The Golden Compass

by Philip Pullman

Start Free Trial

Discussion Topic

The names, types, and roles of daemons in Philip Pullman's The Golden Compass


In The Golden Compass, daemons are animal manifestations of a person's soul. Each human has a daemon that reflects their inner nature. Daemons can change form during childhood but settle into a permanent shape upon reaching adulthood, symbolizing the person's true character. They play crucial roles in the narrative, acting as companions, guardians, and extensions of their humans' identities.

Expert Answers

An illustration of the letter 'A' in a speech bubbles

In The Golden Compass, what are the names and types of daemons?

Clearly, given that every human character in the novel has a daemon, there are lots of daemons in the novel and even the most superficial reading will reveal a wide range of daemons. However, here are a few from the first chapter. Lyra's daemon of course is very important, Pantalaimon, who has not "fixed" on a shape yet. The servant, as befitting his status, has a dog as a daemon. The Master of Jordan has a raven. Lord Asriel has a snow leopard called Stelmaria. What is interesting about this trilogy is the relationship between deaemons and their human counterparts and how they reflect character and reveal something of their humans.

Last Updated on
An illustration of the letter 'A' in a speech bubbles

What is the role of "daemons" in Philip Pullman's The Golden Compass?

In Philip Pullman's The Golden Compass, "daemons" are manifestations of the human soul. They represent the essence of the human being that they are attached to. Their reactions, tendencies, likes, and dislikes are the same as the human that they follow.

In an interview given by Pullman in August, 2000, the author declared that he, himself, cannot expand upon the meaning of daemons any further than what we see in the novel, simply because the rules of the world in his novel "write themselves" as the plot moves forward, and so does the meaning that readers give to daemons. However, he does offer that these beings are inseparable from humans as they serve as an extension of who the human is:

If your demon 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. So that’s what having a demon says—one of the things that having a demon says to you.

When the human is young, and their essence of personality is still developing, the demon accompanying the child will go through changes as well. However, once the adult persona settles in, so will the "persona" of the demon.

Keep in mind that the term demon, or the archaic use of the word in the novel, "daemon" (pronounced the same way), has nothing to do with the modern religious meaning we use today. In the novel, a "daemon" does not represent a bad entity, or a being that surfaced from Hades. The context in which the word "daemon" is used in The Golden Compass, is the ancient Greek meaning of:

A divinity or supernatural being of a nature between gods and humans.
Therefore, the divine nature of the daemons is certain, and so is their role in the novel as spiritual attachments, and extensions of the spirit of human beings within the realm in which Lyra exists.

See eNotes Ad-Free

Start your 48-hour free trial to get access to more than 30,000 additional guides and more than 350,000 Homework Help questions answered by our experts.

Get 48 Hours Free Access
Last Updated on