Study Guide

The Golden Compass Chapter 2

By Philip Pullman

Chapter 2

  • The Idea of North
  • Lord Asriel and the Master shake hands. Lyra watches the Master from her place in the wardrobe. She sees him look at the table for the bottle of Tokay. D'oh!
  • She watches the Master and his daemon as the scholars assemble in the room, all of whom she knows from having grown up at the college. They were the closest thing she had to a family.
  • The Master cooks up some poppy, a tradition at the college, and Lyra feels sleepy and comfy in the big wardrobe. She soon perks up, though, once someone bangs on the table.
  • Lord Asriel gets ready to show off his projections and seats the Master near the wardrobe. Lyra overhears his conversation with the Librarian.
  • The room darkens and Lord Asriel tells the scholars that he had pretended to be on a mission to the King of Lapland, but actually he was investigating what happened to the lost Grumman expedition.
  • Lord Asriel was on a mission to look into the phenomenon the Grumman expedition had been looking into.
  • Asriel calls up the first photogram: a black and white picture of a man with a bunch of scientific instruments. He's near a hut in the moonlight with a smaller figure beside him. Seems pretty tame so far.
  • Asriel puts in the second photograph, which has been prepared with a special emulsion. All you can see now is the man, all lit up, and a bunch of particles flowing out from his hand. Trippy.
  • Lord Asriel tells the scholars that the particles are "Dust." Everyone gasps. Apparently Dust is something controversial and crazy that has never been photographed before.
  • We also learn that the small shape near the man in the photograph is a child. A scholar asks if it's a "severed child" (2.34). No, Asriel says, it's an "entire child" (2.36).
  • Now the next photogram: a bunch of tents and a picture of the sky with lights. Asriel tells us it's a picture of the Aurora, the Northern Lights.
  • He explains that the Aurora is made up of "storms of charged particles and solar rays of intense and extraordinary strength – invisible in themselves, but causing this luminous radiation when they interact with the atmosphere" (2.45).
  • Lord Asriel puts in another pictogram of the same scene. This time you can see the outline of what looks like a city in the sky where the aurora was. What?!
  • The scholars murmur excitedly. Someone asks if this is the "Barnard-Stokes business" (2.54). Lord Asriel says that's what he's been trying to find out.
  • Another scholar asks about the Grumman expedition, and Lord Asriel reveals that he has proof of what happened to the expedition.
  • Asriel dramatically pulls out a big block of ice containing the head of Stanislaus Grumman!
  • The head has been trepanned so the scholars think perhaps the Tartars are behind this.
  • Some scholars speculate that it may be the work of Iofur Raknison, the king of Svalbard, a panserbjørne, who wants to start a university for bears – and wants a daemon more than anything.
  • The conversation turns to money and expeditions. Soon Lyra's mind wanders and she's asleep.
  • When Lyra wakes, her uncle is shaking her shoulder. She tells him what she's seen of the Master. He tells her he is leaving for the North in ten minutes.
  • Lyra wants to go with her uncle and learn all about Dust and bears, but Lord Asriel says it's far too dangerous. He says he'll bring her back a "walrus tusk," and Lyra doesn't push the issue further (2.118).
  • That's a lot of excitement for one day, so Lyra goes to bed.
  • The narration shifts, and we're with the Master and the Librarian, who are having a discussion about what just happened with Lord Asriel.
  • They discuss the poison attempt. The Librarian is relieved it didn't succeed. The two men suspect Lord Asriel knew the drink was poisoned.
  • The Master says that the alethiometer has warned of horrible consequences if Asriel pursues his research. Um, what's an alethiometer? We'll find out soon enough.
  • We also learn that Lord Asriel's business has nothing to do with the Oblation Board, an entity run by someone who doesn't like Lord Asriel.
  • The narrator tells us that the Church has power over all of life, through a body known as the Magisterium. The most powerful unit is the Consistorial Court of Discipline, or the Oblation Board.
  • More information to file: "Barnard-Stokes" were apparently a pair of renegade theologians who theorized that there were other worlds just like ours – worlds that are neither heaven nor hell. Basically, they're like other dimensions. The church called this heresy.
  • It's this "other-world theory" that Lord Asriel is investigating. (2.136)
  • The two men talk about a child who has a part to play in all of this. The child, we find out, is Lyra.
  • The Master tells us that even though Lyra has a destiny, she must not be aware of that fact, since poisoning Asriel would have helped her fulfill it.
  • They consider telling Lyra about Dust, but decide she would probably just blow it off. Kids these days!
  • More juicy info: Lyra is also destined to betray someone – or something.
  • The Master considers again telling Lyra about Dust.
  • The two old men are anxious as they part ways.