His Dark Materials: Dæmons

Note: If you haven’t read the His Dark Materials trilogy, this is a collection of my thoughts on it: specifically, dæmons. It does include some major plot points, however, so if you want to read the trilogy, read my review here. It includes a link to the trilogy’s amazon page.  If you’ve been wondering how to get to posts other than the top two, you can just click on any of the little boxes at the bottom of the page.

As you may have inferred from the title, this post will be about the dæmons of characters in Lyra’s world. I found many of the facts about them interesting, and they have raised many questions. One is, while all conscious beings have dæmons, it appears that only humans in Lyra’s world can see them and speak to them. However, as was noted by Kaisa, the dæmon of Serafina Pekkala in chapter eleven of The Golden Compass, there are millions of worlds. There must be more worlds in which the conscious species is/are  (this would be easier for me if species wasn’t its own plural) able to see their own dæmons without having to go into the trance that Mary Malone goes into to see her dæmon. In such worlds, these dæmons might not take animal forms: because they are a part of the self, they could take any form.

Another problem is when a dæmon is born. We know that when they die, they dissolve into particles to be a part of everything. It is reasonable to assume that they do the opposite when they are born. However, they must become alive exactly when their human is. This poses the problem of when their human comes alive. If we assume it is exactly when the human is born, there is no problem with this. But fetuses are alive before they are born.  So if particles are gathered together to form a dæmon before the child is born, they are either inside the mother’s womb with the child — something very painful if not impossible for the mother, or they are always very close to the mother. If they are always with the mother, this will be problematic in two ways. First, the mother would have to touch them, which breaks the taboo of never touching another’s dæmon. Second, the dæmon would have been born already — before their human was. So I think that while the mother and father of the child are having sex, their dæmons are having sex at the same time. Then the mother and the father’s dæmon (who is female) are both pregnant, and each give birth simultaneously.

Then, there are the few people whose dæmons are the same gender as them. Bernie Johanson,  the half-gyptian pastry cook at Jordan College who watched over Lyra, is one of them. This brings up a contradiction to what I just wrote about birth of dæmons: If one of the people reproducing has a dæmon the same gender as them, the two dæmons could not reproduce unless the other human also had a dæmon of the same gender.

When John Parry/Dr. Grumman goes to Lyra’s world, he finds his dæmon while on his travels. Will, on the other hand, does not know his dæmon until he is torn away from her on his visit to the land of the dead. While Sayan Kötör (John Parry/Dr. Grumman’s dæmon) is just in a random place in Lyra’s world, Kirjava (Will’s dæmon) is immediately with Pantalaimon when Will abandons her (By “her” I mean Kirjava. Pantalaimon is male, but that sentence still sounds ambiguous).

Finally, some words on the settling of dæmons. When a dæmon settles, it is during/after their human goes through puberty. This is probably a metaphor for the constant change of children, and the sameness of adults.

If any of you have other thoughts on the nature of dæmons, please comment below. Also, if you want to add to or contradict any thoughts I’ve posted, include them too.

His Dark Materials: Review

I received the His Dark Materials trilogy by Philip Pullman for Christmas. The three books are  The Golden Compass, The Subtle Knife, and The Amber Spyglass. I have several thoughts about these books, and because of this I will make several posts on them. This post will be a review for those who haven’t read it, and its purpose, like my other reviews, will be to share my thoughts on it without giving too much away.

The Golden Compass is a beautifully written book, taking place in a world like ours in many ways, yet different in many more. This is a world of dæmons and Scholars, of witches and panserbjørne, an object that tells the truth and a mysterious city floating in the aurora borealis. Lyra Belaqua, our heroine, is a girl in Jordan College in Oxford, who knows only what she is told by the scholars and what she learns from the urchins on the street. But when she spies on her uncle Lord Asriel as he presents the findings of his exploration to the North, the Master of Jordan College sends her away. There are powerful changes happening, though, and the future is hidden from most, but not all. Overall, I find that this book is a lighter one than the other two, setting up characters for new things to happen to and a place for new things to happen in.

The Subtle Knife was published only two years after The Golden Compass, and the style is very similar. Now, Lyra finds herself with a new companion, Will Parry, both trapped in a world new and strange to each. As they explore this place, they learn of a knife, rumored to be able to cut through anything. While the writing style is very much the same, this book is darker than the first, and the pace is sped up.

The Amber Spyglass is the stunning finale to the series. Philip Pullman published it five years after The Subtle Knife, and his clear, careful style evolved into a more abrupt, more mysterious one. He leaves many questions to be answered and gaps to be filled with the reader’s imagination. It ends both happily and tearfully, and reveals just enough to set the reader’s mind ablaze with ideas.

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