On the His Dark Materials trilogy
Where You Lead, I Will Follow
By Deb Caletti
The concept of d¦mons has been called Philip Pullman’s most masterful idea–“a coup,” according to Michael Chabon. Pullman snitched the notion from Socrates, and then made it his own. Socrates’ daimon was his own sense of a divine presence within–an early warning detection system, something like your own inner smoke alarm, except you never have to get on a chair and change the batteries. Pullman’s d¦mons, on the other hand, aren’t wispy inside entities, but take a real, physical shape–your d¦mon is your creature companion that represents who you most are; your walking, talking soul in animal form. (And for all you who’ve already decided that the guy next to you has a donkey for a d¦mon, knock that off). Mrs. Coulter in The Golden Compass is cool and calculating, sleek and crafty, and her d¦mon is a golden monkey. The commanding Lord Asriel’s d¦mon is a snow leopard. Servants generally have dogs; warriors have wolves. A person’s d¦mon becomes fixed at puberty (a better prize, it seems, than a first bra or a squeaky, breaking voice), so our child heroine, Lyra, who is sometimes bratty and spoiled, plucky and brave, adventurous and restless, has a d¦mon, Pantalaimon, who shifts from moth to mouse to ermine to wildcat.
But Pullman’s concept is more than simply great invention–the idea of a d¦mon, a d¦mon of your own, is enticing, the kind of enticing that requires your mind to roll this proposal around and around like a hard butterscotch candy in your …