The Golden Compass: His Dark Materials: His Dark Materials - Book I

Hardcover | April 16, 1996

byPHILIP PULLMAN

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The modern fantasy classic that Entertainment Weekly named an “All-Time Greatest Novel” and Newsweek hailed as a “Top 100 Book of All Time.” Philip Pullman takes readers to a world where humans have animal familiars and where parallel universes are within reach.

Lyra is rushing to the cold, far North, where witch clans and armored bears rule. North, where the Gobblers take the children they steal--including her friend Roger. North, where her fearsome uncle Asriel is trying to build a bridge to a parallel world.

Can one small girl make a difference in such great and terrible endeavors? This is Lyra: a savage, a schemer, a liar, and as fierce and true a champion as Roger or Asriel could want.

But what Lyra doesn't know is that to help on of them will be to betray the other...

A masterwork of storytelling and suspense, Philip Pullman's award-winning The Golden Compass is the first in the His Dark Materials series, which contintues with The Subtle Knife, and The Amber Spyglass.

A #1 New York Times Bestseller
Winner of the Guardian Prize for Children's Fiction
Published in 40 Countries

"Arguably the best juvenile fantasy novel of the past twenty years." --The Washington Post

"Very grand indeed." --The New York Times

"Pullman is quite possibly a genius." --Newsweek

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From Our Editors

Pullman introduces readers to a world as convincing and thoroughly realized as Narnia, Earthsea, of Redwall, wherein lives a half-wild, half-civilized girl named Lyra Belacqua, whose carefree life among the scholars of Jordan College is about the shattered by the arrival of two powerful visitors

From the Publisher

The modern fantasy classic that Entertainment Weekly named an “All-Time Greatest Novel” and Newsweek hailed as a “Top 100 Book of All Time.” Philip Pullman takes readers to a world where humans have animal familiars and where parallel universes are within reach.Lyra is rushing to the cold, far North, where witch clans and armored b...

From the Jacket

In a landmark epic of fantasy and storytelling, Philip Pullman invites readers into a world as convincing and thoroughly realized as Narnia, Earthsea, or Redwall. Here lives an orphaned ward named Lyra Belacqua, whose carefree life among the scholars at Oxford's Jordan College is shattered by the arrival of two powerful visitors. First...

Philip Pullman has won many distinguished prizes, including the Carnegie Medal for The Golden Compass (and the reader-voted "Carnegie of Carnegies" for the best children's book of the past seventy years); the Whitbread (now Costa) Book of the Year Award for The Amber Spyglass; a Booker Prize long-list nomination (The Amber Spyglass); P...

other books by PHILIP PULLMAN

His Dark Materials Yearling 3-book Boxed Set: The Golden Compass / The Subtle Knife / The Amber…
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The Golden Compass Graphic Novel, Volume 1
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see all books by PHILIP PULLMAN
Format:HardcoverDimensions:416 pages, 8.62 × 5.82 × 1.25 inPublished:April 16, 1996Publisher:Random House Children's Books

The following ISBNs are associated with this title:

ISBN - 10:0679879242

ISBN - 13:9780679879244

Appropriate for ages: 9 - 12

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Read from the Book

OneTHE DECANTER OF TOKAYLyra and her daemon moved through the darkening hall, taking care to keep to one side, out of sight of the kitchen. The three great tables that ran the length of the hall were laid already, the silver and the glass catching what little light there was, and the long benches were pulled out ready for the guests. Portraits of former Masters hung high up in the gloom along the walls. Lyra reached the dais and looked back at the open kitchen door, and, seeing no one, stepped up beside the high table. The places here were laid with gold, not silver, and the fourteen seats were not oak benches but mahogany chairs with velvet cushions.Lyra stopped beside the Master's chair and flicked the biggest glass gently with a fingernail. The sound rang clearly through the hall."You're not taking this seriously," whispered her daemon. "Behave yourself."Her daemon's name was Pantalaimon, and he was currently in the form of a moth, a dark brown one so as not to show up in the darkness of the hall."They're making too much noise to hear from the kitchen," Lyra whispered back. "And the Steward doesn't come in till the first bell. Stop fussing."But she put her palm over the ringing crystal anyway, and Pantalaimon fluttered ahead and through the slightly open door of the Retiring Room at the other end of the dais. After a moment he appeared again."There's no one there," he whispered. "But we must be quick."Crouching behind the high table, Lyra darted along and through the door into the Retiring Room, where she stood up and looked around. The only light in here came from the fireplace, where a bright blaze of logs settled slightly as she looked, sending a fountain of sparks up into the chimney. She had lived most of her life in the College, but had never seen the Retiring Room before: only Scholars and their guests were allowed in here, and never females. Even the maid-servants didn't clean in here. That was the Butler's job alone.Pantalaimon settled on her shoulder."Happy now? Can we go?" he whispered."Don't be silly! I want to look around!"It was a large room, with an oval table of polished rosewood on which stood various decanters and glasses, and a silver smoking stand with a rack of pipes. On a sideboard nearby there was a little chafing dish and a basket of poppy heads."They do themselves well, don't they, Pan?" she said under her breath.She sat in one of the green leather armchairs. It was so deep she found herself nearly lying down, but she sat up again and tucked her legs under her to look at the portraits on the walls. More old Scholars, probably; robed, bearded, and gloomy, they stared out of their frames in solemn disapproval."What d'you think they talk about?" Lyra said, or began to say, because before she'd finished the question she heard voices outside the door."Behind the chair—quick!" whispered Pantalaimon, and in a flash Lyra was out of the armchair and crouching behind it. It wasn't the best one for hiding behind: she'd chosen one in the very center of the room, and unless she kept very quiet...The door opened, and the light changed in the room; one of the incomers was carrying a lamp, which he put down on the sideboard. Lyra could see his legs, in their dark green trousers and shiny black shoes. It was a servant.Then a deep voice said, "Has Lord Asriel arrived yet?"It was the Master. As Lyra held her breath, she saw the servant's daemon (a dog, like all servants' daemons) trot in and sit quietly at his feet, and then the Master's feet became visible too, in the shabby black shoes he always wore."No, Master," said the Butler. "No word from the aerodock, either.""I expect he'll be hungry when he arrives. Show him straight into Hall, will you?""Very good, Master.""And you've decanted some of the special Tokay for him?""Yes, Master. The 1898, as you ordered. His Lordship is very partial to that, I remember.""Good. Now leave me, please.""Do you need the lamp, Master?""Yes, leave that too. Look in during dinner to trim it, will you?"The Butler bowed slightly and turned to leave, his daemon trotting obediently after him. From her not-much-of-a-hiding place Lyra watched as the Master went to a large oak wardrobe in the corner of the room, took his gown from a hanger, and pulled it laboriously on. The Master had been a powerful man, but he was well over seventy now, and his movements were stiff and slow. The Master's daemon had the form of a raven, and as soon as his robe was on, she jumped down from the wardrobe and settled in her accustomed place on his right shoulder.Lyra could feel Pantalaimon bristling with anxiety, though he made no sound. For herself, she was pleasantly excited. The visitor mentioned by the Master, Lord Asriel, was her uncle, a man whom she admired and feared greatly. He was said to be involved in high politics, in secret exploration, in distant warfare, and she never knew when he was going to appear. He was fierce: if he caught her in here she'd be severely punished, but she could put up with that.What she saw next, however, changed things completely.The Master took from his pocket a folded paper and laid it on the table beside the wine. He took the stopper out of the mouth of a decanter containing a rich golden wine, unfolded the paper, and poured a thin stream of white powder into the decanter before crumpling the paper and throwing it into the fire. Then he took a pencil from his pocket, stirred the wine until the powder had dissolved, and replaced the stopper.From the Trade Paperback edition.

Bookclub Guide

US1. The author tells us that The Golden Compass takes place "in a universe like ours, but different in many ways." How do you think Lyra's universe relates to ours?2. What is a dæmon? How do they make humans different from other creatures? Why do you think servants' dæmons are always dogs? What sort of dæmons might your friends, relatives, classmates, or coworkers have? Describe your own dæmon.3. The world of The Golden Compass is ruled by the Church. However, the nature of its power is unclear. What power do you think the Church holds over its people?4. On pages 89-90, the General Oblation Board is explained in reference to the historical sacrifice of children to cloistered life. "Oblation" refers to the act of making a religious offering. What offering does the General Oblation Board make and to whom?5. Human knowledge and experience are made physical in Dust. What other psychological, intellectual, or spiritual activities does the author physicalize?6. What is the relationship between "severing" and death? Is the author using this fantasy to explore the notion of psychic or moral death?7. Why do you think the author stresses that Lyra is not an imaginative child? Why would "imagination" be dangerous to her? How would it affect her understanding of the alethiometer? Is Lyra a truth-seeker? Who is Lyra Belacqua and/or what does she symbolize?8. In what ways is gender a significant or stratifying element in the novel? Why do you think all witches are female? Why are dæmons usually the opposite gender of their human counterparts? Is the fact that Lyra is a girl-child relevant to the themes of the story?9. Alongside human society in The Golden Compass, there exists the community of the armored bears, who have their own hierarchical structure and moral code. In one way Svalbard seems little more than an interesting foil to the human condition, yet the bear kingdom is also a final destination, the site of the story's climactic conclusion. What do you think is the author's purpose in inventing - and exploring - the world of the armored bear?10. The author has filled this novel with binary imagery: person-dæmon; mother-father; Iorek-Iofur; Lyra's universe-the universe in the Aurora. What other binarisms can you find in the structure, landscape imagery, and vocabulary of this fantasy? How do these dualistic elements affect the novel's larger themes?11. Discuss Lyra's "betrayal" of Roger in relation to other betrayals that occur in the novel. Has reading The Golden Compass altered your understanding of the act of betrayal?12. Are Lord Asriel and Mrs. Coulter in collusion or are they fighting each other? How and in what way? 13. Curiously absent from The Golden Compass are four words that are prevalent in most fantasy adventures: right, wrong, good, and evil. Can these terms be applied to this story? How and why, or why not?14. On the last page of the book, Lyra and Pantalaimon recognize that they are still "one being; both of us are one." The expression resonates with a phrase from marriage ceremonies. Contrast this moment in the story with the preceding interplay between Lyra's parents.15. The Golden Compass is the first book in the trilogy His Dark Materials, which gets its name from a passage in John Milton's Paradise Lost, quoted at the beginning of the novel. Philip Pullman has said, "Milton's angels are not seriously meant to be believed - beings with wings and halos and white robes. They are psychological qualities, conceived and pictured as personalities. With them, Milton tells one of the central tales of our world: the story of the temptation and fall of humankind." Discuss the passage from Paradise Lost and this statement from the author in relation to The Golden Compass.16. When Lyra walks "into the sky" at the end of Book One, we can presume that she is walking into the world of Book Two of His Dark Materials - "the universe that we know." What do you think will happen to her and Pantalaimon when they cross the bridge?

From Our Editors

Pullman introduces readers to a world as convincing and thoroughly realized as Narnia, Earthsea, of Redwall, wherein lives a half-wild, half-civilized girl named Lyra Belacqua, whose carefree life among the scholars of Jordan College is about the shattered by the arrival of two powerful visitors

Editorial Reviews

“Extraordinary storytelling at its very best.” —The Detroit Free Press    “Superb . . . all-stops-out thrilling.” —The Washington Post   "Very grand indeed." —The New York Times   "Powerful […] a fantasy adventure that sparkles with childlike wonder." —The Boston Sunday Globe   "Marvelous […]  the writing is elegant and challenging." —The New Yorker   "Arguably the best juvenile fantasy novel of the past twenty years […]  If [The Subtle Knife] is as good as The Golden Compass, we'll be two thirds of the way to the completion of a modern fantasy classic." —The Washington Post Book World   “Pullman is quite possibly a genius…using the lineaments of fantasy to tell the truth about the universal experience of growing up.”  —Newsweek"Masterful storytelling […]  with a cast of instantly beguiling characters." —The Dallas Morning News   “The most magnificent fantasy series since Lord of the Rings.”  —The Oregonian “Pullman has created the last great fantasy masterpiece of the twentieth century.  An astounding achievement.”  —The Cincinnati Enquirer "Once in a lifetime a children's author emerges who is so extraordinary that the imagination of generations is altered. Lewis Carroll, E. Nesbit, C.S. Lewis, and Tolkien were all of this cast. So, too, is Philip Pullman, whose Dark Materials trilogy will be devoured by anyone between eight and eighty. The most ambitious work since The Lord of the Rings, it is as intellectually thrilling as it is magnificently written." — New Statesman   "Thrillingly paced and exotic […] breathtaking." — Columbus Dispatch “[…] a rare few have minds capacious enough to engage in vast cosmos-making, imagining realms and inventing universes. I am thinking of Dante and Milton and Blake. We may now add Philip Pullman.” —Parents Choice (online)   "The Golden Compass is one of the best fantasy/adventure stories that I have read in years. This is a book no one should miss." —Terry Brooks, author of The Sword of Shannara "As always, Pullman is a master at combining impeccable characterizations and seamless plotting, maintaining a crackling pace to create scene upon scene of almost unbearable tension.  This glittering gem will leave readers of all ages eagerly awaiting the next installment of Lyra's adventures." —Publishers Weekly, Starred Review   “This first fantastic installment of the His Dark Materials trilogy propels readers along with horror and high adventure, a shattering tale that begins with a promise and delivers an entire universe.” – Kirkus Reviews, Starred Review   "This first fantastic installment propels readers along with horror and high adventure […] A shattering tale that begins with a promise and delivers an entire universe." —Kirkus Reviews, Starred   “The characters of Lord Asriel, Mrs. Coutler, and Iorek Byrnison and the cold and beautiful Northern setting are captivating; the constantly twisting plot and escalating suspense are riveting; and Lyra and Pantalaimon are among the gutsiest and wiliest of adventurers. Touching, exciting, and mysterious by turns, this is a splendid work.” —The Horn Book Magazine, Starred   “Glorious. And what an ending — simply operatic.” —School Library Journal, Top 100 Children’s Novels (#28)   "This is a captivating fantasy, filled with excitement, suspense, and unusual characters." —School Library Journal   "A totally involving, intricately plotted fantasy that will leave readers clamoring for the sequels."  —Booklist, Starred review   “Glorious. . . . The Golden Compass is one of those lyrical suspensions like Alice in Wonderland and The Lord of the Rings that crosses all age lines and intertwines mythologies and legends with seamless beauty.” —BookPage