His Dark Materials | Study Guide

Philip Pullman

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His Dark Materials | The Golden Compass | Summary


About the Title

In England, where Pullman's series was originally published, the name of the first volume is The Northern Lights. This phrase refers to the aurora borealis, a magnificent natural display of colored lights that appears in northern latitudes. Characters in the story believe the Aurora is also a curtain that hides other worlds. Pullman's North American publishers changed the title of the book to The Golden Compass, a term not used in the series. It refers to the alethiometer, a truth-telling device that looks like a compass. The young heroine Lyra Belacqua uses it to gain insight into the world around her and to glimpse the future.


Part 1: Oxford

At Jordan College

The Golden Compass takes place in "a universe like ours, but different in many ways." The vocabulary and geography are somewhat different, events take place during another time, and witches and intelligent bears inhabit parts of the world. Every human has a companion daemon, the animal embodiment of his or her soul, or spirit. Most importantly, the governing body of this world is the Church, which has absolute power over every aspect of people's lives and works through a collection of courts, colleges, and councils known as the Magisterium.

The story begins at Jordan College, a "center for experimental theology." The orphan Lyra Belacqua, a bright, inquisitive, and somewhat headstrong young girl whose companion daemon is Pantalaimon, has spent most of her life at the college. She was sent there by her uncle, Lord Asriel, to be raised by the Master of the school and other scholars. She knows little of her uncle other than he is involved in "high politics, in secret exploration, in distant warfare." Because Lyra has not yet gone through adolescence, Pantalaimon has not settled into a final form and continually transitions into different animals. On one of her uncle's rare visits, Lyra and Pantalaimon hide themselves in the room where Lord Asriel will present his latest findings to the Scholars. Lyra hears discussions about "Dust" and a "severed child." Lord Asriel also displays an image that seems to show a city in the sky, visible within the Aurora, or Northern Lights. The final item Asriel presents is a mutilated head, which he says belonged to another explorer, Stanislaus Grumman, who appears to have fallen victim to someone called Iofur Raknison, the king of Svalbard, and one of the panserbjørne. Asriel gets his funding and leaves once again.

Later, unknown to Lyra, the Master and the Librarian express regret they had not been able to poison Asriel while he was there since that would have kept Lyra "safe as long as possible." The Master than describes a key conflict between the Holy Church and two renegade theologians, Barnard and Stokes, who had proposed a theory of multiple worlds. The Church labeled this as heresy, and Barnard and Stokes were "silenced." Asriel's discovery of the city in the sky could mean Jordan College itself would now be viewed as a hotbed of heresy.

The Master worries such a situation would be dangerous for Lyra who, he says, "has a part to play in all this, and a major one." He also says she cannot know of her role and she will inadvertently be part of a betrayal. Lyra, unaware of the Master's concerns, continues her unsupervised life at the college. She is often in the company of her best friend Roger, the kitchen boy. One of their favorite pastimes is participating in "wars" with children from the town, the neighboring colleges, and the river population of gyptians (gypsies).

But then rumors begin circulating that children across the country are being abducted by a group known as the Gobblers. It is said children are lured away by a beautiful woman who has a golden monkey as her daemon. Then three local children go missing, including Lyra's friend Roger and a gyptian boy named Billy Costa. Lyra wants to search for them. Instead she is told she has to attend a dinner at the college. One of the guests is the beautiful Mrs. Marisa Coulter—whose daemon is a golden monkey. Lyra is immediately enchanted by her. After dinner the Master tells Lyra, somewhat sadly, that she will be leaving Jordan College to be trained and educated by Mrs. Coulter. But the Master secretly calls Lyra to his chambers before she departs, telling her he "can't prevent" her leaving but wants to give her something first. It is called an alethiometer, and it looks something like a compass, with several hands pointing to 36 images along the edges. The Master explains that it "tells you the truth" but she will need to figure out how to use it herself. He insists she must keep the device a secret from Mrs. Coulter.

In London

For six weeks Lyra lives an enchanted life, studying with Mrs. Marisa Coulter in her exquisite London flat and learning to be a lady. But at a cocktail party Mrs. Coulter hosts for a number of important guests, Lyra overhears a young man talking about Rusakov Particles—the Dust Lyra had heard about in Lord Asriel's presentation—which are attracted to human adults but not children. He comments these particles are "the very reason the Oblation Board was set up" and the Board is the pet project of Mrs. Coulter.

Lyra is then called over by a distinguished gentleman named Lord Boreal, who asks what she has been learning. Lyra lies, saying she's been learning about Rusakov Particles and the Oblation Board. Thinking Lyra knows more than she does, Lord Boreal says that what the Oblation Board does to the children "is for their good as well as ours," that he is sure the children don't suffer, and that Mrs. Coulter is invaluable because children willingly go with her.

Lyra now knows something is terribly wrong. She then hears Lord Asriel has been taken prisoner in the North and is being held in the fortress of Svalbard by panserbjørne—armored bears. She flees from Mrs. Coulter's home but is almost immediately captured by two men. As she struggles to free herself, she is rescued by Tony Costa, Billy's brother. Tony brings her back to his family's boat, where Ma Costa takes her in. The Costas tell Lyra they are headed to the fens of Eastern Anglia for a byanroping, a gathering of gyptian families. More children have been snatched, and the clan will decide what to do when they meet.

At the Fens

In a meeting place called the Fens, Lyra meets John Faa, the powerful king of the western gyptians. He addresses the clan, asking each family to pledge men and gold for an expedition to rescue the children. He then meets separately with Lyra and Farder Coram, an old man who is the wisest of the gyptians. They tell Lyra the truth about her own background.

Lyra is not Lord Asriel's niece. She is his daughter, and Mrs. Coulter is her mother. When Lyra was born after their illicit affair, Lord Asriel took her to his estates to keep her safe. Mr. Coulter followed them in a fury but was killed by Lord Asriel before he could harm the baby. At that point Asriel was stripped of his lands, and Lyra was sent to Jordan College, with strict instructions that her mother not be allowed near her. The arrangement worked until Lord Asriel's capture. At that point the Master could not prevent Mrs. Coulter from taking Lyra since Mrs. Coulter had the power of the Church behind her.

Her head spinning with this new information, Lyra goes to John Faa and says she wants to come north with them to rescue her father. He agrees when he becomes aware of Lyra's skills with the alethiometer, which Lyra has an intuitive ability to read.

Part 2: Bolvangar

In Trollesund

The gyptians sail to Trollesund, where the witches of the country have a consulate. They hope to find help there since Farder Coram once saved the life of a witch named Serafina Pekkala, now queen of one of the witch clans. Faa and Coram meet with the witch consul, Martin Lanselius. From him they learn more about the General Oblation Board (whose initials led to the formation of the name Gobblers). He has heard they are using a procedure on the children that involves something called intercision—a type of cutting. Lanselius then advises them to enlist the services of an armored bear named Iorek Byrnison—the only one of the panserbjørne not working for the GOB. Faa, Coram, and Lyra leave the consulate and locate Iorek Byrnison. The bear tells them he will only help them if they retrieve his armor, which was stolen from him and which he says is his soul, just as Pantalaimon is Lyra's.

That night a great gray goose, Kaisa, swoops down from the sky. Kaisa is Serafina Pekkala's daemon, from whom the witch can separate when necessary. The goose tells Lyra, John Faa, and Farder Coram that Serafina Pekkala will help them find the "Dust hunters." He tells them these Dust hunters do their experiments in a concrete and metal compound others have named Bolvangar: the fields of evil. Finally the daemon explains the Dust hunters are concerned about Lord Asriel's plan to use Dust to somehow build a bridge between this world and the world beyond the Aurora, which is why he has been imprisoned.

Back on the ship that night, Lyra meets a tall, lean man named Lee Scoresby, an aeronaut (balloonist) whom John Faa recently hired. The man, who knows Iorek, tells Lyra she should go directly to the bear and tell him the location of his armor. Lyra takes his advice and uses the alethiometer to locate the bear's armor. Iorek tells Lyra he owes her a great debt, and a strong, loving bond forms between them. The bear also tells Lyra he had been the rightful prince of the panserbjørne but had been stripped of his wealth after killing another bear in a fit of anger.

As the expedition continues north on dog sleds, Lyra begins to think about how she might be able to talk Lee Scoresby into taking her to Svalbard to rescue her father. But suddenly the band of gyptians is attacked, and Lyra is captured by two men who put a bag over her head and race away with her on a sledge.

At the Station

Lyra Belacqua's captors turn out to be child hunters who deliver her to a long, low building. She is questioned by people at the facility but pretends to be simple and lies about who she is. They lie in turn, telling her she is in a place called the "Experimental Station" and that she is safe. The next morning she wakes to find herself with other children, including her friend Roger and Billy Costa, who fill her in on what they know. Children are brought to the station with their daemons, and both are tested for Dust. At some point each child is taken away and "no one comes back." Lyra is determined to do something, and Billy tells her he has discovered passages above the ceiling tiles that might allow her to get around the station.

Lyra and some other girls are taken away for some tests and measurements, and in the middle of the process a fire alarm rings. In the chaos that follows, Lyra and Billy begin exploring the complex. Serafina's daemon suddenly returns and tells Lyra the gyptians are on their way. Lyra and Billy then discover a room filled with glass cases that contain dying daemons that have been cut from their children. Horrified, Lyra realizes what the operations are all about and what "severed children" are. But the fire alarm has given Lyra an idea. She directs Billy and Roger to begin spreading the word that the children must be ready to flee the next time the alarm rings.

A zeppelin appears in the sky, and Lyra sees Mrs. Marisa Coulter peering from it. After Mrs. Coulter has landed, Lyra scrambles through the ceiling passages and overhears the adults discussing a new "separator" that resembles a guillotine and severs a child from its daemon. Mrs. Coulter then leaves the room, but at that point the ceiling gives way under Lyra. The scientists grab her and Pantalaimon and decide that to keep her quiet, they will immediately use the new separator on her. Just before the blade falls, however, Mrs. Coulter returns to the room, recognizes Lyra, and frees her.

Back in Mrs. Coulter's room, Lyra spins a story about having been abducted and brought to Bolvangar. Pretending ignorance, she asks Mrs. Coulter about Dust and is told Dust is evil, something grownups and their daemons are infected with. Children can be saved from the evil, she continues, if they are separated from their daemons before the age of puberty. Then Mrs. Coulter's manner suddenly changes, and she insists Lyra give her the alethiometer. Lyra manages to escape, and as she runs from the room she hits all the fire alarms she passes, turns on the gas jets in the kitchen, and throws a lighted match at them. She spies Roger and Billy, and they all begin to herd the children out of the building and into the snow as the buildings begin exploding behind them.

The children are still being pursued by the guards and their wolves when a volley of arrows rains down from the sky. Lyra looks up to see Serafina's armed witches attacking the soldiers. Then Iorek Byrnison appears, followed by the gyptians, and the children are gathered to safety. Lyra and Roger are brought to Lee Scoresby's balloon, where Iorek soon joins them. They head toward Svalbard, Iorek's home, where Lord Asriel is being held. Serafina Pekkala appears, announcing that all of the children have been rescued. Lyra falls into an exhausted sleep, and Serafina tells the adults that the witches know Lyra will soon have an important role to play in coming events, that she has something of tremendous value, and the fates are using her to bring that thing to her father. When Lyra wakes, Serafina tells her, "There is something to be done in another world," and Lord Asriel is the only one who knows how to get to that world.

Part 3: In Svalbard

In the Palace of King Iofur

Suddenly the balloon starts careening, attacked by flying cliff-ghasts. Cliff-ghasts are scavengers about half the size of an adult human with froglike features, hooked claws, and leathery wings. Lyra Belacqua is thrown from the basket. She is captured by bears, who bring her back to the hideously ornate palace of Iofur Raknison, the bear who became king in Iorek's place and who is betraying his heritage by trying to become more human. Lyra consults the alethiometer. She finds out Iorek is on his way to rescue her, but she knows he will be killed by guards before he can reach the palace. Suddenly she remembers hearing King Iofur wanted a daemon more than anything else. She comes up with a plan and insists on being taken to see him. Once she is in the king's presence Lyra spins a tale that she is Iorek's daemon but that Iofur could have her as his own if he defeats Iorek in hand-to-hand combat. The king falls for the ploy and agrees to meet Iorek in battle. They also agree that whoever wins will also determine the destiny of the panserbjørnes moving forward. Iofur is killed, and Iorek immediately orders the other bears to begin tearing down the hideous palace. The other bears, relieved to behave as their true selves again, also reveal that Iorek's banishment, Iofur's installment, and Asriel's capture had been engineered by Mrs. Coulter.

At Lord Asriel's Laboratory

Upon hearing this, Lyra becomes more intent on getting to Lord Asriel and giving him the alethiometer, which she thinks is what he needs to accomplish his mission. She and Roger ride the bears to Lord Asriel's "prison," which is actually a magnificent home and elaborate laboratory Iofur built for him so the bear king would be on the "winning side" of the conflict, no matter who won. When they reach Lord Asriel's, he reacts in horror upon seeing Lyra but then inexplicably relaxes when he sees Roger. The children are fed and given a warm bath, and Lord Asriel asks Lyra to tell him all she can about her experiences.

Asriel also explains more about Dust, telling Lyra it is the physical evidence of Original Sin, which is what happens when children mature and their innocence is corrupted by "all the death, the sin, the misery, the destructiveness in the world." That is why the Oblation Board was looking for ways to sever children from their daemons since the appearance of Dust seemed to occur when the daemons stopped changing. Lord Asriel, though, has greater aspirations. He wants to get to the source of the Dust itself, which he believes exists in the parallel world visible in the Aurora, and eliminate both it and death. But to do that he needs a "phenomenal burst of energy."

That night Lyra is awoken by Lord Asriel's servant. He tells her Asriel seems to have gone mad and has taken Roger and headed off in a sledge. The servant says Asriel needs Roger because the "burst of energy" he needs to complete his experiment is released when a child is separated from his daemon. Lyra realizes she has delivered Roger to his death. She calls Iorek, and they race after Asriel. Even Iorek must stop, though, when they reach a fragile ice bridge. Lyra goes on alone, the most brilliant Aurora she has ever seen blazing ahead of her.

She reaches Lord Asriel, but she is too late to save Roger. Lord Asriel severs him from his daemon, and Roger dies in Lyra's arms. A jet of pure energy is released from Roger's daemon and shoots upward. The Aurora tears apart and a light bridge appears, leading to the shimmering city. At that moment Mrs. Coulter appears, having followed Lyra to Asriel's home. She and Lord Asriel come together in a fierce embrace. He tries to convince her to come with him, to work with him, but her own ambitions and fear of the Magisterium win out. She leaves him, sobbing, and Lord Asriel takes the light bridge into the sky. Watching him, Lyra and Pantalaimon have a revelation. If the evil people of the world think Dust is bad, then it might be good—something "to be sought and welcomed and cherished." Bravely they decide to find the Dust before Lord Asriel does, and the two of them head after him into the sky.


The Meaning of Dust

Early in The Golden Compass readers learn about a type of matter called Dust. What Dust actually is, however, remains a mystery for most of the novel, and it is only completely explained in the second and third volumes of the series. At its simplest level, though, Dust is a particle of some kind, invisible to the human eye. It is first mentioned during Lord Asriel's presentation at Jordan College when he shows a picture of a man bathed in glowing particles streaming from the sky. Lord Asriel identifies the particles as Dust, finally visible because of a new photography process he has developed. His audience's extreme reaction to the proof that Dust exists indicate the particles are of tremendous importance.

Shortly afterward when Lyra Belacqua is taken to Mrs. Marisa Coulter's flat, she hears a bit more about Dust. She learns Dust doesn't interact with other particles. It is attracted to adults, though not to children. Research also shows Dust is "an emanation from the dark principle itself," though the dark principle is not explained. Later Mrs. Coulter tells Lyra "Dust is something bad, something wrong, something evil and wicked," and grownups are already infected with it. She believes that children, though, can be "saved" if they are separated from their daemons, who bring "all sort of troublesome thoughts" to a child during puberty—thoughts that let the Dust in.

Toward the end of the novel Lord Asriel provides more clarity about what Dust is, and it takes on a more religious significance. Lord Asriel explains the Church had always been aware of Dust and had been "preaching about Dust for centuries." Rusakov's discovery that Dust was something physical was so terrifying the Church leadership originally thought Rusakov had been possessed by the devil. But when his findings were confirmed, the Church became convinced Dust was actually the physical manifestation of Original Sin, defined as what happened when Adam and Eve ate from the Tree of Knowledge in the Garden of Eden and became aware of each other as sexual beings. The Church became determined to prevent children from being corrupted and listened to Mrs. Coulter's hypothesis that children become susceptible to Dust when their daemons stop changing. For this reason they sanctioned the Oblation Board and her horrific experiments.

Lord Asriel's theories, though, are somewhat different. He believes Dust is what makes adults want to destroy everything good and natural they see. He also believes it emanates from a parallel world in the Aurora, which his pictures show as releasing a stream of the particles. People, therefore, cannot be protected from it by an operation. Instead Asriel believes if he can find the source of Dust, he can destroy evil and death. Both views of Dust set the stage for the battles that will continue in the rest of the series.

There is also one more warrior in the battle, however. At the end of The Golden Compass Lyra joins the fray with her own interpretation: if these evil people all fear and hate Dust, it might in fact be something wonderful. By extension she begins to reimagine Original Sin not as evil or corrupting but as a natural and necessary part of life. By following Lord Asriel into the sky, she makes the decision to participate in this epic battle for the future of humanity.

Lord Asriel

Lord Asriel is perhaps the most complex and enigmatic character in the novel. The reader struggles with the question of whether he is a heroic figure, a villain, a madman, or some combination of these. Even his name complicates the question. It means "Prince of God" or "Help of God" in Hebrew, but it may also be based on the name Asrael, a biblical angel whose appearance is a sign of the coming apocalypse. Asriel could also be a variant of the name Israel, the name given to the Hebrew patriarch Jacob, who fought with an angel of God. All of these meanings, however, reinforce the idea that Lord Asriel's goals are epic in scale.

It is through Lyra Belacqua's eyes, though, that Asriel is first introduced to readers. She believes him to be her uncle, and he is described as a tall, powerful man with a "fierce dark face, and eyes that seem to flash and glitter with savage laughter." Lyra knows little about him other than he is involved in "high politics, in secret exploration, in distant warfare." Still she is fiercely loyal to him and sees him as a heroic figure, which means readers initially view him that way as well. But then readers are privy to a discussion between the Master and the Librarian, where they are revealed as two very good men worried that Lord Asriel's mission will put Lyra at great risk—so worried they were even willing to poison him. The Master also says the alethiometer has warned of "appalling consequences if Lord Asriel pursues this research." So, although Lyra doesn't realize it, Lord Asriel may not be what he appears.

In fact he is not. Lyra learns from the Costa family that Lord Asriel is actually her father, and she herself was the result of a love affair between Asriel and Mrs. Marisa Coulter. She also finds out Asriel brought her to his home to be raised, and he murdered Mr. Coulter when the affair was discovered and Mr. Coulter sought Lyra out, possibly to kill her. Yet he has never acted like a father to Lyra and doesn't even seek her out when he comes to Jordan. The reader is left to try to reconcile the cold man who has ignored his daughter for most of her life with the protective father who saved Lyra from harm and made sure she was raised in a place of safety.

Asriel's attitude toward the Church and religion provides a possible key to his personality. Moving young Lyra from a convent to an institution of learning indicates knowledge is his religion, not belief in a higher power. In fact Asriel is doing research that makes him an enemy of the Church. His experiments, he hopes, will help him build a bridge to the parallel world that can be seen in the Aurora—a world whose existence the Church denies. Asriel's belief in Dust also differs from that of the Church: he believes that the way to eliminate Dust is to locate its source in another world, but the Church denies other worlds exist at all. All of Asriel's work, then, is viewed as heresy, and the Church leaders imprison him to suppress his research. Asriel, of course, continues his work, defying the power of the Church and the risk to his life. He is also willing to sacrifice Roger to ensure his experiment succeeds. Readers, again, are left with a question. Is Asriel a heroic figure trying to put an end to the Church's abuse of power and the "centuries of darkness" he believes it imposed, or an arrogant man, dangerously ambitious, who will risk everything to prove his own superiority? After all this is a man who, in his own words, feels he is so powerful he could "take the universe to pieces and put it together again." It is also a man who, in the end, is willing to murder a child to achieve his goals.

Mrs. Marisa Coulter

Like Lord Asriel, Mrs. Marisa Coulter is a passionate and ambitious individual who will stop at nothing to achieve her goals. But where Lord Asriel's motives are not entirely clear, Mrs. Coulter's seem to be based entirely on self-interest. As Lord Asriel observes to Lyra toward the end of the novel, "Your mother's always been ambitious for power." At first she tried to achieve it through marriage to the wealthy Mr. Coulter. That didn't work, so she turned to the all-powerful Church. Unable to be a priest and advance in the traditional way, she "had to set up her own order, her own channels of influence." She hit upon the idea of investigating the Dust that had so troubled and frightened the Church leaders. Relieved to have someone take on this problem, the Church backed her with money and support and did not question her creation of the General Oblation Board, which she cleverly named with a word that means "a sacrifice or offering to God."

She did well in her chosen path because no one questioned someone "so charming, so well-connected, so sweet and reasonable," even when her plans had to do with the abduction and murder of children. Her colleagues, like Lord Boreal, are even convinced what she does to the children is "for their good as well as ours." Unfortunately for her victims, however, Mrs. Coulter seems to have little capacity for compassion or love other than her great passion for Lord Asriel. She lures children from the streets with her beauty, her sweetness, and chocolate. She tells them they have been chosen to help in a great cause, and she will deliver letters to their families to let them know. But then she burns the letters and takes the children off to serve as guinea pigs in her horrific experiments.

Mrs. Coulter is also brilliant. It is she who comes up with the idea that Dust and a child's daemon might be related, a theory that does make sense on some levels. But she is more than willing to destroy both children and adults in her experiments to prove her theory. She does not seem to feel any regret or remorse; in fact she seems to take a perverse pleasure from what she does. As one of the scientists assisting her says, her fascination with the process shows a "personal interest ... almost ghoulish." He remembers the first experiments with the children and their daemons "when she was so keen to see them pulled apart." Readers cannot even be certain why she saves Lyra from being severed from her daemon. Is it some residual love for a mother for her child? Or does she need Lyra for some other purpose?

The only moment when Mrs. Coulter shows some humanity is when she reconnects with Lord Asriel at the end of the novel. Their passionate love for each other is real and reflected by their daemons. Asriel tries to get her to come with him, to work together in the new universe he has opened up. But even that love cannot overcome her ambition, and Mrs. Coulter leaves Asriel, sobbing, to continue her own work and possibly betray or destroy the man she loves in the process.

Destiny versus Free Will

Throughout The Golden Compass characters like the Master and Serafina Pekkala mention that Lyra Belacqua has a part to play in the events that are unfolding, but she must play the part without knowing she is doing so. She must believe every action, every decision, is her own. This statement introduces a paradox that is revisited throughout the series. How much of what people do is the result of choice, or free will? How much is predetermined? Pullman offers those questions for readers to think about but never provides a definite answer.

At the beginning of the novel the Master sadly observes that one of the things Lyra must experience is a terrible betrayal of her own making. His statement is proven true at the end of the book when Lyra accidentally brings Roger to Lord Asriel, and to his death. This tragic event seems to have been something that was beyond her power to avoid. At one point she even asks Roger if she should consult the alethiometer to find out if Lord Asriel is a danger to him. Roger tells her no. It's almost as though he believes whatever will happen to him is fixed, and he says, "I'd rather not know what's in the future. I'll stick to the present." On the other hand, the Master had also observed the alethiometer warned of appalling consequences if Lord Asriel pursues his research. His statement implied that perhaps the future is not set and could be impacted, although when the Master tried to poison Asriel to prevent that future from happening, "providence" intervened in the form of Lyra.

Lee Scoresby and Serafina Pekkala also discuss free will and destiny. When Serafina mentions Lee Scoresby may have no choice about whether to participate in a great war and Lyra is destined to play a part in future events, Scoresby observes she speaks of destiny "as if it was fixed." He asks, "Where's my free will, if you please?" and challenges the idea that Lyra, who has more spirit and determination than anyone he knows, is nothing but "a clockwork toy wound up and set going on a course she can't change." Serafina replies that all people are subject to the fates but "we must all act as if we are not ... or die of despair." She goes on to say there is a curious prophecy about Lyra—she is destined to bring about the end of destiny. But if she were told what she must do, everything would fall apart, death would sweep through all the worlds, and despair would triumph forever. Their discussion ends, and the question of free will is still unresolved.

The alethiometer is another part of this puzzle. It appears to be able to predict the future, yet Lyra sometimes appears to use the information she learns from it to change or control what happens. The question is, is she using the alethiometer, or is she being used by it? It can be very specific, as when it tells her where to find Iorek's armor. But its messages can remain maddeningly unclear when information would have caused Lyra to change her path, which would have been the case with Roger. Lord Asriel mentions at one point that the device is given its power by Dust, so the answer to what and how to control fate might become clearer as the true nature of Dust, and the purpose of the alethiometer, is revealed.

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