Warning: stuff gets kind of crazy at the end of The Golden Compass. Roger is severed from his daemon and dies. Lord Asriel declares he's going to save the world from sin and crosses a bridge into another world. Lyra and Pan make the radical theological declaration that original sin isn't such a bad thing after all. Then they follow Lord Asriel across the bridge into the other world. Intense, huh?
At the end of the book, Lyra and Pan decide that Dust is not bad – it's actually good. Why is this such a big deal? Well, because in the book Dust is equated with original sin, so what they're basically saying is that the way the Church sees the world is wrong. Dust is not sin. Sin is not bad. It's a pretty radical thing to say if you think about it. We have a lot more to say about Dust and original sin in "Symbolism, Imagery, Allegory," so be sure to head over there.
It's also important to point out that this may be the end of The Golden Compass, but it's definitely not the end of Lyra's story. We know there are more adventures to come – Lyra and Pan are traveling to a completely different world, after all. What will happen? What will this new world be like? And what is that crazy Asriel up to? The ending raises more questions than answers, leaving us running for the next book in the series, The Subtle Knife.
You may have noticed that this is not your typical happy, Hollywood movie-ish ending. How many movies have you seen that end with your favorite character accidentally getting her best friend killed? And how many movies have you seen about orphans who find out, hey their parents are alive, but they're EVIL? Yeesh.
This book maybe exciting, but its ending is kind of a bummer. Pullman doesn't shy away from the heavy stuff. He wants us to think about right and wrong. He wants us to use our brains.
What's really interesting is that The Golden Compass was turned into a Hollywood movie. We guess Hollywood didn't want to deal with the heavy stuff, though, so they changed the ending. Or actually, they just chopped it off. (This useful movie review says the ending was "neutered" – hehe.) It ends with Lyra and Roger safely flying away in Lee Scoresby's balloon in search of Lord Asriel. But what about Roger's death? What about finding out that Lord Asriel is a freaky guy? WHAT ABOUT THE BRIDGE TO THE OTHER WORLD?! Sorry, the movie has none of that. Aren't you glad you read the book?