Phillip Pullman’s His Dark Materials trilogy has always been one of my favourite novels categorised in the dubious genre of “young adult”, right up there with Harry Potter and Philip Reeve’s Mortal Engines series. It takes place in an alternate universe, using the adventures of a young girl as a device for the discussion of atheism. Sort of an anti-Narnia, if you can imagine such a land. The movie comes out in December. James Bond is in it. Anyway, in this alternate world, people’s souls are manifested on the outside of their body as a “daemon”, an animal spirit. As a child the daemon can take any form, but when you become a teenager it gradually settles on a single animal reflective of your personality, as this wise old sailor in the first book explains:

“Why do daemons have to settle?” Lyra said. “I want Pantalaimon to be able to change forever. So does he.”
“Ah, they always have settled, and they always will. That’s part of growing up. There’ll come a time when you’ll be tired of his changing about, and you’ll want a settled kind of form for him.”
“I never will!”
“Oh, you will. You’ll want to grow up like all the other girls. 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 demon settles, you’ll know the sort of person you are.”
“But suppose your daemon settles in a shape you don’t like?”
“Well then your discontented, en’t you? There’s plenty of folk as’d like to have a lion as a daemon and they end up with a poodle. And till they learn to be satisfied with what they are, they’re going to be fretful about it. Waste of feeling, that is.”

Like any other reader, I always wondered what my own daemon would be. And now, thanks to the wonder of viral marketing, I’ve found out!

edit: It won’t show up, so I’m reduced to using a simple hypertext link. Like a fucking savage.

You should really read the books. On thematic and philosophical merit, Pullman is far better than Rowling or Reeve, though Reeve certainly has him beat on swashbuckling adventure – which, as we all know, is the only true indicator of literary genius. Pullman’s armoured polar bears and sea gypsies are strong contenders, but simply can’t compete with Reeve’s flying cities, Himalayan mountain fortresses, desert raiders and airship battles. Two men enter, one man leaves.

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