Study Guide

The Golden Compass Chapter 13

By Philip Pullman

Chapter 13


  • Lyra feels sick. Seeing a severed child is like seeing a person "without a face, or with their ribs laid open" (13.1).
  • The little boy wants to know where "Ratter" is. That's his daemon's name – and it also tells the reader we've met this kid before. Remember? It's Tony Makarios, the little guy captured by Mrs. Coulter earlier on.
  • Lyra is so upset she has to leave the shed. She sobs passionately for the boy.
  • Lyra and Iorek take the boy away and the villagers try to make Lyra pay for the fish he's clutching. Talk about petty! She refuses.
  • On the ride to meet with the sledge, Pan wants to nuzzle the boy out of pity, but he can't. To touch another human is taboo.
  • They meet up with the gyptians and the men are all horrified. Iorek chides them and tells them to have courage, like Lyra.
  • Lyra soon falls asleep and leaves Iorek to tell John Faa about the witches.
  • When Lyra wakes up she talks to Farder Coram and learns that the little boy has died. The men are gong to cremate him, since they can't dig a hole in the ice. Lyra asks to see the body.
  • The boy is cold but finally peaceful in death. She notices his fish is gone. Upset by this, Lyra flips out on the gyptians, who took the fish.
  • One man admits to taking the fish and giving it to his dogs, but he didn't think it was disrespectful. He didn't realize the significance of the fish.
  • Lyra takes a gold coin and carves Ratter's name onto it with a knife. She places it in the boy's mouth – just like in the tombs of the scholars below Jordan College at Oxford.
  • Lyra and Farder Coram discuss the witches. Then she eats and the sledge continues on the journey.
  • During a break from the ride, Lyra asked Farder Coram for the spyfly. She has Iorek, who is a whiz with metalworking, make a new tin for it. She then places the old tin in it and cushions it so the spyfly won't make noise. Iorek seals it all up – the spyfly tin looks just like the alethiometer now. (Important for later!)
  • Lyra and Iorek discuss the Svalbard bears. She learns that Iorek was once one of them, but he killed another bear in a fit of passion. He was banished by the bears and sent into exile.
  • Lyra compares Iorek to her father, who also killed a man (13.93).
  • She asks if they could reach Svalbard via balloon, and Iorek says maybe. (Looks like she's up to something.)
  • Iorek tells Lyra more about his armor and how it's like a bear's soul.
  • They discuss Iofur Raknison, the bear king, and Lyra remembers a conversation she overheard in the Retiring Room at Jordan College about the bear king. She remembers hearing that he could be flattered. There was something else, too, but she can't remember it. (Can you?)
  • Iorek says Lord Asriel can't escape Svalbard because bears can't be physically defeated (they're too strong) or tricked (they can see through humans' lies).
  • Iorek proves this by fencing with Lyra. He anticipates every move she makes and can see through her tricks and strategies simply because he is "not being human" (13.117). Only humans lie.
  • Iorek compares his ability to detect lies to Lyra's ability to read the alethiometer. Adults can't read the alethiometer, and she'll lose her ability when she gets older. Iorek suggests that maybe she is "different from others" (13.121).
  • Lyra talks to Lee Scoresby about his balloon and asks if he'd be able to carry Iorek in it (she's clearly hatching a plan). Lee says he's carried him before. The only trouble is gas, which he usually has to get from mines in the ground, from coal, rock oil, or ground gas.
  • He can carry six people.
  • Lyra also learns something else from the experienced adventurer: Tartars make holes in people's heads as an initiation ritual.
  • That means Grumman wasn't killed by Tartars. The skull that Lord Asriel showed the scholars may not even have been Grumman's head, Scoresby suggests. Maybe Lord Asriel was manipulating the scholars for money.
  • As they approach Bolvangar, Lyra falls asleep.