says:

        This is good knowledge.

      • ldwy says:

        Thank you for sharing so many interesting thing about the geography and linguistics and how they may inform each other and the story within this book! It's incredibly fascinating, and the type of stuff I always wonder about myself.

  26. I DON’T EVEN. I am going to avoid looking these terms up, just so I can surprise myself, but that word looks quite similar to incision and now I’m thinking they actually do cut children in half. Which…WHY. WHY. WHY.
    Maybe they want to see if each half grows a new child. WHAT IT IS CALLED SCIENCE.

    • FlameRaven says:

      Now I'm thinking again of Portal 2 and the ridiculous experiments Aperture was involved in. If you've cut yourself at all in the course of these tests, you may have noticed that your blood is pure gasoline – that's normal. We've been shooting you with an invisible beam that's supposed to turn blood into gasoline, so all that means is it's working.

  27. roguebelle says:

    I feel, so strongly, that this series is something people shouldn't just have to read as kids — though they should definitely start there, all 10-12 year olds should have this put in their hands — but that people should return to them every 3-5 years throughout their lives. And I can't say too much about why for spoiler reasons, but… they're just such different books, coming back to them a few years later. I read them at 12 (and then had to wait for the 3rd book to come out), at 15, at 18, at 20, and now at 25, and it's just… amazing. It's not that they get better, necessarily, and it's not that you can't appreciate them fully at 12 — it's just that you appreciate them in such radically different ways. You notice different details. You sympathise with different characters. These books, as you can see in this chapter, have so much in them about exploring who you are and becoming comfortable with that, and as it's a lifelong process, these books can be lifelong companions, showing you different things at different points along the way. Or at least that's how I feel.

    • hpfish13 says:

      I haven't had this experience with these books (didn't read them till I was 20), but I've had this experience with both the HP books and the Chronicles of Narnia books. This is one of my favorite aspects of high quality children's literature; being able to go back, re-read, and appreciate them on a whole new level.

      • roguebelle says:

        I wish I'd been able to have that experience with HP — I got started at 16, which is not all-grown-up by any means, but which is a little too late for that transformative quality.

        Children's lit is amazing. Haters may proceed directly to the left. 😉

        • Kelly says:

          I was about the same age as you when I first read HP-I picked up the first one while I was over at a friend's house, read the first few chapters, and then spent all my allowance money buying the first three books in hardcover (I don't think the second and third were even available in paperback at the time) I remember being so awestruck at how wonderful and magical the world was.

          HDM I didn't read till I was 23. I know a lot of you hated the movie, but I actually enjoyed it and it made me want to go pick up the books and read them. And as someone said earlier, for spoilery reasons I can't say what exactly floored me when I was finished with them, but HOLY FUCK. Mind blown. I couldn't believe someone even thought of all the stuff, and Mark….you are not prepared.

      • flootzavut says:

        I feel that way about the Narnia books. Sometimes they just make me cry!

        I kind of wish I have read LOTR as a kid to have that experience, but in some ways it was fantastic to read them for the first time as an adult.

        Another book that had that transformative quality for me was The Neverending Story. Which I should totally add to Mark's suggestions now I think about it…

    • Nomie says:

      Oh, definitely agree with this. I read the books as they were coming out – I was in middle school for Golden Compass and Subtle Knife, and in the middle of high school for Amber Spyglass, and I loved them to pieces. But I went back and reread them all in the past year (we’re coming up on my ten-year high school reunion) and I got such a different take on…. just about everything. And I’m sure if I read them again in another ten years I’ll have entirely new reactions as well.

      [WORDPRESS HASHCASH] The poster sent us ‘0 which is not a hashcash value.

    • leighzzz31 says:

      This is my EXACT experience with the series. I first read them when I was ten/eleven and it's a wholy different thing to read them again at 20 (my age now).
      You notice different details. You sympathise with different characters.
      Exactly that. It's amazing how your perspective changes so radically in regards to this series as you read it at different stages. I think the most interesting thing for me is realising how much these books have managed to influence my life. There are certain things about me today that can definitely be credited to these books (I won't mention anything specific for fear of ~spoilers~ :D)

    • hazelwillow says:

      I can really relate to this! I won't go into spoilery details, but yeah. Agree.

    • Ms Avery says:

      I've just re-read it for the first time since I was about 15. I'm now 26 and a new parent, and still feeling kind of sensitive, and… yeah. This is now a very different book, one that was much more upsetting in places.

  28. MRB says:

    I honest to God just went into all-out FLAIL mode the second I read Iorek Byrnison's name in your review. YOU FINALLY MET IOREK OH MY GOD SQUEEEEEEEEEE!!! Legit shaking and crying.

    I'm so thrilled you're loving this book so much this early on. I was the exact same way about it. I felt almost as though something had been missing from me and was given back to me when I found these books. Now they're a part of me and always will be. </sappy moment over>

  29. eleniel says:

    I love this chapter so much. The scene where Lyra meets Iorek Byrnison is one of the very few things I remember from the movie. (For context: I saw the movie when it was in theaters, and am now reading TGC for the first time along with the blog.) I also remember the aeronaut, but I don't remember John Faa or Farder Coram being in the movie AT ALL, which is a DAMN CRIME. The only other thing I remember (other than Nicole Kidman being super creepy) is spoilery, so I won't talk about it.

    But first, the witch consul. Is this guy actually a witch also, or is he just a kind of ambassador or something? Either way, he's pretty interesting. I loathe the "Chosen One" thing, too (destiny! bleargh!), but the twist that she can't know about it makes it more interesting. That is the thing I always wonder about destiny: if you're told what your destiny is, if you choose to follow it then it's self-fulfilling. Or you can choose to defy it, in which case it's not really your destiny, is it? FREEDOM OF CHOICE, is what I am saying, I guess! But I have confidence that Pullman will take this new information in an unexpected direction.

    Lyra notices that Farder Coram looks at Serafina's cloud-pine branch with a kind of "longing"–perhaps he has feelings for her? I do hope she shows up at some point. I want to know more about the witches! Are they humans, just with special knowledge or abilities? Or are they entirely different from humans? They have daemons, but they can be much farther from their daemons than regular humans. From the anecdotes told in this chapter, it seems like most people can't be more than a few feet away from their daemons. That's super interesting.


  30. arctic_hare says:


    Other stuff I love: the descriptions of the sea and the harbor, the info we get on daemons, Lyra being badass as usual in her way of making friends with Jerry, and her enjoyment of life at sea. I feel so ~connected~ with her, I love the ocean and would greatly enjoy it all myself. I don't know that I'd necessarily want to have to be on the water at all times and never be able to step onto land again, though.

    More importantly, though, IOREK FUCKING BYRNISON. And they recruited an aeronaut from the country of Texas? Iiiiiiiiiiiiiiiinteresting. I continue to love the differences between this world and our world. Also, wtf @ the Gobblers. D: Doesn't really surprise me that people in town turn a blind eye to the shit they're doing because they bring in money, though. Which in turn makes it less surprising that they'd pull such an asshole stunt on poor Iorek there. BASTARDS.

  31. Noybusiness says:

    "and I shall server you in your campaign, either until I am dead or until you have victory."

    Now I have this imagine of panserbjørne tech support. With red caps and outfits.

  32. elyce says:

    We get a bit more backstory on how they actually came to be, constructed (apparently) in Prague.

    Haha of course it was made in Prague. Take one look at their ridiculous Astronomical Clock and that explains it all. And now Iorek, one of the few characters I actually liked in this book. Him and Pan, of course, because seriously, where is my daemon already?

  33. hpfish13 says:

    Did the hot air balloon from Avatar pop into anyone else's head when the guy from Texas was first mentioned?

  34. burritosaurus says:

    In my head, you said it like "Beds. With a ladder."

  35. warmouth says:

    <img src=""&gt;



    <img src=""&gt;

    Shit is gonna get so real. This is how real it is getting

    <img src=""&gt;

  36. saya says:

    omg how much would a POLAR BEAR have to drink to get drunk D8
    hide your liqooooour

    parallel worlds are quite lovely so i hope they are awesome in these books too! ;A:

    also /cutting children in half/ wat

  37. Andrew (Chagrin) says:

    Oh hi chapter that introduces my two favourite characters in the book. How you doin'?

    Would it be weird to admit I had a crush on Iorek Byrnison? Yeah? Okay nevermind.

  38. Thiamalonee says:

    I had a really witty, inside joke-filled, clever comment about why you can't be over the "Chosen One" theme already, in light of several projects you've decided to do at some point. Then I realized you could be going in to those projects knowing absolutely nothing about them, so even though my comments weren't traditionally "spoilery," I decided to 86 them. Still, if you do plan on reading and or watching what you have stated you plan to at some indefinite time in the future read and/or watch, you might have to begrudgingly acknowledge that the Chosen trope can't spoil the experience for you. Or not. Always good to keep your options open. 🙂

  39. Doodle says:

    Ok so I read this book years ago and i don't remember almost anything about it but I JUST REMEMBERED WHAT THE GOBBLERS DO TO CHILDREN. WAH.

  40. giga_pudding says:

    I'm getting scared your favorite book won't be Harry Potter anymore

  41. Puppi says:

    // WHAT. Is this a reference to a spirit world or is this another clue that there is another parallel world? //


    PS: The only thing I could think of when they met Iorek was- "Side quests for new party members. Some are more worth it than others."

  42. meguca says:

    Chills at reading about "intercision". Oh my god what the fuck is the Oblation Board doing to kids. 🙁

    Reading about the sailor whose daemon was a dolphin made me think that somewhere, in this world, there is probably a BADASS PIRATE OF THE HIGH SEAS with a GREAT WHITE SHARK DAEMON and that was such a great mental image that I felt compelled to share it, lol. Where is my daemon I want one ;_;

    I am already in love with Iorek Byrnison and he has barely even done anything yet!!!

  43. Ms Avery says:

    Oh wow, this is hard for me to read, because I can't respond to any of it without spoilering.

  44. flootzavut says:

    Iorek: as I've said before, I have a love hate reltionship with these books (the first one is by far and away my favourite) but I LOVE IOREK. LOVE! Iorek = best character EVAH.

    • Andrew (Chagrin) says:

      Pretty much agreeing with this 100%.

      Except I think the other character we were introduced to (well, told about – we didn't actually "meet" him) is the best character evah.

  45. Brieana says:

    So I recently looked in my DVD case and it turns out that you can get yourself a golden compass for fifty dollars less than the original price. I don't know if that offer's still available.

    Do HDM fans have a cutesy fan name like nerdfighters, browncoats, whovians, etc?

  46. @DreamHonu says:

    Did someone say armoured bears?

    <img src=""&gt;

    Fun fact: a "byrnie" is a synonym for "hauberk", both which were terms used in Middle English to mean a chainmail (armour) shirt. Thus, Iorek is the son of chainmail armour.

  47. @salavant says:

    First time poster here, but I felt I had to say: you are ALL the not prepareds. And it is exciting 😀

  48. Jaria says:

    I love magical truths like hufflepuffs are good finders and polar bears never lie.

  49. hokieblood says:

    I've read this series and HP so many times..i'm so excited Mark is reading them =)

    ps. i hate the weekends because of lack of reviews =P

  50. bronwyn says:

    Iorek – favorite character in any book ever. EVER. This is my favorite series ever and I only read it for the first time about 6 months ago. This is the chapter that really sucked me in. Just wait. He only gets better. IOREK!!!!!!!!! I am seriously broken hearted that this world has no armoured bears. WHY?????????????

  51. blis says:

    i am getting antsy. more reviews please!

    • Brieana says:

      I second that. My Immortal was funny, but I need more HDM.

      I mean that only in a nice, knowing that you have other things going on in your life, sort of way.

  52. Stephalopolis says:

    "I mean, DO I NEED ANYMORE CONFIRMATION BETTER THAN THIS. When an armored fucking polar bear tells you something it is probably never a lie."

    That's it… I'm not going to trust any news until I see it broadcasted from an armor-wearing bear.

    One of my favorite lines from this chapter was the one about Lyra hopping around in the snow pretending to be a witch. Inside, we're getting this dialogue about how important she is to the world, without her doing her destiny, they'll all die…. and right outside, there she is running around happily and acting like the child she is. It's such a wonderful image. At least to me it is.

    One thing- Do all witches have green eyes, or just Martin? It reminds me so much of the Wizards in the Septimus Heap series. I do love it when the "rules" and "customs" of various fantasy worlds collide. Makes it seem a bit more real sometimes.

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