Wednesday, December 12, 2007

Golden Compass and Daemons

I saw the The Golden Compass movie the other day. I read the complete Phillip Pullman trilogy some time ago. I quite liked them, and was excited to see it brought to film. You will have probably already seen it and/or read the mixed reviews, so I won't go in depth about it. I will say that it was visually stunning, and a must-see - in some variation, even if its as a home rental - for everyone that's interested in fantasy and fantasy films. I do wish the tempo of the movie hadn't been so rushed, one event tumbling after the other almost breathlessly. And I would have been fine with the filmmakers staying true to the intellectual complexity of the book. But so be it. I still found it entertaining, and I'll look forward to seeing it again - many times, likely - on dvd. And I won't stop hoping it earns enough to help keep Hollywood interested in fantasy adaptations. (Obvious self-interest here.)

One of the enjoyable visual aspects of the film, of course, are all those daemons running around. If you don't know, in Pullman's world daemons are spiritual companions that each person has. They are in animal form, of the opposite sex to the person, and they somehow embody some important representation of the person's inner nature. The cool thing is that everyone can see these creatures, and, indeed, you can even talk to yours. Would be kinda nice, don't you think? Never really being alone...

The thing is, I've always sort of felt I had a daemon of my own. (I was reminded of this after reading a post by my father in law, writing from the windswept wilds of Shetland.) I can't see my daemon. Can't speak to it. And I'm only really aware of it when I think of my creative process and how it works. I should say outright that it's my daemon that helps me write. Don't know where I'd be without her, actually. Many times over the years I've felt like someone outside myself whispered story ideas or plot revelations or gentle criticism into my ear. (I don't mean to sound weird. I'm not actually hearing voices. But I am... well, sorta hearing voices...) It's always mystified me, because so often my best ideas seem to arrive fully formed, with no reasonable precursor. Where do those ideas come from? Perhaps from my daemon... Perhaps it's my daemon that's really the writer, not me. That could explain why writing gifts strike such unlikely people, or explain why so often people that want desperately to write show so little aptitude for it. It's not their fault; it's their daemon that's not up to it.

Whatever kind of creature my daemon is she doesn't actually like to stay couped up in the office much. She likes to get out and walk. That's when she's happiest, and that's when she speaks the most freely to me. I'd say as well that she prefers some landscapes to others. She's not all that inspired by flat, semi-urban Fresno, I'm afraid. She shares a bit with me on my walks here, but nothing like she did when we rambled around Scottish glens or through the wooded hills of Western Massachusetts. She likes vistas. She likes wind in her face and changing seasons and cloud formations building in the sky... Yeah, that's what makes her happy.

And when she gets happy she rewards me. It's like once we're chugging along that ridgeline, watching the threat of rain in the distance, she says, "Alright, god it's good to be outside! I was going crazy pacing around in that office with that awful incense fouling the air. Now that I can think straight let me tell you this idea I had. You know how Corinn sends Dariel on the mission? Well, I was thinking, what if..."

Geez. I owe that girl so much, and she knows it. So I should treat her right, shouldn't I? And be very grateful that she's a storyteller... whatever she may be, whatever she would look like if I had the eyes to see her...

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Blogger Constance Brewer said...

David, Have you seen this site?
(Click on Daemons at the top then Meet your Daemon) You answer questions and it tells you what your daemon is. It was interesting, my book is influenced by tigers, has tigers in it, and my daemon came out - you guessed it. A tiger. Weird.

9:21 AM  
Blogger Laughton and Patricia Johnston said...

I think there may be a genus of creative daemon. I have a very similar type of experience to you David when I am writig poetry. There are times when my daemon says 'drop it just now'. And there are times when it/she is clearly working on something and gets me restless and excited. But this daemon is not just good at finding poetry in things I see/experience but is good at finding other substantial things, interesting stones, birds, plants, sometimes books! I once had a kind of epiphany (long ago) when I was told (it came from inside/outside)that I had to live my life in the country. I think it was my daemon and it was very clear and very serious. What is important is to fulfil your daemon's gift, otherwise you lose it! Laughton

2:34 PM  
Blogger David Anthony Durham said...

Constance, I had seen that site, but I hadn't done the Meet your Daemon thing yet. We just did it, though, as a family. I'll have to add the results to the post!

Laughton, I hear you. I hear you.

10:28 PM  
Blogger Laughton and Patricia Johnston said...

It's a Tiger!! Well, well. Laughton

5:16 AM  
Blogger David Anthony Durham said...

A Tiger? In Shetland? Poor thing...

12:47 PM  
Blogger Laughton and Patricia Johnston said...

Ah, but I keep it under wraps.

2:04 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Carol's Daemon Quiz on OkCupid ( is much better, if you're really interested. Check out The Daemon Page ( for a neat group of people who've been thinking about this too - and've gotten to know their daemons. (We're not crazy - think animus/anima, Socrates; not necessarily Pullmanesque thinking.)

7:38 PM  
Blogger David Anthony Durham said...

I just tried that Cupid Daemon test. Not bad. Quite thorough with the questions, and I like the choices they came up with for me. One of my options was a Snow Leopard, but there was also Siberian Tigers and Snowy Owls as possibilities. I rather like all of those.

Beware, though, that you don't sign up for what appears to be a dating service...

7:36 PM  

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