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Nadine
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HDM: Lord Asriel & Mrs. Coulter - Good or Evil?

[ Edited ]
Lord Asriel & Mrs. Coulter - Good or Evil

In the Harry Potter series we didn't know the ending so we could speculate on whether Snape was good or evil. Many of you already know the ending of this series and others can "peek." But I find Lord Asriel and Mrs. Coulter far deeper characters and much more ambiguous in their behavior than Snape ever was. Their actions are also not as decisively on one side or other of the good and evil equation. Some things that came to my mind that might be worth discussing are:

They are both very ambitious people but there I don't find anything wrong with that except that they are ruthless in their ambition.

Are they seeking the ultimate good in their own way but feel their means justify their ends?

Do they really care about Lyra and what is the nature or purpose of their behavior toward her?

What are their true feelings and reaction toward the powerful and oppressive political system they must deal with? Are they trying to support it or destroy it?

Do they or did they actually love each other?

What redeeming qualities do they have?

You may have more topics that are prompted by the actions of these two strong characters.

Maybe those of you who know the ending can shut off that portion of your brain for awhile and the rest try not to peek. Then maybe we can discuss these two fascinating characters within the context of The Golden Compass only. Next month we can move on to whatever additional information comes up. If you haven't read The Golden Compass yet, you might want to steer clear of this thread until you are finished.

Message Edited by ConnieK on 10-29-2007 10:36 AM
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Re: Lord Asriel & Mrs. Coulter - Good or Evil

Hi, Nadine--Could you be a bit more clear on whether you'd this thread to be only for GC or for the whole series? We should mark the thread SPOILERS, if you'd like readers to be able to discuss the entire series. Thanks.

~ConnieK
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Nadine
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Re: Lord Asriel & Mrs. Coulter - Good or Evil

[ Edited ]

ConnieK wrote:
Hi, Nadine--Could you be a bit more clear on whether you'd this thread to be only for GC or for the whole series? We should mark the thread SPOILERS, if you'd like readers to be able to discuss the entire series. Thanks.

~ConnieK




I was hoping it would be limited to just the Compass since that is the topic for this month and many, including myself, have not read the whole series. But realistically some people who have read the whole series are going to be influenced by their knowledge. I figured for next month we could factor in the events of the next book. But you can set up the thread in the way you would like to see the discussion develop. I just thought the topic was something worth talking about.

These are two fascinating characters and I am sure the evolve through the series in one direction or another. They are already pretty ambiguous in Compass. At this point I am puzzling over their intentions and motivations. Mrs. Coulter in particular seems to have totally rejected her daughter initially, then suddenly has a great interest in her (but doesn't tell her she is her mother) and pulls a few strings to get her taken out of Jordan and in her custody, treats her with a lot of care (but I'm not sure if it is a "motherly" like motivation), and then uses all the power at her disposal to find the runaway Lyra. I will wait on the rest since that is about as far as my reread as gone. But there is no doubt that Lyra is important to her right now and I'm not sure if it is belated parental interest or she has some knowledge of the "prophesy" attached to Lyra as mentioned by the Master and this is important to her diabolical plans. There are more Alethiometers around and I'm sure the Oblation Board has access to one.

Lord Asriel seems like the better parent. He has actually demonstrated his concern for Lyra but he is not exactly a poster father either. His primary motivation seems to be his northern project and he doesn't hesitate to oppose the authorities and that gets him in trouble. He doesn't seem inherently evil to me. It is just he believes his means justifies his ends.

Message Edited by Nadine on 09-08-2007 10:05 AM
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Re: Lord Asriel & Mrs. Coulter - Good or Evil

Mrs Coulter strikes me as a controlling individual. She seems pleasant when she is able to manipulate people. However, if they dare oppose her watch out. I am thinking of the party scene when Lyra, who has been especially well behaved for Lyra, wants to wear her handbag. It is a minor thing but Mrs. Coulter, in the form of her daemon, reacts very violently and cruelly. This is not a sensitive or affectionate person. Her wishes are law. If Lyra had stayed with her and become her defiant self she would have been subjected to great cruelty.

I suspect Mrs. Coulter's reputation is vengeance and cruelty. When she encounters the gate-crashing reporter at her party and threatens her, the reporter is so frightened that her daemon faints.
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Re: Lord Asriel & Mrs. Coulter - Good or Evil

Ok, Nadine--We'll just leave this one as is, then, without marking it for spoilers. Just GOLDEN COMPASS discussion here, then, folks. Thanks!

~ConnieK



Nadine wrote:

ConnieK wrote:
Hi, Nadine--Could you be a bit more clear on whether you'd this thread to be only for GC or for the whole series? We should mark the thread SPOILERS, if you'd like readers to be able to discuss the entire series. Thanks.

~ConnieK




I was hoping it would be limited to just the Compass since that is the topic for this month and many, including myself, have not read the whole series. But realistically some people who have read the whole series are going to be influenced by their knowledge. I figured for next month we could factor in the events of the next book. But you can set up the thread in the way you would like to see the discussion develop. I just thought the topic was something worth talking about.

These are two fascinating characters and I am sure the evolve through the series in one direction or another. They are already pretty ambiguous in Compass. At this point I am puzzling over their intentions and motivations. Mrs. Coulter in particular seems to have totally rejected her daughter initially, then suddenly has a great interest in her (but doesn't tell her she is her mother) and pulls a few strings to get her taken out of Jordan and in her custody, treats her with a lot of care (but I'm not sure if it is a "motherly" like motivation), and then uses all the power at her disposal to find the runaway Lyra. I will wait on the rest since that is about as far as my reread as gone. But there is no doubt that Lyra is important to her right now and I'm not sure if it is belated parental interest or she has some knowledge of the "prophesy" attached to Lyra as mentioned by the Master and this is important to her diabolical plans. There are more Alethiometers around and I'm sure the Oblation Board has access to one.

Lord Asriel seems like the better parent. He has actually demonstrated his concern for Lyra but he is not exactly a poster father either. His primary motivation seems to be his northern project and he doesn't hesitate to oppose the authorities and that gets him in trouble. He doesn't seem inherently evil to me. It is just he believes his means justifies his ends.

Message Edited by Nadine on 09-08-2007 10:05 AM


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maxcat
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Re: Lord Asriel & Mrs. Coulter - Good or Evil

Here, I think Mrs. Coulter is the evil character and Lord Asriel is the good guy. As explained on another thread, it was found out that Mrs. Coulter is one of the Gobblers, people who steal children. She needed Lyra to help her find children.
Lord Asriel seems rough around the edges but seems wrapped up in his explorations. To me, he poses no threat yet and could turn out to be the good one.
The woods are lovely, dark and deep, but I have promises to keep and miles to go before I sleep - Robert Frost
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Nadine
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Re: Lord Asriel & Mrs. Coulter - Good or Evil



maxcat wrote:
Here, I think Mrs. Coulter is the evil character and Lord Asriel is the good guy. As explained on another thread, it was found out that Mrs. Coulter is one of the Gobblers, people who steal children. She needed Lyra to help her find children.
Lord Asriel seems rough around the edges but seems wrapped up in his explorations. To me, he poses no threat yet and could turn out to be the good one.




I agree. At this point Mrs. Coulter appears as pure evil. I think in Lyra's world, your daemon is your true self and that gives her away no matter how sweet she seems on the exterior. Mrs. Coulter's daemon is evil and so she must be evil. ON the other had, Lord Asriel's daemon has not shown any evil tendencies. I'm going to keep my eye on the daemon.
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Nadine
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Re: Lord Asriel & Mrs. Coulter - Good or Evil

Chapter 16-17: Could this be mother love?

When Lyra is discovered spying on them, the scientists decide to sever her so she would be silenced and carry her off to the "guillotine." Mrs. Coulter arrives on the scene just in time:

------------------------
"What is going on here?"

A light musical voice: her voice. Everything stopped.

"What are you doing? And who is that child---"

She didn't complete the word child, because in that instant she recognized Lyra. Through tear-blurred eyes Lyra saw her totter and clutch at a bench; her face, so beautiful and composed, grew in a moment haggard and horror-struck.

"Lyra---" she whispered.

The golden monkey darted from her side in a flash, and tugged Pantalaimon out from the mesh cage as Lyra fell out herself.

....

"Cry as much as you need to, darling," said that soft voice..."

-----------------------

OK, she does seem to care about her own kid (and monkey daemon about Lyra's daemon). But this is the ambiguous Mrs. Coulter. She did, however, seem genuinely horrified.

Does this change anyone's attitude about Mrs. Coulter? Do you think there is some genuine affection here?
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Re: Lord Asriel & Mrs. Coulter - Good or Evil

And there is the accompanying scene later in the novel with Lord Asriel when he is horrified to see Lyra show up, then is satisfied when he sees Roger. The relationship between the two is interesting. They are driven by ambition, which seems to be the biggest attraction they have between them? Both are cruel to Lyra but protect her at the same time from ultimate description. Neither of them is sentimental, but they do not want to see Lyra die.

~ConnieK



Nadine wrote:
Chapter 16-17: Could this be mother love?

When Lyra is discovered spying on them, the scientists decide to sever her so she would be silenced and carry her off to the "guillotine." Mrs. Coulter arrives on the scene just in time:

------------------------
"What is going on here?"

A light musical voice: her voice. Everything stopped.

"What are you doing? And who is that child---"

She didn't complete the word child, because in that instant she recognized Lyra. Through tear-blurred eyes Lyra saw her totter and clutch at a bench; her face, so beautiful and composed, grew in a moment haggard and horror-struck.

"Lyra---" she whispered.

The golden monkey darted from her side in a flash, and tugged Pantalaimon out from the mesh cage as Lyra fell out herself.

....

"Cry as much as you need to, darling," said that soft voice..."

-----------------------

OK, she does seem to care about her own kid (and monkey daemon about Lyra's daemon). But this is the ambiguous Mrs. Coulter. She did, however, seem genuinely horrified.

Does this change anyone's attitude about Mrs. Coulter? Do you think there is some genuine affection here?


~ConnieAnnKirk




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Kreacherteacher
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Re: Lord Asriel & Mrs. Coulter - Good or Evil

[ Edited ]
Only for a few seconds.

Nadine's quote: "Does this change anyone's attitude about Mrs. Coulter? Do you think there is some genuine affection here?"

Message Edited by Kreacherteacher on 09-17-2007 08:55 PM
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Re: THE GOLDEN COMPASS--Lord Asriel & Mrs. Coulter - Good or Evil?

Like Daemon Like Person

No matter what outward appearances Mrs. Coulter puts on, you can't miss the viscious behavior of her daemon. This person is through and through totally evil. In chapter 9, Will has managed to grab the alethiometer and escape through one of his cuts, but before he can close the window Mrs. Coulter's daemon comes after him.

This is from page 203 and it is one of the most terrifying images I've seen in the books so far:

Then came a screech, not human, not animal, but worse than either, and he knew it was that loathsome monkey. By that time he'd gotten most of the window closed, but there was still a small gap at the level of his chest. And then he leaped back, because into that gap there came a small furry golden hand with black fingernails, and then a face--a nightmare face. The golden monkey's teeth were bared, his eyes glaring, and such a concentrated malevolence blazed from him that Will felt it almost like a spear.

Another second and he would have been through, and that would have been the end.
...
...and then he saw that the sweet-faced woman and the evil monkey were one being.
--------

No matter what her outward appear seems to be--like daemon like person. Mrs. Coulter is her daemon.

As an aside, I do wonder what would have happened if the monkey did get through and Will did manage to close the gap. Would Mrs. Coulter then be severed from her daemon. They would be in different worlds.
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Re: THE GOLDEN COMPASS--Lord Asriel & Mrs. Coulter - Good or Evil?

She is a piece of work, isn't she, that Mrs. Coulter? :smileywink: The monkey never seems to soften no matter what she does. We learn in the series to watch the daemon when we have questions about a character. Why is it that the "golden" monkey seems so particularly nasty, do you think? A black and brown monkey doesn't seem like it would be quite so bad for some reason--more playful; funny. Is it the odd juxtaposition of "gold" and "monkey?" Is there such a thing as a gold monkey in nature?

~ConnieK



BarbaraN wrote, in part:
Like Daemon Like Person

No matter what outward appearances Mrs. Coulter puts on, you can't miss the viscious behavior of her daemon.....No matter what her outward appear seems to be--like daemon like person. Mrs. Coulter is her daemon.


~ConnieAnnKirk




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Re: THE GOLDEN COMPASS--Lord Asriel & Mrs. Coulter - Good or Evil?

[ Edited ]

ConnieK wrote:
She is a piece of work, isn't she, that Mrs. Coulter? :smileywink: The monkey never seems to soften no matter what she does. We learn in the series to watch the daemon when we have questions about a character. Why is it that the "golden" monkey seems so particularly nasty, do you think? A black and brown monkey doesn't seem like it would be quite so bad for some reason--more playful; funny. Is it the odd juxtaposition of "gold" and "monkey?" Is there such a thing as a gold monkey in nature?

~ConnieK



BarbaraN wrote, in part:
Like Daemon Like Person

No matter what outward appearances Mrs. Coulter puts on, you can't miss the vicious behavior of her daemon.....No matter what her outward appear seems to be--like daemon like person. Mrs. Coulter is her daemon.







They are common, especially in the Amazon and other places of the Americas. Here is one example: http://www.150.si.edu/chap12/12monky.htm

Monkeys in general can be pretty vicious. I think Pullman picked the Golden Monkey because of its beauty and maybe the contrast. In the book, Mrs. Coulter is described as being very dark-haired. Another significant thing is possible here. Humans seem to be able to control their daemons somewhat so they don't reveal their underlining emotions, but Mrs. Coulter obviously has very strong emotions that she can hid in her own appearance but can't control in her daemon. The daemon seems to be the dominant one in the relationship, it gets its own way and rules Mrs. Coultier.

Message Edited by BarbaraN on 10-17-2007 10:31 AM
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Re: THE GOLDEN COMPASS--Lord Asriel & Mrs. Coulter - Good or Evil?

Thanks for that photo, BarbaraN! It's funny--after reading these books, I wonder if any reader would be able to look at a golden monkey and not think ill of it, straight away!

~ConnieK



BarbaraN wrote, in part:
They are common, especially in the Amazon and other places of the Americas. Here is one example: http://www.150.si.edu/chap12/12monky.htm

Monkeys in general can be pretty vicious. I think Pullman picked the Golden Monkey because of its beauty and maybe the contrast. In the book, Mrs. Coulter is described as being very dark-haired. Another significant thing is possible here. Humans seem to be able to control their daemons somewhat so they don't reveal their underlining emotions, but Mrs. Coulter obviously has very strong emotions that she can hid in her own appearance but can't control in her daemon. The daemon seems to be the dominant one in the relationship, it gets its own way and rules Mrs. Coultier>


~ConnieAnnKirk




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Re: THE GOLDEN COMPASS--Lord Asriel & Mrs. Coulter - Good or Evil?

Readers--By the end of THE SUBTLE KNIFE, has your attitude toward Mrs. Coulter or Lord Asriel changed? Do you think one is good and one is evil, for example?

~ConnieK
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BarbaraN
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Re: THE GOLDEN COMPASS--Lord Asriel & Mrs. Coulter - Good or Evil?


ConnieK wrote:
Readers--By the end of THE SUBTLE KNIFE, has your attitude toward Mrs. Coulter or Lord Asriel changed? Do you think one is good and one is evil, for example?

~ConnieK




We don't encounter Lord Asriel at all in this book, but we learn a lot about him from other people. They are building a good case for his side, especially since Will, the new central figure, has a mandate to help him and has a couple of angels to assist him to get to him to do it.

Mrs. Coulter has definitely become more evil. She has tortured a witch, killed Carlos (Sir Charles), killed a bunch of witches with Specters, and even seem vindictive towards her daughter Lyra and the book ends with Lyra gone. Her daemon has on several occasions shown how evil and nasty he can be. I thought Mrs. Coulter might have some feels for Lyra in the GC but not anymore. I also don't see her owing any allegiance to even the Magistarium. She seems to be building her own empire and now even has her own army.

So at the end of SK I would say Lord Asriel has improved and now seems like a "good guy." Mrs. Coulter is definitely someone I would not want to encounter--she is ambitious, cruel, unfeeling, and just plain evil.
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Nadine
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Re: THE GOLDEN COMPASS--Lord Asriel & Mrs. Coulter - Good or Evil?

Now that we enter the final book of the series, Mrs. Coulter has done it again! Now I'm not sure if she is good or evil or what! We ended the Subtle Knife with Mrs. Coulter discovering that Lyra is the new "Eve" and is to be tempted again. Mrs. Coulter is determined to stop her at all costs and sends her soldiers and the Specters after her and kills all the witches and "takes" Lyra. We end Subtle Knife with an assumed kidnapping.

Then we start the Amber Spyglass and there is Mrs. Coulter the "loving" mother caring for her daughter. The soldiers and Specters are gone. She is obviously hiding and, most usually, from the Church. Is she kidnapping Lyra and drugging her or saving her?

Pg 7 AS:

...she wondered what in the world she thought she was doing, and whether she had gone mad, and, over and over again, what would happen when the Church found out. The golden monkey was right. She wasn't only hiding Lyra: she was hiding her own eyes.
-----------------------

So far it seems (at least on the surface) that Mrs. Coulter does have Lyra's best interest here. She has certainly, at this point, given up everything to hide out in a primitive cave--and she is alone.

She is also at odds with her daemon, who seems to disagree with her. He really has been unrelentingly evil. Now I am wondering about the relationship between humans and their daemons--are they a part of each other or separate entities capable of opposing each other's desires?
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Re: HDM: Lord Asriel & Mrs. Coulter - Good or Evil?

Now this is something I read in a review and didn't know: Lord Asriel is an anagram for Israel. Any idea as to the significance of such an anagram?
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Re: HDM: Lord Asriel & Mrs. Coulter - Good or Evil?

Golden Compass/Northern Lights SPOILER ALERT SPOILER ALERT SPOILER ALERT

I believe Lord Asriel is the more terrifying character. We know almost from the beginning not to trust Mrs. Coulter, but we are counting on Lord Asriel to be the hero. Then… he goes and takes Roger’s life. Mrs. Coulter’s Gobbler’s were responsible for a far greater number of murders/splittings but Lord Asriel’s murder of Roger is a complete betrayal to Lyra. For him to spare her but then steal her best friend is so unforgivable.

Lyra trusted Lord Asriel, and so did we. I think his arrogance and tunnel vision working towards his “noble goal” is scarier than Mrs. Coulter’s quest for pure power any day.

I don't know if Mrs. Coulter is really seeking good in her own way. I think she is looking for power.

I also don't believe that they love each other, or any one else for that matter. They are too self indulgent.
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Re: HDM: Lord Asriel & Mrs. Coulter - Good or Evil?


jessieandre wrote:
Golden Compass/Northern Lights SPOILER ALERT SPOILER ALERT SPOILER ALERT

I believe Lord Asriel is the more terrifying character. We know almost from the beginning not to trust Mrs. Coulter, but we are counting on Lord Asriel to be the hero. Then… he goes and takes Roger’s life. Mrs. Coulter’s Gobbler’s were responsible for a far greater number of murders/splittings but Lord Asriel’s murder of Roger is a complete betrayal to Lyra. For him to spare her but then steal her best friend is so unforgivable.

Lyra trusted Lord Asriel, and so did we. I think his arrogance and tunnel vision working towards his “noble goal” is scarier than Mrs. Coulter’s quest for pure power any day.

I don't know if Mrs. Coulter is really seeking good in her own way. I think she is looking for power.

I also don't believe that they love each other, or any one else for that matter. They are too self indulgent.




I totally agree with you. I am also having trouble reconciling Lord Asriel's sacrifice of Roger. I even wonder if he would have sacrificed his own daughter if she had not brought Roger along. As far as Mrs. Coulter is concerned, I still haven't figured her out and I've read all the books now! They are both fascinating and ambiguous characters.
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