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The Golden Compass by Philip Pullman

Posted at age 13.
Created . Edited .


In The Golden Compass, an outstanding work of mystery and imagination by Philip Pullman, a young girl of ten years is destined to fulfill the mission that her dreaded mother and father have lived for, without even knowing it. Her name is Lyra Belacqua. She has lived among scholars and college students at Jordan College in Oxford for as long as she can remember.

She has fairly long, brown hair. She wears casual clothing (basically like today’s casual clothing). She is a very adventurous girl. She and her friend Robert love to explore the college campus and even the secret, terrifying underground that houses the dead, decaying bodies of past masters and the heads of scholars. Her mischievous quests often lead her to be scolded.

Her daemon’s name is Pantalaimon. He can still however morph into any animal form, so long as he does not stray from Lyra. People must go everywhere with their daemons. They are psychically bonded and share each other’s passions, dreams, and views. When they attempt to wander away from each other, they feel pain until it is unbearable. Lyra often uses Pantalaimon as a spy, in the form of a dark moth or another small creature. Overall, she is a brave exploratory girl living a far-from-average life.


Lyra’s life is interesting enough for a novel even before she eavesdrops on a confidential presentation given by her uncle Lord Asriel to some top scholars at the Jordan College. The college is known for its headship in experimental theology. It is providing finance for Lord Asriel’s research into the unorthodox possibility of the existence of worlds different from Lyra’s own. In Lyra’s universe, everyone is born with an animal daemon, polar bears have a kingdom in the north, clans of witches that fly and shoot deadly arrows exist, and humans collect the evil and good mysterious Dust at adolescence. The setting is in an England that seems familiar and yet is very different and strange.

Lyra gets the opportunity to travel to the North, the source of Dust and superstition, with Mrs. Coulter, a seemingly lovely and smart woman. When Lyra learns that Mrs. Coulter is the head of the Gobblers, with her golden monkey daemon that steals children for nasty experimentation, she flees out in the world on her own. She sets off to deliver the mysterious Alethiometer she received from the master of Jordan College to her uncle Lord Asriel. On the way she teaches herself how to read the measurer of truth, the Alethiometer. She also manages to help an exile bear return to power, killing the king of the bears and restoring the palace.

When she learns that Mrs. Coulter is her mother, she is stunned, and says she can never love her because of what she does. Then she learns her father is Lord Asriel, and she is grateful. To conclude the book, Lyra learns she has traveled to the north not to deliver the Alethiometer, but to transport her best friend Robert to Lord Asriel so he can fulfill his research. She discovers she was part of a complicated plan, not knowing what she was actually doing. She could never love her father.


This story is a science fiction narrative. Here is why:

The book’s purpose is strongly based on science. Particularly the science of microscopic particles and space travel.

Humans can telepathically communicate with animals.

One scientific instrument featured in this novel is the Alethiometer. It has three hands like a clock, but they can be controlled with knobs. The outer edge is lined with pictures, each with many meanings. The reader ponders a question, and a fourth arrow spins around pointing to pictures, which the reader then combines the meaning to build an answer. In The Golden Compass, polar bears have evolved enough to speak English.

The goal of Lord Asriel (Lyra’s former Uncle, biologically her father) is to establish a bridge between the universes, which exist parallel to each other. It is believed than an infinite number of these worlds exist, each one’s probability of events influences another’s (when a coin lands heads in one world, a coin will simultaneously land tails in another).


This story takes place in a world that is very much like our world today, but it lacks some things that we consider “everyday,” and there are extra things that are not true today. The time period seems to be about the same as today’s. A lot of the “extras” are things that probably will not happen in our world. One example is the daemons. It is not likely that we will ever be psychically connected to an animal that can morph into any other animal, one that we can share thoughts and feelings with, and one that we can never stray from. The story also has witches that fly and bears that make their own armor and talk. Neither of those in all probability are likely to happen.

Many of the characteristics I mentioned above, if not all, could happen. In a couple million years, given that this planet still exists like it is now, some animals may have evolved enough to verbally communicate. We (humans) could be able to telepathically converse with another being or animal. Someone might just discover a way to peer into another universe, and from that, a way to venture there.

Some day we could be able to learn of what the future holds. We may develop a way to “read” destiny, assuming that we cannot already.