One of my favorite parts of Philip Pullman's The Golden Compass (otherwise named Northern Lights in the UK), is Lyra's daemon, Pantalaimon — Pan for short. I love how he changes shape and how, one day, when Lyra begins to be an adult, he'll settle on one animal. Out of curiosity, I re-read the book to find out how many times Pan changes form, and I've determined that he changes 114 times.
There was a close tie for most frequent animal transformation. Pan turned into a wildcat 13 times and an ermine 12 times, though Pullman mentions that ermine is Pan's favorite form in Chapter 13. Pan also turned into a lot of birds (owls, terns, goldfinches, etc.). If you count up all the bird changes in one category, then birds win it by far, as Pan changed into a bird 25 times throughout the book.
What do these animals say about Lyra? I looked up each animal and found out some interesting facts. For example:
- Wildcats: very shy of humans, and not very big — just between 6-18 pounds. Very adaptable to their environment and only turn white when there is a lot of snow on the ground for a long time.
- Ermines, also known as stoats, are fast with a great sense of smell but pretty bad vision.
- Birds: there are around 10,000 species of birds. Among them are the owl and seagull. An owl is nocturnal with great night vision and usually hangs out alone, but, of course, when Pan turned into an owl, he still stuck with Lyra. Seagulls are smart birds that have learned to live well with humans.
I'll let you decide what these animals say about Lyra, but I do know one thing they say about Philip Pullman: he likes cats more than he likes dogs. For sure! Pantalaimon changes into animals like cats, wildcats, lions, leopards, and polecats, but only once does he change into anything dog-like when he changes into a wolf in Chapter 16.
Below is my list of all the animals in order of Pan’s changing:
8. Miniature Lion
11. Brown Polecat
12. White Polecat
33. Brown Moth
57. Artic Fox
58. Ermine — this is Pan’s favorite form
59. White Hare
60. Snow Leopard
66. Something with Wings — This one is tricky. Pullman doesn’t mention the change, but he refers to the beating of wings, so obviously Pan must have changed because a mouse doesn’t have wings!
81. Polecat — the most ugly and vicious of all his forms
101. Something catlike with a tail
104. Cat — warm and comforting form
I'll leave you with a few questions to start off the comments:
1. What kind of animal do you think Pantalaimon will settle on? (If you've already read the other books in the trilogy — no spoilers, please!)
2. What kind of animal would your daemon be if you had one?
And then I'll leave you with a challenge. How many changes does Pan undergo in the next books? Can you make a list like the one above for The Subtle Knife and The Amber Spyglass? Leave your lists in the comments, and then I'll reveal mine and we'll compare!
— Stav, Scholastic.com Writer