Mark Reads ‘The Golden Compass’: Chapter 9

In the ninth chapter of The Golden Compass, Lyra’s focus on learning the alethiometer produces a terrifying affect, changing John Faa’s decision to disallow her to come to the north. Intrigued? Then it’s time for Mark to read The Golden Compass.



Look, The Hunger Games was unbearably exciting at times. And the action in Deathly Hallows started pretty quickly. But WHAT THE HELL IS THIS BOOK. The moments of calm are so short-lived and Pullman has dropped us right into an UTTER AND COMPLETE FUCKING DISASTER. (Not the writing, I mean, because this book is composed of TOTAL BEAUTY.)

I know I’ve made reference to the movie version of this a few times, but honestly…HOW THE HELL DID THIS GET FUCKED UP. Could you imagine watching a movie that faithfully replicated this sense of oncoming terror, of the constantly building tension, and the way that Pullman constantly rewards you for continuing to read this book? Of course, I imagine that this conversation would be a bit spoilery to actually have, but I honestly remember absolutely none of this. Not one bit of this. I was not even remotely this entertained either.

And as much as this project is about being pedantic and overthinking and peeling back layers of subtexts so all of us can find ways to discuss how these narratives affect our lives and the world at large, it’s always quite exciting when I find something that is simply this entertaining. And that’s a really hard thing to pull off! To entertain people from various backgrounds and cultures and beliefs is not an easy feat, and I am so impressed with the way that Pullman has decided to organize the plot here. That’s a fascinating thing to think about, actually, because the structure of The Golden Compass so far seems like a traditional fantasy story in many aspects, but I’m enamored with the suddenness of the text. This is not a story of an everyday person discovering a magical world, and it’s not quite an adventure within a magical world. This whole story is a magical world with ANOTHER MAGICAL WORLD STACKED ON TOP OF IT.

I mean, seriously, think about it. This whole world of Lyra’s, while it resembles ours, is distinctly not ours. There are dæmons and spirits and ghasts and fucking WARRIOR POLAR BEARS and shit, so it’s absolutely an imagined fantasy world. The details are obviously different, but all of us who read fantasy are familiar with the tropes and the archetypes. But in this world, there’s apparently another world that is magical and weird and WHAT THE HELL IS DUST. Oh god, this is like a fantasy Inception. A world inside a world inside a world WHAT IS EVEN HAPPENING

So, chapter nine. Christ. Lyra has convinced herself that she’ll find a way to come along to the north, but I like that this chapter immediately addresses the absurdity of that plan. She realizes that the gyptians must be traveling to a much larger boat somewhere, meaning she’d have to secretly hide on a narrowboat, which seems impossible. So how is she going to get to the gyptians’ proper ship?

In the meantime, she spends her days observing the frantic and fascinating work being done all around her, with men and women scurrying about in a haze. She tries to find the man she is most interested in: Benjamin de Ruyter, the one John Faa designated as being in charge of spying. Of course, what good would a spy be if they were readily available and easy to find? Lyra is discouraged when she finds that he is impossible to locate and no one will share any information with her about his whereabouts. Instead, she chooses to spend the most time with Farder Coram, informing him that since she knows the most about the Gobblers (you know, since she almost was one herself), then she’ll be needed to best understand de Ruyter’s messages.

As they both begin to focus on the alethiometer, Pullman takes a moment to share with us a bit more information about dæmons, helping me to understand something that previously confused me. Lyra is enamored with Farder Coram’s dæmon, a gorgeous brown cat. (I say brown because Lyra says that the cat literally appears as nearly every shade of brown ever because that is how gorgeous she is.) She longs to touch Coram’s dæmon, but it turns out you actually can’t.

…for it was the grossest breach of etiquette imaginable to touch another person’s dæmon. Dæmons might touch each other, of course, or fight; but the prohibition against human-dæmon contact went so deep that even in battle no warrior would touch an enemy’s dæmon. It was utterly forbidden. Lyra couldn’t remember having to be told that: she just knew it, as instinctively as she felt that nausea was bad and comfort good.

SERIOUSLY CAN I HAVE A DÆMON HISTORY LESSON. Gosh, these creatures are SO FASCINATING TO ME. Where did they come from??? WHY DON’T I HAVE MY OWN.

Anyway, back to the alethiometer. I was really stoked that we get to see the alethiometer used here, as it answers my question from a past review about how Pullman was going to explain how this instrument worked without confusing me. He succeeds, flat out. While I obviously couldn’t work on myself at this point, I do understand precisely how this object operates and how this is going to benefit Lyra. Here, in the first example, we learn that while Lyra is using the alethiometer, the fourth hand keeps landing on a specific symbol. This hourglass, which has a small skull at the top, represents death. Which…AWESOME. THIS IS CERTAINLY A GOOD SIGN, RIGHT?

But the way an alethiometer works becomes more clear: the symbols work in a specific order, giving the user a specific message based on what message the user gives it. In this case, Lyra picks three images she thinks best represents the fate of Benjamin de Ruyter:

“Because I thought the serpent was cunning, like a spy out to be, and the crucible could mean knowledge, what you kind of distill, and the beehive was hard work, like bees are always working hard; so out of the hard work and the cunning comes knowledge, see, and that’s they spy’s job; and I pointed to them and I thought the question in my mind, and the needle stopped at death…D’you think that could be really working, Farder Coram?”

Seriously, this is such a captivating idea and now I’m beginning to see how this instrument is so inherently complex. But I think I’m most impressed with how natural Lyra seems to be at working this out. Despite that the alethiometer is so complicated, it’s not completely ridiculous that a person with a good imagination (Lyra!!!) could figure out how to use it. That’s such a rad concept, too: It’s about breaking down a question to what it’s made of, and asking it that way.


Before he could finish his sentence, there was an urgent knock at the door, and a young gyptian man came in.

“Beg pardon, Farder Coram, there’s Jacob Huismans just come back, and he’s sore wounded.”

“He was with Benjamin de Ruyter,” said Farder Coram. “What’s happened?”

“He won’t speak,” said the young man. “You’d better come, Farder Coram, ‘cause he won’t last long, he’s a bleeding inside.”

what. what. what??????? did. did i just think what happened…..happen???? LYRA OMG ARE YOU




As Farder Coram and Lyra rush to meet Jacob, I suddenly knew the inevitable: the alethiometer works. IT FUCKING WORKS. And lo and behold, when they get inside the boat housing Jacob, they learn that Benjamin de Ruyter is dead.

IT WORKS oh my god my brain

We learn of the terrifying story of the spies’ work, as they tried to break into the Ministry of Theology, based on the information they received from a captured Gobbler. Yet the story is given this horrifically dark hue when Jacob becomes so weak that his dæmon speaks for him.

This isn’t going to end well, is it? I thought.

Jacob’s dæmon reveals that it was “like everything we did, they knew about before we did it, for all we know Frans and Tom were swallowed alive as soon as they got near Lord Boreal.” The entire trip was a disaster, as they were all ambushed by unseen forces just minutes after entering the Ministry of Theology. I cannot imagine a more depressing and sad image than a man’s dæmon trying to hold him up from a falling, but failing to do so and both of them perishing. Fucked up.

“And we couldn’t see anything of Gerard, but there was a howl from above in his voice and we were too terrified and stunned to move, and then an arrow shot down at our shoulder and pierced deep down within….”

And this is made even worse because Jacob’s dæmon never finishes the story. They were set up or someone leaked information. Either way, there is one absolute fact throughout all of this: Lyra can use an alethiometer, which told them that Benjamin was dead. This is not lost on Farder Coram, who sends Lyra off briefly so he may take of Jacob, but not before stressing that he must talk with her about the alethiometer.

Pantalaimon is convinced himself that the instrument is not some spiritual device; he instead suggests that elementary particles might be at work here. We’re given an example of this when Lyra remembers when she saw a thing called a photomill at Gabriel College, and I would be lying if I said that I understood this. I don’t. At all. I’m not sure I’m meant to at this point, as the idea clearly troubles Lyra. She likes the concept of elementary particles inside that alethiometer, but it doesn’t settle right with her. SLIGHT FORESHADOWING, I SEE YOU.

John Faa calls on Lyra to see her, and I actually laughed out loud because this was so awesome:

“I think we’re going to have to take you with us after all, against my inclinations. I’m troubled in my mind about it, but there don’t seem to be any alternative.”

YES!!! I knew there had to be a way for Lyra to get on that ship up north. Though…I suppose I shouldn’t be too happy about that, since A MAN HAD TO BE MURDERED IN ORDER FOR HER TO GO. Oops!

And thus Lyra gets a spot on the narrowboat, and she returns to the routine she’d been familiar with the first time she met up with the gyptians: she hides. She hides in closets and hidden doors, and is prevented from ever going above deck even once. The rumors about Lyra have gotten utterly out of control at this point, as the clergy and the police must be encouraging as much fear and disinformation about who she is as possible. Obviously, this works against Lyra, both on a personal level and for this entire journey. She’s further irritated with her conditions below deck because she can’t defend herself or disprove anything. She’s forced to stay in hiding. And I get why they have to keep her in hiding, too. With so much news and rumors floating around this part of the world, anyone would be willing to capture her and lay claim to being the one who did so.

She does get to spend more time with Farder Coram talking about the alethiometer and how she is teaching herself to use it. She explains to him about the sensation she gets when she uses it, almost as if there’s some sort of internal voice that speaks to her when she’s got it in her hand. I wonder if that is another explanation for what this thing is and if this is the case for everyone who uses it.

Knowing this, Farder Coram asks Lyra about Mrs. Coulter’s actions, and we see exactly how Lyra is able to determine the multiple meanings behind a single symbol. As she explains it, it’s like “climbing down a ladder at night.” So she can look at the hourglass and knows that it generally means “time” and the second “rung” is “now.” And I really love that Pullman, through Farder Coram, uses the chess analogy here, as it’s another thing that involves the intense, almost poetic concentration that Lyra exhibits when she uses the alethiometer, a certain kind of grace that is powerful and beautiful.

While reading for Mrs. Coulter, the alethiometer chooses the same five images in a row, and neither Farder Coram or Lyra can figure out what the fifth symbol, a lizard of some sort with its tail curled around a stick, means in this message. Slightly distracted by Coram’s interruption of her concentration, Lyra loses the moment and is unable to determine what this fifth message means. And given the physical atmosphere she’s been living in, trapped indoors for days on end, Lyra’s exhaustion gets the best of her, and she stops trying to sue the alethiometer. She takes the chance to ask Farder Coram to get a peak outside. He initially doesn’t seem to answer the question, but he finally concedes that a few minutes outside can’t hurt.

Lyra leaped up, and Pantalaimon became a seagull at once, eager to stretch his wings in the open.

Gosh, I love this so much. I actually think it’s much cooler to have a dæmon that changes shape based on your emotions or their own.

As Pantalaimon flies around in the dim gray sky, it’s not long before something dark and shapeless seems to fly at him and Lyra suddenly feels her dæmon’s pain. Well, not something, but a ton of things. If it wasn’t for the tillerman’s dæmon, Pantalaimon may have gotten hurt far worse than he did. I wondered: were these things dæmons that belonged to other people? Why are they like insects?

Farder Coram captures it in a tin mug and the two of them head downstairs, clearly aware that it was probably a bad idea for them to come up above, even for a few minutes. Farder Coram explains that this thing is “Afric,” which made absolutely no sense to me at the time, and that a living thing lives in the shell of this being, a “clockwork” of sorts, and “there’s a bad spirt with a spell through its heart.” Oh and the spirit is literally relentless within that body and, once released, will be sent into a murderous rage.

Obviously, this is Mrs. Coulter’s doing, as the things act as spies for her, and now the gravity of the situation creeps into their minds: One of these things not only got away, but the symbols on the alethiometer had told them this would happen.

Christ, now I know why those things are so rare. Could you imagine if everyone had one?

I don’t really understand the logistics of how this spirit could ever be disposed of, since John Faa later says that the spirit will never stop growing, so releasing it later would be inevitably worse than releasing it now, and releasing it now would also be 100% awful, so….yeah, that thing sucks.

I suppose that since Lyra’s already been spotted, Farder Coram doesn’t worry about taking her out into Colby, so they head into the city to speak with John Faa before taking off on their journey north. If anything, I feel that this chapter takes the excitement of Lyra finding out that she was going to get to travel to the north, and then dumps a bucket of freezing cold water on our heads. She is still going north, and while I’m excited for that, Pullman makes sure to remind us that this is not going to be a journey of puppy dogs and cup cakes.

Shit is going to get real.

About Mark Oshiro

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

140 Responses to Mark Reads ‘The Golden Compass’: Chapter 9

  1. Maya says:

    You can get an alethiometer!

    I think there are even nicer ones you can buy, but still! You can go around pretending to be Lyra and predicting the futures of people around you!

    I think I truly realized how great Pullman's writing is when Lyra explains how she reads the alethiometer. In the hands of a lesser writer, it could be endlessly confusing, but he makes it as clear and mysterious as it needs to be.

    • knut_knut says:

      my comment disappeared? It wasn't very good anway 🙂 BUT I MUST HAVE THAT ALETHIOMETER!

      I agree with your comment about Pullman's writing, although I wonder how well I would have understood it if the cover of my book didn't have a picture of it…

      • Tilja says:

        My first copy of the book didn't have any picture of it and I understood how it worked very well, except I couldn't picture it, something I learned when I found a copy of the alethiometer on the internet.

        So yes, Pullman makes it understandable without pictures.

        • knut_knut says:

          I've always had trouble imagining objects or places 🙁 my brain just overloads

          • Tilja says:

            I'm the same, but when the descriptions are simply applied I can actually see the workings. Pullman is a magnificent story teller.

      • Your comment went to the spam filter. It's back now.

    • settledforhistory says:

      Well the one from Noble Collection is much nicer but it costs about $200,

      I agree with the comments about Pullman's writing. I watched the movie a while ago and didn't understand how the alethiometer works. After this chapter I finally get it.
      I want one, even if it's a child's toy.

    • Brieana says:

      That toy could be like our new magic eight ball.

    • meguca says:

      I'm kind of disappointed now because that looks completely different from my mental picture of an alethiometer, haha. Nevertheless I kind of want one!

      • rumantic says:

        Me too! My mental picture was that the front of it was convex rather than concave and the needles were encased in a glass front, like a watch. And the pictures were like the UK covers which all featured the 3 title objects, so just black line drawings on white bone or something, not all coloured.

        It's pretty but I think it would annoy me too much if I owned it 😛

        • meguca says:

          My mental picture had it not being contained under any kind of glass or in any case, just a flat golden wheel with the symbols carved into the outside edge, and then the needles on top. (Does that make any sense, cause I feel like I can't express what I'm trying to say haha.) I probably wasn't reading very clearly when I formed this impression because… it doesn't really look all that much like a compass haha.

  2. knut_knut says:

    I love that you described this world as a fantasy Inception. SO PERFECT!! Also, Lyra is quite possibly the smartest 11 year old EVER. SERIOUSLY. If I was in her situation I would have died way back when. Probably within the first few pages of the book. HOW DID SHE FIGURE OUT/COME UP WITH THE MEANINGS BEHIND THE SYMBOLS?? THE ONES SHE COMES UP WITH FOR SPY ARE AMAZING, ESPECIALLY THE CRUCIBLE BIT. I WOULD HAVE NEVER. EVEN AS AN ADULT.

    As always, you are not prepared

    I also really enjoyed your typo "sue the alethiometer", heehee

  3. Brieana says:

    UTTER AND COMPLETE FUCKING DISASTER. (Not the writing, I mean, because this book is composed of TOTAL BEAUTY.)

    The opposite of Twilight! Well, kind of. Writing itself was a disaster and nothing really happened for very long stretches of time.

    It makes no sense that the movie wasn't great. The book is amazing, they had good actors, and the cinematography was beautiful. Someone posted a link on another one of your posts about how it was originally better but someone decided to have it be the visual spark notes version of the story. That's how I interpreted the bit that I read anyway.

    • Saphling says:

      The original script was amazing! It would have been awesome to see.

      But nooooooo. >_>

      • Brieana says:

        I would have liked to have seen it, too.

        Also I would have liked to have seen The Subtle Knife and The Amber Spyglass become movies. Don't hate me fellow HDM fans!

        • Sparkie says:

          I'm totally with you on that, ah what might have been. 🙁

          • Saphling says:

            I would have loved to see those movies. (However, I wouldn't have wanted to see all the wank they'd inspire, re: controversy.)

            • Brieana says:

              Ah, the wasted potential!
              I would have liked to have seen the play too. I saw clips of it on youtube and it looked very good.

              Yeah, the controversy, blech. I looked some of that up over the weekend since we had no new reviews and some of the response made me angry.

              • t09yavorski says:

                I did a whole project on it the week before the movie's release and I found so much crazy around the internet that I lost all faith in the human race for a couple week. Quite a bit of it hurt my feelings as well.

  4. Tilja says:


    I think your last sentence clearly answers this questions, so I don't need to. Think about it, if this book hasn't lost pace so far, what makes you think it can slow down when shit start to become real?

    Enjoy the constant tachycardia and answer your own questions.

    One more thing. Will you let us know beforehand when you disappear for the 2 weeks you mentioned at the start of this readings? I want to know which will be those posts.

  5. Mauve_Avenger says:

    "At the height of the invocation the Intercessor lifted the cloth to reveal in the dimness a glass dome inside which there was something too distant to see, until he pulled a string attached to a shutter above, letting a ray of sunlight through to strike the dome exactly. Then it became clear: a little thing like a weathervane, with four sails black on one side and white on the other, that began to whirl around as the light struck it…. It was all done by photons, said the Librarian as they walked home to Jordan."

    I never really thought much of anything about this description from reading it before, but now it sounds like Lyra is describing something that we would call a Crookes radiometer or a light-mill:
    <img src=""&gt;

    • knut_knut says:

      does this mean Dust is real? o_O

    • Tilja says:

      Yes, I knew the meaning when I read the description, though I never knew the name of that photo mill before. At least I paid enough attention at school to understand what was being described. Also, I went to science fairs when I was fourteen and saw the things in motion.

      Oh, and I also read the books in real time: at the time each of them came out; it meant having to wait years between book, also knowing from the beginning that it was a trilogy coming out. Can you imagine my anxiety at that, especially after each ending?

    • leighzzz31 says:

      Whoa, that's a really cool gif! I remember having a tough time trying to picture what Lyra was describing when I first read that but, looking back, it was pretty much this. Thanks for confirming my childhood imaginings!

    • settledforhistory says:

      Thanks for the picture. I knew from the discription in the book that I had seen something like this before, but I did't know what it was called.

      What does this have to do with Dust and the alethiometer? Pullman really doesn't make it easy for us to guess what happens next and I love that!

    • meguca says:

      Thanks for posting this… I knew just what Lyra was describing but couldn't call to mind the name. Light mills are cool B)

      • @sab39 says:

        After reading the last line of your comment, now I want to see that gif superimposed over top of the Doctor's head.

        "… I wear a Light Mill now…!"

    • flootzavut says:

      I so want one of those. Don't really know why. Just to admire, I think!

  6. cait0716 says:

    Not even close to prepared.

    I like that we more or less get confirmation that the ghosts in the third chapter were real. Or at least could have been real. Pantalaimon still thinks they were just a nightmare of Lyra's, but concedes that other spirits exist. I'm inclined to side with Lyra, that those three ghosts were real and not just part of some nightmare. Or maybe the spirits infiltrated her subconscious…

    As far as "Afric"…I almost feel like reading these books is a learned skill. Much like taking the SAT. The first time through, I was at a loss for what a lot of these words meant. But now that I'm a bit more used to the way he plays with language and history, my brain immediately interpreted that as "African". I think Farder Coram confirms this when he talks about Mrs. Coulter's expeditions to Morocco.

    I'm so excited you're liking this book! You have no idea how real shit is going to get

    • Pitseleh says:

      As far as I can tell, 'afric' is an archaic term used to denote that something was from Africa. So probably it's either a) something from Africa or b) something like zombies, where the term is vestigial and originating from some long-forgot African lore.

      etymology nerds uniteeee

      • Yes. I'm pretty sure you can see the term at use in Milton, Blake, Yeats, Shakespeare… It's hard to Google for an example, but I've come across the usage in classic poetry throughout my high school and college edu-ma-cations. (Etymology nerds AND English majors, uniiiiiite!)

  7. leighzzz31 says:

    Fantasy Inception! Best description of Pullman's uncanny ability to suck you into his world ever! I'm so glad you get this book, Mark, because everytime I recommend it I either get seriously positive or downright outraged reactions, but you fully appreciate everything I did (and more!) so yay! A few thoughts on this chapter:

    -Farder Coram: He's a character I loved almost from the moment he was introduced and I think I've figured out why; he fills the quota of the wise old man archetype (Dumbledore, Gandalf etc.) but he's very distinctly different. I love the way he handles Lyra, never patronising, always ready to answer her questions but also gets equally excited when they're trying to figure out the alethiometer together. You can tell they're more friends than say, 'student-mentor' and it's refreshing and fun to read.

    -Lyra reading the alethiometer: It was obvious from the beginning that Lyra would have to figure out a way to use the alethiometer but I enjoyed the heck out of the way it progressed. It wasn't a total deus ex machina and 'suddenly she knows all the answers'. The breakthrough does seem to come naturally to her but Pullman's way of describing it reminded me of child just learning to read and write; at first, letters and words mean absolute gibberish but then they rearrange themselves in your head and their meaning is obvious.
    And I LOVED that Pullman took the time to give us examples of the symbols, some of which are really obscure but make total sense once you know their meaning. My personal favourite is the crucible; I had no freaking idea what it could stand for but when you think about it, knowledge that's meant to be distilled? It works!

    In short. Yes, Mark. Shit is without a doubt going to get real.

    • sabra_n says:

      For some reason my mental impression of Farder Coram was closer to Lupin than Dumbledore. The point that he's wonderful stands, though. 🙂

  8. Mary says:

    Omg Mark I am so excited that you are reading these books…they are amazing…i actually started on the second book, then read the third before this one…oops!!! 🙂 but i def agree that the book is so fast pace with shit getting extremely real…it kind of reminds of James Patterson books, where the action does not stop from beginning to end…i am reading his Maximum Ride series and am in love with his style, i DEF recommend his books

    anyways, i LOVE lyra, even if she is a little bratty…i wish i was like her when i was little 🙂 🙂

    also, just wait…Shit def will get soooooo real!! 😀

  9. Noybusiness says:

    "Lyra’s exhaustion gets the best of her, and she stops trying to sue the alethiometer."

    Is this a phrase I'm not aware of or just a really funny typo?

    • Vannevar says:

      Probably a typo for "use," although there is a little-known and oft-neglected meaning of sue that basically means "to formally petition for something." Since I just woke up, I didn't think much of it, assumed she was "suing for peace" in that second meaning, and kept reading.

  10. leighzzz31 says:

    While it's probably a discussion for another time (I live in eternal fear of accidental spoilers!), the reaction you described is what I was alluding to. I don't think we can say more than, well, her loss. She's missing out on a lot of potentially great things but sadly she's not the only one who thinks like that.

  11. tchemgrrl says:

    My approximate reaction upon hearing that they were making the book into a movie, buying, going to see the movie, and walking out of the movie.


    Aside from the fact that Nicole Kidman was my headcanon before I saw the cast (because she creeps me the hell out), they managed to get it really wrong without missing many details. I don't know how.

    • miabuterflie says:

      The annoying thing is that you get glimpses of what it could have been, but it just falls short. I suspect executive meddling, it got SO MUCH bad press from the Church when it came out (although it's the film that's the LEAST likely to provoke reaction) and the studio probably edited it so that it was much trickier for Christian groups to get angry.

      Oh and FYI the original ending was filmed, but probably deemed too "dark" to show, especially without the certain possibility of sequels. Sequels make everything better, and less dark! See: Harry Potter.

      • knut_knut says:

        I know the book got a lot of bad press from the Church but I didn't realize the movie did as well. The movie had zero plot, what could they get upset about??

      • Brieana says:

        Hate to be a party pooper, but isn't it a bit spoileresque to talk about the tone of the ending and what might or might not be in the sequels?
        Good discussion though. I never thought about that.

    • "they managed to get it really wrong without missing many details"

      This exactly! I will never understand it. The casting was almost flawless, and the design aspect (graphics, costumes, props) was fantastic! How on earth do you get all this right and still manage to fuck it up?

      Ugh, disappoint forever.

      • sabra_n says:

        Writing, writing, writing. All the trappings in the world don't make up for the loss of the spirit of the original story.

  12. settledforhistory says:

    'SERIOUSLY CAN I HAVE A DÆMON HISTORY LESSON. Gosh, these creatures are SO FASCINATING TO ME. Where did they come from??? WHY DON’T I HAVE MY OWN.'

    Yes, why can't we have our own??? I really would love one.
    And there is still so much we don't know.
    Why do people usually have a daemon with the opposite gender?
    If there is an easy answer for that, then why are there people like Bernie Johansen (the half-gyptian at Jordan) that have one with the same gender?
    We need a chapter just about them or a book.

    • Sparkie says:

      I was thinking last night too as I went back over this chapter how daemons get their names, do the parents do that at the same time as the child? And then I wondered how daemons came into existence. Do they just appear when a child is born, or are they there during the foetal stage? But what would happen if they changed shape to something huge? I had so many questions sans answers!

      • rumantic says:

        I always wondered this too! Does one of the adults' daemons get pregnant with the unborn baby's daemon? Do the daemons choose the name? Or the parents?

        • pitseleh says:




          I NEED TO KNOW

          D: D: D:

        • Brieana says:

          I don't think that's how the daemon pregnancy bit is how it works. Mr Coulter would have found out about Lyra's paternity much sooner if his daemon didn't give birth to Pan.

      • sabra_n says:

        Oh my gosh, I can't believe this line of questioning never even occurred to me. If daemons, say, appear out of thin air after a child is born, is the infant considered not really "born" until that point? Can the daemons of infants take the form of fully-grown animals and do things for their humans, or are they limited in verbal/physical ability until their humans grow? Can they only take the form of ADORABLE BABY ANIMALS?!

      • notemily says:

        I was just about to make this exact comment. Are they born through the birth canal or do they just pop into existence? Maybe the parents' daemons name the child's daemon?

    • Brieana says:

      This is total guesswork, but I suspect that they are usually of the opposite sex for narrative reasons. If we have a scene with just Lyra and her daemon, then the author couldn't use pronouns as much. It would be confusing.
      As for the exceptions like Bernie, well, that's life. Usually a male has a penis and female has a vagina, but it's not that simple. There are intersexed people, and transgender people, loads of other kinds exceptions to this rule.
      That's how I've come to think of it.
      I'd also like to know more about daemons.

      • Narrative necessity explanation for the win.

        Goodness knows, whenever I write same sex couples in my fiction, I feel like I'm doing semantic acrobatics to keep it clear to whom I'm referring at all times. I imagine writing in a language without gendered pronouns would make this a problem all the time.

        On the other hand, we don't seem to have a problem distinguishing which object "it" refers to, and the world is full of "its". Maybe it's just what we get used to. I expect as homophobia wanes and same-sex relationships gain more mainstream acceptance, kids will grow up knowing the linguistic conventions for talking about the couples (and triads? etc) they know without it being a linguistic hurdle.

    • pitseleh says:

      I always figured the daemon gender thing had to do with the whole concept of the animus/anima– your other wild half, blah blah blah, something about psychology. SOMEONE ELSE ELABORATE I READ THESE BOOKS SO LONG AGOOOOOOOOOOOO

    • GCSKAS says:

      I heard that the parents' dæmons name the new one. I don't know how they're born, though.

      Also, I read in an interview somewhere that a person with a dæmon of their same sex isn't necessarily homosexual or transgender, but I never saw a satisfactory answer, so I don't know.

    • notemily says:


  13. Ellalalalala says:

    Despite that the alethiometer is so complicated, it’s not completely ridiculous that a person with a good imagination (Lyra!!!) could figure out how to use it.
    – I wonder if children might be better at reading it than adults? Very clever children, granted, but I do think there's something wonderfully flexible and pragmatic about how Lyra makes these connections between symbols and their different levels which reminds me of how some of the kids I know narrate their thought processes.

    When Jacob's daemon said everything we did, they knew about before we did it I immediately thought OMG THE GOBBLERS HAVE ANOTHER ALETHIOMETER!!! That can't be true, can it? Surely not? SURELY?

    Daemons get more and more awesome. I like the fact that Pan can change form, but can't (/doesn't?) change himself into a version of that animal that he&Lyra could never be. Lyra's cat daemon could never be as beautiful and dignified as Farder Coram's – he would (paraphrasing, sorry) lean and tough. I think that's an excellent touch.


  14. warmouth says:

    Lulz fantasy!Inception. How does everything work? It's a ~*~Mystery~*~…
    <img src=""&gt;

    Oh plot convenience guy, you will be missed…whatever your name was…

    <img src=""&gt;

    But in all serious. Yay, Lyra gets to come along! I mean, we all knew it had to happen, but still. And she's learning how to read the BAMFometer and becoming a BAMF in training.

    Better get prepared. This shit's gonna get real.
    <img src=""&gt;

  15. barnswallowkate says:

    Mark, I'm glad you're liking this book! I simultaneously know too much and too little about it so I haven't been commenting (afraid to spoil) but I'm enjoying the reviews. I also want a daemon and also love Lyra and Pan <3

  16. cswike says:


    I love that this is a book/series that makes you WANT it to be dull and uninteresting for a while! Haha.

    One of my favorite things about Pullman's writing is how he gradually reveals more and more about daemons, always holding a little bit back, so that you HAVE to keep reading to find out more about these wonderful creatures. Oh, and he does it without infodumping. Bless you, Pullman.

    • cait0716 says:

      There were parts of The Hunger Games trilogy that were so intense and fast-paced that there was a general desire for the plot to slow down a tad. But Pullman handles pacing far better than Collins. There's a lot going on in these books, but it definitely feels like it's all building to something bigger. There's a good balance here between action and background

      • flootzavut says:

        I think in that respect (there are others too but just commenting on this) Pullman is an incredibly skilful writer. He gives you just enough to force you to keep reading, but if never feels forced. Some writers create pace in ways that can seem fake and annoying, liks constant cliffhangers (Dan Brown, Imma lookin' at you), Pullman does it by creating a world and a story that are endlessly fascinating, and so you can't help but want to know more.

        I had problems with books 2 and 3 in places but I know this one I gobbled down in a matter of hours, because I just didn't want to stop reading.

        Damn I wish i could find my copy 🙁

  17. redheadedgirl says:



  18. arctic_hare says:


    For the same reason I don't: because life is unfair and this world sucks and doesn't have any awesome stuff like Hogwarts or daemons or armored polar bears or Appas or alethiometers or Momo or… you get the idea. 🙁 Boooooooooo. Boo to boring reality!

    Though, on the bright side, it also lacks those THINGS that Mrs. Coulter sent after Lyra. UGH, SERIOUSLY. UGH. I hate most bugs at the best of times, and those things are even worse because you can't just spray some Raid or stomp on them, and it's chilling that you can't even toss it into the ocean and have done with it because it'll eventually get out and come after you wherever you are. YIKES. DO NOT WANT.

    Shit's going to get realer than real, you have no idea.

  19. Cleo says:

    Chris Weitz has said (on Twitter, even) that New Line took the movie away from him and chopped it up, and that it totally broke his heart. So… that’s what happened. If you watch the DVD extras, it’s obvious that everyone who was not a studio executive had so much love for this project and put so much work into the tiniest details. And then… that happened.

    And then he was all like, “And that’s why I wanted to make New Moon as faithful to the book as possible, to show that it could be done and still make money.” So… then THAT happened.

    • xpanasonicyouthx says:


      • Cleo says:

        Remind me, when you get to the end of this first book, to show you the trailer screencaps I have of the book ending they didn't leave in the movie. Weitz filmed it, but they didn't let him use it. Probably because they were hedging their bets as to whether they'd film the other two books. Upside: the movie couldn't have spoiled you for the book if it had wanted to! YOU ARE NOT PREPARED.

        • fakehepburn says:

          They actually filmed the ending?

          You mean, they didn't always plan to cut it off at a point that makes no goddamn sense and resolves NONE OF THE THINGS?

    • arctic_hare says:

      Yeah, I will be forever torn between lulz and sadness at what happened there.

    • "And that's why I wanted to make New Moon as faithful to the book as possible, to show that it could be done and still make money."

      does not compute

    • DFM Marlink says:

      [And then he was all like, "And that's why I wanted to make New Moon as faithful to the book as possible, to show that it could be done and still make money." So… then THAT happened.]

      *LOL* forever. New Moon didn't make money because it was a faithful adaptation. It made money because it's FREAKING TWILIGHT.

      (I am required by my pride to add that Twilight Saga has made NO money from me.)

      • Helena says:

        If only I could say the same… I am deeply ashamed to say that I read the first, third and fourth books AND went to see the first movie, and for a while I kind of liked them (although the fourth book did frustrate me because I was constantly a bit aware that something was off about a) the writing and b) the wish-fulfillment 'plot'. In my defense, I read very quickly so I often read something without really concentrating and only form my thoughts about it much later. I do not understand to this day how I didn't notice… well, ANYTHING wrong.

      • notemily says:

        I started reading Twilight when it was just another YA book, not THE TWILIGHT PHENOMENON, because I like YA books. I thought it was OK, nothing special. Then the second and third books came out and it EXPLODED. I ended up reading them all for the lulz. And there are oh so many lulz.

  20. BradSmith5 says:

    I thought it was a bit silly when Lyra read the symbols and then POW the guy walks in with news that he's dead. I know I said I wanted results but DANG that was fast.

    And I wanted more effort put into that ambush at the end of the chapter; the attackers are just called "little black things" for like three paragraphs! Ah well, I guess I'll just have to describe this mysterious being myself:

    As the creature soared across the bow of the ship, the moonlight caught its metallic form: a smooth casing marked with rows of uniform bumps. As it hovered over the pathetic humans and their inferior dæmons, a single stalk at the head swiveled and fixated on Lyra. A loud voice buzzed at her.


  21. warmouth says:

    I know it's no good to double post and this is completely off topic so I apologize in advance, but I could use some help. I'm trying to get into the forums and I'm not getting an activation code through my email and I can't find a way to contact any admins. Any of you guys floating around that can help me?

  22. Avit says:

    Most services allow you to request a resend of the activation code. Have you checked your spamtrap(s)?

    • warmouth says:

      Yeah, I've tried resending the activation code and checking my spam. I've also tried making accounts with other emails. Is it me? Am I not cool enough to sit at the cool kids table? *imagines watching all the fun while staring through a window outside while it rains*

      • Avit says:

        Hmm, I just now signed up to see what the problem might be, but it went through without a hitch — the email ended up in my Gmail spam filter, but I was able to receive it and activate my account. WEIRD. I'm using Gmail on Firefox on Windows 7, what about you?

    • rumantic says:

      JIC anyone else is having this problem, I had this too and I emailed the admin address on the site rules/spoiler policy page and they activated my account manually.

  23. t09yavorski says:

    There are so many posts about it that i need to rant a bit to get something off my chest.

    (In my personal Opinion)
    The Golden Compass is not a bad movie adaptation.

    It is, of course, No Princess Bride (that movie might have come first) or Twilight Saga (interestingly the best book to movie adaptations I have seen).

    But it is also no where as bad as The Bourne Supremacy (not a fan of this movie) or Eragon (bit of a fan) or Ella Enchanted (fun movie but Omigosh. no.) as book adaptations go.

    In fact is I had to categorize the Golden Compass I would probably group it with Jurassic Park, Order of the Phoenix, and Lord of the Rings. Each of which are books/movies I have read/seen multiple times.

    In addition the movie is an ok story in its own right. I would love to see all the books I love perfectly reproduced in movie form but I also appreciate new stories. I may be unique in this but I can be perfectly happy with two different stories sharing the same.

    I suppose I felt the need to post this to keep anyone from being discouraged from watching the movie. It is targeted to kids but it is an entertaining romp that this 19 year old here, her older sister (who has not read the books) and her mother (who has) enjoy watching it still.

    Also maybe I wanted to instigate a little cause debates are fun. Though you would have to have seen/read all these titles to get my references.

    In Conclusion, The Golden Compass is not a bad movie and if you can watch it as its own entity you might enjoy it.

    [Also, whether you like it or dislike it you should read Cleolinda's m15m of it after you see it. It was the first one I ever read and it is the best thing ever.]

    • Emily Crnk says:

      Oh goodness me ELLA ENCHANTED. Everything that you said.

    • nanceoir says:

      Just my own perspective on the movie.

      I've never read The Golden Compass before, but I watched the movie a couple of years ago. I went into the experience wanting to like it. I really did. (I seem to recall Cleo being not unhappy with the movie or something, and she likes the books, so I wanted a taste or something so I'd have some point of reference.) In fact, I think I actually looked forward to watching it. I knew people weren't particularly fond of it, but I figured it couldn't be as bad as people made it out to be.

      Well, on the one hand, it wasn't bad. Not really. However, as much as I wanted to like the movie, or just enjoy the experience, I… couldn't. I didn't hate it, I didn't think it was terrible, nor did I think it was wonderful; I just did. not. care. At all. Which I suppose is a movie-making failure (whether it's the fault of the filmmakers or Executive Meddling, I can't say), but there it is.

      On the other hand, I've never read more than about 30 pages of Lord of the Rings, and I attempted it after I saw the first movie, and I very definitely cared about those movies. What was happening, what was going to happen, who the characters were, all of it. It was because I enjoyed the movie so much that I started reading the book (though I got bogged down with it and distracted myself with my first foray in Harry Potter and haven't regretted it a day).

      It does make me wonder, though, how my reaction to the movie version of The Golden Compass will change after reading it along with Mark. Maybe I'll care about it in some fashion.

      • t09yavorski says:

        Everyone has to form their own opinion about the actual quality of the movie. I just wanted to point out that as an adaptation, it is not that bad.

    • bingo007 says:

      i like the movie too but they effing had to guts to open the movie with the biggest spoiler.i was shocked.but stil they got a lot of details right.
      and did you read the bourne supremacy?because the movie is not an adaptation of the book.they just used the name and they used a totally new script.

      • t09yavorski says:

        Yes I did, I've read and seen all of those (I wouldnt be willing to argue for them if I hadnt). I didn't know that wasnt meant to be an adaptation so thank goodness. You have restored some of the respect that Hollywood lost from me on that one.

        But that still plays to my point, that there are two stories out there with the same name without the same (or even similar) stories.

  24. fantasylover120 says:

    I have several explanations for the movie which on its own is okay but when compared to the book it's based on…yikes. First of all they didn't explain stuff well or at all. They also cut out some really important scenes that would have helped with explanations. And finally I don't think it helped that they purposely watered down the religious opinions/tones/ideas just to sooth the ruffled feathers of church groups. It messed up the movie and was probably the reason for half the backstory getting left out (notice in the movie it's never once mentioned that Asriel hated the church).

  25. Darth_Ember says:

    Reportedly Pullman saw Nicole and went re Coulter "I was wrong, she's a blonde."

  26. Mia says:

    Stupid undeserved media hype. That's probably why the sequels weren't made, they have more controversial stuff in them. I was reading the Amber Spyglass a while back and was vehemently warned against it by a guy from my church. I asked, fairly sensibly I thought, if he had read it to know how bad it was. I got an answer to the effect of "No, and I shouldn't have to." Let me get it on record that even as a Christian, I have nothing against His Dark Materials. At all. Ever. And I still support free speech, anyways.

    • Without getting into spoiler territory, I think the hype may have to do with some high-profile readers taking certain characters in the books as Author Inserts Handing Out The Moral Of The Story when really they're just fully developed three-dimensional characters, and, as such, have partial grasps on the truth. Y'know, like real people do. While I can think of two specific characters whose dialogue could be cited as Reasons These Books Are Anti-Christian, I'm pretty sure doing so is as silly as citing Lyra's attitude toward female Scholars as A Reason These Books Are Anti-Woman.

      I think, like Mark said right at the beginning, there's also a big element of people hearing about these books as being OMG SO ANTI-RELIGION and then read them with that expectation.

    • flootzavut says:

      I'm a Christian too, and while I disagree with Pullman's take on things, I loathe this whole assumption that you shouldn't even read the books. And I REALLY HATE people who condemn a book they haven't even read *ANGRY* this happens all the time with HP too and I've reallylost my rag sometimes with the "but isn't Rowling, like, a witch" kind of stupidity that goes on.

      There are bits of the later books that frustrate me, can't explain why without spoiling, but that's from (IMO) some lack of internal consistency with the philosophy underpinning the books. I don't have to agree with Pullman's views to enjoy his writing and his incredible world building.

      The biggest shame about the film to me is that the cast was by and large perfect, but the film as a whole was just meh.

  27. fakehepburn says:

    "And the action in Deathly Hallows started pretty quickly. "

    Sorry, do you mean Harry Potter and the Endless Camping Trip, Just Fucking Kill Voldemort Already?

    Respectfully disagree on the pacing in that one. Ugh. (Don't get me wrong, I love the book, and there really was no other way than for JKR to have them do the Horcrux-hunting that way, but it grated my nerves at times).

    • sabra_n says:

      He said it started quickly, not that it stayed fast. 🙂

    • bingo007 says:

      wow..the camping was for like….what? 2 chapters…and they were getting new info even during the camping.maybe it seems long in rereads but the first time i read the book,the whole book was a blur.

  28. Joeldi says:

    I hated the movie. Most of the acting was really wooden, and what they didn't take out, they changed to simplify it.

    It WAS really pretty though.

  29. rumantic says:

    Yes, definitely without a lid! But I think it would need either a glass casing or a lid in order to protect the needles, or Lyra wouldn't be able to cart it around so carelessly, she'd have to be more careful of it.

  30. Brieana says:

    hang on. maybe that counts as a spoiler? I can't delete that myself. no account.

  31. Ellalalalala says:

    That absolutely makes sense and is awesome!

    • flootzavut says:


      And in other news, I finally worked out how to log in (I've had an account for ages and been commenting as flootzavut but not actually logged in D'OH!) so I got an email saying someone had replied to my comment. I am Overly Excited about this 😀

  32. xynnia says:

    "SERIOUSLY CAN I HAVE A DÆMON HISTORY LESSON. Gosh, these creatures are SO FASCINATING TO ME. Where did they come from??? WHY DON’T I HAVE MY OWN.SERIOUSLY CAN I HAVE A DÆMON HISTORY LESSON. Gosh, these creatures are SO FASCINATING TO ME. Where did they come from??? WHY DON’T I HAVE MY OWN."

    xD When I was younger (I first read this trilogy when I was about 9 or 10), I had an imaginary daemon and his name was Cynil. X3


    I also made my own alethiometer out of a tin lid covered in gold origami paper, pin heads for the adjustor-wheel-thingies, and a scan of our edition of Northern Lights (which had the alethiometer on the front) stuck on top. It was AWESOME. I wish I knew where it went.

  33. dcpierce says:

    Farder Coram is a cool dude, but you just know there are secrets hidden deep inside him…

    Lyra is going to the north – hooray! Though I never really had any doubt. But those words from chapter 2 are in my head, about Lyra being "the betrayer" – not so hooray.

    Lastly, there's the alethiometer. It's absolutely an amazing device, and I loved the bits of description we get from Lyra, seeing it's workings through her eyes. But I want more. Maybe it's just that I desperately want to see how everything in this universe fits together (Dust!) but I won't be satisfied with just the usual "our hero/heroine happens to be really good at this important task / have this really awesome skill totally naturally." I'm not saying the author doesn't have a plan or that's it's not well done (I actually loved the presentation, as I mentioned) but I want more. Ultimately, I guess I want more about Lyra.

    Alright, caught up now. Thus ceases the massive update-fest, at least for now. Part Two kicks off for me tomorrow!

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