His Dark Materials: A Guide to Daemons

What are daemons? Can they talk? Can they touch? What do they represent? Everything you need to know about daemons in His Dark Materials...

Mrs. Coulter with her golden monkey daemon on HBO's His Dark Materials

You can check out our His Dark Materials spoiler-free review here, or dive into our spoiler-filled review of the first episode here

His Dark Materials, the new TV series based on Philip Pullman’s bestselling books, premieres today on HBO. While some may be familiar with the book trilogy, or perhaps caught the 2007 feature film flop, others may have no prior experience with this rich fantasy world and one of its central characteristics: daemons (pronounced like “demon”—someone go back and tell Teen Kayti).

We’ve got your covered! Whether you’ve read all of the books and forgotten the nuances of this world or have never had a reason to understand the concept of daemons before, here’s everything you need to know about His Dark Materials’ daemons…

What are daemons?

One of the characteristic elements of the His Dark Materials world is the existence of daemons, which are physical, external manifestations of a person’s soul or inner self.

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read more: What Book Is the His Dark Materials Series Based On?

In Lyra’s world, everyone has a daemon, and they take the form of an animal. When you are a child, your daemon can change form, but when you mature, as a part of puberty, your daemon settles into one form, which is indicative of the kind of person you are. There are (somewhat problematic essentialist) patterns when it comes to demographics and daemon form. For example, the servants of Jordan College often have dog daemons. Witches always have birds as daemons.

Daemons usually have the ability to speak, though not all of them do.

Dafne Keen as Lyra with Daemon Pan in HBO's His Dark Materials TV Show

Who is Lyra’s daemon?

The most important daemon character in the world of His Dark Materials is Pantalaimon, or Pan for short. Pan is Lyra’s daemon and, as Lyra is still a kid, he has yet to settle into a form when we first meet him. In the books, he most often takes the form of an ermine, a wildcat, or a mouse. In the TV series, Pan is voiced by Kit Connor, who recently played Young Elton John in Rocketman.

Lord Asriel's Daemon Stelmaria in His Dark Materials on HBO

Who is Lord Asriel’s daemon?

Lord Asriel’s daemon is a snow leopard named Stelmaria. In the TV series, Stelmaria is voiced by Helen McCrory, who you might recognize as Narcissa Malfoy in the Harry Potter film series.

Mrs. Coulter's Golden Monkey Daemon in His Dark Materials on HBO

Who is Mrs. Coulter’s daemon?

Mrs. Coulter’s daemon is a golden monkey with long fur. He is never named in the books, which is just the saddest thing and also very indicative of the toxic relationship he shares with Mrs. Coulter (which is to say the toxic relationship Mrs. Coulter has with herself).

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read more: His Dark Materials Gyptians & Their Real-Life Connections

The Golden Monkey doesn’t speak, but, in the TV series, his animal noices and vocal characteristics are performed by Brian Fisher, who was the Detective Pikachu Puppeteer in Detective Pikachu.

Lee Scoresby's Daemon Hester in His Dark Materials in HBO

Who is Lee Scoresby’s daemon?

While the character of Lee Scoresby, played by Lin-Manuel Miranda, has yet to be introduced in the show, he is a vital character in The Golden Compass, and one we will be seeing soon enough in the screen adaptation (and whom we’ve already seen in promotional materials).

Lee Scoresby’s daemon is an arctic hare named Hester. Hester is voiced by comedian Cristela Alonzo, who you may know from the ABC sitcom she created and starred in Cristela.

Daemons and gender.

You may have noticed that, traditionally, daemons have the “opposite” gender (if we’re forced to talk about gender in binary terms, rather than as a spectrum) from their human. In rare cases, daemons will have the same gender as their human. It’s unclear, as of yet, if the His Dark Materials TV show will explore the theme of gender and daemons; it is not very thoroughly explored in the book.

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Can daemons interact with one another?

While it is strictly taboo to touch someone else’s daemon, it is acceptable for daemons to touch one another. Usually the way your daemon interacts with someone else’s daemon mirrors the way you are interacting with that person. For example, if you are hugging, your daemons might cuddle one another. If you are antagonistic, your daemons might fight.

What happens if you are separated from your daemon?

It’s not good. Don’t do it. It is physical and mental anguish to stray too far from one’s daemon.

On a somewhat related note: if your daemon dies, you die—or vice versa. When a human dies, their daemon turns into Dust and disappears.

His Dark Materials premieres Monday, November 4th on HBO. Find out more about the TV series here.

Kayti Burt is a staff editor covering books, TV, movies, and fan culture at Den of Geek. Read more of her work here or follow her on Twitter @kaytiburt.