Alethiometer

From Academic Kids

In the Philip Pullman trilogy of novels His Dark Materials, an alethiometer is a device that tells the truth. The word comes from the Greek words for truth and measure.

To use the alethiometer, the user directs three needles to lie over certain symbols on the face of device, and to form a question in their mind. The needles then respond to the question, swinging over different symbols to form answers. Any given symbol may have numerous meanings. The compass provides its answers through the "power" of Dust, or elementary particles called shadows.

The alethiometer is given to the leading character, Lyra Belacqua, who finds herself able to use it by intuition, rather than the years of study normally required.

In "real life" the resemblance of the device to a large compass caused the American publishers of the first book entitled Northern Lights to retitle the book The Golden Compass. Philip Pullman later explained the mix-up in a quote that can be found on this fan site  (http://www.bridgetothestars.net/index.php?p=FAQ#4)

If ever you come across an alethiometer of your own, this page (http://www.bridgetothestars.net/index.php?d=encyclopaedia&p=alethiometer) is a good place to start to learn how to read it.

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