Marisa Coulter (1962–1997) was the head of the General Oblation Board and a long-time agent of the Church before she defected. Her dæmon was a golden monkey who neither spoke nor went by a specific name. Her daughter was Lyra Silvertongue.


Early life

Marisa was born in 1962. When she reached puberty, her dæmon settled as a golden monkey. She attended St Sophia's College[2] and wrote an academic work named The Bronze Clocks of Benin.[3]

When she was 18, she travelled to Will's world. She sat for a portrait at Skipton's art studio, where she met Grinstead. The two were lovers for less than a month. At this time, she was already involved in politics.[1]

Affair with Lord Asriel

Marisa married politician named Edward Coulter, but had an affair with Lord Asriel that resulted in a daughter whom she named Lyra. The baby bore no resemblance to Edward, so to hide the affair she claimed the girl had died and put her into the care of Ma Costa at one of Lord Asriel's estates in Oxfordshire.[4]

Even so, Edward learned of the affair and came to the estate, ransacking the cottage where Ma Costa and Lyra had been staying. Lord Asriel stopped Edward before he could reach the baby and challenged him to a duel, which he won. Lord Asriel lost everything he had in the court case which followed, and Mrs Coulter wanted nothing more to do with any of it, including her daughter. Lyra was sent to live in the Sisters of Obedience priory, but Lord Asriel had her moved to Jordan College.[4]

Reunited with Lyra

In 1995, Mrs. Coulter arrived at Jordan College where she met her estranged daughter. She invited Lyra to come to the North with her as her personal assistant, an offer to which Lyra happily agreed. However they never went to the North together and Lyra was angry and unaware that the woman was her mother.[2]

Under the premise of preparation for a trip to the North, Marisa taught Lyra celestial navigation, geography and mathematics, as well as useful information about survival. She also taught Lyra indirect lessons, such as how to put on make-up.

Six weeks after Lyra's arrival in London, Coulter hosted a cocktail party. She argued with Lyra when the girl refused to put her shoulder bag away, insisting on wearing it in the house. Her dæmon attacked Pantalaimon and Lyra gave in. At the party, Lyra learned that Coulter was the leader of the General Oblation Board and ran away.


Some weeks later, Mrs Coulter visited Bolvangar, the experimental station of the General Oblation Board which she founded. She saved Lyra and Pantalaimon from the intercision which was about to be performed on them. This is when Lyra was told of her true parents - she was happy about Lord Asriel being her father but devastated at the fact that Mrs Coulter was her Boggle - Leading mother.

Physical appearance

Marisa Coulter was described as very beautiful, with short black hair and dark eyes. She wore expensive, fashionable clothes and spoke with a soft, musical voice.


Marisa Coulter 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 ooze. She was notably manipulative, who managing to use various church organizations and powerful individuals in her quest for power. This included making herself their lovers. 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.

She was seen to take a sadistic joy in watching the incision of children and dæmons, and was the one who suggested the operation to the Church as a way to stop the spread of Dust. Yet, she hypocritically kept her own dæmon and saved her daughter from the procedure, so she seemed knowledgeable of the wrongness of the procedure (although it is unlikely she particularly cared). Despite keeping composed and cool in most situations, her composure crumbled when she saw her own daughter about to be severed. 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. This was a sign of her narrowness.

However, she 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.

Behind the scenes

  • In the film The Golden Compass, Marisa Coulter is played by Nicole Kidman, who was initially reluctant to play a villain.
  • Also in the film, she has blonde hair and blue eyes.
  • 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.[5]
  • Mrs Coulter's dæmon was never named in the books, but took the name Ozymandias in the radio dramatisation. This change was not authorised by Pullman, who questioned why the scriptwriter made the choice. [6]
  • Her dæmon was always referred to as a golden monkey in the books, but the DVD boxset describes him as a golden lion tamarin[7]


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HDM Wiki has 1 image of Marisa Coulter.


  1. 1.0 1.1 The Collectors
  2. 2.0 2.1 Northern Lights, Chapter 4
  3. Lyra's Oxford
  4. 4.0 4.1 Northern Lights, Chapter 7
  5. The Big Bad Read
  6. Philip Pullman webchat
  7. Stated in the booklet provided in The Golden Compass film box.

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