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The Golden Compass


Read an Excerpt

Reader’ s Guide

Teacher’ s Guide

Cast of Characters



The Subtle Knife

The Amber Spyglass

Lyra’s Oxford

The Science of
Philip Pullman’s
His Dark Materials

The Golden Compass


Trade Paperback

Laurel Leaf



Golden Compass:
New cover look and bonus material!
This Yearling paperback edition includes 15 pages of bonus material: the found letters of Lord Asriel, his scientific notes and other archival documents. This edition also features artwork by Philip Pullman at the opening of each chapter.


The Golden Compass forms the first part of a story in three volumes. The first volume is set in a world like ours, but different in many ways. The second volume is set partly in the world we know. The third moves between many worlds.

In The Golden Compass, readers meet for the first time 11-year-old Lyra Belacqua, a precocious orphan growing up within the precincts of Jordan College in Oxford, England. It quickly becomes clear that Lyra's Oxford is not precisely like our own - nor is her world. In Lyra's world, everyone has a personal dæmon, a lifelong animal familiar. This is a world in which science, theology and magic are closely intertwined.

These ideas are of little concern to Lyra, who at the outset of the story, spends most of her time with her friend Roger, a kitchen boy. Together, they share a carefree existence scampering across the roofs of the college, racing through the streets of Oxford, or waging war with the other children in town. But that life changes forever when Lyra and her dæmon, Pantalaimon, prevent an assassination attempt on her uncle, the powerful Lord Asriel, and then overhear a secret discussion about a mysterious entity known as Dust.

It is at this time that children mysteriously began to disappear. Children, and only the children, are vanishing at the hands of what become known as the "Gobblers." Who the Gobblers are and what they want is unknown, but soon, children from far and wide are disappearing with out a trace, even Lyra's good friend, Roger.

But before she can begin her search for Roger, Lyra is introduced to Mrs. Coulter, a beautiful and bewitching woman. Mrs. Coulter is a scholar and an explorer - seemingly everything that Lyra could ever hope to be. Mrs. Coulter takes Lyra under her wing and employs her as an assistant to help in the next expedition to explore the Arctic North. On the morning she is to leave Jordan College, the Master of the school gives Lyra an alethiometer, a rare and powerful instrument with the power to reveal the truth in all things.

While under Mrs. Coulter's guidance, Lyra learns of her mentor's critical role in Church's General Oblation Board, a.k.a. the Gobblers, the party responsible for the disappearing children. It is revealed that these kidnapped children are taken to Bolvangar, a place in the far North, to participate in Dust experiments whereby they are severed from their dæmons through a process called intercision. Lyra also learns that the Church has captured and imprisoned Lord Asriel in the Arctic region of Bolvanger where he has undertaken Dust experiments of his own.

Horrified at what she has learned, Lyra and Pantalaimon flee Mrs. Coulter's home in the middle of the night and are rescued through the kindness of two gyptian men. The gyptians are a gypsy group of boat-people who live a harsh life on the water tempered by their unwavering sense of family, loyalty and love. It is the gyptians' children who have suffered most at the hands of the Gobblers, and they have vowed to travel North to rescue them. Lyra pledges to share what she knows, rescue her dear friend Roger, and ultimately find her imprisoned father. Through the gyptian elders, Lord Faa and Farder Coram, Lyra is bewildered to learn that her parents are Lord Asriel and Mrs. Coulter. Despite this shock, Lyra quickly learns to read the alethiometer and understand its messages. Although her alethiometer enables her to discover the truth in everything around her, Lyra is unaware of the incredible role her own life plays in the fate of the universe. Lyra is the subject of a great prophecy in which she is destined to commit a fateful betrayal that will determine the future of all worlds.

To succeed in the rescue mission for the children, the gyptians enlist the alliances of three people who come to regard Lyra dearly: Serafina Pekkala, the witch queen who reveals that the fate of universe lies in Lyra's future; Lee Scoresby, a Texan aeronaut and commander of a hot air balloon; and Iorek Byrnison, a renegade armored polar bear, deposed as king of his clan by a deceitful brother. While on their long, hard journey in the far North, Lyra and Pantalaimon are kidnapped by hunters who take them to Bolvangar, the place where all the kidnapped children have been brought. At long last, Lyra is happily reunited with Roger, but to her horror, she witnesses intercision, the gruesome Dust experiment that separates child and dæmon. Banding together, the children and their daemons escape the terrors of Bolvangar, fleeing into the safety of the gyptians, Serafina Pekkala's witches, Lee Scoreby's balloon, and Iorek Byrnison.

Although the children are rescued, the journey for Lyra and Roger is far from over. They travel further north and finally find Lyra's father, Lord Asriel. Lord Asriel has experimented with Dust as well, and has discovered its role in crossing the barriers into other worlds. He has constructed a bridge to another world, but crossing that bridge requires the energy released in an intercision. Unable to sacrifice his own child, Lord Asriel makes Roger his prey and escapes to another world. The universe has been broken and Lyra's friend lies dead, but she vows get revenge and discover the secret of Dust.