A dæmon /ˈdiːmən/ was the physical manifestation of a human soul in Lyra's world. Humans in other worlds had dæmons. However, they were invisible to those who had not learned the technique to see them.
Dæmons were able to hold different intuitions to their humans and reveal emotional responses to their surroundings that might not otherwise be obvious in their humans. Dæmons shared the same dreams as their humans and could communicate both verbally and non-verbally with them.
Dæmons were named by the dæmons of the child's parents. During the childhood of a human, a dæmon could shapeshift into any kind of animal. This change could be due to emotion, need for a particular skill such as night-vision, or simply a whim. Frequent changing of forms and a wide variety of forms were generally thought to be a good indicator of intelligence in a child. Asta was able to add the characteristics of one animal to another form.
Uncertainty in children translated into uncertainty in which form to take. Sister Fenella did not know how dæmons were able to take forms they had never come across before but her dæmon, Geraint, used to be a mole when he was frightened. Asta believed it was a question of feeling ‘moleish’ rather than knowing about them.
When the human and their dæmon reached maturity, the dæmon would settle into a permanent form. This form represented the personality of their human.
When dæmons took the form of an animal, they were never really animals, all other animals would only be able to sense a human.
Dæmons didn't always settle into a permanent form their humans wanted. An example given by Jerry was of a sailor who couldn't leave his ship due to his dæmon settling as a dolphin, and who was only truly happy when he was finally buried at sea. Forms were sometimes linked to professions: both Mr Croker, a woodwork teacher, and Mr Taphouse, a carpenter, had woodpecker dæmons. Roofers, tilers, steeplejacks had daemons that could fly or fit in a pocket to make ladder work viable. Kerin suggested that a settled form could not be chosen, but could be ‘helped’.
As a human and their dæmon were one being, the death of one resulted in that of the other. Upon death, the dæmon instantly scattered as Dust. Dæmons could also be permanently injured, as was the case for Gerard Bonneville.
As a human and their dæmon were one being, it was physically and emotionally painful for them to separate too far from each other. Death usually followed such separation due to the severe trauma. The General Oblation Board attempted to perfect the intercision process, to separate the human and dæmon in a way which did not result in death. Nevertheless, this resulted in the human losing some of their willpower and vitality. Less advanced methods were used to create hollow servants called zombi.
It was considered taboo for a person to touch another person's dæmon. Humans whose dæmons were touched by others generally felt a strong sense of repulsion. One exception was when two people touched each other's dæmons in a gesture of love, an act that marked the settling of Pantalaimon and Kirjava. Malcolm Polstead observed that the taboo appeared to be learnt, rather than instinctual, when he was touched by a baby Pantalaimon. He was shocked by the experience but felt privileged rather than disgusted.
The witches had a rite of passage in which the witch entered a barren land where no dæmon could enter. After doing so, the witch and her dæmon were able to separate over long distances. Will Parry and Lyra Silvertongue gained a similar ability after leaving their dæmons on the shore of the world of the dead, although this did not give them the longevity, power of flight or bird forms that also characterised witches. As a shaman, John Parry was also able to separate from his dæmon without great pain.
Dæmon is an Anglicisation of the Ancient Greek word daimōn which means 'spirit'. It is a neutral term with none of the malevolent connotations associated with the modern English word demon.
Behind the scenes
- The idea of the dæmon was inspired by paintings such as Leonardo da Vinci's "Lady with an Ermine" where there seems to be a psychological connection between the lady and the animal. Pantalaimon changes to an ermine numerous times during the series, especially when sleeping.
- Early editions of Northern Lights suggested dæmons could turn into humans. One coin for the dæmon of a previous Master of Jordan College inside the Jordan catacombs depicted a fair woman.
- Northern Lights
- Northern Lights - The Graphic Novel
- The Golden Compass (film)
- The Golden Compass (video game)
- The Subtle Knife
- The Amber Spyglass
- Lyra's Oxford
- Once Upon a Time in the North
- La Belle Sauvage
- The Secret Commonwealth
- ↑ La Belle Sauvage, Chapter 1
- ↑ 2.0 2.1 La Belle Sauvage, Chapter 14
- ↑ Northern Lights, Chapter 16
- ↑ BBC Radio 4 - Philip Pullman Webchat
- ↑ La Belle Sauvage, Chapter 5
- ↑ La Belle Sauvage, Chapter 3
- ↑ 7.0 7.1 Northern Lights, Chapter 10
- ↑ The Subtle Knife, Lantern Slide 2
- ↑ La Belle Sauvage, Chapter 9
- ↑ La Belle Sauvage, Chapter 6
- ↑ La Belle Sauvage, Chapter 12
- ↑ La Belle Sauvage, Chapter 21
- ↑ Northern Lights, Chapter 17
- ↑ Northern Lights, Chapter 6
- ↑ La Belle Sauvage, Chapter 11
- ↑ 16.0 16.1 Northern Lights, Chapter 7
- ↑ Northern Lights, Chapter 3
- ↑ The Amber Spyglass, Chapter 37
- ↑ La Belle Sauvage, Chapter 19
- ↑ The Amber Spyglass, Chapter 36
- ↑ The Subtle Knife, Chapter 13
- ↑ Intelligent Life - 
|Humanoid||Angels • Dæmons • Deaths • Gallivespians • Ghosts • Humans • Mermaids • Witches • Zombi|
|Other||Cliff-ghasts • Harpies • Mulefa • Night-ghasts • Panserbjørne • Spectres • Will-o’-the-wykes|