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such a nasty woman | by maryann johanson

‘The Golden Compass’: meet your daemon

The Golden Compass is atheistic! A tool of Satan! The downfall of humanity! And you can tell because none of the characters have a soul!

Er, um, actually, the characters do have souls. They just keep them outside their actual bodies, in the forms of animal familiars that accompany them everywhere they go, comfort them when they’re sad, do little chores for them, and so on. Yeah, I guess that’s pretty materialistic and god-killing, ain’t it? A useful soul? Instead of one whose sole — soul? — purpose seems to be getting itself besmirched every time you think a lustful thought? I like the animal-familiar kind more.
At the official site for The Golden Compass, you can discover what your daemon would be if you lived in Lyra Belacqua’s world. (She’s Philip Pullman’s Frodo Baggins, for the uninitiated.) Children’s daemons — as the familiars are known — are fluid, changing shape constantly as a child’s personality develops, but once they become adults, their daemons solidify into one animal form. Here’s mine:

It’s one of those standard personality quizzes — 20 questions about how shy you are, stuff like that — that determines your daemon, but mine seems pretty spot on, at least from the perspective inside my own head.

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  • Sean Riley

    It is atheistic, though, and therefore (to some minds) a tool of Satan. You can’t really get around that one — There’s no “Actually, Harry Potter’s very compatible with the morality of Christianity” duck of the charge here.

    I kind of like that up-frontness about it, really. I don’t mind Narnia being explicitly a Christian parable, and I like Golden Compass being explicitly an atheist parable/tirade. (Or so I’ve been told. It’s also a mess in the second book and thus I never got to the third one, but I’ve been informed that it’s pretty flat out “Christianity sucks!” by the end of it.)

    And as for me? I’ve got a Whippet daemon named Verian. She’s a loyal daemon, but then, whose isn’t?

  • I tend to think Pullman’s okay with the tool of the devil stuff. That’s the reward of being a high profile atheist. It’s fun.

  • MaryAnn

    I just wish the Christianists would appreciate the irony of calling atheists Satanistic. Atheists don’t believe in devils any more than they believe in gods…

  • Ha! If Christians understood irony, we would be living in a much different world!

  • MaSch

    Talking about satanists, atheists and christians and Who’s Who: William Blake (whose 250th birthday is today) thought that Christians really are worshipping Satan, even though they call him God. (See “To the Accuser who is the God of this World”.) Well, I guess, sometimes it’s hard to tell who really is on whose side …

  • jinamina

    actually, christians don’t necessarily believe that satanists engage in the actual worship of the devil. one version of the satanic bible, so i’ve heard, is basically a manifesto on how to live according to your own self-interest.

  • Mark


    Don’t confuse what Christians think Satanists believe with what people who call themselves Satanists believe; the two are almost completely different. The inverted-cross black-mass baby-eating goat-fucking “Devil Worshipper” is (obviously) a total fiction, as is virtually every case of “Satanic Ritual Abuse”. Most actual “Satanism” is, as you point out, a kind of pragmatic hedonism with a side order of crypto-Hermetic mysticism.

  • MaryAnn

    Likewise, what atheists actually believe bears little resemblance to what most Christianists think atheists believe.

  • That’s why I like being an Agnostic. I don’t have a dog in this fight one way or the other. :)

  • Johnny

    Did the daemon thing. I watched the HBO making of “Golden Compass”. Daniel Craig described the daemon being like a part of the persons personal. Who you are is what kinda daemon follows you around. I got a female Lynx named Hypatia. =D if I had a lynx as a pet I’d be bad ass.

  • georgia

    well done website! finally, someone who isn’t afraid to keep on with their ideas.
    thank you!

  • Emily

    I realy enjoyes The Golden Compass (movie),
    after I saw it I went to the official site to see what my deamon was,
    But now the official site has changed I guess, cause it’s like nobody can find the site where you can take that test!
    very frustrating….
    If you know where it is, please send me the link!


  • bob


  • Generic Name

    It is a fictional story. It is as much athiestic as imaginary friends. I mean, come on. Do you walk home to see your daughter playing with her “friend”, and chuck a bible at her?

  • I’m an atheist, so I would only chuck Bibles *away* from people.

    Are you suggesting that fiction is so completely disconnected from the real world that it has no bearing on it whatsoever, no even metaphorically? Are you suggesting that fiction is not created in a specific real-world cultural context for readers in a real-world cultural context? If you don’t think fiction is worth criticizing, why are you reading a film review of a fictional story?

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