Chapters 7-9 Summary
Lyra is traveling with the gyptians, a nomadic people who travel by sea. Lyra meets their king, John Faa, as well as a wise man named Farder Coram. Lyra truthfully explains to them everything that has happened to her since she saw the Master of Jordan College attempt to poison Lord Asriel. She even shows them her alethiometer, and though Farder Coram is aware of the power of the device, he does not attempt to take it from Lyra.
They also explain the truth of Lyra’s upbringing. It turns out that Lyra is actually the daughter of Mrs. Coulter, who was married to Edward Coulter at the time. However, her father is Lord Asriel. They explain how Mrs. Coulter attempted to hide Lyra from her husband’s wrath, but Lord Asriel ultimately had to challenge him to a duel and kill him with his own pistol. Lyra also learns that Lord Asriel asked the scholars at Oxford to care for her and to protect her from her mother. However, when news arrived that Lord Asriel was being held captive in the North, Mrs. Coulter must have decided that she could collect Lyra. John Faa speculates that Mrs. Coulter must have had some power over the Master or that he must have felt that he was protecting Lyra somehow.
Lyra will be in danger if she is caught by Mrs. Coulter again, but the gyptians are determined to travel into danger anyway. In a public assembly, or “Roping,” the king explains that the gyptians should raise a levy of men and money to travel North and rescue the kidnapped children being held by the Gobblers. When Lyra volunteers to come along, John Faa forbids it. However, Lyra decides to attach herself to Farder Coram. Before long, she demonstrates her growing ability to read the alethiometer and when her predictions begin to come true, he convinces John Faa to allow Lyra to accompany them North.
Reading the alethiometer is tricky work. It communicates via symbols, and each symbol has multiple meanings. For example, an hourglass’s first meaning is time and its second meaning is death. Scholars and wise men study the alethiometer, but Lyra finds that she can intuit the compass’s meaning if she concentrates. One of her predictions is about her mother, but she fails to realize that it is a warning. She and Farder Coram discover that Mrs. Coulter has sent clockwork spy flies after them, which they are able to capture.