The Golden Compass

by

Philip Pullman

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The Golden Compass: Chapter Eleven Summary & Analysis

Summary
Analysis
Back at the ship, Lyra consults the alethiometer and figures out where Iorek's armor is and why it will be difficult to retrieve. She decides to let John Faa ask if he needs her help and falls asleep thinking of how different Iorek is from humans. Lyra wakes in the middle of the night, puts on her new furs, and climbs onto the deck. There, she clutches the railing in awe of the beautiful Aurora (the northern lights). It looks like both Heaven and Hell, and Lyra thinks that it seems almost holy. She thinks that it might be Dust, but then promptly forgets the thought. A city then appears in the sky—but as Lyra watches, something flies toward her. When the gray goose lands on the ship, the city disappears.
Lyra's interpretation of the Aurora, specifically the note that it looks like Heaven and Hell, speaks to how entrenched religion is in Lyra's world. It doesn't matter that Lyra isn't especially interested in religious matters; she still draws on the imagery and the language of religion in order to make sense of the world around her. To a degree, this speaks to the hold that the Magisterium has over society.
Themes
Religion, Politics, and Control Theme Icon
The goose is clearly a dæmon. He asks for Farder Coram and Lyra stumbles over herself to comply. She's fascinated and terrified. Farder Coram and John Faa join her on the deck and Farder Coram calls the goose Kaisa. Kaisa looks at Lyra, says he knows who she is, and asks if the gyptians are here to fight. Farder Coram says they're here to rescue children and need the witches' help, but Kaisa says that some clans are working with the "Dust hunters." He doesn't know if the Dust hunters and the Oblation Board are the same, but they arrived ten years ago to study Dust. Kaisa explains that Dust comes from the sky and inspires fear in humans who know about it. He came to show Farder Coram how to get to Bolvanger, where the Dust hunters are set up.
Just as with Iorek, Kaisa represents an entirely different way of being, since he's essentially an independent soul. However, he can still be read as a reflection of his person, the witch Serafina Pekkala. He indicates that the witches, being so different from humans, have different ways of thinking about Dust and the risk it might pose to their world, and he shows that he and Serafina are wise and want to help.
Themes
Humanity, Identity, and the Soul Theme Icon
Kaisa explains that they don't know what the Dust hunters do at Bolvanger, but it emanates hatred and fear. The Dust hunters have a group of armed Tartars and a wire fence. Lyra asks why the witches know about her. Kaisa says that it's because of Lord Asriel and what he knows about the other worlds. Lyra asks if he means the city in the Aurora, and Kaisa confirms this. He says that the witches have known about the other worlds for millennia. They're easier to see in the Aurora because of the way the particles make this world thin. He's not sure if it has to do with Dust, but the Dust hunters are afraid of Lord Asriel's goal of building a bridge between the worlds. This is why the Magisterium orchestrated the crowning of the current bear king to keep Lord Asriel captive.
That the witches have known about the city in the Aurora for so long makes it clear that they exist outside the jurisdiction of the Magisterium. Remember that the Master said that the Magisterium silenced Barnard and Stokes, who proposed that there were other universes. This shows that the Magisterium will do anything, even if it's questionable, in order to not have to deal with information that might threaten what it teaches and how it controls society.
Themes
Religion, Politics, and Control Theme Icon
Lyra asks which side the witches are on. Kaisa says that it's complicated, as the witches are divided and there would be a huge advantage to whoever possessed the bridge to the other worlds. Lyra asks where the bears' allegiances lie, and Kaisa says that they normally don't care about human problems, but their new king is changing things. Regardless, the bears will hold Lord Asriel until they all die. At this, Lyra cries out that Iorek isn't like that and is going to help them. Farder Coram uncomfortably tells Lyra that this isn't true; Iorek is an indentured laborer and dangerous. Lyra says that the alethiometer told her something different. Farder Coram says that the townspeople only haven't killed Iorek as punishment for killing people because they need him to work metal. Lyra promises to keep Iorek from hurting anyone.
In this moment, Lyra shows that she now trusts the alethiometer completely and will use it to decide which adults she can trust and which she can't (in this case, the townsfolk who are lying about Iorek). Lyra's defense of Iorek positions children in general as some of the best defenders of the truth and of doing the right thing, even when it's difficult. Notably, she can champion Iorek like this because she's a child and isn't interested in learning about the political intricacies involved in why he's an indentured laborer here in the first place.
Themes
Childhood, Innocence, and Maturation Theme Icon
Humanity, Identity, and the Soul Theme Icon
Religion, Politics, and Control Theme Icon
Truth, Lies, and Morality Theme Icon
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Everyone turns to Kaisa, who says that the witches are interested in Lyra in part because of the alethiometer. Farder Coram suggests that they trust Lyra and Iorek, and they ask Kaisa for his opinion. Kaisa says that they'll need to make their own choices, but an outcast bear may be less reliable. Then, he tells them how to reach Bolvanger. Lyra sits back and thinks of a bridge between two worlds, her brilliant father, and she vows to take him the alethiometer and free him from the bears.
The possibility of other worlds is so appealing for Lyra in part because of her age: as a child approaching puberty, rebellion is normal, and the fact that the existence of these other worlds goes against Magisterium teachings makes them a prime target for youthful rebellion.
Themes
Childhood, Innocence, and Maturation Theme Icon
Religion, Politics, and Control Theme Icon
Lyra wakes up after noon and finds the rest of the gyptians mostly ready to go. She joins Tony Costa and his friends in a cafe and tells him all about Iorek. A tall lean man with a hare dæmon sits down, introduces himself as Lee Scoresby, the balloonist, and says that he knows Iorek. He invites the gyptians to play cards with him while his dæmon motions to Pan. The hare tells Pan to go to Iorek immediately: as soon as the town figures out what's going on, they'll move his armor. Lyra and Pan leave immediately for Iorek's workplace. They stand far away and Lyra watches the bear dismantle a crushed tractor. Iorek notices Lyra and as he looks at her, Lyra feels terrified and decides to not speak to him.
Scoresby's behavior suggests that the alethiometer is right and the townsfolk have treated Iorek poorly. Standing up for Iorek now shows that Scoresby is a good and loyal friend who's willing to do what's right. At this point in her life, Lyra craves experiences that are different than what she knows, but Iorek represents a kind of difference that's scary and, to a degree, threatening. Being without a dæmon and therefore, without his soul means that he's fundamentally different and unknowable as far as Lyra's concerned.
Themes
Childhood, Innocence, and Maturation Theme Icon
Humanity, Identity, and the Soul Theme Icon
Truth, Lies, and Morality Theme Icon
Pan, however, says that he'll talk to Iorek. He flies as a bird over the chain link fence, but Lyra doesn't follow. He turns into a badger. Dæmons can't get more than a few yards from their person, so Lyra knows he's going to pull her. As they draw apart, Lyra's chest aches with sadness, love, and physical pain. Lyra sobs and races through the gate to Pan. Iorek watches as Lyra and Pan comfort each other and then turn to him. Lyra thinks he looks so alone. She tells him that she knows where his armor is.
Pulling Lyra like this shows that in this world, the kind of dissonance and uncertainty that Lyra feels has a physical cause: her soul pulling her one way, when she wants to go the other. That Pan ultimately wins out and also represents Lyra's conscience suggests that he's intent on pushing Lyra toward doing the right thing and is willing to be uncomfortable to do so.
Themes
Childhood, Innocence, and Maturation Theme Icon
Humanity, Identity, and the Soul Theme Icon
Truth, Lies, and Morality Theme Icon
Related Quotes
Lyra asks why Iorek doesn't make more armor. He shows her how weak normal metal is. He explains that his armor is made of “sky iron,” and says this it's his soul, just like a dæmon is a human's soul. Making new armor out of normal metal would be like replacing Pan with a stuffed animal. Lyra makes Iorek promise to not hurt anyone out of vengeance and tells him his armor is in the priest's house. The priest has been trying to exorcise a spirit out of it. Iorek tells Lyra he owes her a debt and pads away. Lyra follows and watches the sentries in town realize what's happening. Lyra reaches the house to see the front door torn off. A sentry enters and the house seems to shake as Iorek bursts through a ground-level window. In his armor, he's terrifying.
The fact that the priest has tried to exorcise Iorek's armor and that Iorek confirms it's his soul impresses upon Lyra that Iorek is different from her, but not for the reason she initially thought. He's different because he doesn't have his soul with him, not because he doesn't have a dæmon. Learning this allows Lyra to form a more nuanced view of the world and the beings in it which, in turn, will allow her to be more forgiving, curious, and understanding when she meets others who are different.
Themes
Childhood, Innocence, and Maturation Theme Icon
Humanity, Identity, and the Soul Theme Icon
Related Quotes
The policemen and the sentry shoot at Iorek, but he brushes off the bullets and grabs the sentry's head in his jaws. Lyra darts forward and touches the only fur she can see through his armor. She fiercely reminds the bear that he owes her and that he promised to not hurt these men. Iorek slowly drops the man and follows Lyra to the harbor. There, Iorek pulls off his armor and slips into the water as the gyptians watch. Lyra tells Tony Costa what happened as a crowd begins to gather. She turns back to Iorek's armor to find Lee Scoresby sitting on top of it with a long pistol. He reprimands the townsfolk for how they treated Iorek, as Iorek returns with a seal he’s caught. The bear then carefully packs seal blubber into the joints of his armor.
Lyra's fearlessness when it comes to Iorek stems from her growing understanding of right and wrong. She knows that insisting that Iorek keep his word is more important than worrying about whether or not he might accidentally kill her, so it's not something that she even bothers to think about. She could also act this way because of her youth, as she doesn't yet fully grasp all the things that could threaten her life.
Themes
Childhood, Innocence, and Maturation Theme Icon
Truth, Lies, and Morality Theme Icon
John Faa and Farder Coram, along with the town's “sysselman” (the head of the local government), arrive. The sysselman warns Iorek that if he returns they'll be merciless, but Iorek ignores him. The townsfolk wander away and Lyra realizes that Iorek was right: the armor is his soul; he cares for it like she cares for Pan. John Faa calls everyone to prepare to leave and in a half an hour, they leave the town. Lyra falls asleep. Pan decides to tell her later that a monkey-like figure is following them.
Seeing what is presumably the golden monkey indicates that Mrs. Coulter is either nearby, or that the golden monkey can stray surprisingly far from Mrs. Coulter for not being a witch. This makes it seem as though there's something uncanny about Mrs. Coulter and that possibly, she's not entirely human in some way.
Themes
Humanity, Identity, and the Soul Theme Icon