Wednesday, October 10, 2007

Daemon Dog 

One of the most delightful and wondrous literary creations of late are the daemons in Philip Pullman’s His Dark Materials trilogy. In the somewhat parallel world where the books take place, humans have a visible animal spirit called a daemon accompanying them at all times. The daemons speak and serve as both conscience and beloved companion. Children’s daemons shape shift until puberty, then their form becomes fixed, usually in some animal reflective of the person’s station and temperament. A typical daemon for a soldier would be a large guard dog, for example, and for a university don, an owl or a raven. If a person is separated from his or her daemon the resulting physical and mental agony is so great he or she usually dies.

The other day a tall man I recognized as a habitué of drag queen row came in to check out some books. Even though he was not in drag and was in complete nondescript civilian mode I see him all the time on my daily bike commute to the library preening on the streets like a peacock so I knew exactly who he was. As 6’5 African American man who dresses in clothes that would put the cast of Priscilla, Queen of the Desert to shame, he tends to stand out. I was sure it was him because he had his tiny pet Chihuahua in tow. The dog danced about and circled his owner’s feet the whole time, somehow anticipating all of his owner’s moves. It was miraculous the way it would avoiding getting crushed by the man’s swiftly moving feet. Philip Pullman couldn’t have imagined a more fitting daemon for the man.

I like how, though he doesn't come right out and say it, that gay people have daemons of the same gender as themselves, which is the opposite of hetero. Not many children's authors even acknowledge the existence of gays.
I wouldn't HAVE a daemon, though, since I would be a panserbjorn.
Oh, yes. Bernie Johansen, the pastry chef (might as well be 'interior decorator'), was one of the "rare ones" who had a daemon of the same sex. Philip Pullman has denied that that was what he was insinuating, at least consciously, but it seems pretty obvious to me.
That's disappointing that he would deny it. But JK Rowling is not so squeamish, have you heard?
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