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The Golden Compass (His Dark Materials Series #1)

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In a landmark epic of fantasy and storytelling, Philip Pullman invites readers into a world as convincing and thoroughly realized as Narnia, Earthsea, or Redwall. Here lives an orphaned ward named Lyra Belacqua, whose carefree life among the scholars at Oxford's Jordan College is shattered by the arrival of two powerful visitors. First, her fearsome uncle, Lord Asriel, appears with evidence of mystery and danger in the far North, including photographs of a mysterious celestial phenomenon called Dust and the dim ...
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The Golden Compass (His Dark Materials Series #1)

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Overview

In a landmark epic of fantasy and storytelling, Philip Pullman invites readers into a world as convincing and thoroughly realized as Narnia, Earthsea, or Redwall. Here lives an orphaned ward named Lyra Belacqua, whose carefree life among the scholars at Oxford's Jordan College is shattered by the arrival of two powerful visitors. First, her fearsome uncle, Lord Asriel, appears with evidence of mystery and danger in the far North, including photographs of a mysterious celestial phenomenon called Dust and the dim outline of a city suspended in the Aurora Borealis that he suspects is part of an alternate universe. He leaves Lyra in the care of Mrs. Coulter, an enigmatic scholar and explorer who offers to give Lyra the attention her uncle has long refused her. In this multilayered narrative, however, nothing is as it seems. Lyra sets out for the top of the world in search of her kidnapped playmate, Roger, bearing a rare truth-telling instrument, the compass of the title. All around her children are disappearing—victims of so-called "Gobblers"—and being used as subjects in terrible experiments that separate humans from their daemons, creatures that reflect each person's inner being. And somehow, both Lord Asriel and Mrs. Coulter are involved.
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Editorial Reviews

Trudi Miller Rosenblum
Pullman's fantasy masterpeice and the first of a trilogy...has become a classic of the genre.
Billboard
Publishers Weekly - Publisher's Weekly
If Pullman's imagination dazzled in the Victorian thrillers that culminated with The Tin Princess, in this first volume of a fantasy trilogy it is nothing short of breathtaking. Here Earth is one of only five planets in the solar system, every human has a daemon (the soul embodied as an animal familiar) and, in a time similar to our late 19th century, Oxford scholars and agents of the supreme Calvinist Church are in a race to unleash the power that will enable them to cross the bridge to a parallel universe. The story line has all the hallmarks of a myth: brought up ignorant of her true identity, 11-year-old Lyra goes on a quest from East Anglia to the top of the world in search of her kidnapped playmate Roger and her imprisoned uncle, Lord Asriel. Deceptions and treacheries threaten at every turn, and she is not yet certain how to read the mysterious truth-telling instrument that is her only guide. After escaping from the charming and sinister Mrs. Coulter, she joins a group of "gyptians" in search of their children, who, like Roger, have been spirited away by Mrs. Coulter's henchmen, the Gobblers. Along the way Lyra is guided by friendly witches and attacked by malevolent ones, aided by an armored polar bear and a Texan balloonist, and nearly made a victim of the Gobblers' cruel experiments. As always, Pullman is a master at combining impeccable characterizations and seamless plotting, maintaining a crackling pace to create scene upon scene of almost unbearable tension. This glittering gem will leave readers of all ages eagerly awaiting the next installment of Lyra's adventures. 100,000 first printing; $250,000 ad/promo. Ages 10-up. (Apr.)
Publishers Weekly
Philip Pullman's His Dark Materials trilogy now appears in sophisticated trade paperback editions, each title embossed within a runic emblem of antiqued gold. The backdrop of The Golden Compass: His Dark Materials, Book I sports a midnight blue map of the cosmos with the zodiacal ram at its center. The Subtle Knife and The Amber Spyglass carry similarly intriguing cover art, and all three titles offer details not seen in the originals: in Compass and Knife, for example, Pullman's stamp-size b&w art introduces each chapter; Spyglass chapters open with literary quotes from Blake, the Bible, Dickinson and more. Copyright 2002 Cahners Business Information.
Children's Literature - Jan Lieberman
This is a complex fascinating fantasy, the first volume of his "Dark Materials Trilogy." The heroine is Lyra Belacqua who lives with the scholars of Jordan College. Headstrong and independent, she is caught in a web in which science and politics are entangled. Why are hideous experiments being performed on children? Alliances with Gyptians, witch clans, battles with trained mercenaries and armored bears keep the reader on edge. Warning: Don't begin this late in the evening.
KLIATT
To quote KLIATT's Sept. 1999 review of the Listening Library audiobook: Lyra, the heroine in this first book of the trilogy, is tenacious, courageous, and nearly foolhardy. She joins forces with friends, witches and an armored bear to battle evil forces that kidnap children for cruel experiments. Lyra is caught between the conflicting plans of the mysterious and scholarly Lord Asriel and the wicked, self-serving Mrs. Coulter. The golden compass helps steer Lyra, and her daemon Pantalaimon, towards truth in this multi-layered fantasy adventure... riveting story... wonderful series... (His Dark Materials, Book I) KLIATT Codes: J*—Exceptional book, recommended for junior high school students. 1995, Random House, Dell Yearling, 404p., $5.99. Ages 13 to 15. Reviewer: Bette D. Ammon; Director, Missoula P.L., Missoula, MT , July 2001 (Vol. 35, No. 4)
School Library Journal
Gr 7 Up-A novel set in London and in the Arctic regions of a world that is somewhat like our own. Lyra, apparently an orphan, lives among the scholars at Jordan College, Oxford. She becomes aware of a nefarious plot to steal children and transport them to the far north. As Lyra is drawn deeper and deeper into this mystery, she finds that the children are being made to suffer terribly. What she does not-and must not-know is that she is the keystone in an ancient prophecy. Her destiny is to save her world and to move on into a parallel universe. She dives headlong into harrowing adventures, totally unaware of her importance. She also discovers the identity of her parents, who are major players in the unfolding drama. In Lyra's world, every human has a daemon, an animal that is sort of an extension of one's soul. This fact is central to the story as the church, the academic world, and the government seek to understand the significance of the phenomenon. Also important, but never fully explained, is a substance called Dust. This is a captivating fantasy, filled with excitement, suspense, and unusual characters. The armored bears are wonderful and more interesting than most of the humans. There is some fine descriptive writing, filled with the kind of details that encourage suspension of disbelief. The story line moves along at a rapid clip, but flags when it delves into philosophical matters. The ending is less than satisfying, but serves as a lead-in to part two of the series. Fantasy lovers will be clamoring for the next installment.-Bruce Anne Shook, Mendenhall Middle School, Greensboro, NC
School Library Journal
Gr 5 Up-Accompanied by her daemon, Lyra Belacqua sets out to prevent her best friend and other kidnapped children from becoming the subjects of gruesome experiments in the far north. By Philip Pullman. Copyright 1999 Cahners Business Information.
From the Publisher
"As always, Pullman is a master at combining impeccable characterizations and seamless plotting, maintaining a crackling pace to create scene upon scene of almost unbearable tension.  This glittering gem will leave readers of all ages eagerly awaiting the next installment of Lyra's adventures."—(starred review), Publishers Weekly
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780440418320
  • Publisher: Random House Children's Books
  • Publication date: 5/22/2001
  • Series: His Dark Materials Series , #1
  • Edition description: Reprint
  • Pages: 432
  • Sales rank: 40,548
  • Age range: 10 - 17 Years
  • Product dimensions: 5.00 (w) x 7.54 (h) x 1.03 (d)

Meet the Author

Philip  Pullman

Philip Pullman has won many distinguished prizes, including the Carnegie Medal for The Golden Compass (and the reader-voted "Carnegie of Carnegies" for the best children's book of the past seventy years); the Whitbread (now Costa) Book of the Year Award for The Amber Spyglass; a Booker Prize long-list nomination (The Amber Spyglass); Parents' Choice Gold Awards (The Subtle Knife and The Amber Spyglass); and the Astrid Lindgren Memorial Award, in honor of his body of work. In 2004, he was appointed a Commander of the Order of the British Empire.

Philip Pullman is the author of many books for young readers, including two volumes related to the His Dark Materials trilogy: Lyra's Oxford and Once Upon a Time in the North. He lives in Oxford, England. To learn more, please visit www.philip-pullman.com and www.hisdarkmaterials.com.

Good To Know

Interesting facts about Philip Pullman and his books:
  • The Amber Spyglass was the first children's book to be named the Whitbread Book of the Year.

  • Among the other awards Pullman has received are Britain's prestigious Eleanor Farjeon Award and the Astrid Lindgren Memorial Award (a sort of Nobel Prize for children's literature) honoring his entire body of work.

  • Pullman enjoys playing the piano. "I'd like to play it well," he quips on his website. "But I can't, so the rest of the family has to put up with my playing it badly."

  • Pullman persuaded his publisher to let him illustrate the first two books of His Dark Materials with small, symbolic pen and ink drawings at the start of each chapter. Although these illustrations were left out of first editions in the U.S., they have been included in later editions. The third book of the trilogy, The Amber Spyglass does not have illustrations, but chapters begin with quotations from some of Pullman's favorite writers, like John Milton, William Blake, and Emily Dickinson.

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      1. Hometown:
        Oxford, England
      1. Date of Birth:
        October 19, 1946
      2. Place of Birth:
        Norwich, England
      1. Education:
        Exeter College, Oxford University
      2. Website:

    Read an Excerpt

    One

    THE DECANTER OF TOKAY

    Lyra and her daemon moved through the darkening hall, taking care to keep to one side, out of sight of the kitchen. The three great tables that ran the length of the hall were laid already, the silver and the glass catching what little light there was, and the long benches were pulled out ready for the guests. Portraits of former Masters hung high up in the gloom along the walls. Lyra reached the dais and looked back at the open kitchen door, and, seeing no one, stepped up beside the high table. The places here were laid with gold, not silver, and the fourteen seats were not oak benches but mahogany chairs with velvet cushions.

    Lyra stopped beside the Master's chair and flicked the biggest glass gently with a fingernail. The sound rang clearly through the hall.

    "You're not taking this seriously," whispered her daemon. "Behave yourself."

    Her daemon's name was Pantalaimon, and he was currently in the form of a moth, a dark brown one so as not to show up in the darkness of the hall.

    "They're making too much noise to hear from the kitchen," Lyra whispered back. "And the Steward doesn't come in till the first bell. Stop fussing."

    But she put her palm over the ringing crystal anyway, and Pantalaimon fluttered ahead and through the slightly open door of the Retiring Room at the other end of the dais. After a moment he appeared again.

    "There's no one there," he whispered. "But we must be quick."

    Crouching behind the high table, Lyra darted along and through the door into the Retiring Room, where she stood up and looked around. The only light in here came from the fireplace, where a bright blaze of logs settled slightly as she looked, sending a fountain of sparks up into the chimney. She had lived most of her life in the College, but had never seen the Retiring Room before: only Scholars and their guests were allowed in here, and never females. Even the maid-servants didn't clean in here. That was the Butler's job alone.

    Pantalaimon settled on her shoulder.

    "Happy now? Can we go?" he whispered.

    "Don't be silly! I want to look around!"

    It was a large room, with an oval table of polished rosewood on which stood various decanters and glasses, and a silver smoking stand with a rack of pipes. On a sideboard nearby there was a little chafing dish and a basket of poppy heads.

    "They do themselves well, don't they, Pan?" she said under her breath.

    She sat in one of the green leather armchairs. It was so deep she found herself nearly lying down, but she sat up again and tucked her legs under her to look at the portraits on the walls. More old Scholars, probably; robed, bearded, and gloomy, they stared out of their frames in solemn disapproval.

    "What d'you think they talk about?" Lyra said, or began to say, because before she'd finished the question she heard voices outside the door.

    "Behind the chair—quick!" whispered Pantalaimon, and in a flash Lyra was out of the armchair and crouching behind it. It wasn't the best one for hiding behind: she'd chosen one in the very center of the room, and unless she kept very quiet...

    The door opened, and the light changed in the room; one of the incomers was carrying a lamp, which he put down on the sideboard. Lyra could see his legs, in their dark green trousers and shiny black shoes. It was a servant.

    Then a deep voice said, "Has Lord Asriel arrived yet?"

    It was the Master. As Lyra held her breath, she saw the servant's daemon (a dog, like all servants' daemons) trot in and sit quietly at his feet, and then the Master's feet became visible too, in the shabby black shoes he always wore.

    "No, Master," said the Butler. "No word from the aerodock, either."

    "I expect he'll be hungry when he arrives. Show him straight into Hall, will you?"

    "Very good, Master."

    "And you've decanted some of the special Tokay for him?"

    "Yes, Master. The 1898, as you ordered. His Lordship is very partial to that, I remember."

    "Good. Now leave me, please."

    "Do you need the lamp, Master?"

    "Yes, leave that too. Look in during dinner to trim it, will you?"

    The Butler bowed slightly and turned to leave, his daemon trotting obediently after him. From her not-much-of-a-hiding place Lyra watched as the Master went to a large oak wardrobe in the corner of the room, took his gown from a hanger, and pulled it laboriously on. The Master had been a powerful man, but he was well over seventy now, and his movements were stiff and slow. The Master's daemon had the form of a raven, and as soon as his robe was on, she jumped down from the wardrobe and settled in her accustomed place on his right shoulder.

    Lyra could feel Pantalaimon bristling with anxiety, though he made no sound. For herself, she was pleasantly excited. The visitor mentioned by the Master, Lord Asriel, was her uncle, a man whom she admired and feared greatly. He was said to be involved in high politics, in secret exploration, in distant warfare, and she never knew when he was going to appear. He was fierce: if he caught her in here she'd be severely punished, but she could put up with that.

    What she saw next, however, changed things completely.

    The Master took from his pocket a folded paper and laid it on the table beside the wine. He took the stopper out of the mouth of a decanter containing a rich golden wine, unfolded the paper, and poured a thin stream of white powder into the decanter before crumpling the paper and throwing it into the fire. Then he took a pencil from his pocket, stirred the wine until the powder had dissolved, and replaced the stopper.

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    Table of Contents

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    Introduction

    The questions, discussion topics, and author information that follow are intended to enhance your group's reading of The Golden Compass. We hope that this guide will help you to navigate - alongside the story's young protagonist, Lyra Belacqua - Philip Pullman's richly imagined universe, populated by armored bears, gyptians, witches, and human beings, whose dæmons are never far from their side.
    Dæmons are one of the most striking, charming, and powerful images in The Golden Compass. These spirit-creatures, which seem like physical representations of the human soul, can change form to reflect the myriad of emotional states their humans go through as children. But in adulthood, each dæmon settles into the animal form that best reflects the inner nature of its human counterpart. It is in this unusual and imaginative creation that Pullman turns his sharpest mirror back onto his readers, helping us to imagine our own souls as precious, living extensions of ourselves that we can love, challenge, or even betray.
    The Golden Compass is a complex story that turns on a simple word: "Dust." This Dust does not gather in the unswept corners of Jordan College, Lyra's Oxford home. Rather, this Dust seems to reveal - or perhaps contain - the thing that makes each human being a unique creature. The concept of Dust provokes fear in some; others realize that mastery over Dust could be the source of great power. Although she does not quite realize it, Lyra - along with her dæmon Pantalaimon - finds her life inextricably entangled with the exploration of Dust. And as her understanding of Dust and her mastery over a mysterious tool called thealethiometer increases, the dangerous journey that she seems destined to make takes some astounding twists and turns.

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    Foreword

    1. The author tells us that The Golden Compass takes place "in a universe like ours, but different in many ways." How do you think Lyra's universe relates to ours?

    2. What is a dæmon? How do they make humans different from other creatures? Why do you think servants' dæmons are always dogs? What sort of dæmons might your friends, relatives, classmates, or coworkers have? Describe your own dæmon.

    3. The world of The Golden Compass is ruled by the Church. However, the nature of its power is unclear. What power do you think the Church holds over its people?

    4. On pages 89-90, the General Oblation Board is explained in reference to the historical sacrifice of children to cloistered life. "Oblation" refers to the act of making a religious offering. What offering does the General Oblation Board make and to whom?

    5. Human knowledge and experience are made physical in Dust. What other psychological, intellectual, or spiritual activities does the author physicalize?

    6. What is the relationship between "severing" and death? Is the author using this fantasy to explore the notion of psychic or moral death?

    7. Why do you think the author stresses that Lyra is not an imaginative child? Why would "imagination" be dangerous to her? How would it affect her understanding of the alethiometer? Is Lyra a truth-seeker? Who is Lyra Belacqua and/or what does she symbolize?

    8. In what ways is gender a significant or stratifying element in the novel? Why do you think all witches are female? Why are dæmons usually the opposite gender of their human counterparts? Is the fact that Lyra is agirl-child relevant to the themes of the story?

    9. Alongside human society in The Golden Compass, there exists the community of the armored bears, who have their own hierarchical structure and moral code. In one way Svalbard seems little more than an interesting foil to the human condition, yet the bear kingdom is also a final destination, the site of the story's climactic conclusion. What do you think is the author's purpose in inventing - and exploring - the world of the armored bear?

    10. The author has filled this novel with binary imagery: person-dæmon; mother-father; Iorek-Iofur; Lyra's universe-the universe in the Aurora. What other binarisms can you find in the structure, landscape imagery, and vocabulary of this fantasy? How do these dualistic elements affect the novel's larger themes?

    11. Discuss Lyra's "betrayal" of Roger in relation to other betrayals that occur in the novel. Has reading The Golden Compass altered your understanding of the act of betrayal?

    12. Are Lord Asriel and Mrs. Coulter in collusion or are they fighting each other? How and in what way?

    13. Curiously absent from The Golden Compass are four words that are prevalent in most fantasy adventures: right, wrong, good, and evil. Can these terms be applied to this story? How and why, or why not?

    14. On the last page of the book, Lyra and Pantalaimon recognize that they are still "one being; both of us are one." The expression resonates with a phrase from marriage ceremonies. Contrast this moment in the story with the preceding interplay between Lyra's parents.

    15. The Golden Compass is the first book in the trilogy His Dark Materials, which gets its name from a passage in John Milton's Paradise Lost, quoted at the beginning of the novel. Philip Pullman has said, "Milton's angels are not seriously meant to be believed - beings with wings and halos and white robes. They are psychological qualities, conceived and pictured as personalities. With them, Milton tells one of the central tales of our world: the story of the temptation and fall of humankind." Discuss the passage from Paradise Lost and this statement from the author in relation to The Golden Compass.

    16. When Lyra walks "into the sky" at the end of Book One, we can presume that she is walking into the world of Book Two of His Dark Materials - "the universe that we know." What do you think will happen to her and Pantalaimon when they cross the bridge?

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    Interviews & Essays

    The Man Behind the Magic: An Interview with Philip Pullman

    Barnes & Noble.com: Who is your favorite character to write and why?

    Philip Pullman: I like them all, of course. People are surprised when I say that I like Mrs. Coulter, but what I mean, of course, is that I like writing about her, because she’s so completely free of any moral constraint. There’s nothing she wouldn’t do, and that’s a great delight for a storyteller, because it means your story can be unconstrained, too. I’m not sure I’d like to know her in real life (well, of course I would; she’d be fascinating). Writers have always enjoyed the villains, and so do readers, if they’re honest.

    B&N.com: Can you give us some insight into what daemons are? Why don’t non-humans have them? They're a fascinating idea -- I wish I had one.

    PP: I was discovering more about daemons all the way through -- right up to the very end of The Amber Spyglass. And I’m sure there are other aspects of them that I haven’t discovered yet. I don’t want to say anything about them which will give away some of the plot of the final book, but I will say that the daemon is that part of you that helps you grow towards wisdom. I don’t know where the idea of them came from -- it just emerged as I was trying to begin the story. I suddenly realized that Lyra had a daemon, and it all grew out of that. Of course, the daemons had to represent something important in the meaning of the story, and not be merely picturesque; otherwise they’d just get in the way. So there is a big difference between the daemons of children and adults, because the story as a whole is about growing up, or innocence and experience.

    Underlying the whole story is a myth of origin and creation, which I discovered as I wrote. I don’t make it explicit anywhere, but I relied on it all the way through. It explains where daemons come from and why we have them. I’m thinking of doing a sort of companion volume, which would be a natural place for that myth to be written down, so watch this space!

    B&N.com: "It was so beautiful it was almost holy" -- this how Lyra's first impression of the Northern Lights is described in The Golden Compass. Have you ever seen the Northern Lights?

    PP: No, I haven’t. But I’ve been to Edmonton in Alberta on three separate occasions, and each time it was a beautiful, clear night and the people said we were bound to see them, they turned up every night, it was just the right time of year, there was no question of it, they were here last night, you should have seen them, you could bet your life they’ll give a good show tonight, and so on and so on. And did they show up? Not a flicker. I’m beginning to think they’re just one of these travelers’s tales.

    B&N.com: Why did you decide to set the story in a world that is similar to our own, but not quite the same?

    PP: There are many answers.... Laziness, perhaps. I couldn’t be bothered to do enough research to set a story in the real world and get it all right, so I just used the stuff I already knew and made up the rest. That might be one answer. Or else: I was too idle to make up a complete new world, so I just made up some of it and when I ran out of energy I used some other stuff I knew about the real world. That might be another.

    Another answer might be that I thought it would be more intriguing for the reader -- except that I don’t think about my readers very much, so that wouldn’t be altogether true.

    Another might be that I like reading that sort of book myself, so I just did the sort of thing I liked reading. But in fact I don’t know many other books that have this sort of background, so that wouldn’t be completely true either.

    Another might be that I didn’t actually choose it at all. The story came to me in this form and with this setting, and I had no say in the matter. I just had to do what it said. And that would be the truest answer, perhaps. But there’s a bit of truth in all of them.

    B&N.com: Why do you think fantasy literature is so appealing to adults as well as to children?

    PP: I haven’t the faintest idea. Oddly enough, it doesn’t appeal to me very much; I read very little fantasy. I prefer straightforward realism, and I like that because I can connect with it, because I feel it tells me about important things, because it’s real, because it’s true. So it’s no use asking me why fantasy appeals to other people. You’d have to ask them!

    B&N.com: Did you write His Dark Materials with a specific age group in mind?

    PP: No. I don’t think about the readers at all. If I think about the audience I’d like to have, I don’t think about a particular age group, or a particular gender, or a particular class or ethnic group or anything specific at all. I’d like the largest audience possible, please. When you say, “This book is for children”, what you’re understood as saying is “This book is NOT for adults.” I don’t want that. I’d like to think that I’m telling the sort of story that holdeth children from play and old men from the chimney corner, in the old phrase of Sir Philip Sidney. Everyone is welcome, and no one is shut out, and I hope each reader will find a tale worth spending time with.

    B&N.com: The main hero of your trilogy is Lyra -- a loveable, extremely impressive girl/young woman who has a large task on her hands. It's said by the people who have insight into Lyra's importance that she must fulfill her destiny without knowing what her destiny is. Can you explain why?

    PP: Because it’s her nature that has to make a choice, not her conscience. If she knows that she’s about to do something fateful, her awareness, her self-consciousness will get in the way and spoil everything. So it’s a very delicate balance that has to be kept.

    B&N.com: How much will you miss the characters now that you’ve finished the story?

    PP: A huge amount. I’ve lived with them for seven years; in another sense I’ve lived with them all my life because everything I’ve ever learned has gone into this book. It was very hard letting it go. I kept wanting to call it back and adjust this bit or that, but you have to let go in the end. Lyra and Will and the others are on their own now. I hope they find old friends, and make new ones.

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    Reading Group Guide

    1. The author tells us that The Golden Compass takes place "in a universe like ours, but different in many ways." How do you think Lyra's universe relates to ours?

    2. What is a dæmon? How do they make humans different from other creatures? Why do you think servants' dæmons are always dogs? What sort of dæmons might your friends, relatives, classmates, or coworkers have? Describe your own dæmon.

    3. The world of The Golden Compass is ruled by the Church. However, the nature of its power is unclear. What power do you think the Church holds over its people?

    4. On pages 89-90, the General Oblation Board is explained in reference to the historical sacrifice of children to cloistered life. "Oblation" refers to the act of making a religious offering. What offering does the General Oblation Board make and to whom?

    5. Human knowledge and experience are made physical in Dust. What other psychological, intellectual, or spiritual activities does the author physicalize?

    6. What is the relationship between "severing" and death? Is the author using this fantasy to explore the notion of psychic or moral death?

    7. Why do you think the author stresses that Lyra is not an imaginative child? Why would "imagination" be dangerous to her? How would it affect her understanding of the alethiometer? Is Lyra a truth-seeker? Who is Lyra Belacqua and/or what does she symbolize?

    8. In what ways is gender a significant or stratifying element in the novel? Why do you think all witches are female? Why are dæmons usually the opposite gender of their human counterparts? Is the fact that Lyra is agirl-child relevant to the themes of the story?

    9. Alongside human society in The Golden Compass, there exists the community of the armored bears, who have their own hierarchical structure and moral code. In one way Svalbard seems little more than an interesting foil to the human condition, yet the bear kingdom is also a final destination, the site of the story's climactic conclusion. What do you think is the author's purpose in inventing - and exploring - the world of the armored bear?

    10. The author has filled this novel with binary imagery: person-dæmon; mother-father; Iorek-Iofur; Lyra's universe-the universe in the Aurora. What other binarisms can you find in the structure, landscape imagery, and vocabulary of this fantasy? How do these dualistic elements affect the novel's larger themes?

    11. Discuss Lyra's "betrayal" of Roger in relation to other betrayals that occur in the novel. Has reading The Golden Compass altered your understanding of the act of betrayal?

    12. Are Lord Asriel and Mrs. Coulter in collusion or are they fighting each other? How and in what way?

    13. Curiously absent from The Golden Compass are four words that are prevalent in most fantasy adventures: right, wrong, good, and evil. Can these terms be applied to this story? How and why, or why not?

    14. On the last page of the book, Lyra and Pantalaimon recognize that they are still "one being; both of us are one." The expression resonates with a phrase from marriage ceremonies. Contrast this moment in the story with the preceding interplay between Lyra's parents.

    15. The Golden Compass is the first book in the trilogy His Dark Materials, which gets its name from a passage in John Milton's Paradise Lost, quoted at the beginning of the novel. Philip Pullman has said, "Milton's angels are not seriously meant to be believed - beings with wings and halos and white robes. They are psychological qualities, conceived and pictured as personalities. With them, Milton tells one of the central tales of our world: the story of the temptation and fall of humankind." Discuss the passage from Paradise Lost and this statement from the author in relation to The Golden Compass.

    16. When Lyra walks "into the sky" at the end of Book One, we can presume that she is walking into the world of Book Two of His Dark Materials - "the universe that we know." What do you think will happen to her and Pantalaimon when they cross the bridge?

    Read More Show Less

    Customer Reviews

    Average Rating 4.5
    ( 970 )
    Rating Distribution

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    See All Sort by: Showing 1 – 20 of 973 Customer Reviews
    • Anonymous

      Posted March 3, 2012

      Wow. Perhaps one of the finest bits of fantasy i have read

      First off, yes this is sold as a young adult novel. It really isnt though. It is actually a novel... young and old alike will like it.

      Second... where do i begin in saying how good it is? The world feels fully formed and the writing is breathtakingly good. The character are all well thought out and are multi dimensional. The plot has just the right amount of twists. And the story is incredible.

      Yes this book was written as "an atheist response to narnia"... but it goes so far beyond that as to become a fully fledged fantasy classic on its own merits. Give it a read - you will not regret it.

      24 out of 27 people found this review helpful.

      Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
    • Anonymous

      Posted July 21, 2012

      CHILL YOUR SOCKS BACK ON!

      Woah, woah, woah. Guess what. The golden compass, is FICTION. Evryone knows what that means, right? It is not real. Its just a story. It has absolutely nothing to do with God. Quit freaking out and saying you hate this book because your religious. If you dont like it because you think it attacks god, that doesnt mean it isnt a good story. Im christian, too, i
      understand, believe me. But all of you are overreacting. If you dont agree with it, leave it alone. Its not like one series will destroy your entire religion. Its not like its trying to prove god isnt real. Its just a fantasy. And all of you who dislike it because you think that just wont look past your church to see reality. Its obvious. Instead of making a hateful comment like the church tells you not to do, just read something else for god's sake.

      10 out of 15 people found this review helpful.

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    • Posted March 26, 2009

      The Golden Compass

      The Golden Compass is a tangled web that has many problems that make you feel that this book should not have been a Fantasy book for children, but overall Philip Pullman was able to make a book that is able to shine through the problems that it has.

      The Golden Compass is about a young girl named Lyra and her Daemon Pan, (daemons are animals that are born with there human and there appearances are judged by the persons personality), but because Lyra is so young, Pan has no full form yet. Lyra is a young brunet haired girl who is content to cause problems for the scholars and servants, Lyra lives in a world were churches and scholars rule most of Europe and every person has a Daemon. I can relate to Lyra because she feels that she does not know her own past. Lyra also has a so called uncle called Lord Asriel (a powerful scholar who Lyra fears and respects) Lord Asriel is a powerful man who has many ties with Jordan college. Lord Asriel daemon is a snow lion, Lyra meets a young women named Mrs. Coutler who is a proud scornful women. Her daemon is a golden monkey who also has a short temper.

      The Golden Compass takes place in a parallel Europe, were the countries are controlled by churches and scholars. People in this world all have animals that are called daemons that are a part of them. This is very important! This story centers around Lyra who is very hyper and begins her quest to save her friend Hennery and find the truth.

      Unfortunately the author made a mistake with this book that was meant for children. In a later interview Philip Pullman stated that with this book he had killed God, and claims that the gobblers in this story are actually churches in the real world. This did make enjoy the book a little less when I learned of this. Still this book was made to be about truth, love, and courage I also learned from this book that everyone has his/her own problems and must fix them, the conclusion of this book leaves many things open to for the next story.

      10 out of 17 people found this review helpful.

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    • Anonymous

      Posted September 21, 2002

      Creatatively Written and clever witted

      The Golden Compass is a thrilling book. I highly suggest reading it. This book leaves you hanging and craving for more of Pullmans brillance. Lyra and her deamon,Pan, captivate you in there world and you never want to leave. Pullman manages to suck you up in this book and make you never want to leave the adventure.

      7 out of 9 people found this review helpful.

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    • Posted September 13, 2010

      more from this reviewer

      I Also Recommend:

      What is going on in this book?

      Let me preface by saying I have never seen the movie, nor do I plan to. I'm almost at a loss for what to write as a review for this book. I know this story is apparently written for a younger audience, but i don't see how. I had to reread a lot of pages in this story just to keep track of what was going on, I would get so lost it was ridiculous. The only things that I can attribute this to are 1) we are to assume to already know how this 'alternate' world works, such as Dust, daemons, talking bears, witches, etc. with absolutely little to no introduction on who or what these things are and 2) maybe I just got so lost because British writers just write differently. While the story may be difficult to understand or follow in certain parts, it has piqued my interest into the next book. So... having bought the boxed set, and being fairly curious as to what happens to Lyra and Pan after they 'step into the sky', I'll read the next one. Maybe I'll be able to follow along better this time? We'll see!

      5 out of 14 people found this review helpful.

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    • Anonymous

      Posted April 13, 2002

      Great!

      I really liked this book. Phillip Pullman is incredably original in all of his ideas. In my oppinion at least. I suggest this book to anyone who liked Ender's Game or Harry Potter, though they're not alot alike.

      5 out of 7 people found this review helpful.

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    • Posted January 10, 2012

      more from this reviewer

      Delightful juvenile adventure; not atheist propaganda

      "...I definitely stayed up way too late on some nights, just because I didn't want to put the book down, and I was a little sad when I finished it; it ends with a lot of action and mystery, and I look very forward to reading the second book in the trilogy so I can find out what happens next for Lyra and Pan, and see who, if any, of the other characters might also be around.

      If you've seen the movie, but have not yet read the book - read the book. Seriously. As much as I enjoy the movie, I was pleased to find out that the book has even more action and adventure, and more mystery as well! You're definitely cheating yourself if you haven't read this yet, and I wish I hadn't taken so long to get to it..."

      For full review, please visit me at Les Livres on Blogger:

      jaimeliredeslivres dot blogspot dot com

      4 out of 5 people found this review helpful.

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    • Anonymous

      Posted January 6, 2013

      Anonymous

      First of all, to all you christians, hes not trying to MAKE us believe theres no god, i mean its a completely different world there living in! Its his book, he can write it however he wants.

      3 out of 4 people found this review helpful.

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    • Anonymous

      Posted January 29, 2012

      Ugh

      The beginning is really good but then it gets to hard to follow. I would not read. To many characters. To hard to follow.

      3 out of 13 people found this review helpful.

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    • Anonymous

      Posted June 16, 2012

      Terrible is an idiot.

      I'm sick of close minded judgemental christians. Jesus didn't like organized religion either, you moron. Go back to your chicken soup for the soup for the sole and your eat, pray, love BULLSH@T and leave the real reading to us grown ups

      2 out of 6 people found this review helpful.

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    • Posted February 20, 2012

      Zoe's Book Reviews

      The Golden Compass is a great book. I loved it so much because the idea of the compass. I think that sometimes having a daemon would be so cool. I really like Iorek Byrnison he is probably my favorite character.

      The Golden Compass is a wonderful book about a young girl named Lyra and her daemon Pantalaimon or for short Pan. Lyra is put in the care of a wonderful lady named Mrs. Coulter but then she finds the truth with a amored bear named Iorek. Lyra and Iorek must help every kid from a horrible thing.

      This book is a wonderful fantasy book with great characters, a wonderful plot and a twist.

      2 out of 3 people found this review helpful.

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    • Posted February 3, 2012

      more from this reviewer

      Absolute, Royal Crap

      People with daemons, secret experiments in the North, talking Polar Bears, and celestial particles called Dust makes this book a horrible read. Rebellious little girl (more annoying-rebellious that you wish she just dies which brings the story to a thankful premature end), snooty scholars, unappealing talking animals (daemons included) make up a boring cast of characters. I should have known that this was a dumb story since the crux of the it is about Dust and the controversy surrounding it (sigh, really Dust).

      2 out of 13 people found this review helpful.

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    • Anonymous

      Posted January 29, 2012

      A very good book.

      I found myself enjoying this book- the ideas, such as Daemons, the characters, such as Iorek, and the places, such as Ma Costa's ship. Overall, it was a good book and I suggest you read the entire series.

      2 out of 4 people found this review helpful.

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    • Anonymous

      Posted January 20, 2012

      a good fantasy read

      This was a fairly well-done fantasy read, but for this type of thing I prefer Roderick Blackwood and the Demon Stone by Ralph Rathbone, which is much more exciting.

      2 out of 4 people found this review helpful.

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    • Anonymous

      Posted December 20, 2011

      Worth the time.

      This is most def an odd book but once u get into it you cant put it down. Great series.

      2 out of 3 people found this review helpful.

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    • Posted November 2, 2011

      more from this reviewer

      I Also Recommend:

      A great and challenging adventure

      I loved this book and then passed it on to my niece. A great adventure with great characters. The movie version was a disappointment except that the cast was well chosen. I also thought Pullman's presentation of a different understanding of the interface between religious and scientific understanding quite interesting and worth pondering. Highly recommended no matter at what level you read. I recommend Pullman's other books as well. Great series.

      2 out of 2 people found this review helpful.

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    • Anonymous

      Posted December 7, 2004

      Totally absorbing; One of 'The Great Reads' of all time.

      The other reviews pretty much lay out the storyline. But another angle that appeals so much to me is: 'Why do we do what we do?' Entertwined are the themes of family, love, religion, adventure and right/wrong; all presented from the point of view of a wonderfully resourceful heroine, in an amazing setting, described by the author in a way that makes you feel as if you ARE THERE. All ages will relate differently to this book, which I believe makes it destined to be one of the best reads ever. If you enjoy this book AT ALL -- please read the last two books in the trilogy: 'The Subtle Knife' and 'The Amber Spyglass'. AND THEN re-read 'The Goldan Compass' to finish tying up all the ends and thinking about all the intricacies!

      2 out of 2 people found this review helpful.

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    • Anonymous

      Posted September 24, 2014

      I normally "hate" young adult novels due to flat chara

      I normally "hate" young adult novels due to flat characters, melodrama, and cookie-cutter writing. The Golden Compass is NONE of these things as is just as exciting for adults. The prose is beautiful, the characters are lively and loveable, and it raises many moral questions - not about "God vs Satan" as other reviewers have suggested, but ethical questions about love, choice, morality, freedom, and self responsibility. I was beyond disappointed when I finished this book - and the series - because the adventure was over. This book will make you laugh, cry, and everything in between.

      1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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    • Anonymous

      Posted August 22, 2013

      The Golden Compass

      I love this book it has amazing adventure all the way up to the last page. Lyra is an amazingly strong child paired with her daemon Pan they are unstoppable. It all started as a myth where gobblers would take children and would never be seen again. When her best friend Roger goes missing Lyra is determined to find him. Lyra in her journey meets witches, bears and finds the truth of Dust and what the gobblers are up to with the children they steal. Little does she know the dangers she will face when she leaves her home at Jordan college.

      1 out of 2 people found this review helpful.

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    • Anonymous

      Posted April 21, 2013

      -Kianna

      This series is awesome. I'm not one of those people who say it just cause they want to be the "most helpful" review. It's truly good. I recommended this to all my friends, and this book hasn't been available in the school library for a year.

      1 out of 2 people found this review helpful.

      Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
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