More Golden Compass Thoughts

by MW Cook

Lyra, the main character of the series, is a young girl. Now, each children’s series seems to have children who are special in some way. Harry Potter is good on a broom. The Paperbag Princess is deft at tricking dragons. Ponyo is full of rebellious love. But Lyra’s skill is very unusual for the hero of a children’s book. Her skill is lying.

Time and time again her uncanny ability to create a false story saves her and the people she loves. She seriously has some sort of super-human skill when it comes to lying. And the narrator suggests that she is such a good liar because she lacks a deep imagination.

When a person has a good imagination she will be able to think up so many wonderful details that would add great depth and realism to a story. Unfortunately, many details tend to give the liar away. We can all tell when somebody starts babbling that they are trying to hide something. But a girl with no imagination will not be bothered to weigh her story down with details. And so Lyra’s lack of imagination helps here.

I find the connection between lying and imagination so interesting. On the one hand, without a good imagination you cannot (I think) be a good storyteller. But when you try to tell a story and pass it off for truth, your imagination will get in the way.

I wonder, if we think about this metaphysically, if this is because imagination is inherently good while deceit is inherently bad. It’s a hard fit; putting imagination and lies together. They don’t like each other much. A good imagination always tells the truth of a thing, those its packaging may be false. A lie tries to cover the truth and keep it from the hearer. The imagination doesn’t seem to like that.