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LEONARD S. MARCUS: How did you choose the daemons for the characters of His Dark Materials?
PHILIP PULLMAN: Some I didn’t have to choose. It was obvious what they should be. I knew that Mrs. Coulter’s daemon was going to be a golden monkey. Monkeys for me have a kind of sinister quality to them.
There’s a wonderful ghost story by the Victorian writer Sheridan Le Fanu called 'Green Tea.' An apparition of an evil little monkey appears in that story, and it made a huge impression on me when I first read it as a child.
Maybe the memory of that story was haunting me, and that’s why it was so clear what Mrs. Coulter’s daemon would be.
Q: Why does Lyra’s daemon become a marten?
A: There is a painting by Leonardo da Vinci showing a young woman holding her pet, a ferret in its white winter coat - an ermine. I’ve always liked that picture. I make a habit of looking out for pictures of people, as it were, with their daemons. . . .
Q: You must have thought about what your own daemon would be.
A: Not very much, actually. I suppose I think of her as a bird, probably one of those dull, drab-looking birds, like a jackdaw, which makes a habit of stealing bright things. She hangs around inconspicuously listening for little bright snippets of conversation or an anecdote and then picks them up when nobody’s looking and brings them back to me, and we make a story out of them.
THE WAND IN THE WORD compiled and edited by Leonard S. Marcus. Copyright © 2006 by Leonard S. Marcus. Published by Candlewick Press, Inc., Cambridge, MA.