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  …

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