The Golden Compass

by

Philip Pullman

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The Golden Compass: Chapter Eighteen Summary & Analysis

Summary
Analysis
Lee Scoresby covers Lyra in furs and after a while, confirms that Lyra is very important. He asks Serafina Pekkala if there's going to be a battle and explains that he can't afford to fight without proper compensation. Serafina says that there will be some fighting, and points out that Scoresby has fought before. To this, Scoresby says that he knows that a war with the bears will be horrible and he wants to be prepared. Serafina says that all of them are engaged in a war and this won't change, no matter what happens on Svalbard. Scoresby says that he wants to have a choice in whether or not he fights.
Lee Scoresby shows here that he believes that in order to make a decision, he must be fully informed about it. In terms of ethics, Scoresby indicates that he sees an ethical fight as one in which the soldiers are fairly compensated for their work and the risk they're taking. By removing it from a wider context that takes the righteousness of the battle itself into account, Scoresby shows that he's somewhat selfish.
Themes
Truth, Lies, and Morality Theme Icon
Destiny vs. Free Will Theme Icon
Serafina Pekkala suggests that they may mean different things when they talk about choice. She says that witches live hundreds of years and own nothing, while Scoresby needs money to care for his balloon. She says that witches don't consider money when deciding whether or not to fight a war, and it's impossible to insult a witch like one can insult a bear. Scoresby says that he really just wants to return to Texas, buy a farm, and never fly again.
Though she doesn't say it outright, Serafina Pekkala suggests that it's far more important to look at the bigger picture (which, as far as she's concerned, shouldn't include money) when deciding whether to fight or not. Money, she suggests, is a poor motivator: a person must be motivated by a desire to do the right thing.
Themes
Destiny vs. Free Will Theme Icon
Serafina Pekkala says that this whole thing also has to do with Iorek's argument with the king of the bears, which also involves Lyra. Scoresby suggests that this is unethical as well as unlikely: Lyra seems freer than anyone. Serafina says that they all have to act like they're not at the mercy of destiny in order to feel meaningful, and explains that Lyra is destined to put an end to destiny—but only if she feels as though she's not following destiny as she does so. They look at Lyra sleeping and Scoresby asks about Roger. Serafina says that Lyra has something valuable and Roger, led by fate, enticed Lyra north.
In this passage, Serafina Pekkala gets at the novel's main idea when it comes to destiny: that everyone in this world is at its mercy, but that it's important for everyone (not just Lyra) to feel as though they're acting of their own accord. This suggests that destiny and free will aren't actually opposites. Instead, though free will might be an illusion, it's nevertheless meaningful and helps people fulfill their destinies.
Themes
Destiny vs. Free Will Theme Icon
Related Quotes
Serafina Pekkala explains that the witches believe that the things happening at Bolvanger are evil, so they've aligned themselves with Lyra and with the gyptians because of Farder Coram. Because of this, they're also connected to Lord Asriel. She promises to help Scoresby back to Trollesund if she can, but says that she has no idea what they'll find on Svalbard or what Lyra and Iorek will do. Scoresby asks which side of the war he's on, and they agree that they're both on Lyra's side. Scoresby checks his instruments and goes to sleep.
That both Serafina and Scoresby choose to align themselves with Lyra and against Bolvanger suggests that for them, the most important thing right now is making sure that people's souls remain intact. In addition to the larger political questions, their goal is to protect vulnerable children and ensure that those children can grow into adulthood. Further, they choose an allegiance to this particular child (Lyra), essentially choosing friendship and personal loyalty over larger political machinations.
Themes
Childhood, Innocence, and Maturation Theme Icon
Humanity, Identity, and the Soul Theme Icon
Destiny vs. Free Will Theme Icon
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Lyra wakes up to find everyone but Serafina Pekkala asleep. They discuss the plan for landing in Svalbard and Lyra asks what she's supposed to do with Lord Asriel and how she should act. Serafina explains that Lord Asriel needs to cross over to another world and needs something to help him. Lyra is certain he needs the alethiometer and suggests that she can help him, but Serafina cannot confirm this. After a few minutes, Lyra asks Serafina, who's wearing nothing but light silk, why she isn't cold. The witch explains that cold doesn't hurt witches and, since not bundling up means that they can feel the Aurora, the moonlight, and the stars, they don't.
When Serafina talks about all the things she can feel because she doesn't cover up against the cold, she makes the case that gaining experience is, for witches, not only necessary but entirely worth it—experience opens her up to a world of sensation that others never get to feel. This impresses upon Lyra that whenever she can without hurting herself, she should endeavor to feel and experience as much as possible.
Themes
Childhood, Innocence, and Maturation Theme Icon
Humanity, Identity, and the Soul Theme Icon
Lyra asks how long witches live and mentions Farder Coram. Serafina Pekkala says that the oldest witch is almost a thousand years old and tells Lyra that there are only female witches. She says that men serve the witches and become their lovers or husbands, but the men die quickly. Witches bear their children and their sons, which are human, die. Eventually, witches' hearts break. Lyra asks if Serafina loves Farder Coram. The witch confirms that she does. She would've given up being a witch for him, she say. They had a son, who died in an epidemic, and soon after, Serafina became clan queen. She's helped Farder Coram several times since, but she hasn't seen him. Lyra insists that Serafina send Farder Coram a message.
Here, Serafina suggests that while it's important and extremely meaningful to make connections with beings who are different, as in a witch-human relationship, those connections can also be painful given the ways that beings differ from each other. This plants the seed in Lyra's mind that she should brace herself for heartache later when it comes to Iorek, though it also offers some hope that she and Iorek will be able to maintain a warm relationship even if things become difficult.
Themes
Humanity, Identity, and the Soul Theme Icon
Lyra asks why humans have dæmons, but Serafina Pekkala says that nobody knows. Dæmons make them different from animals, and Lyra talks about how strange Iorek is but how amazing it is that he can create his soul. Serafina reveals that Iorek is a prince and, if he hadn't killed another bear, he'd be king of the bears. The current king, Iofur Raknison, is clever like a human and wishes to be a part of the human world. There are rumors that he tricked Iorek into killing the bear. Lyra points out that in theory, bears can't be tricked, and wonders if bears can trick bears. They discuss how the people in Trollesund tricked Iorek, and Serafina suggests that bears might be susceptible to tricks when they act like people.
The novel overwhelmingly shows that every different kind of being has its own quirks, flaws, and strong suits—and it suggests here that if a being chooses to give up on what it actually is, it might also forfeit all the things that would normally help it survive. This suggests that part of being alive in Lyra's world entails being at ease with one’s self, something that Serafina suggests that Iofur Raknison is not.
Themes
Humanity, Identity, and the Soul Theme Icon
Religion, Politics, and Control Theme Icon
Related Quotes
Lyra asks what Dust is. Serafina Pekkala doesn't know, but says that priests and the Church fear Dust. Lyra remembers the Intercessor telling her at one point that religion and elementary particles are linked. Cold, Lyra covers herself in furs and falls asleep again. Serafina wakes Scoresby a while later. Something is wrong; the balloon swings wildly. Roger and Lyra wake up and comfort each other as the basket drops through fog. Suddenly, a leathery, winged creature crawls over the basket. Iorek knocks it off and says that it's a cliff-ghast. The balloon tips sideways and something rips. The basket jerks and Lyra flies out and lands in the snow.
Because the Church and the Magisterium are so powerful and far-reaching, they have the ability to finance crackdowns on the things they fear. This shows more broadly how governments or powerful religious institutions can harness fear for their own ends. The link between religion and elementary particles shows again that in Lyra's world, religious institutions can gain control by harnessing science and what scientific discoveries are published—similar to the earlier days of Christianity in Europe, when the Church controlled scientific data as well as religious dogma.
Themes
Religion, Politics, and Control Theme Icon
Lyra calls for Iorek and Roger, but no one answers. Pan checks the alethiometer and after a minute, they get up to try to find the balloon. They find sandbags that Scoresby must've thrown over. A massive shape appears behind Lyra. She thinks it's Iorek, but it's a strange bear. Two more appear and take Lyra prisoner.
Now that Lyra is completely alone, she's going to have to use the fact that she's a child to her advantage. Without adults to help her, it's now time for her to figure out how to weaponize who she is and what she knows.
Themes
Childhood, Innocence, and Maturation Theme Icon