The Golden Compass

by Philip Pullman

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Chapters 21-23 Summary

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When Lyra, Roger, and Iorek Byrnison meet with Lord Asriel, they are surprised by his response. When he sees Lyra, he cries out that he did not send for her. However, when he sees Roger, he calms. Lyra, has thought that she was supposed to bring Lord Asriel the alethiometer but discovers that he does not need it. She declares her disappointment in Lord Asriel’s parenting, but he only states that he will not be lectured by an insolent child. After hearing the story of her travels, he explains to Lyra what he and Mrs. Coulter have been working toward.

Dust, which does not settle on children until they reach puberty, has been linked to Original Sin. The Magisterium has sought to control Dust, as has Mrs. Coulter through her General Oblation Board. Lord Asriel explains that he intends to go further. Dust enters their world through the aurora. Lord Asriel has seen a city within the northern lights. He seeks to build a bridge to that world to destroy the source of Original Sin. It will take a great deal of energy to do so. He goes on to explain that there is a great deal of energy unleashed in cutting a child from its dæmon, though the Gobblers never realized it. They had thought they were performing a more hygienic version of castration. After their discussion, Lyra returns to bed.

Lord Asriel’s servant wakes Lyra and explains that his master has taken the boy Roger with him. Lyra realizes what Lord Asriel intends to do and sets off with Iorek to stop her father. However, they are attacked by witches aligned with Mrs. Coulter. Iorek turns back to fight the witches with his bears while Lyra continues. A witch’s dæmon is in the sky, holding a wire that Lord Asriel is connecting to Roger’s dæmon. Although Lyra and Pan attempt to fight Lord Asriel and his dæmon, Roger and Lyra end up falling in a sweep of snow. Lord Asriel has Roger’s dæmon firmly in hand, and he uses the power of Roger’s intercision to create his bridge to a nearby world.

Lyra watches Lord Asriel as he prepares to enter another world. Mrs. Coulter, Marisa, arrives and confronts Lord Asriel with the weight of what he has done. She says the Church will not allow Lord Asriel to proceed, but he explains that he is beyond the Church. What he has done will break it. He invites Mrs. Coulter to join him in his quest; though she is tempted, she refuses. Lord Asriel is undaunted and proceeds without her.

Lyra looks into this new world with its warm sun and decides to follow her father. She decides that if Mrs. Coulter, Lord Asriel, and the Magisterium are convinced that Dust is bad, then it must be good:

Lyra and her dæmon turned away from the world they were born in, and looked toward the sun, and walked into the sky.

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Chapters 18-20 Summary