Dæmon

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In Lyra's world, a dæmon is an outward and physical manifestation of a person's soul, in an animal form that reflects the person's character.

"A dæmon is not an animal, of course; a dæmon is a person. A real cat, face to face with a dæmon in cat form, would not be puzzled for a moment. She would see a human being."
The Subtle Knife, Lantern Slides

Contents

Settling

Until the age of puberty, dæmons are able to change their form (must be an animal form though). During puberty, the dæmon will lose the ability to change shapes, and eventually settle in a shape most reflective of its human’s character. The dæmon will keep this shape until the day it dies with its human.

The settling of dæmons also caused Dust to be attracted to their human. The Church, and especially the General Oblation Board, believed Dust was the physical manifestation of Original Sin, and that the settling of dæmons and the gathering of Dust onto a person indicated the beginning of sinful thought, which inspired and was used as justification for their experiments with intercision.

Dog dæmons

In Lyra's world servants' dæmons usually settle as dogs.

This was explained thusly by Philip Pullman at Unicon 2000:

...somebody criticised me for being terribly class-ridden and British and snobbish because all servants are people whose dæmons are dogs. This critic thought that I was saying if your dæmon’s a dog you have to be a servant. It’s not like that at all, as Lyra explains elsewhere to Will (who doesn’t know about dæmons). "If your dæmon turns out to be a dog, that means you’re the sort of person (and there are plenty of those about) who enjoys knowing where they are in a hierarchy, who enjoys following orders and pleasing the person in charge." There are people like that, and they make good servants. We don’t have servants any more in our society but we do in Lyra’s world. If your dæmon is a dog that is a sign to you that that’d be a career that you’d enjoy doing and that you’d be good at.
Philip Pullman, Unicon 2000

Witches Dæmons

All witches have birds as dæmons. Each Witch goes through an initiation as a young girl that allows their dæmon to travel great distances from them.

Same-sex dæmons

It is rare for dæmons to have the same sex as their human.

Philip Pullman spoke of this matter at Unicon 2000. Asked what a same-sex dæmons might indicate of their human, he replied:

I don’t know. There are plenty of things about my worlds I don’t know, and that’s one of them. It might do! But it might not! Occasionally, no doubt, people do have a demon of the same sex; that might indicate homosexuality, or it might indicate some other sort of gift or quality, such as second sight. I do not know. But I don’t have to know everything about what I write." Further explained at Readerville in 2001: "Same-sex daemons: it was clear to me from the beginning that occasionally someone might acquire a daemon of the same sex. What might that mean? I don't know everything it might mean; it could mean something about their own sexuality, or it might mean something quite different. It's one of the many things I don't know fully about my world. Similarly with how daemons are born. There wasn't actually any part of the story that depended on studying my daemonic gynecology, so I didn't go into it.
Philip Pullman, Unicon 2000

Bernie Johansen, a half-Gyptian kitchen servant at Jordan College, is one of rare people whose dæmon was the same sex as himself.

Birth, Death & Intercision

When their humans die, their dæmons simply disintegrate. As previously stated, it is unknown how and when dæmons are born, although considering the nature of their deaths, it is reasonable to assume they are not birthed alongside their humans but rather at some point simply come into being. A fatal blow to a dæmon can kill that dæmon's human instantly, as Iorek Byrnison demonstrates against a Bolvangar guard in The Golden Compass.

The process of separating a dæmon from their human is called intercision, which can be performed either through the Maystadt process or simply by physically tearing the two entities away from each other, a ritual performed for centuries by the Tartars. After intercision, the dæmon is no longer representative of their human's soul and becomes a seperate being, albeit greatly reduced in intelligence. If the human remains near their dæmon, they can survive, suffering, however, the loss of their soul, which makes their life bleak and monotonous, and makes them far more susceptible to being put into servitude. If there is distance put between the human and the dæmon, though, the trauma involved will likely cause the human to die.

In Africa, however, a method has been perfected by which a human is able to survive without a dæmon in a corpse-like and barely alive form, called a Zombi.

The dæmons of witches, unlike humans, have the ability to travel great distances from their witches and for long periods of time. This ability effectively makes them insusceptible to the 'tearing' method of intercision, though it is unknown if they are vulnerable to the Maystadt process.

The separation of dæmon from human does have a use, however, as it releases a massive amount of energy which, when harnessed, is one of the most efficient energy sources known.

Other worlds

In His Dark Materials, it is only the people of Lyra's world that have a outward and physical dæmon. In the other worlds readers are taken to, dæmons/souls are invisible or contained within the person, although it can be possible for the people of these worlds to see their dæmons and learn their names, as was the case with Will. However, considering the Many Worlds Theory (an infinite number of possible worlds), there are undoubtedly other worlds, perhaps spinoffs of Lyra's, where dæmons are visible.

List of Dæmons

Form Name Character
Alpine Chough unknown Dr. Mary Malone
Baboon unknown Third Doctor at Bolvangar
Bat unknown Pagdzin tulku
Bird Ragi Yelena Pazhets
Blue-Throated Bird Sergi Ruta Skadi
Butterfly unknown Adele Starminster
unknown Kulang Ama
Cat Kirjava Will Parry
Cat Sophonax Farder Coram
Cat unknown Professor Docker
Cheetah unknown King Ogunwe
Cormorant unknown Tillerman
Crow unknown Dada
Crow unknown Father Semyon Borisovitch
Cros unknown John Faa
Ferret unknown Jacob Huismans
Frog unknown Fra Pavel Rasek
Golden Monkey unknown Mrs. Coulter
Green Beetle unknown Father Luis Gomez
Hare Hester Lee Scoresby
Hawk unknown Ma Costa
Hawk unknown Tony Costa
Lemming unknown Seal Hunter
Lemur unknown Top-hatted Man
Lizard unknown Father Heyst
Lizard unknown Father Hugh MacPhail
Macaw unknown Cardinal Sturrock
Marmoset unknown Dame Hannah Relf
Marmot unknown First Doctor at Bolvangar
Moth unknown Second Doctor at Bolvangar
Nightingale unknown Teukros Basilides
Osprey Sayan Kotor John Parry
Owl unknown Priest at Observatory
Pelican unknown Priest at Trollesund
Pine Marten Pantalaimon Lyra
Pinscher Anfang Thorold
Rabbit unknown Brother Louis
Raven unknown Master of Jordan College
Raven unknown Unnamed Witch (flies wire to Aurora)
Red Setter unknown Mr. Cawson
Retriever unknown Mrs. Lonsdale
Robin unknown Juta Kamainen
Scarlet Macaw unknown Old Lady with Lornette
Seagull Belisaria Jerry the Seaman
Serpent unknown Jotham Santelia
Serpent unknown Sir Charles Latrom
Serpent unknown Martin Lanselius
Snake unknown The Enquirer
Snow Bunting unknown Lena Feldt
Snow Goose Kaisa Serafina Pekkala
Snow Leopard Stelmaria Lord Asriel
Squirrel unknown Mistress Huismans
Tern unknown Unnamed witch
Terrier unknown Orderly at Adamant Tower
unknown Castor Child in Land of the Dead
unknown Cerebaton Simon Le Clerc
unknown Kyrillion Annie
unknown Matapan Child in Land of the Dead
unknown Musca Ignatius Cole
unknwon Sandling Child in Land of the Dead
unknown Zahariel Francis Lyall
White Dog unknown Sister Clara (Bolvangar)

Mythological Inspiration

See also Dæmons in other cultures

Socrates...

See also

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