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The Golden Compass

The Golden Compass


by Philip Pullman

Character Clues

Character Analysis


In The Golden Compass, characters' daemons say a lot about them – especially once the daemon settles on a shape. Because she's still a child, Lyra's daemon Pan can take any number of animal forms: ermine, moth, mouse, even a sea bird. When he does settle on one form, it will tell us a lot about Lyra. We'll let the shipman explain:

"Anyway, there's compensations for a settled form."

"What are they?"

"Knowing what kind of person you are. Take old Belisaria. She's a seagull, and that means I'm a kind of seagull too. I'm not grand and splendid nor beautiful, but I'm a tough old thing and I can survive anywhere and always find a bit of food and company. That's worth knowing, that is. And when your daemon settles, you'll know the sort of person you are."

"But suppose your daemon settles in a shape you don't like?"

"Well, then, you're disconnected, en't you?" (10.25-29)

Aha! Now we can look at all of the characters' daemons and find out what kind of people they are. Mrs. Coulter's daemon is a golden monkey. The fact that her daemon is a pretty (gold) but shifty-eyed monkey tells us something about Mrs. Coulter's tricky, conniving character. Lord Asriel's daemon is a snow leopard, which makes sense because he's all about power and has a really commanding personality. Lee Scoresby's is a thin, rugged hare, hinting to us that he's a scrappy survivor.

What would your daemon be?

(For more on daemons, scoot over to "Symbolism, Imagery, Allegory: Daemons.")


Species is another indicator of character in the world of The Golden Compass. The novel tells us that certain kinds of creatures have distinct qualities. For example, bears are warlike creatures whose armor is their soul. On the other hand, witches, especially the female ones, are prone to fall in love with men, though they live much longer than them. They can stand extreme cold and they don't often involve themselves in the affairs of humans.