Study Guide

The Golden Compass Chapter 21

By Philip Pullman

Chapter 21

Lord Asriel's Welcome

  • Lyra and Roger ride two young bears, along with Iorek and a squadron with a fire hurler, in pursuit of Lord Asriel's sledge tracks.
  • Lord Asriel is imprisoned in a big, fancy house. He's a "prisoner acting like a king" (21.7).
  • He has also assembled a laboratory. He's waiting for the one thing he needs to complete his task. Fortunately, that thing is getting much closer.
  • Lyra and friends reach Asriel's house, and we see that the windows are made of real glass. In Lyra's world, glass is an expensive material, so we know this man has power.
  • Lyra knocks on the door, and the manservant Thorold answers. He's shocked.
  • Lyra's father comes out looks like he is seeing a ghost. He gasps and can't speak. He only says "No!" (21.25).
  • All of a sudden, Asriel sees Roger and instantly regains his composure. Weird, right?
  • Asriel brings the children inside and sends them to be bathed. Roger gets in the tub while Lyra sits outside, and they talk.
  • Roger says he doesn't like the way Lord Asriel looked at him, "like a wolf, or summing" (21.50).
  • Lyra brushes it off. She asks if Roger wants to ask the alethiometer what will happen. Roger says no; there are things he'd "rather not know" (21.25).
  • After they've bathed and eaten, Lyra is called in for a talk with her father. We get lots of interesting information out of this long and important conversation:
    • Lyra tells her father about Iorek being king.
    • She asks him why he didn't tell her he was her father. She reprimands him, and he, in turn, calls her an "insolent child" (21.74).
    • Lyra says he isn't her father and she doesn't love him. She loves Iorek Byrnison, a polar bear, more than him.
    • She shoves the alethiometer at him and tells him that Mrs. Coulter is coming with soldiers. Lord Asriel says Mrs. Coulter and her men can't stop him.
    • He asks to hear about her journey, and she tells him everything.
    • Lyra then asks her father about Dust. Asriel explains that it's a kind of elementary particle discovered by Rusakov.
    • Dust lingers around adults, especially after their daemons stop changing.
    • It's what the church thinks is original sin (the Christian idea that sin first came into the world when Adam and Eve got kicked out of the Garden of Eden).
    • Asriel reads to Lyra from Genesis to illustrate the point.
    • Dust is the physical proof that something changes when "innocence changes into experience" (21.120)
    • The word Dust comes from another chapter in Genesis that Lord Asriel reads.
    • The topic turns to Mrs. Coulter. Asriel says she's hungry for power and couldn't get it through marriage, so she went through the Church.
    • What's the deal with cutting children and their daemons? Well, there is a precedent in the Church: castration.
    • Lyra's mother put two and two together and figured out that when a daemon takes its shape, the Dust settles. The two are connected.
    • Mrs. Coulter had been to Africa and seen something similar there with "zombie" people (11.133).
    • Asriel reveals that he knows something the Gobblers don't – that when the link between daemon and child is severed, the action gives off an incredible amount of energy.
    • Asriel also says he is interested in going to other worlds, which he explains as a series of infinite possibilities (21.149).
    • Asriel wants to go to the world beyond the Aurora to find the origin of Dust and destroy it. "Death is going to die" (21.151). He just needs a big jolt of energy to get the bridge built.
    • (Are you putting this all together yet? Lyra's not.)
  • After the long talk, Asriel tells Lyra to go to bed. She tries to give him the alethiometer but he says he doesn't want it.
  • Lyra is speechless.