The Golden Compass

by

Philip Pullman

Teachers and parents! Struggling with distance learning? Our Teacher Edition on The Golden Compass can help.

The Golden Compass: Chapter Six Summary & Analysis

Summary
Analysis
Lyra and Pan, as a wildcat, walk away from the river. They're both thrilled to be free. They stop at a coffee cart on the street and a gentleman in a silk hat pays for Lyra's coffee and sandwich. Lyra scans the street, which is filling with theatergoers, tells the man her name is Alice, and refuses his offer of brandy. She tells the man that she's waiting for her father, who's a murderer. Lyra and Pan continue to walk and hours later, they try to find a place to sleep.
In this situation, Lyra's lie keeps her safe. While it's impossible to know for sure if this man means Lyra harm, Lyra nevertheless shows that she understands how to use lies to deter suspicious adults from getting too close or taking too much of an interest in her.
Themes
Truth, Lies, and Morality Theme Icon
Lyra and Pan head toward the wharf and carefully peek into the window of a hut, where an old man is making tea. Lyra suggests they ask the man to let them in, but Pan, terrified, turns into various birds: two men with nets are running at them. Pan turns into an eagle and guides Lyra through the dark alleys, but the nets fall over her and a fox dæmon attacks Pan. Lyra cries in pain but then sees that one of her captors is dead, with an arrow sticking out of his neck. Lyra, the dæmons, and her living captor stop as another arrow hits the man. Someone drags the man away and another man helps free Lyra.
It's worth considering that the fact that a child's dæmon can transform might not just represent immaturity; it may be a way for children to protect themselves in a world that says it looks out for them but doesn't in reality. Pan can, in turn, guide Lyra as a bird and then take forms that allow him to fight the fox dæmon, in addition to taking forms that keep Lyra warm or help her sneak around—all things that help her grow and stay safe.
Themes
Childhood, Innocence, and Maturation Theme Icon
Humanity, Identity, and the Soul Theme Icon
Lyra comforts Pan and then recognizes one of her saviors as Tony Costa, Billy Costa's older brother. Lyra cries with relief and anxiety and hopes that the Costas don't remember that she stole their boat. Tony starts to lead Lyra away, but Lyra and Pan turn to watch the dead men's dæmons fade and drift away. They slip onto the narrowboat and into the cabin, and Ma Costa unquestioningly grabs Lyra in a huge hug. She shushes Lyra, heats up milk, and puts her to bed.
Lyra and Pan's interest in what happens to the men's dæmons as they die speaks more broadly to normal human curiosity about what happens when a person dies. Seeing the dæmons fade reminds the reader that dæmons aren't true animals; they're actually a part of their person's soul.
Themes
Humanity, Identity, and the Soul Theme Icon
Lyra wakes up in the morning, checks that she still has the alethiometer, and enters the kitchen. Ma Costa enters from the deck and starts to make Lyra breakfast, refusing to answer questions and saying only that there's some trouble brewing. Tony enters the kitchen too and once Lyra eats, they ask for her story. She tells it clumsily, leaving out only the alethiometer, and says that Mrs. Coulter is one of the Gobblers. She starts to say what they do to the kids, but Ma Costa hurriedly leaves. Tony says that they know that they take kids north and experiment on them, and they suspect that they sell kids to the Tartars, who eat them.
Talking about what the Gobblers do to the captured children in front of Ma Costa is somewhat thoughtless; Lyra's choice to start this thought again reinforces her youth and the selfishness that sometimes goes along with it. Tony's willingness to talk to Lyra and share what they know, on the other hand, allows Lyra to start to feel more grown up and serious. By treating her this way, Tony helps to guide her toward a more mature state of being.
Themes
Childhood, Innocence, and Maturation Theme Icon
Truth, Lies, and Morality Theme Icon
Get the entire The Golden Compass LitChart as a printable PDF.
The Golden Compass PDF
Tony tells Lyra about ghosts unique to the northern regions. He also mentions the panserbjørne, and Lyra interjects that the bears have imprisoned Lord Asriel. Tony says if it's true, Lord Asriel won't ever get out, as the bears are mercenaries and unbeatable thanks to the armor they make with meteoric iron. He notes, however, that if a person makes a deal with a bear, the bear will keep his word. Tony also explains that they know what happens to the kidnapped kids because they caught a Gobbler. He says that the Gobblers target gyptian kids more than others, so the gyptians are planning a rescue mission. Tony says that they'll see John Faa, the king of the gyptians. Lyra says she wants to go too to rescue Roger. She thinks that she also wants to rescue Lord Asriel.
When Tony confirms that the Gobblers target gyptian children more than others, it reinforces the novel's assertion that the Magisterium is more than willing to prey on its most vulnerable populations in order to meet its goals. For the Magisterium, sacrificing gyptian children likely isn't much of a cost. Lyra's desire to rescue Roger and Lord Asriel indicates that she wants to take responsibility for others and make things right in the world, something that speaks to her growing maturity and sense of justice.
Themes
Childhood, Innocence, and Maturation Theme Icon
Religion, Politics, and Control Theme Icon
Truth, Lies, and Morality Theme Icon