The Golden Compass

by

Philip Pullman

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Lord Asriel Character Analysis

Lyra initially believes that Lord Asriel is her uncle—in reality, he's her father. A tall, imposing, and wild-looking man, Lord Asriel was once a very powerful and well-connected person in politics. He lost everything, however, after Lyra's birth, when he was convicted for wrongfully killing Mrs. Coulter's husband, who was upset to discover that Mrs. Coulter had given birth to Lord Asriel's illegitimate daughter. Despite losing his assets, Lord Asriel continued to hold sway in political and theological circles, and he often leads expeditions to the North to study the Aurora and Dust. For the most part, he takes little interest in Lyra except to make sure that she's healthy. Lyra both admires and fears Lord Asriel. When she learns that Lord Asriel is being held prisoner by the panserbjørne (armored bears) on Svalbard, Lyra vows to rescue Lord Asriel and take him the alethiometer, which she believes he needs. This interpretation, however, turns out to be incorrect. When Lyra finally reaches Lord Asriel, she discovers just how cruel and unfeeling he is. He sees no issue with never telling Lyra that he's her father and dismisses her anger and sense of betrayal. He does, however, explain his research to her: there are parallel universes accessible through the Aurora and one of them contains the source of Dust, which he wants to destroy. His cruelty comes to the forefront when he kills Roger in pursuit of this research.

Lord Asriel Quotes in The Golden Compass

The The Golden Compass quotes below are all either spoken by Lord Asriel or refer to Lord Asriel. For each quote, you can also see the other characters and themes related to it (each theme is indicated by its own dot and icon, like this one:
Childhood, Innocence, and Maturation Theme Icon
). Note: all page numbers and citation info for the quotes below refer to the Random House edition of The Golden Compass published in 1995.
Chapter One Quotes

"I didn't have anything in mind, and well you know it," she snapped quietly. "But now I've seen what the Master did, I haven't got any choice. You're supposed to know about conscience, aren't you? How can I just go and sit in the library or somewhere and twiddle my thumbs, knowing what's going to happen? I don't intend to do that, I promise you."

Related Characters: Lyra (speaker), Pan, Lord Asriel, The Master
Page Number: 9
Explanation and Analysis:
Chapter Two Quotes

"Yes. Lyra has a part to play in all this, and a major one. The irony is that she must do it all without realizing what she's doing. She can be helped, though, and if my plan with the Tokay had succeeded, she would have been safe for a little longer."

Related Characters: The Master (speaker), Lord Asriel, The Librarian
Related Symbols: The Alethiometer
Page Number: 31
Explanation and Analysis:
Chapter Sixteen Quotes

"I think he's got an entirely different idea of the nature of Dust. That's the point. It's profoundly heretical, you see, and the Consistorial Court of Discipline can't allow any other interpretation than the authorized one. And besides, he wants to experiment—"

"To experiment? With Dust?"

Related Characters: The Gobblers (speaker), Lyra, Lord Asriel
Related Symbols: Dust
Page Number: 274
Explanation and Analysis:
Chapter Twenty-One Quotes

"She guessed that the two things that happen in adolescence might be connected: the change in one's dæmon and the fact that Dust began to settle. Perhaps if the dæmon were separated from the body, we might never be subject to Dust—to original sin."

Related Characters: Lord Asriel (speaker), Lyra, Mrs. Coulter
Related Symbols: Dust
Page Number: 375
Explanation and Analysis:
Chapter Twenty-Three Quotes

"We've heard them all talk about Dust, and they're so afraid of it, and you know what? We believed them, even though we could see that what they were doing was wicked and evil and wrong...We thought Dust must be bad too, because they were grown up and they said so. But what if it isn't? What if it's—"

She said breathlessly, "Yeah! What if it's really good..."

Related Characters: Lyra (speaker), Pan (speaker), Mrs. Coulter, Lord Asriel, The Gobblers
Related Symbols: Dust
Page Number: 398
Explanation and Analysis:
Get the entire The Golden Compass LitChart as a printable PDF.
The Golden Compass PDF

Lord Asriel Character Timeline in The Golden Compass

The timeline below shows where the character Lord Asriel appears in The Golden Compass. The colored dots and icons indicate which themes are associated with that appearance.
Chapter One
Humanity, Identity, and the Soul Theme Icon
Truth, Lies, and Morality Theme Icon
...behind an armchair, they watch as the Master and the Butler enter and discuss that Lord Asriel hasn't arrived yet. The Butler points out the Tokay wine that he decanted for Lord... (full context)
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
Lyra is excited: Lord Asriel is her uncle, and she both admires him and is afraid of him. The Master... (full context)
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
...on. Lyra admits that she doesn't have a plan for how she's going to save Lord Asriel , but she chastises Pan for not using his conscience for good. The two sit... (full context)
Childhood, Innocence, and Maturation Theme Icon
...stand. The door starts to open and the Butler stuffs the leaves into his pocket. Lord Asriel enters with his snow leopard dæmon, Stelmaria, and the two men greet each other stiffly.... (full context)
Humanity, Identity, and the Soul Theme Icon
Religion, Politics, and Control Theme Icon
Truth, Lies, and Morality Theme Icon
Lord Asriel drinks two cups of coffee and then stands. He's tall, and seems like a wild... (full context)
Humanity, Identity, and the Soul Theme Icon
Destiny vs. Free Will Theme Icon
The Butler and Lord Asriel 's manservant, Thorold, arrive with another case and stop short when they see the Porter... (full context)
Chapter Two
Childhood, Innocence, and Maturation Theme Icon
Religion, Politics, and Control Theme Icon
Destiny vs. Free Will Theme Icon
Lyra watches the Master and his dæmon anxiously glance to where the Tokay was. Lord Asriel greets the Master and the other Scholars who enter, and the Master fries poppy heads.... (full context)
Childhood, Innocence, and Maturation Theme Icon
Religion, Politics, and Control Theme Icon
Truth, Lies, and Morality Theme Icon
Lord Asriel starts the projector and begins to speak. He says that he left a year ago... (full context)
Childhood, Innocence, and Maturation Theme Icon
Humanity, Identity, and the Soul Theme Icon
Religion, Politics, and Control Theme Icon
...Lyra feels that this Dust is different from normal dust. Scholars begin to gasp and Lord Asriel draws their attention to the figure next to the illuminated man. He says it's not... (full context)
Religion, Politics, and Control Theme Icon
Destiny vs. Free Will Theme Icon
The Scholars stir excitedly, and the Palmerian Professor asks if this is the "Barnard-Stokes business." Lord Asriel addresses a Scholar and says that Grumman was probably investigating this phenomenon, but Grumman is... (full context)
Childhood, Innocence, and Maturation Theme Icon
Lord Asriel wakes Lyra up much later. He says they voted to give him money but won't... (full context)
Religion, Politics, and Control Theme Icon
After Lord Asriel leaves, the Master and the Librarian sit together with drinks. They discuss that Lord Asriel... (full context)
Childhood, Innocence, and Maturation Theme Icon
Religion, Politics, and Control Theme Icon
Truth, Lies, and Morality Theme Icon
Destiny vs. Free Will Theme Icon
...there are other worlds, and the Librarian sarcastically says that they've just given money to Lord Asriel to go look for them. The Master says that he's in a tight spot and... (full context)
Chapter Three
Childhood, Innocence, and Maturation Theme Icon
Religion, Politics, and Control Theme Icon
Truth, Lies, and Morality Theme Icon
...she knows that she's somehow connected to something grander, as represented by her connection to Lord Asriel . Despite knowing this, Lyra only uses it to lord over her peers. When Lord... (full context)
Childhood, Innocence, and Maturation Theme Icon
Religion, Politics, and Control Theme Icon
...this, but he accepts her story when she tells an even more fantastical one about Lord Asriel killing Tartars with a withering stare. Lyra steals the Butler's keys and the children sneak... (full context)
Chapter Four
Childhood, Innocence, and Maturation Theme Icon
Religion, Politics, and Control Theme Icon
Truth, Lies, and Morality Theme Icon
...Scholars are going to send her to school. Blankly, Lyra says no. She says that Lord Asriel promised to take her to the North next time he goes, and Mrs. Coulter says... (full context)
Childhood, Innocence, and Maturation Theme Icon
Religion, Politics, and Control Theme Icon
Truth, Lies, and Morality Theme Icon
Destiny vs. Free Will Theme Icon
...alethiometer, he says, and it tells the truth. The Master begins to say something about Lord Asriel , but he stops when someone knocks on his door. (full context)
Childhood, Innocence, and Maturation Theme Icon
Religion, Politics, and Control Theme Icon
Truth, Lies, and Morality Theme Icon
...promised to keep it secret, but Mrs. Coulter seems kind—while the Master tried to poison Lord Asriel . (full context)
Childhood, Innocence, and Maturation Theme Icon
Truth, Lies, and Morality Theme Icon
...she can't control the fourth. They wonder if Lyra is supposed to take it to Lord Asriel , but Mrs. Coulter interrupts their conversation to tell Lyra to go to bed. (full context)
Chapter Five
Childhood, Innocence, and Maturation Theme Icon
Truth, Lies, and Morality Theme Icon
...about the Oblation Board and Rusakov Particles. Uncomfortable under Lord Boreal's stare, Lyra admits that Lord Asriel showed her a photo of Dust and that the Oblation Board took Roger. She says... (full context)
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
...Lyra and Pan feel horrified. She wanders around until she hears a bishop say that Lord Asriel is currently imprisoned at Svalbard by the panserbjørne—the armored bears—because of his heretical experiments. Lyra... (full context)
Chapter Six
Childhood, Innocence, and Maturation Theme Icon
Religion, Politics, and Control Theme Icon
Truth, Lies, and Morality Theme Icon
...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... (full context)
Chapter Seven
Childhood, Innocence, and Maturation Theme Icon
Destiny vs. Free Will Theme Icon
...knows children who were taken, and she shares what she knows about Grumman's head and Lord Asriel 's work, and states her intention to rescue him. She tells them everything she can... (full context)
Childhood, Innocence, and Maturation Theme Icon
Truth, Lies, and Morality Theme Icon
...died in an airship accident, but John Faa says this isn't true: her father is Lord Asriel . He says that both Lord Asriel and Lyra's mother were passionate, impulsive people, and... (full context)
Religion, Politics, and Control Theme Icon
Truth, Lies, and Morality Theme Icon
...has been watching over her and passed it on when Lyra left with the person Lord Asriel said she should never leave with: Mrs. Coulter, her mother. Lyra is shocked. John Faa... (full context)
Truth, Lies, and Morality Theme Icon
...giving Lyra the alethiometer. Lyra thinks that the Master wanted her to keep it from Lord Asriel , but Farder Coram wonders if he intended the opposite. He suggests that the alethiometer... (full context)
Chapter Eight
Childhood, Innocence, and Maturation Theme Icon
Humanity, Identity, and the Soul Theme Icon
Truth, Lies, and Morality Theme Icon
Lyra quickly comes to terms with the fact that Lord Asriel is her father, but she's confused about her emotions surrounding Mrs. Coulter being her mother.... (full context)
Religion, Politics, and Control Theme Icon
Truth, Lies, and Morality Theme Icon
...movement and asks why they're bothering to protect her. John Faa says that Lyra is Lord Asriel 's daughter and reminds everyone that Lord Asriel fought hard for gyptian rights and has... (full context)
Childhood, Innocence, and Maturation Theme Icon
Truth, Lies, and Morality Theme Icon
...preparations and asks again for questions. A man asks if John Faa intends to rescue Lord Asriel from the bears, but John Faa says that it'd be too costly. He will, however,... (full context)
Chapter Eleven
Religion, Politics, and Control Theme Icon
...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... (full context)
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
...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... (full context)
Chapter Twelve
Childhood, Innocence, and Maturation Theme Icon
Humanity, Identity, and the Soul Theme Icon
...but she's not sure what they'll find. She quiets her fear by reminding herself that Lord Asriel is her father and that she commands a bear. In the middle of the village,... (full context)
Chapter Thirteen
Humanity, Identity, and the Soul Theme Icon
...which live together. Iorek doesn't respond, and Lyra apologizes for offending him. She explains that Lord Asriel is a captive on Svalbard and Iorek claims to know nothing, as he's no longer... (full context)
Childhood, Innocence, and Maturation Theme Icon
Humanity, Identity, and the Soul Theme Icon
Truth, Lies, and Morality Theme Icon
...remember what the Palmerian Professor said about Iofur. Iorek says that if the bears have Lord Asriel , he's never getting out. Lyra asks if the bears could be tricked. Iorek shows... (full context)
Childhood, Innocence, and Maturation Theme Icon
Truth, Lies, and Morality Theme Icon
...honorary Tartar, the Tartars must not have scalped him. Scoresby suggests that the head that Lord Asriel showed wasn't Grumman's head at all. (full context)
Chapter Sixteen
Childhood, Innocence, and Maturation Theme Icon
Religion, Politics, and Control Theme Icon
Truth, Lies, and Morality Theme Icon
...means that patients are less likely to die of shock. The “Maystadt anbaric scalpel” and Lord Asriel 's discovery of an alloy that insulates the body from a dæmon make the procedure... (full context)
Humanity, Identity, and the Soul Theme Icon
Religion, Politics, and Control Theme Icon
Truth, Lies, and Morality Theme Icon
The doctor asks about Lord Asriel , and Mrs. Coulter says that since he continued his "heretical" work in Svalbard, he's... (full context)
Chapter Seventeen
Truth, Lies, and Morality Theme Icon
Destiny vs. Free Will Theme Icon
...alethiometer. She says that it wasn't his to give, and that it shouldn't go to Lord Asriel . Lyra asks why, and Mrs. Coulter explains that Lord Asriel is doing evil and... (full context)
Truth, Lies, and Morality Theme Icon
Destiny vs. Free Will Theme Icon
...the balloon north. Roger and Iorek fall asleep. Serafina asks Lyra why she's going to Lord Asriel . Lyra incredulously says that she needs to take him the alethiometer. She amends this... (full context)
Chapter Eighteen
Childhood, Innocence, and Maturation Theme Icon
Humanity, Identity, and the Soul Theme Icon
Destiny vs. Free Will Theme Icon
...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... (full context)
Childhood, Innocence, and Maturation Theme Icon
Humanity, Identity, and the Soul Theme Icon
...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... (full context)
Chapter Nineteen
Humanity, Identity, and the Soul Theme Icon
Religion, Politics, and Control Theme Icon
...challenge Iofur to a fight. Scared and disappointed, Lyra asks where the other prisoners and Lord Asriel are. At this, Santelia cringes and shrinks back, saying that Iofur doesn't allow people to... (full context)
Chapter Twenty
Truth, Lies, and Morality Theme Icon
Destiny vs. Free Will Theme Icon
...is king from her spies. Lyra then says that Mrs. Coulter is going to kill Lord Asriel because she's afraid of what he's doing and wants to do it herself. Mrs. Coulter... (full context)
Chapter Twenty-One
Humanity, Identity, and the Soul Theme Icon
Religion, Politics, and Control Theme Icon
...of them. Lyra thinks of the bear Søren Eisarson telling her about the negotiations with Lord Asriel . The bears generally treat prisoners well so they can use them as bargaining chips... (full context)
Humanity, Identity, and the Soul Theme Icon
Religion, Politics, and Control Theme Icon
Truth, Lies, and Morality Theme Icon
...Thorold answers the door, is surprised to see Lyra, and lets Lyra and Roger in. Lord Asriel looks eager and triumphant but when he sees Lyra, he looks at her with horror... (full context)
Destiny vs. Free Will Theme Icon
Lyra sits outside the bathroom while Roger bathes. Roger admits that he's afraid of Lord Asriel and says that it was odd how he calmed down as soon as he saw... (full context)
Childhood, Innocence, and Maturation Theme Icon
Humanity, Identity, and the Soul Theme Icon
Truth, Lies, and Morality Theme Icon
Lyra sits across from Lord Asriel . They discuss that Iorek is now king and Lord Asriel wants to know why... (full context)
Childhood, Innocence, and Maturation Theme Icon
Humanity, Identity, and the Soul Theme Icon
Religion, Politics, and Control Theme Icon
Lord Asriel asks Lyra for her story. When she finishes, she asks him to tell her what... (full context)
Childhood, Innocence, and Maturation Theme Icon
Humanity, Identity, and the Soul Theme Icon
Religion, Politics, and Control Theme Icon
Lord Asriel reads the passage of Genesis in which the serpent tempts Eve by saying that her... (full context)
Religion, Politics, and Control Theme Icon
Lyra asks about the Gobblers, and Lord Asriel explains that Mrs. Coulter started the General Oblation Board. He says that it's under the... (full context)
Childhood, Innocence, and Maturation Theme Icon
Humanity, Identity, and the Soul Theme Icon
Religion, Politics, and Control Theme Icon
Destiny vs. Free Will Theme Icon
Lord Asriel says that intercision was Mrs. Coulter's idea; she suspected that a dæmon settling and Dust... (full context)
Chapter Twenty-Two
Humanity, Identity, and the Soul Theme Icon
Truth, Lies, and Morality Theme Icon
Destiny vs. Free Will Theme Icon
Thorold shakes Lyra awake and tells her that Lord Asriel packed instruments, took Roger, and left. He says that Lord Asriel needed a child to... (full context)
Childhood, Innocence, and Maturation Theme Icon
Religion, Politics, and Control Theme Icon
...and with the battle now on the ground, Iorek grabs Lyra and they race after Lord Asriel . Iorek promises to find Lee Scoresby and to tell Serafina Pekkala what happened. They... (full context)
Chapter Twenty-Three
Childhood, Innocence, and Maturation Theme Icon
Humanity, Identity, and the Soul Theme Icon
Truth, Lies, and Morality Theme Icon
Destiny vs. Free Will Theme Icon
...brilliant Aurora. Pan flies up and points Lyra in the right direction. He says that Lord Asriel has instruments laid out and that Roger is stuck. Suddenly, the Aurora flickers and Lyra... (full context)
Truth, Lies, and Morality Theme Icon
Destiny vs. Free Will Theme Icon
As Lord Asriel connects wires, the Aurora becomes even brighter. Lyra sees a wire heading into the Aurora... (full context)
Childhood, Innocence, and Maturation Theme Icon
Humanity, Identity, and the Soul Theme Icon
Truth, Lies, and Morality Theme Icon
...watches the golden monkey and Stelmaria meet and touch each other. Mrs. Coulter steps into Lord Asriel 's arms. Lord Asriel invites her to come with him and says that this will... (full context)
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
...to melt the ice on Roger's clothes. Lyra holds his body and feels betrayed by Lord Asriel . Pan scratches her hand and confirms that Lord Asriel is going to find the... (full context)