The Golden Compass Page by Page
Chapter 21 - Lord Asriel's Welcome

Having seen the film adaptation of The Golden Compass before reading the book, reading Chapter 21 for the first time had my adrenaline pumping, because I was totally hooked by the film, which left off as Lyra and Roger were heading to meet Lord Asriel who is at that in the film (even more so than the book) played up to be a hero and all around good guy.

Therefore I was both baffled and thrilled when I got through Bolvangar and Svalbard, the extent of the story covered in the film version, and found that they’re were still 30 pages remaining (which looks more impressive than it sounds in my copy) and three whole chapters which must have not even been in the movie at all.

So more eager to read on than I’ve probably ever been in my life, I cracked open Chapter 21 to find that it was titled Lord Asriel’s Welcome, which got me even more excited, since for the month or so between seeing The Golden Compass in theaters and getting my hands on the book, I had been speculating endlessly on what awesome stuff was going to happen once Lyra rescued Lord Asriel and gave the alethiometer to him.

I thought that Lord Asriel was going to use the alethiometer to tell him how to cross into other worlds, or else would use the device in some way previously unknown to power or drive some sort of space warping contraption that would allow him to restore the severed children’s dæmons, I really just couldn’t wait to see what would happen during those hinted at scenes of Lyra’s meeting with Lord Asriel that little did I know were destined never to appear on screen.

And so, I started reading.

Damn thats a lot to say before the actual commentary on the chapter itself…

I remember being genuinely freaked out, though not fully surprised by Lord Asriel’s initial reaction to seeing Lyra. I expected him to get upset perhaps, but not horror stricken, especially for him to seemingly out of nowhere recover the way he did once he saw Roger.

I still didn’t “get it” at this point what it was that Lyra was bringing to Asriel to complete his task.

Note about the audiobook, Part 5 of the recording begins spontaneously in the middle of a paragraph, not even at the end or beginning of the chapter, i almost wouldn’t have noticed if I hadn’t had my iTunes up on screen when it happened. Just a heads up.

I was surprised by Asriel’s indifference to the alethiometer, and by now had a feeling that something bad was going to happen to Roger thanks to the conversation they have while taking the bath, but when Lyra finally asks what Dust is I was thinking “Oh crap here it comes! I’m finally going to find out what Dust is! This is going to be awesome!”

The absolute last thing I expected was for Lord Asriel to pull out a Bible and start reading from the book of Genesis.

It was a real kick getting a glimpse of this universe’s version of The Bible talking about dæmons. If I ever had the opportunity to travel to parallel universes, particularly this one, I would first raid all the libraries and book stores for all the material I could carry, because I’d find reading it to be fascinating.

The second Lord Asriel at last got to mentioning the power of the energy that links a person and their daemon and that it could be released by severing them, and then harnessed, I finally pieced together what Asriel was up to and I was on the verge of shouting into the pages of the book to try and warn Lyra. It probably helped that I was already writing fiction in which people’s souls were utilized as an energy source, and I figured right then that Asriel was going to fatally use Roger’s daemon to power his world-hopping mechanism.

I find it odd that Asriel apparently is saying that he wants to destroy the source of Dust and therefore sin, while he really wants to preserve Dust and destroy God and the Kingdom of Heaven, but then again, I was so blown away that I’m suddenly reading about Adam and Eve, the many-worlds model of quantum mechanics, and that Dust is the physical manifestation of original sin at the end what seemed a cute little kids story, that learning the true scope of Asriel’s ambitions here would have been way overkill.

And already I’m reading thinking “oh no, Asriel is going to annihilate Roger’s personhood and/or kill him, yet I can see no other way Lyra can reach the other universe without this happening. :(”

Wow. Only two chapters left.

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