- "The woman herself was beautiful - Will saw that with shock - lovely in the moonlight, her brilliant dark eyes wide with enchantment, her slender shape light and graceful; but as she snapped her fingers, the monkey stopped at once and leapt up into her arms, and he saw that the sweet-faced woman and the evil monkey were one being."
- —William Parry describes Marisa Coulter the first time he sees her[src]
Marisa Coulter (née Delamare) was the head of the General Oblation Board and a long-time agent of the Holy Church before defecting. Her dæmon was a golden monkey whose name was never revealed. She was also the estranged mother of Lyra Silvertongue.
When she was 18, she travelled to Will's world and sat for a portrait at the artist Skipton's studio. It was there she met the art collector, Grinstead. The two were lovers for less than a month. At this time, Marisa was already involved in politics. After studying at St Sophia's College, Oxford, Marisa married politician Edward Coulter, and later wrote an academic work named The Bronze Clocks of Benin.
Affair with Lord Asriel
Marisa selected her lovers for their influence and power, but she never became fond of a single one. She wasn't able to keep her servants either.
Marisa married politician Edward Coulter, but had an affair with Lord Asriel that resulted in a daughter, Lyra. The baby bore no resemblance to Edward, so Marisa hid the affair and claimed the infant had died. She handed responsibility to Asriel, who placed Lyra into the care of the gyptian boatwife, Ma Costa, and the two intended to live at a cottage on one of Asriel's estates in Oxfordshire.
Edward soon learned of the affair and came to the estate, ransacking the cottage and then duelling Asriel before he could reach the baby. Asriel shot Edward with his own gun and killed him, leaving Marisa a widow. She then wanted nothing more to do with Asriel or her daughter and Lyra was ordered to be raised at the Priory at Godstow.
It was around this time that Marisa began an academic investigation into the phenomenon of Dust. She dined at the University of Uppsala about a month before Coram van Texel visited Gunnar Hallgrimsson and Axel Löfgren. Marisa flattered both men and they were taken by her beauty and intellect. She had come to consult Löfgren about the Rusakov field and asked many pertinent questions demonstrating great depth of understanding. Hallgrimsson overheard her servants mention a prophecy of the witches and later told Coram that he thought this was likely the reason for Marisa wishing to consult the Uppsala alethiometer about her daughter.
Marisa also had some sort of relationship with Gerard Bonneville, after which he developed an obsession with her. He was not long out of prison at the time when Lyra was taken to the Priory, for an offense like assault and involving young girls. Marisa was the chief prosecution witness and the case gained coverage as Bonneville swore his revenge in the dock. Bonneville used to be an authority on elementary particles, leading a group in Paris researching the Rusakov field. The Magisterium was not keen to let him continue and both it and Marisa may have had considerable influence in his imprisonment.
Oakley Street believed that the witch prophecy was part of the reason for the Magisterium and Marisa's renewed interest in Lyra. Bud Schlesinger speculated that Bonneville's interest in Lyra was as a bargaining tool, as he also knew of the prophecy and was becoming increasingly desperate, unable to find work after his release. Bonneville had even claimed to some that he was Lyra's father. This may have been a ploy to help him gain access to her, or because he had some sort of liaison with Marisa, who was interested in gaining information from physicists.
Just before the great flood of 1986, Marisa visited Hannah Relf at her home in Jericho and asked about her daughter's whereabouts, in a manner that suggested to Hannah that she had access to an alethiometer. There she also met Malcolm Polstead in passing, who unnerved her by mentioning Bonneville before her departure.
Career in the Church
When marriage did not work out for Marisa, she turned to the Church for power and influence. Because she was not a man, she had to set up her own networks of power rather than taking the route of priesthood. Specialising in Dust, something people feared and knew little about, quickly gave her the Church's financing and resources as few others were willing to investigate it.
By 1995, Marisa had obtained a role within the Consistorial Court of Discipline, and began chairing her own organisation: the General Oblation Board of London, its activities personally conceived. She was now ruthlessly investigating Dust and, with a team of experimental theologians at her disposal, was conducting experiments on abducted children.
Funding allowed her to pursue her personal interests. She used the precedent of cutting in the Church – in the form of castration – to make the idea more palatable. The Church knew that people were unlikely to doubt the integrity of a woman so charming, well-connected and reasonable, and by obscuring the activity in the North they could deny involvement if necessary.
The idea of cutting was conceived by Marisa after extensive travel, where she learnt that severing a dæmon was not necessarily fatal, and the theory that in adolescence Dust began to settle along with the settling of the dæmon. The Church's obsession with original sin meant Marisa could make her research into freeing prepubescent children from it very attractive to them.
She was responsible for the disappearances of children across England, often personally using her beauty and charm to catch them. She targeted vulnerable prepubescent children like Tony Makarios (whose mother was an alcoholic) for use at Bolvangar and used her intoxicating presence to control them. She used chocolatl to entice them in and gave them a false sense of security, telling them they were going on a voyage and would be well looked after whilst travelling North. Marisa also promised messages would be sent to families, although threw these letters away once the children left. When people noticed the disappearances, they would stop in certain areas and move elsewhere, spreading across the country.
Keeping Asriel a prisoner was a special charge laid on Iofur Raknison by the Oblation Board. Marisa personally came to Svalbard to meet him and offered him all sorts to keep Asriel out of the way. He became besotted with her and was even going to name his capital after her. She helped to orchestrate Iorek Byrnison’s exile and Iofur's rise to power by giving Iofur a drug that made Hjalmur Hjalmurson, the bear Iorek was exiled for killing, forget himself. Because human law prevented her intentions at Bolvangar, Marisa planned to build a more extreme version on Svalbard where such laws did not apply.
By promising to convince the Magisterium in Geneva to let Iofur be baptised despite his lack of a dæmon, Marisa manipulated him into breaking the custom of the bears that humans could not live on Svalbard. Little by little, she was going to increase her power until the bears did her bidding and were reduced to guarding the horrific new station.
Reunited with Lyra
However, the Church interest in Dust and children meant she became increasingly concerned for Lyra's safety. Seeking to protect her own child, Marisa travelled to Jordan College in order to bring Lyra back to London to live with her.
She met her estranged daughter without revealing their relationship, inviting Lyra to become her assistant in her work. Lyra, enthralled by Marisa, told her everything about her life and wholeheartedly joined her, thinking she would be going to the North. During her time in London, Lyra was educated in navigation, geography and mathematics as well as general survival training and adhering to societal norms and expectations of women. Amid her tutorship was the glamorous London life, however Lyra became frustrated and felt trapped. They would frequently go shopping and would explore some important locations in London like the Royal Arctic Institute and the Royal Geological Museum
Lyra had spent six weeks in late autumn and early winter living with her in which Pantalaimon began to suspect that Mrs Coulter was never planning to take them to the North, instead making her a pet. Just before a cocktail party, after a disagreement about wearing the shoulder bag she'd been taking everywhere to keep the alethiometer close, the golden monkey pinned down Pantalaimon and Mrs Coulter forced Lyra to obey. She preceded to scold Lyra after she slammed her bedroom's door. Mrs Coulter threatened that Lyra could not hope to win any confrontation and, after making Lyra kiss her cheek, pretended as if nothing had happened.
Lyra overheard Adèle Starminster and Professor Docker discussing Dust and the General Oblation Board at the party. After seeing Lyra, Adèle took Lyra to the side and questioned her about living with Marisa. Mrs Coulter appeared and threatened Adèle, who was not invited, with the end of her career. The force of Mrs Coulter's response directed at Adèle made her dæmon swoon and Adèle awkwardly and unsteadily left. Lyra noticed that the monkey was not with Mrs Coulter at the time, but he appeared moments later, visibly putting the woman at ease. Pantalaimon told her that the monkey had been spying and had found out about the alethiometer. Lyra later heard about Lord Asriel's imprisonment on Svalbard from Carlo Boreal and realised that Mrs Coulter had deceived her, running away during the party after connecting the Oblation Board and what Lyra had come to know as the urban myth of the 'Gobblers'. Lyra soon escaped from the flat, after taking her alethiometer, and snuck out onto the streets of London without anyone, including Marisa, seeing her.
It was whilst under the care of the gyptians of Eastern Anglia, after Lyra had escaped Marisa's flat, that Lyra learned Marisa's true identity as her mother, and Asriel as her father. John Faa speculated that Marisa must have had something over Dr Carne for him to let her take Lyra. He suggested that Marisa would never have defied Asriel if he were free but that his imprisonment had shifted the balance of power. Marisa relentlessly pursued Lyra - sending spy-flies across England and using her political powers to begin a police search for a young girl of Lyra's description, however the two did not meet again until Lyra reached Mrs Coulter's research station at Bolvangar.
The children at Bolvangar knew Mrs Coulter's name and most of them were personally caught by her. They thought she enjoyed watching what happened at Bolvangar and some even speculated that she enjoyed watching the children's deaths. Most thought it boring at Bolvangar except when Marisa arrived, as this is when children disappeared. She evoked a hysterical fear, silencing the canteen when she entered it and leading the children to suspect that the staff were also afraid of her.
Lyra learned the true horror of Mrs Coulter's work at Bolvangar, where she found severed dæmons and was nearly a victim of the intercision process under the Silver Guillotine. Mrs Coulter saved her life and the two discussed Dust before Lyra, repulsed by what her mother had been doing, released a trapped spy-fly, one which Marisa had set on her, and ran away once more. Marisa followed her onto the wastes around Bolvangar, whence Lyra escaped in the balloon of Lee Scoresby and travelled to Svalbard, where Asriel was exiled.
Once Marisa learnt that Lyra had flown to Svalbard, she followed in a transport zeppelin, intending to have Asriel killed on arrival and regain control of the bears. She wanted to reach the city in the sky before him to thwart his intentions. Both she and Asriel wanted a child for the experiment, aware of the energy intercision produced. Lyra assumed that they were both after the alethiometer, when she read it, although found it strange that the instrument did not reference itself.
Marisa appeared just after Asriel had successfully used a child, Roger Parslow, for intercision so as to open the sky. The two embraced passionately but then argued about the power of the Church and the consequences to moving into the new world. When Asriel asked her to join him, she argued that she dared not and did not think they could work together. She was not persuaded when he lied about intending to destroy Dust nor when he told her he would lose interest in her if she did not join him, ultimately rejecting him. However, she was moved to tears as Asriel left her to walk into the new world.
Marisa then travelled to a ship near to Svalbard where a witch formerly allied to Bolvangar was being held captive. The only woman present among men of the Church and the alethiometrist Fra Pavel, she criticised the discipline on board for starting the torture when she ordered them to wait. When Cardinal Sturrock implied that Marisa might have been keeping information from them about Lyra, she furiously demanded that the men tell her about the prophecy, admitting that her daughter was born in shame but that this did not lessen her right to know.
Only the Cardinal among the men was unaffected by her power; when he tried to question her about something the witch revealed, she angrily suggested that they could torture her, although that would be fruitless as she was hiding nothing. She mocked that the men were unable to get any more information from the witch and were instead waiting for an answer from the alethiometer, wondering how they dared to keep information from her and assume she was keeping it from them.
When she rose to visit the captured witch, all the men save Sturrock jostled to follow her in awe. Marisa promised the witch great suffering if answers were not provided, delighting in telling her about the experience the Church had in prolonging her misery. She broke a first finger to illustrate her point and threatened more if she got no answers. Despite the agonised pleas of the witch, Marisa did not let up, violently slapping her when her impatience grew. Before the witch could reveal the name that was key to Lyra's destiny, Serafina Pekkala gently killed her to end her suffering, having arrived and watched the torture unseen.
The men were stunned by the appearance of another witch but Marisa recovered almost immediately. Marisa urged them to seize and shoot at Serafina but the witch queen escaped with a great loathing for the woman she had been watching.
Marisa was later Lord Boreal’s guest at Limefield House in Will’s world. They drank Tokay and Marisa asked how Boreal acquired the alethiometer, wanting to use it to get to Lyra. When Boreal called Lyra a ‘brat’, she reminded him that Lyra was her daughter. He flattered her in response that Lyra was all the more repellent for resisting Marisa's charm and good influence.
Marisa manipulated him into bragging about his knowledge of the other worlds, revealing that there were a dozen or so openings to other worlds that he was aware of. As a consequence of Asriel's activity, he told her it was now possible to travel directly between William Parry and Lyra's worlds. He was delighted that he could bring her directly without having to risk Cittàgazze.
Carried away and impatient, she revealed that she had got close to finding out Lyra's other name from the witch near Svalbard. Boreal told her that the alethiometer would bring Lyra to them and speculated that the intercision of her bodyguards might have made such men free to travel in Cittàgazze.
While they talked, her dæmon prowled restlessly around the room. Marisa told Boreal that the Master was foolish for giving Lyra the alethiometer and he told her how he acquired it from her. Before he could bring up the subtle knife, they were interrupted by a stone thrown by Lyra. She and Will were aiming to steal the alethiometer back from Boreal. Despite the distraction, Will was unable to completely close the window he used before the monkey reached him. It was only a slash of the knife that allowed him to close it fully. The monkey quickly followed Marisa and Boreal to the front of the house to search for Lyra. The golden monkey was prevented from reaching Lyra by the tabby cat, who fought violently to give Lyra sufficient time to escape.
Marisa travelled with Boreal into Cittàgazze. The witch Lena Feldt was sent back to spy on their group, which was pursuing Will, Lyra and the witches escorting them. She discovered Marisa's troops, made up of zombi-like soldiers without dæmons, camped out by a lake. Invisible, Feldt watched from outside a tent where Marisa manipulated Boreal using her charm and sexuality. Since arriving in Cittàgazze, Marisa had discovered that she was able to control the spectres and she explained to Boreal that this was because they knew that she could lead them to more victims.
She insisted on 'pleasing' Boreal and her dæmon ran his black hands along the body of the serpent dæmon as Boreal sighed in pleasure. Eventually, Marisa was able to persuade him to reveal the existence of a knife that could cut anything, the reason for his pursuit of Will. Feldt watched as Marisa poisoned Boreal's wine, the man too distracted with pleasure and too intoxicated to resist or suspect her. The witch could have killed her at any point whilst watching but was transfixed with curiosity. She did not notice the spectres gathering around her.
Without warning, Marisa stood, turned and looked Feldt full in the face. She asked arrogantly whether Feldt had doubted her, noting that she was well aware of the power witches had of invisibility. Boreal struggled to breath behind Marisa and the monkey shook off the snake in contempt. When Feldt tried to swing her bow, she found herself paralysed and Marisa triumphantly declared that it was too late. The witch turned to find her dæmon enveloped by a spectre; Marisa's malevolence directed fully at her made Feldt understand why she could control the spectres.
Suffering extreme anguish and nausea, Feldt pleaded with Marisa and revealed everything about Will and Lyra's whereabouts. Finally, once Marisa knew enough about the witches guarding the children, she obtained the name she had been pursuing so relentlessly: Eve. Marisa sighed as if purpose and clarity had finally been given. When Feldt asked her intentions, Marisa claimed to want to prevent another Fall and joyfully began to piece together a better understanding of Asriel's plans and the impending war. She then had the spectres complete their attack on Feldt. She left both the witch, dead in life and indifferent, and Boreal's unconscious body to call her soldiers to begin a march on the mountains. Marisa taught the spectres to fly and began her assault on the witches guarding Will and Lyra.
When Will returned from the meeting with and death of his father, he found that the witches were ravaged by spectres, far more dangerous when capable of flight, and that Lyra was gone. Marisa had taken her daughter but not the alethiometer, also choosing not to wait for Will despite the power of the knife.
The Valley of the Rainbows
Marisa took Lyra to a remote cave in the Himalaya, along with various equipment taken from the camp by the lake where she killed Boreal. She made sure to give the local villagers the impression that she was a holy woman under a vow not to speak to men and only accepted visits from a local girl, Ama, who brought food daily.
When Ama came with her village's concerns that there were rumours of a powerful and dangerous companion in the cave, Marisa was amused by the novel chance to tell at least part of the truth. She told Ama that it was just her daughter, under a sleeping spell put on her by an enchanter. Marisa claimed that they were in the cave to hide from the enchanter while she tried to cure Lyra and keep her from harm. Despite her wariness, Ama was soothed by Marisa's voice and the monkey gently holding her daemon, so gave into her curiosity when Marisa offered to show her the sleeping girl. She asked Ama to keep it a secret between just her and her father, claiming that, if anyone else knew, the enchanter might find out and seek to destroy her, her daughter and everything else nearby. Ama was moved to tears by the show of compassion put on by Marisa and her dæmon.
Once the girl had left, Marisa began the process of preparing the concoction she used to keep Lyra asleep, washing her daughter's warm body and combing her hair once she was deeply drugged again. Her dæmon expressed his discontent about her activities in the cave and, despite brushing him off, the skepticism affected her as she wondered what kind of danger she was putting herself in from the Church and whether she was mad to risk it.
The traces Marisa left at the camp allowed Baruch to easily track her to the cave in the Valley of the Rainbows. Will was able to make use of the considerable amount of equipment she left behind. Using Baruch's information, Asriel had Teukros Basilides pinpoint the cave with the alethiometer and prepared his forces to recover Lyra. Meanwhile, at the Consistorial Court, Fra Pavel spoke about the torture he watched Marisa perform and informed the Court that Lyra was in Marisa's hands in the Himalaya. The President, Hugh MacPhail, had been learning about Oblation Board activities and felt that Marisa and her organisation were threats the CCD needed to deal with. A faster alethiometrist than Fra Pavel, from the Society of the Work of the Holy Spirit, then confirmed the exact location and the Swiss Guard were sent to race Asriel to the scene.
Impressed by Marisa and her daughter, Ama visited the great healer Pagdzin tulku to obtain medicine to wake the sleeping girl. When she arrived at the cave with the powder, Marisa was not there. Ama considered waking Lyra before her mother returned but was prevented by the appearance of the monkey. She hid at the side of the cave and unintentionally ended up spying, stuck inside the cave and left wishing she had stayed on the path.
Ama watched as Marisa prepared and drugged her daughter, shocked by the violence the woman and her dæmon used to restrain and overpower the waking girl. Ama was confused by the tender and clumsy affection Marisa showed to Lyra once she was successfully forced into deep sleep, particularly when she saw the woman place a lock of her daughter's hair into a gold locket. Marisa then lay moodily and slowly ate a bar of chocolatl whilst her dæmon vented his frustration by torturing the cave's bats. Ama was forced to watch until the woman was finally asleep and she could make her escape. She was left full of fear but with the sense that she was obliged to help Lyra.
When Will, joined on the way by Iorek, reached the cave, he learnt from Ama that Marisa had drugged Lyra and that Ama had herbs to wake her. He was overwhelmed when he caught sight of her, remembering the monkey from Boreal's house and taken by her beauty and charm despite the circumstances. Marisa was waiting for him when he reached the cave entrance, the monkey having spotted him coming. He was unnerved by her apparent sweetness and set his hand of the knife in response to the monkey's antagonism. Once Marisa had shown him Lyra, she insisted that they talk. She argued that Lyra was quite safe with her but her ostensible kindness and wisdom deepened his mistrust as he began to suspect that everything she said was a lie, every action a concealed threat and every face a mask of deceit.
She described her new-found concern for Lyra's well-being, noting that she had saved her three times, and the danger it placed them in from the Church. Marisa argued that she needed allies and was therefore forced to trust him. When asked why she kept Lyra drugged, she reasoned that her daughter would never listen for long enough to let her explain the new situation. When she pointed out that she had given up everything for Lyra, Will was horrified by her suggestion that his mother would probably do the same. Disturbed by his reaction to Marisa's beauty and charm, and angered by her bringing up his mother, Will came to the conclusion that she was either monstrously clever or lucky. She watched mildly as he reddened and shifted uncomfortably, briefly looking uncannily like Lyra to him.
Marisa was surprised when Will announced that he would set out to find Asriel having had confirmation that Lyra was safe. She mastered herself and calmly responded that she thought he would help them, although she deliberately did not plead with him. When they shook hands upon his departure, Will found himself liking her despite himself: because she was brave but also because she was like a more complex, richer and deeper Lyra. When Will later spoke to Iorek, he reasoned that she must have been lying and that she'd lie to make her life harder because she liked to lie so much. He was frustrated when both Iorek and Balthamos agreed that he was foolish to go to Marisa because it meant all he wanted was to see her again. He was angry that she had captivated him and dominated his every thought, even those about Lyra, his father and his mother.
Marisa had lain awake for a long period before finally falling asleep at the cave entrance, waiting for the two forces to converge on her, her dæmon restless around her. She had moved Lyra to right beside her, which made Will's rescue mission with the knife much more challenging. She awoke suddenly before he and Ama could reach Lyra and got up, fully-dressed, to watch at the cave mouth as the zeppelins began to arrive. Before Will could cut through to safety with Lyra, Marisa looked him full in the face. For a moment, he saw his mother's face in its place, reproaching him. Overwhelmed with sorrow, the knife shattered as he tried to cut because his mind had left its point, leaving him unable to escape.
Neither Marisa nor her dæmon attacked but she moved to emphasise the pistol in her hand. She did not prevent Ama from using the powder to wake Lyra. There was no chance for Will to snatch the pistol from Marisa. As the battle between the Church and Asriel's forces began outside, Marisa told Will that she would hold him and Lyra captive. She reasoned that they both had to hope that Asriel's troops, led by King Ogunwe, won because the Church would not care about hostages and wanted them all dead.
Noting her energy and liveliness despite the danger they were in, Will accused Marisa of deliberately breaking the knife; she denied the accusation and blamed him. She claimed to have wanted the knife whole to escape with. As Lyra obtained full consciousness, her mother fired carefully from the cave mouth, intently following the progress of the battle. Whilst Will contemplated rushing her mid-shot, Marisa suddenly cried out and clutched at her ankle. The Gallivespian Chevalier Tialys had stung her but the situation had quickly become a stalemate when her dæmon snatched his partner, Lady Salmakia, from the air. Will was able to catch the gun because both woman and monkey were rendered motionless. Marisa's face was distorted with pain and fury but she dared not move as Tialys had his poisoned spur at her neck. Breathing deeply and swallowing to master her pain, she turned to Will to ask him what should be done.
Will used the heavy gun to knock the golden monkey off-balance and Marisa groaned as her dæmon was stunned by the impact. The relaxing of his paw freed Salmakia, who was immediately joined by Tialys. Free from the threat of the sting in her jugular, Marisa reached out and cried for her daughter, drowsy and stunned with pain. She lay at the cave mouth, too weakened to stand or impede the children. As an anguished Lyra stepped over her mother to leave the cave, loosening the feeble grip on her ankle, Marisa sobbed unreservedly. Lyra cried furiously, feeling conflicted about Marisa, who pleaded with tragic passion that she was tearing her heart by leaving. Will pulled Lyra away and later explained how Marisa had made him think of his mother and how this had broken the knife.
The Church's forces retreated and Marisa fell into the hands of Ogunwe's forces. She was subsequently taken to Lord Asriel. Tialys’ sting was not enough to kill her but left her weak, drowsy and in pain for several days.
Lord Asriel's prisoner
Marisa was held captive in a small chamber in Asriel's Adamant Tower. She cried out for Lyra, her appearance significantly dishevald by her anguish, and her dæmon thrashed around on the floor where he was coiled in a silver chain. Asriel claimed that he did not care about Lyra's fate, arguing that she should have stayed put and done as she was told. He declared that he was not going to waste further time and resources on her if she did not want to be helped. Marisa insisted that he did not really mean that, but Asriel interrupted her before she could point out evidence for him caring about Lyra. He and Marisa continued to argue about her achievements and attributes.
When Marisa returned to the topic of Lyra's lack of protection, Asriel interrupted her to remark that Lyra must have been an extraordinary children to have softened Marisa. He was amused that a pitiless agent of the Church and a fanatical persecutor of children could have been tamed by a ‘dirty little brat’ and admitted that Lyra must have been out-of-the-ordinary to turn Marisa into a doting mother.
When Asriel told her to be quiet whilst he spoke to his chief commanders, threatening to gag her, Marisa showed her similarities to her daughter by spitting in his face. She mocked him for wanting to display her as a captive for his subordinates and demanded to be untied or else she would force him to gag her. However, when he produced a silk scarf from a draw, she angrily implored him not to tie it because that would humiliate her. Asriel consented to untying her on the condition that the monkey stayed in chains. It was only when freed that she noted her dilapidated state, so she carried her chained dæmon into a tiny adjoining washroom. She was careful not to show Asriel the agony the remaining venom caused her.
By the time Marisa returned, Asriel was joined by Xaphania, Lord Roke and King Ogunwe; all three bowed to her and she impassively inclined her head before sitting peacefully with the monkey in her arms. Ogunwe began by describing the outcomes of the battle and noted that they had captured Marisa despite her brave defence. When he expressed his hope that she was well-treated, Marisa used her response to imply that she was much happier with his treatment of her than Asriel's. Marisa learnt from the meeting that Roke's spies were with Lyra and Will, and that Iorek had succeeded in repairing the knife. She surprised the others present when she interrupted to explain that the CCD's alethiometrist Fra Pavel was slow, noting that this would give them several hours before Lyra's location was known. Asriel thanked her and asked if she knew the children's intentions. She explained that Will was stubborn and used to keeping secrets, meaning neither he nor Lyra could be read.
Ogunwe questioned whether Marisa's presence made her part of the commanders’ meeting. Asriel replied by describing her as their captive and his guest, and pointed out that her information on the Church could be very useful. When Lord Roke questioned whether torture would be necessary, Marisa laughed and suggested that they would be disappointed if they tried torture to get the truth. Asriel told his commanders he would guarantee her behaviour but would hear what they had to say about her presence. Ogunwe told Asriel that he doubted him, rather than Marisa, and stated that he did not believe Asriel would be able to resist Marisa if she tempted him. Having asked the opinion, Asriel was forced to accept the rebuke - with seeming regret - because he valued Ogunwe's presence more than Marisa's. However, before he could have Marisa taken away, she urgently argued her case for staying, pointing out the information she had been privy to and her newfound necessity to oppose the Church.
The commanders listened to her intently as she described her change of heart and how this led her to rescue Lyra three separate times. Her shameless, quiet speech led Asriel to believe she was an incorrigible liar and he noted that she directed most of her words to Ogunwe, a human man she was able to manipulate with her charm. Marisa's speech compelled Asriel to keep her at the meeting, despite changing his mind when reminded of her duplicity, because he was outflanked by Ogunwe and Roke changing theirs. He did, though, insist that she say nothing more. As she listened, Marisa was impressed by their detailed and accurate knowledge of the Church's defences and strengths. Contemplating the potential for information to become dangerously out-of-date without a spy, she and the monkey conceived an idea to fulfill such a role.
Asriel freed the monkey, carefully avoiding contact with a single hair, and announced that they would inspect the intention craft. On the long journey, deep into the basalt fortress, Marisa humbly addressed Xaphania, impressed by the angel's age and appearance. She then spoke to Ogunwe to ask him about Lord Roke, having never seen a Gallivespian and wishing to avoid causing offence. When she asked detailed questions about their forces, he told her that those were questions a spy would ask; she calmly noted a poor spy would ask so directly, particularly when unable to escape. Ogunwe explained Asriel's mission to build a republic of heaven for free citizens but Marisa was unable to learn much more during the breathless descent into a great hall. Once they had boarded a carriage at a railway platform beyond the hall, Marisa asked Lord Roke if his spies were always sent in pairs. She apologised when he took offence at the implication that she underestimated the Gallivespians. He remarked that she and the monkey were a pair and that Gallivespians could not be expected to concede the advantage.
Marisa was shocked by the sound, sight and smell of the armoury when they arrived. She felt an intense curiosity towards the intention craft and keenly analysed it as Asriel and Stelmaria boarded. Marisa watched how steady the craft remained in the air as it defeated a raiding party led by Ogunwe's fighters. Despite all she had seen, she was shocked by its abilities.
She and her dæmon wondered why Asriel had chosen to show them the craft, questioning if he had any inkling about their plan to spy. She decided to used Asriel's delight and distraction, partly caused by the desire to show off, to manipulate him. He pulled her into the craft alongside him once landed and could not resist explaining how the controls worked. She very suddenly pushed him clean out of the cockpit and began her escape. However, in the few seconds it took her to gain control of the craft, Asriel instructed his forces not to shoot and ordered Lord Roke to join Marisa in the cockpit, unseen, to keep an eye on her. His aim was to use Marisa to lead them to Lyra.
Marisa waited until night to approach the College of St Jerome in Geneva, having mastered the controls of the craft in the day or so she had been flying it. Three previous visits had given her the knowledge to conceal even something as large as the intention craft. She and her dæmon broke into the attic from the roof and quickly made their way to the college gatehouse, believing that entering the orthodox way was important. Once at the gatehouse, she threatened the guard and ordered him to both show her courtesy and arrange her an immediate audience with the President.
Marisa was unimpressed when Brother Louis was sent to her and refused to shake his hand. She demanded that he take her to MacPhail and he helplessly obeyed. The guard and his dæmon were glad to see such an intimidating figure leave and Brother Louis quickly gave up in his attempt at small talk. When they reached MacPhail's rooms, Brother Louis shook with fear as he was forced to interrupt the President's devotions. When MacPhail realised who had arrived, he smiled ‘wolfishly’ and offered Marisa his hand and his welcome. Marisa told Brother Louis that she would take a glass of chocolatl, although nothing had been offered to her. He was insulted by her treating him like a servant but she felt it was deserved given his abject manner.
MacPhail began their conservation once alone by informing her that she was naturally under arrest. She claimed to have come voluntarily, having escaped from Asriel's fortress and intending to pass over a great deal of information. When he asked her to speak of Lyra, she emphasised that Lyra was approaching the cusp of adolescence and sarcastically expressed the hope that he was satisfied with the Church's interventions likely precipitating catastrophe. He replied that it was her duty to bring Lyra to them and questioned why such an intelligent woman believed she could hide in a cave. Marisa argued that much was probably a mystery to him, starting with the mother-child relationship. She said that he was stupid if he ever thought she would give Lyra up to men obsessed with sexuality and with perverted minds and unclean bodies.
Brother Louis returned before the President could respond and was disappointed to be sent away again. Marisa and MacPhail continued to discuss the relative threats of the tempter, Asriel and the boy with the knife. She claimed to be responsible for the breaking of the knife but reported that it was now mended again. When he revealed that the Church already knew as much, she noted that Fra Pavel's reading speed must have improved.
She progressed into telling him pertinent details about Asriel and his forces, although both were aware that she would never have told him everything. Marisa claimed that she stole a gyrocopter to get to Geneva and walked from the nearby countryside once it ran out of fuel and had to be abandoned. MacPhail argued that it was natural for Asriel to want a knife with a name meaning ‘God destroyer’. Marisa was then unable to resist the calm exhilaration of blasphemy. She questioned whether God was still alive or whether he was living decrepit and demented, then suggesting that it would be merciful to give him the gift of death if the latter were true. She was well aware of the peril her heresy put her in before a man with MacPhail's power but the danger thrilled her. When he asked what her heretical views on Dust were, she claimed to have no view, as no-one knew what it was. He ended the conversation by reminding her of her arrest and promising that she would be locked in the best guest room.
Once alone and locked in the shabby guest room, Marisa located and disconnected two hidden microphones. She was then horribly surprised to see Lord Roke on the chest of drawers; neither she nor dæmon had noticed him before. Once calm again, she acerbically questioned whether he would have waited until before or after she had undressed to reveal himself. Roke threatened to attack the monkey if he did not calm down and was unaffected by the malice of the glare he received in return. He reported that he had just been in contact with an agent at the fortress and that Asriel had requested that his compliments were passed on to her and was enquiring about the CCD's intentions.
Marisa felt winded by the revelation that Asriel had sent Roke along with her and asked whether he had been sent to spy or help. He told her his mission was to do both, and that her arrival had galvanised of a team of scientists in the cellars. Roke promised to keep watch and turn away whilst Marisa washed, dressed for bed and went to sleep. The monkey checked the whole room before joining her in bed. Roke had decided not to trouble her with all of Asriel's news, given how tired she was. As he hid, he watched Brother Louis carefully unlock the door and search for something. The priest was dismayed to see that the gold locket he wanted was around Marisa's neck but eventually was able to remove it without waking woman or dæmon.
Roke pursued Brother Louis out into the corridor and saw Fra Pavel's confirmation that the hair inside was Lyra's. Louis was greatly disheartened by the order from MacPhail to return the locket to Marisa's neck and was further disappointed when the President would not tell him what the hair was for. Roke later saw that he had not dared to try to replace it, instead leaving it rather obviously on the pillow. The Gallevespian woke Marisa and explained that he had seen MacPhail telling Dr Cooper that Marisa touching the locket so often had given the contents away. Roke had then attacked Dr Cooper once the latter was alone and had dragged the envelope of hair with difficulty back to Marisa's room.
She was dismayed to see that only about half the amount she had cut was in the envelope and deduced that MacPhail must have kept some back. The golden monkey suddenly cut them off just before MacPhail opened the door and harshly demanded to know what happened to Dr Cooper and the hair. Marisa's genuine exhaustion and reaction to the bright light disconcerted MacPhail, as it meant she could not have left the bed. He claimed she must have had an accomplice. Marisa played dumb and Roke noted the quality of her acting as she made a scene at finding the locket on her pillow and angrily demanding to know how it was removed from her neck. She was able to match MacPhail's own bewilderment in her responses and bitingly remarked that the assassin must have been the Devil, quite at home among the CCD. MacPhail ordered the guards to chain her and take her to the cellars. He expressed satisfaction at realising exactly what he wanted to do with her. Marisa wildly cast around until she made brief but meaningful eye contact with Lord Roke.
Marisa was taken to Saint-Jean-les-Eaux by zeppelin. Lord Roke had hidden aboard and informed her that they were nearing a generating station. He was able to hide in a thick sheepskin coat her manacled hands prevented her from removing despite the heat. Whilst Roke was hidden, a soldier arrived to escort Marisa. She used the opportunity to question the necessity of the handcuffs and claimed that she was sore. Her lack of weapon and the remote location allowed her to persuade the soldier to point out the sergeant with the keys. Roke, impervious to Marisa's charm but curious about its effects, watched the helpless guard fall for her feigned clumsiness and beautified sighs. Lord Roke was then able to spur the sergeant in the confusion of a falling flood light. Despite his speed and the general gloom, noise and chaos, the Gallivespian was forced to spur a second soldier. Using the cover of the discovery of the two fallen bodies, he hurried the key to Marisa. She unlocked her hands and moved upwards to hide whilst Roke stayed to watch the bomb being unloaded.
Marisa determined that the matter of getting away alive was secondary to her to getting Lyra's hair out from the bomb. She watched as the hydro-anbaric engineers struggled with a power cable and remembered that, though Lord Roke had seen the rest of the hair placed in the resonating chamber, he would not be able to get it out unnoticed. The need to remove the hair once the bomb was set up was made harder by MacPhail's intention to have Marisa's intercision power the bomb. She was begrudgingly forced to admit that using Marisa's own invention and research to destroy her daughter was rather ingenious. Aware of Lord Roke's finite spur venom and hideously familiar with the mesh cages and silver blade, she could only watch and wait.
She saw the President ignore a witch's warning of a threat from the north and order her to search for Marisa and her accomplice. The monkey then drew her attention to Roke lying vulnerable out in the open; she told him to retrieve the Gallivespian. Though the heavy rain plastered his fur, he was still very conspicuous. Marisa was horrified to recognise the zealous intensity of MacPhail's expression and realised with a jolt of fear that he intended to sacrifice himself to power the bomb without her. Roke, reached by the golden monkey, reported that his leg had been broken and explained how to open the resonating chamber. Simultaneously, Marisa was forced to dodge the arrows of the witch as she moved down the slope towards her dæmon. The monkey dropped Lord Roke to spring to Marisa's defence as she began to grapple with the witch. He pulled needles from the cloud-pine branch as Marisa avoided the witch's knife. The witch's seagull dæmon seized Roke in his claws and the witch broke free to join him in the air on her tattered branch.
Marisa hurled herself at the bomb and began to wonder where the clearing tear gas had come from. When the witch fell suddenly, Marisa saw that Lord Roke had not survived the fall, his spur deep in the neck of the dying witch. She saw MacPhail's fighting his dæmon and violently attacked him to prevent him from impeding the monkey's progress with the resonating chamber. Tired and distracted by her dæmon's activities, MacPhail stunned her with a blow to the temple. He was then able to make his way to the second cage, his dæmon already trapped against her will in the first. Marisa saw her dæmon unscrew the claps holding the hair in place and the grim exultation on the President's face. With horror, she noted that a single golden hair remained in the resonating chamber MacPhail brought together the two wires with a spark and the silver blade shot down to sever him from his dæmon.
Following an explosion, Marisa came to whilst being lifted up by Asriel. Among the gunfire and confusion, he carried her to an intention craft, the golden monkey also carried by Stelmaria. As Asriel took the controls, Marisa saw the answers to her questions in the body of the President lying in the chaos of the mountain slope. She confirmed to Asriel that Lord Roke was dead and he used a flame from the intention craft to set the CCD's zeppelin on fire. As he flew them away, northward, she was unable to tear her eyes from the destruction, overwhelmed with despair.
Return to the Basalt Fortress
As they landed at the basalt fortress, Asriel told Marisa to wake, unaware that her sore and heartsick body had prevented her from any sleep. He ignored her in favour of speaking to Ogunwe once they had landed and the technicians also showed no interest in her. As if invisible, she walked herself to the room in the adamant tower. There, an orderly offered her coffee and food. She thanked him and requested that Asriel's alethiometrist, Basilides, be sent to her.
She washed and Basilides arrived shortly thereafter, bowing as he entered. Marisa offered him the refreshments the orderly had supplied and thanked him for seeing her. As soon as she had poured his coffee, she got straight to the point: she knew he had been following events and wanted to know if Lyra was still alive. He hesitated and then carefully told her that Lyra was alive but in the world of the dead. He had initially disbelieved his interpretation of the alethiometer but was eventually left in no doubt that Will and Lyra were in the world of the dead and had opened a way to free the ghosts there. He explained that Lyra did it because she had overheard a prophecy that death would end and felt it her duty to fulfill it.
Marisa was left speechless by this revelation and turned her face away from him to conceal her emotions and regain her composure. She asked him if Lyra stood a chance of coming out alive and he told her of Lyra's suffering and fear but also the mutual support from Will and the Gallivespians. She felt a sudden sense of immense exhaustion when Basilides revealed that the bomb did not harm her and the urge to sleep for years. As he left, she expressed how grateful she was to him and asked him to keep her updated. Afterwards, she went to lie down but found herself unable to close her eyes, no matter how hard she tried.
Asriel was similarly impressed by Lyra's achievements in the world of the dead; he decided to focus their efforts on Lyra, Will and their dæmons. He told his commanders not to disturb Marisa, deciding that leaving her alone and protecting her if possible was the best course of action. However, he admitted that this might have been doing her a disservice, given her capacity to surprise him. Marisa, lying in his bed next door, was stirred by his voice, having not been deeply asleep. She felt great unease and a deep sense of longing. Not caring about the specifics of what he was saying and only wanting to hear his voice, she had no desire or need to move. Her conclusion was that they were all doomed.
Eventually, Asriel and Stelmaria joined them and she roused herself to stand and greet him. Stelmaria growled softly and the monkey dropped his head to propitiate her. Asriel did not turn, busying himself with a map, so she took a chair and addressed him again. When she asked him what would happen to them, he asked her if she had been listening. She knew that he would not answer her question about their fates and he instead told her that they were searching for Lyra. She surprised him by saying that they should have married and brought her up themselves but he said nothing in reply.
Marisa told him that she could not bear the idea of oblivion; she used to think pain and torture would be worse but had realised that consciousness would be better than feeling nothing for eternity. He did not answer but his profound attention on her meant one was not needed. She continued by saying that she could not understand why he spoke so bitterly of Lyra during their last meeting. She could understand hating her, but not Lyra. She admitted that she never hated him. When she asked him if he remembered asking her to come with him, with the promise that they would destroy Dust, he quietly admitted that he wanted her to join him and thought she would prefer the lie about his intentions. Marisa told him that that was also the conclusion she had reached. The monkey tentatively reached for Stelmaria's paw and Asriel again provided no answer when she asked whether this was the end for them.
In a dreamlike state, she reached for the pistol in her rucksack in the corner of the room. Before she could do or decide anything, they were interrupted by an orderly. With the news that Will and Lyra's dæmons had been spotted, Asriel's marked fatigue was suddenly gone. He sprung into action and ignored Marisa. His orders were lost to her ears as he rushed from the room and she was left alone again. She looked at her dæmon and his expression was more complex than at any other time in their life. She reached a decision and he knew exactly what she meant. They embraced and she left the tower in her fur-lined coat.
The Clouded Mountain
Struggling at the Battle on the Plain, Will and Lyra saw the intention craft Marisa used to travel from the fortress into the heart of the storm, though they were unaware of what it was or who was flying it. She used it to enter the Clouded Mountain and was soon dazzled and bewildered. It reminded her of the heresy of an experimental theologian for suggesting that there were more than three spatial dimensions. She had personally seen his model before it was exorcised and burnt.
She hid behind a column, puzzling at the 'in-folded' perspectives of the mountain, as a procession of singing angels passed carrying a litter. They stopped upon seeing the intention craft and she was close enough to see the angel in the litter. He was indescribably aged and his howl of anguish forced her to put her hands over her ears. The bearers gathered themselves and moved on with their task, ignoring his cries and mutters.
Marisa and her dæmon moved upwards by a series of bridges and staircases until they were confronted by an angel with a spear. She eyed him curiously and noted that these were beings who had fallen in love with human women long ago. She gently told him to take her to the Regent, who she claimed was waiting for her. She decided that to disconcert them was a good strategy: because the angel did not know what else to do, he did as she told him. As they followed, the monkey's claws dug into her arms and she gripped his fur tight for her own reassurance.
Metratron's blinding light forced her dæmon's face into her shoulder and an arm over her eyes when they came face to face with him. He knew exactly who she was and immediately asked where Lyra was. Marisa claimed she had come to tell him and he argued that she would have brought Lyra with her if she was in her power. Marisa told him that Lyra's dæmon was in her power, even if the girl was not.
She asked him to hide himself a little because her eyes were so dazzled and he drew a veil of cloud in front of himself. She was unable to look at anything but his forceful eyes. Marisa claimed to have just come from Asriel and that he had Lyra's daemon. She said Asriel wanted to keep Lyra from Metatron until she was of age. When she swore that she was telling the truth and told him to look at her, he gave her the most searching examination she had ever undergone. Every scrap of deceit was stripped away until she was bared naked in front of him: body and ghost and dæmon all under his fierce gaze. She knew her nature had to answer for her and was terrified that it would be insufficient. Lyra lied to Iofur with her words; Marisa lied to Metatron with her whole life.
- "Corruption and envy and lust for power. Cruelty and coldness. A vicious probing curiosity. Pure, poisonous, toxic malice. You have never from your earliest years shown a shred of compassion for sympathy or kindness without calculating how it would return to your advantage. You have tortured and killed without regret or hesitation; you have betrayed and intrigued and gloried in your treachery. You are a cess-pit of moral filth."
- —Metatron’s view of Marisa[src]
She was shaken profoundly by his words, having both dreaded and hoped for his verdict. Marisa moved closer, knowing angels could be manipulated like human men. She argued that he must have seen how easily she could betray Asriel and promised to lead him to both Asriel and Lyra. He told her that he had many wives as a man, but none so lovely as her. Metatron told her that he loved their flesh and understood why the sons of heaven fell in love with the daughters of earth. He said he pleaded their cause with the Authority but was forced to prophesy their doom. She felt most exposed and in danger when offering herself as his consort but trusted her flesh and his lust for it. Marisa's manipulation of him was successful and she told him to follow her to Asriel.
Marisa whispered to Metratron as she led him, remarking on how Asriel hid in the darkness. They were stood on a high edge in the great cavern, watching Asriel and Stelmaria far below make their way down. When Metratron suggested that he could strike them then and there, Marisa told him she wanted to see Asriel's face when he realised her betrayal as an excuse to prevent a premature attack.
Metratron picked up on her emotions and was immediately suspicious. Before she could argue that she no longer felt love for Lyra, he interrupted and said that she regretted that she would not see Lyra grow up. She persuaded him that this was really regret that she was aging and that he had misinterpreted it having not been a man for so long. She distracted him by pretending to lament that she did not know him in girlhood, as then she would have had so much time to passionately devote to him. She leaned in like she could not control her impulses and he eagerly accepted the proximity of her flesh.
Marisa told Metratron to hide whilst she lulled Asriel and allayed his suspicious nature. She said that she would call to him when Asriel was off-guard and that he should come as a small-formed shadow to prevent Asriel from spotting him and letting the dæmon fly free. Despite Metatron's profound age, experience and intellect, he was blinded by his dual obsessions of destroying Lyra and possessing her mother. He nodded and obeyed her instructions.
As Marisa and Asriel approached each other, all was permeated with dust. The soft clarity it gave to every detail allowed him to see her cheeks wet with tears and how her gritted teeth stifled her sobs. He took her into his arms and the monkey buried himself in the snow leopard's fur as they embraced. He told her that the ghost of John Parry was protecting Lyra and Pantalaimon. She exclaimed that Dust was beautiful and that she never knew. Marisa asked that they didn't wait too long, because she could not bear it. He confirmed that, if they fell into the Abyss, they would not live and would not survive like the ghosts. He asserted that they both came to give Lyra the time to find her dæmon and to give her a future. They were both prepared to destroy themselves in order to destroy Metratron, believing that their sacrifice would secure their daughter's safety.
They kissed and she felt the way she had felt in his arms thirteen years before, when Lyra was conceived. Marisa admitted that Metatron had only believed her as a result of her corruption and expressed a desire to have done worse in her life to hide the mustard seed of her love for Lyra that had begun to take root.
She took a deep breath, smoothed herself out and called softly to the Regent. Metratron, in shadow-cloaked form, appeared and immediately perceived Marisa's deception. Asriel leapt at him straight away, seizing him by the wrist to hurl him to the ground. Metratron battered him brutally in return. Asriel encircled the angel's wings in his arms to pinion them, allowing Marisa to seize his hair. They were both flung around by his immense power, but did not let go. The daemons seized him too: Stelmaria with her jaws on his leg and the monkey tearing at the wings. This roused Metratron to greater fury and he freed a wing with immense effort, crushing Marisa against a rock as he flung sideways. She was stunned for a second and lost her grip. Asriel held fast, his grip improved by having less to enclose. He tried to crush the breath from Metatron whilst ignoring the blows raining down on his neck and skull.
As Asriel tried to keep his footing on the fractured rocks, Metratron brought a rock down brutally on his head and Asriel knew he could not survive a second shattering blow like that. But still he clung on, breaking the fingers of one hand with the other in an effort not to let go. Before Metratron could use the stone to finish Asriel off, the monkey sunk his teeth into the Regent's hand. The stone fell free from his grip and, whilst Metatron was distracted with trying to fling the monkey off, Marisa smothered the movement of his free wing. However, although hampered, Metratron was not hurt and was nowhere near the edge of the Abyss. Asriel was weakening, starting to lose consciousness and aware of the immense damage to his head. Marisa dug her fingers into the angel's eyes.
Stelmaria, weakening in consciousness alongside Asriel, made one last effort to prepare to leap at Metatron's throat. The angel fell and Marisa saw Asriel's blood-stained face gaze at her. She scrambled up to force the wings aside and seized the hair to pull back the head, allowing Stelmaria a better shot at the throat. Asriel dragged Metratron backwards, stumbling through the rocks whilst the monkey continued to tear. Almost at the edge, Metatron forced himself up and spread his wings wide. Marisa had fallen away and Asriel's weakening body could not prevent the angel from beginning to leave the ground. The golden monkey's grip would never loosen from the angel and Marisa saw that, if Metatron flew any higher, Asriel would fall and the angel would escape.
Hearing her lover cry her name, Marisa found her footing and leapt alongside the snow leopard, both of them hurling their whole weight against the angel. She seized the great wings and bore them all down into the Abyss together.
Serafina Pekkala told Mary Malone that Marisa and Asriel were responsible for wrestling Metatron into the Abyss. She made a show of selecting the best arrow from her quiver and snapping it, telling Mary that she had vowed to put the arrow in Marisa's throat after watching her torturing the witch near Svalbard. Serafina believed that neither Asriel nor Marisa could have made the sacrifice alone. Mary was distressed about how best to break the news to Lyra. Serafina believed that they should wait until she asked and that the alethiometer might provide her with the information.
Despite their wealth and power, neither of Lyra's parents thought to leave her money aside. She speculated that, even if they did have wealth left to her in a will, it was probably all used up in their endeavours. She was fortunate that the Master of Jordan was willing to support her financially, although he did so under the guise of telling her it was from Asriel.
Marisa Coulter was singularly beautiful, to the extent that most who met her felt the need to remark upon it. She was also young and slender, and moved with considerable grace and elegance. Marisa was glamorous, particularly, in Lyra's view, in comparison to female scholars, and had expensive taste in clothes, often opting for fur and silk. She was even able to make travelling clothes look fashionable.
Her hair was sleek and blonde, framing her cheeks, and she had dark eyes, which often glittered with passion Marisa used her sweet face and gentle, musical voice to lull others into a false sense of security. Her angelic, kind appearance gave her power over the children taken by the GOB and her charm and intoxicating voice also gave her sexual power over many men. She was so charming that even those aware of her charm were often unable to resist. Lord Asriel noticed that she used her whole body to lie and Will Parry felt that she concealed deceit in every expression.
Marisa's appearance often conveyed her great passion and she was capable of being very expressive. In anger, she appeared 'charged with some kind of anbaric force' and gave off the scent of heated metal. She was also known to turn white with fury and to flush with passion. Her face was proud and confident, often appearing self-satisfied or triumphant.She was capable of simultaneously maintaining both an intimidating and beautiful appearance.
Marisa's experiences took a toll on her appearance: when held captive by Asriel, her hair was disheveled and her clothing torn. The agonising pain of the sting and the exhaustion she felt in the final part of her life lessened her poise but did not prevent her from continuing to use her charm. Most notably, she was still able to use the power of her flesh and sexuality to deceive and successfully manipulate Metratron.
Marisa was a very beautiful, superficially charming woman, she was also very well-educated, especially for a woman in her world and loved to associate with various people of status and influence, yet behind the pretty mask hid a woman of iron, who allowed nothing to go against her or get in her way, her anger was said to have a metallic scent to it. She was notably manipulative, managing to use various church organisations and powerful individuals in her quest for power. Her ambition was a very important part of her; the main motivation for her marriage to Edward Coulter and her creation of the General Oblation Board was accumulation of political power.
Despite keeping composed and cool in most situations, Marisa's composure crumbled when she saw her own daughter in danger. She was also daring, ruthlessly pursuing her goals with no regard to morality, but she seemed somewhat wary to go against what she saw as the dominant power (the Church) and to give up her connections.
However, Marisa did prove to have great love for her daughter in the end, saving her on several occasions, despite frequently receiving nothing but loathing in return. This kernel of goodness gradually began to overwhelm the sum of her negative traits as the war with the Authority grew closer.
Marisa Coulter's dæmon had the form of a male golden monkey. With both his golden fur and Marisa's looks, the pair were able to flatter, entice, and threaten adults and children alike which made them valuable allies when working for the General Oblation Board or convincing people to do as they asked.
The monkey has lustrous, golden fur that was both longer and finer than human hair. He had horny, black hands and moved with sinuous and light movements. Marisa often swung him up to sit at her shoulder. His appearance could be gentle and inviting, as it was with children Marisa captured to take to Bolvangar, but, in general, it produced a more negative impression on others than Marisa herself did, as was the case with both Pantalaimon and Will Parry. This sometimes meant that the monkey's appearance betrayed some of Marisa's true feeling and intent otherwise masked by her façade of gentleness.
Like his human, Marisa Coulter's dæmon was often cruel. He reflected Coulter's personality as beautiful on the surface but malevolent of intention. He rarely spoke and had a particular affinity for destruction, seen when he tore the wings off cave bats out of sheer boredom. In many ways, he showed what was beneath Marisa's mask, such as when Marisa and Lyra speak at the Magisterium, he attacked and choked Pantalaimon. As Pantalaimon was Lyra's soul, this caused her to choke too (further accentuated by the fact that Lyra was her daughter and Coulter knows it). Later, at Bolvangar, while Marisa explained that she was Lyra's mother and what she and the Magisterium were doing, she asked where the alethiometer was. When Lyra showed her the box it was supposedly hidden in, the dæmon immediately began to tear open the package while Coulter was sweet-talking Lyra, showing where her mind really was.
Behind the scenes
- In the film The Golden Compass, Marisa Coulter is played by Nicole Kidman, who was initially reluctant to play a villain.
- Although Northern Lights originally described Mrs Coulter as having "sleek black hair", after Nicole Kidman's performance, Philip Pullman has said in an interview that he "was clearly wrong" about her hair colour. All works published after The Golden Compass have described her as blonde and more recent editions of Northern Lights have been amended to describe her as having "sleek fair hair".
- Ruth Wilson portrays a dark-haired Mrs Coulter in the TV show whilst Brian Fisher voices the golden monkey.
- In the BBC radio adaptation, she was portrayed by Emma Fielding.
- In the audiobook read by Philip Pullman, the role of Marisa Coulter was taken by Alison Dowling.
- Mrs Coulter was named the third biggest villain in the Big Bad Read poll after Lord Voldemort and Sauron.
- Mrs Coulter's dæmon was never named in the books, but took the name Ozymandias in the radio dramatisation. This change was not authorized by Pullman, who questioned why the scriptwriter made the choice. Malcolm Polstead notes that 'if that monkey had a name, it might be "Malice"'. Ozymandias is also the name the monkey was given in Northern Lights - The Graphic Novel.
- Her dæmon was always referred to as a golden monkey in the books, but the DVD box-set describes him as a golden lion tamarin. Philip Pullman's chapter illustration for Northern Lights Chapter 5, 'The Cocktail Party' shows the golden monkey as closely resembling a Green Monkey (Chlorocebus sabaeus). The chapter illustration for La Belle Sauvage Chapter 14, 'Lady with Monkey' shows the golden monkey as resembling something like a large golden lion tamarin. Real-world golden monkeys include the Golden Monkey (Cercopithecus kandti) and the Golden snub-nosed Monkey (Rhinopithecus roxellana) (which the TV series seems to have chosen).
- As Marisa's dæmon has no speaking role in the films, it is difficult to gauge its personality (as opposed to Pantalaimon who is very vocal). However, it does without a doubt act as a personification of Marisa Coulter's two-faced cruelty and decisiveness. When she and Lyra are talking at her home, Marisa retains a confident and energetic demeanour while her dæmon attacks Pantalaimon, putting him in a choke hold. As Pantalaimon is Lyra's dæmon, a manifestation of her soul, this causes Lyra to experience identical injuries. During the two's final talk in the North, Marisa is talking to Lyra about the experiments she is running (severing dæmon souls from children). Marisa appears very sweet and understanding of Lyra, but the instant she is told where the alethiometer is (it's actually a decoy) the monkey immediately grabs the tin it was supposedly sealed in and starts aggressively attacking the seal.
- Northern Lights
- Northern Lights - The Graphic Novel
- The Golden Compass (film)
- The Golden Compass (video game)
- The Subtle Knife
- The Amber Spyglass
- His Dark Materials (TV series), Series 1, 2
- La Belle Sauvage
- The Secret Commonwealth (Mentioned only)
- Lyra's Oxford (Mentioned only)
- The Collectors (Mentioned only)
- The Collectors
- La Belle Sauvage
- In The Amber Spyglass, Chapter 28, we find out that Marisa is 35 years old. The events of The Amber Spyglass take place in 1997 meaning Marisa was born around 1962
- Northern Lights, Chapter 4
- Lyra's Oxford
- Northern Lights, Lantern Slide 5
- Northern Lights, Chapter 7
- Northern Lights, Chapter 8
- La Belle Sauvage, Chapter 4
- La Belle Sauvage, Chapter 17
- La Belle Sauvage, Chapter 13
- La Belle Sauvage, Chapter 18
- La Belle Sauvage, Chapter 14
- La Belle Sauvage, Chapter 9
- Northern Lights, Chapter 9
- Northern Lights, Chapter 21
- Northern Lights, Chapter 18
- Northern Lights, Chapter 3
- Northern Lights, Chapter 19
- Northern Lights, Chapter 20
- The Amber Spyglass, Chapter 16
- Northern Lights, Chapter 5
- Northern Lights, Chapter 14
- Northern Lights, Chapter 16
- Northern Lights, Chapter 17
- Northern Lights, Chapter 23
- The Subtle Knife, Chapter 2
- The Subtle Knife, Chapter 9
- The Subtle Knife, Chapter 15
- The Amber Spyglass, Chapter 1
- The Amber Spyglass, Chapter 2
- The Amber Spyglass, Chapter 5
- The Amber Spyglass, Chapter 6
- The Amber Spyglass, Chapter 9
- The Amber Spyglass, Chapter 4
- The Amber Spyglass, Chapter 11
- The Amber Spyglass, Chapter 12
- The Amber Spyglass, Chapter 13
- The Amber Spyglass, Chapter 14
- The Amber Spyglass, Chapter 24
- The Amber Spyglass, Chapter 25
- The Amber Spyglass, Chapter 29
- The Amber Spyglass, Chapter 30
- The Amber Spyglass, Chapter 31
- The Amber Spyglass, Chapter 36
- The Amber Spyglass, Chapter 38
- Northern Lights, Chapter 13
- Northern Lights, Chapter 15
- The Amber Spyglass, Chapter 4
- Web Archive
- The Big Bad Read
- Philip Pullman webchat
- Stated in the booklet provided in The Golden Compass film box.