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The Golden Compass (2007) - Plot Summary Poster

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Summaries

  • In a parallel universe, young Lyra Belacqua journeys to the far North to save her best friend and other kidnapped children from terrible experiments by a mysterious organization.

  • It was no ordinary life for a young girl: living among scholars in the hallowed halls of Jordan College and tearing unsupervised through Oxford's motley streets on mad quests for adventure. But Lyra's greatest adventure would begin closer to home, the day she heard hushed talk of an extraordinary particle. Microscopic in size, the magical dust--discovered in the vast Arctic expanse of the North--was rumored to possess profound properties that could unite whole universes. But there were those who feared the particle and would stop at nothing to destroy it. Catapulted into the heart of a terrible struggle, Lyra was forced to seek aid from clans, 'gyptians, and formidable armored bears. And as she journeyed into unbelievable danger, she had not the faintest clue that she alone was destined to win, or to lose, this more-than-mortal battle...

    Krista
  • In a parallel world ruled by The Magisterium where people's souls have animal shapes, the orphan Lyra Belaqua is educated in the Jordan College, and her uncle and Professor Lord Asriel is her tutor. Lyra accidentally overhears a conversation about a research of Lord Asriel in the North Arctic and the existence of a powerful Dust that unites different worlds. When her best friend Roger is kidnapped by the evil Gobblers, Lyra promises to rescue him. She is invited to go to the North with the influent Mrs. Coulter and the Jordan's Vice-Chancellor secretly gives her a magic golden compass capable of revealing the truth. When Lyra finds that Mrs. Coulter is the leader of the Gobblers, she escapes from her house and the runaway girl begins an amazing adventure in a war to save her friend and other missing children with her allied 'Gyptians, Witches and the strong Armored Bear Iorek Byrnison.

  • Lyra Belacqua lives in a parallel world in which human souls take the form of lifelong animal companions called daemons. Dark forces are at work in the girl's world, and many children have been kidnapped by beings known as Gobblers. Lyra vows to save her best friend, Roger, after he disappears too. She sets out with her daemon, a tribe of seafarers, a witch, an ice bear and a Texas airman on an epic quest to rescue Roger and save her world.

  • In a parallel world, humans have their souls walk alongside them as lifelong animal companions called daemons. A young orphan girl named Lyra Belaqua lives and is educated at Oxford's Jordan College. While listening to her uncle Lord Asriel talk with the college elders, Lyra discovers a magical element called Dust, which in theory is found in the north and is said to unite other worlds. But the dictatorial powers of the evil Magisterium have forbidden anyone to mention it. When Lyra discovers that her best friends have been kidnapped, she sets out on a dangerous journey to try and save them. With the guidance of a magical compass and the aid of her uncle, a witch, an airman and an armored bear named Iorek Byrnison, Lyra will do whatever it takes to fight a deadly battle to save her world and foil an sinister plot to destroy it.

  • Lyra Belaqua, living in Oxford's Jordan College, is not but a young girl living among scholars. Her world may seem diverse, from physical embodiments of souls that take the shape of an animal, but similar with people around you to become friends and enemies. She is thrown into a perilous adventure when she overhears a conversation of an extraordinary microscopic particle, Dust. This particle is said to unite different worlds, and is feared by many who want to destroy it forever. As Lyra is flung into the middle of this horrible struggle, she meets wondrous creatures both big and small, and villains who are not what they seem. Gobblers, that kidnap children, will turn out in the most unexpected places. And a magical compass of gold that will answer any question if one is skilled enough to read it. Lyra's adventure continues throughout these three books, and the first is about to be told.

    Reaz

Spoilers

The synopsis below may give away important plot points.

Synopsis

  • Lyra Belacqua (Dakota Blue Richards) is (ostensibly) an orphan living at Jordan College in the Oxford of an alternate universe. In Lyra's world, every person is accompanied by a daemon, a physical representation of their soul in animal form. Because she is young, Lyra's daemon, Pantalaimon (voice: Freddie Highmore) -- Pan, for short -- can change his shape to appear as any animal he chooses. He most often appears as an ermine, or at need a moth or a cat. Adults' daemons settle in to one shape and don't change.

    Lyra overhears an interview between the Master of Jordan College (Jack Shepherd) and Fra Pavel (Simon McBurney), a representative of the powerful and sinister religious body called the Magisterium. They're discussing an expedition to the far north planned by Lyra's uncle, Lord Asriel (Daniel Craig); Asriel wants to study a mysterious substance called Dust that seems to enter Lyra's world from parallel universes. Fra Pavel pressures the Master to withhold his support from Lord Asriel's expedition. The Master refuses, so, when left alone in the room, Fra Pavel poisons a decanter of Tokay wine that has been decanted specially for Lord Asriel.

    Lord Asriel soon arrives (accompanied by his daemon, a snow leopard), and pours himself a glass of the poisoned Tokay, but Lyra emerges from her hiding place to stop him from drinking it: she dashes the glass to the floor where it shatters. Lord Asriel sends her back to eavesdrop on the meeting that is about to begin. The Master and fellows of Jordan College, plus Fra Pavel, convene to hear about Lord Asriel's proposed expedition and research on Dust, which they agree to fund. Asriel is sure that Dust is connected with a means to get from one universe to other parallel universes. Pavel tells Asriel that talk of Dust is heresy.

    Even before we meet Lyra, boys and girls have been disappearing, snatched off the streets. The children call the kidnappers Gobblers. Lyra and her friend Roger (Ben Walker) promise one another that if either is caught, the other will come to the rescue. That night, while Lyra is at dinner being introduced to Mrs. Coulter (Nicole Kidman), Roger and another friend, Billy Costa (Charlie Rowe), are taken by the Gobblers.

    At the dinner, Lyra is seated immediately across the table from the Master when Mrs. Coulter arrives, accompanied by her daemon, a golden monkey. The Master and all the scholars are evidently in awe of her. Mrs. Coulter takes a seat right next to Lyra, who is most impressed with her new acquaintance and agrees eagerly when Mrs. Coulter says she is also planning a trip to the far north, and proposes that Lyra come along as her assistant. The Master is evidently forced (by Mrs. Coulter's influence in high places) to agree.

    In the morning, just before Lyra's departure, the Master comes to Lyra's little upper room in college and gives her a strange golden instrument called an alethiometer, or "golden compass". He tells her that it is capable of telling the truth, but he can't tell her much about how it works. He admonishes her to keep the alethiometer to herself and above all not to let Mrs. Coulter know that she has it.

    Lyra spends some time in Mrs. Coulter's company, going to expensive shops to be bought new clothes and restaurants to dine with posh people. All the while, Lyra keeps the alethiometer with her in a shoulder bag. One day Mrs. Coulter orders her to stop wearing the shoulder bag, and when the girl shows reluctance Mrs. Coulter has her daemon, the golden monkey, half strangle Pantalaimon. Lyra runs to her room, now hating Mrs. Coulter, hides the alethiometer, then goes to explore Mrs. Coulter's private study. In a waste paper bin Pan finds papers which show that Mrs. Coulter is deeply involved with an arm of the Magisterium called the General Oblation Board (the Gobblers!); that the General Oblation Board is using children to investigate something called intercision; and that Billy Costa and Roger the kitchen boy are on a list of boys who have been taken. Immediately after discovering this, Lyra catches Mrs. Coulter's golden monkey daemon trying to steal the alethiometer. Pan changes into a bird, grabs it back, and they flee through the upstairs window. They're pursued and caught by Gobblers, then rescued by fierce but friendly Gyptians, who have been watching over Lyra at Lord Asriel's request. One of their rescuers is Ma Costa (Clare Higgins), Billy's mother.

    Lyra travels with the Gyptians and becomes acquainted with John Faa (Jim Carter), lord of the Gyptians, and his advisor Farder Coram (Tom Courtenay). She learns how to ask the alethiometer questions and how to interpret its responses. She also meets Serafina Pekkala (Eva Green), queen of the witches, who tells Lyra that she is the subject of a prophecy concerning the fate of the world; that the missing children are being held at Bolvangar in Norroway; and that Lyra will find help in Trollesund, a town on the coast of Norroway. Meanwhile, Mrs. Coulter has dispatched a pair of mechanical spy flies to locate Lyra. When the spy flies find the Gyptian ship, Farder Coram captures one and seals it up in a tin, explaining that its sting contains a sleeping potion. The other escapes, though it's not clear that it does Mrs. Coulter any good.

    When they arrive in Trollesund, Lyra meets the Texan aeronaut Lee Scoresby (Sam Elliot), who offers to help her -- but first he wants to get a friend out of a jam. The friend is Iorek Byrnison (voice: Ian McKellen), one of the great Panserbjørne -- armored ice bears -- of Svalbard. Iorek, exiled from his home after losing a fight, is a virtual prisoner in Trollesund; the townspeople got him drunk and stole his armor, which he cherishes the way humans cherish their daemons. Now, alcoholic and despairing, he works as a mechanic and metalsmith in exchange for whiskey. Consulting the alethiometer, Lyra learns that Iorek Byrnison was heir to the throne of Svalbard until he was betrayed and defeated by Ragnar (voice: Habib Nasib Nader), the current king. She also learns where the armor is hidden and tells Iorek, who promises in return to help her find the missing children. Lee Scoresby and the Gyptians dissuade the soldiers who try to stop the re-armored bear, and Lyra and her allies march into the interior toward Bolvangar.

    When they camp for the night, Lyra puzzles over something the alethiometer is telling her and seeks out Iorek Byrnison. She asks him to take her to a valley nearby, where she finds Billy Costa, weak and anguished because he's been separated from his daemon. This, Lyra realizes, is what intercision means; it's a fate so horrible she and Pan can hardly bear to think about it.

    Iorek Byrnison and Lyra take Billy back to the Gyptians' camp, which is immediately set upon by the ferocious Samoyed people who live in that area. They capture Lyra and carry her to Svalbard as an offering to the armored bears. Recalling that Mrs. Coulter told her King Ragnar longs to have a daemon of his own, Lyra asks Pan to hide and introduces herself to Ragnar as Iorek Byrnison's daemon. As she hoped, Ragnar becomes furiously jealous. Lyra tells him that if he can defeat Iorek in single combat, she will become Ragnar's daemon. Ragnar agrees to fight Iorek Byrnison, and Iorek gallops up on cue, intending to rescue Lyra. When Lyra explains what she's arranged, apologetic and frightened because after running all that way Iorek seems in no shape to fight, Iorek surprises her with his enthusiasm. He wants nothing more from life than a chance to fight Ragnar, and dubs her Lyra Silvertongue for her skillful manipulation of the usurper-king.

    Iorek fights Ragnar and kills him by feigning an injury, then hitting Ragnar so hard his jaw flies off. This victory wins back Iorek Byrnison's rightful place as king of the ice bears, but he leaves his kingdom to complete his obligation to Lyra. He takes her most of the way to the experimental station at Bolvangar where the children are being held, but has to leave her and go for help when the bridge over a crevasse breaks, leaving Iorek on the wrong side.

    Inside the experimental station, Lyra asks Roger to get the other children ready to escape. He shows her to a room where she can be alone with the alethiometer, but she has to hide under the table when the experimental station staff and Mrs. Coulter come in. After Mrs. Coulter leaves, Lyra's foot slips, giving her away. She's captured by the staff and she and Pan are put into the intercision device, the machine used to separate children from their daemons. The separation is almost complete when Mrs. Coulter, looking terrified, runs in and stops the procedure.

    Lyra and Pan wake up with their bond intact, and a distraught Mrs. Coulter assures Lyra that she's safe and she'll never be hurt. Lyra, shrinking from Mrs. Coulter, asks why they're separating children from their daemons. Mrs. Coulter explains that Dust (which she seems to equate with original sin) came into the world long ago when people first disobeyed the Authority (God). While children are immune from Dust, it contaminates adults through their daemons. The goal of the intercision research is to prevent people from ever being affected by Dust. (This explanation is a slightly more palatable version of the one given in an earlier scene, in which high officials of the Magisterium, disturbed about Jordan College's rebellious support of Lord Asriel, look forward to a future when intercision will mold a population that never questions the Magisterium's authority.) Mrs. Coulter says that intercision doesn't hurt -- "it's just a little cut."

    If intercision is such a good thing, Lyra counters, why did Mrs. Coulter stop the lab staff from doing it to Lyra? Mrs. Coulter admits that the procedure isn't perfect yet. When she mentions taking Lyra home, Lyra says venomously that her home is Jordan College. Mrs. Coulter reveals that she is Lyra's mother -- a relationship Lyra rejects -- and that Lord Asriel is her father. Lyra pretends to cooperate when Mrs. Coulter asks for the alethiometer, but gives her instead the tin holding the spy fly. The fly's sting knocks out Mrs Coulter and her daemon. Lyra escapes and leads the children out into the snow, pausing only to sabotage the intercision device, which explodes in a very satisfying way.

    Outside the experimental station the children confront the guards, who attack them. Iorek Byrnison intervenes, but is nearly overcome before the arrival, at dramatic intervals, of Lee Scoresby, the witches led by Serafina Pekkala, and the Gyptians. There's a ferocious melee; whenever someone is killed, their daemon disintegrates in a swirl of Dust. Lyra's friends win the battle.

    Lyra sets off with Iorek Byrnison and Lee Scoresby to find Lord Asriel, who has been captured by the Samoyed people. Roger insists on coming along. Meanwhile Mrs. Coulter, having learned that Lord Asriel has bribed his captors and set up a laboratory to continue his research on Dust, sets off to stop him. In the final scene, Lyra and Roger curl up with Iorek Byrnison in the back of Mr. Scoresby's flying machine, heading north.

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