August 12, 2008

Trivia Tuesday: His Dark Materials

Posted by at 6:20 am in Reads, Trivia | Permalink

One of my favorite parts of Philip Pullman’s The Golden Compass (a.k.a. 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:

Chapter One
1. Moth

Chapter Two
2. Ermine

Chapter Three
3. Gargoyle
4. Moth
5. Bat
6. Lion
7. Dragon
8. Miniature Lion
9. Rook
10. Canary

Chapter Four
11. Brown Polecat
12. White Polecat
13. Hedgehog
14. Ermine
15. Monkey
16. Mouse

Chapter Five
17. Ermine-like
18. Polcecat
19. Goldfinch
20. Moth
21. Goldfinch
22. Moth
23. Goldfinch

Chapter Six
24. Wildcat
25. Sparrow
26. Bat
27. Owl
28. Wildcat
29. Leopard
30. Eagle
31. Wildcat

Chapter Seven
32. Panther
33. Brown Moth
34. Wildcat

Chapter Eight
35. Cat
36. Mouse

Chapter Nine
37. Seagull
38. Wildcat

Chapter Ten
39. Seagull
40. Petrel
41. Fish
42. Dolphin
43. Ermine
44. Hare

Chapter Eleven
45. Squirrel
46. Tern
47. Badger
48. Seagull
49. Wildcat
50. Ermine
51. Mouse

Chapter Twelve
52. Mouse
53. Ermine
54. Cat
55. Ermine

Chapter Thirteen
56. Ermine
57. Artic Fox
58. Ermine — this is Pan’s favorite form
59. White Hare
60. Snow Leopard

Chapter Fourteen
61. Leopard
62. Mouse
63. Falcon
64. Goldfinch
65. Mouse
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!

Chapter Fifteen
67. Cat
68. Fly
69. Wildcat
70. Wildcat

Chapter Sixteen
71. Wildcat
72. Ermine
73. Wildcat
74. Lion
75. Eagle
76. Wolf
77. Bear
78. Polecat
79. Wildcat

Chapter Seventeen
80. Mouse
81. Polecat — the most ugly and vicious of all his forms
82. Cat
83. Sparrow
84. Owl
85. Hare
86. Wolverine
87. Tern
88. Ermine

Chapter Eighteen
89. Tern
90. Marmoset
91. Mouse
92. Owl
93. Cat
94. Mouse

Chapter Nineteen
95. Firefly
96. Bat
97. Firefly
98. Bat
99. Mouse

Chapter Twenty
100. Wolverine

Chapter Twenty-One
No changes

Chapter Twenty-Two
101. Something catlike with a tail
102. Owl
103. Leopard

Chapter Twenty-Three
104. Cat — warm and comforting form
105. Owl
106. Lion
107. Ermine
108. Eagle
109. Wildcat
110. Hare
111. Salamander
112. Owl
113. Leopard
114. Wildcat

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

  1. Victoria

    I think Pan should settle on a wildcat because a wildcat is brave like
    Lyra. My daemon will be a tiger because they are brave and inteligent
    like me.

  2. Celly

    good job! the dark materials is a great series and it must have taken
    you a loooooong time to find all the changes. Keep up the good work!

  3. H&T

    I already read the last book so I won’t spoil anything here. ;D
    It’s amazing, this list you have compiled. I aught to examine the other
    two books as well. Perhaps it illuminates a clear character shift and
    development. When I’m bored in the summer I guess?
    Now what kind of daemon would I have…? Not to steal your bird-example
    thunder, but I think I would be a seagull. Gulls are so adaptive and
    opportunistic, able to live at sea and far inland and eat just about
    anything. I personally will eat just about anything and will try
    anything if it looks interesting. They fly, so they have an “in the
    clouds” attitude, yet they nest on solid ground and will float on the
    ocean. This relates to my ability to relate to different walks of life,
    along with the fact that gulls will often nest in the same colony as
    other species. Out of their environment they’re clutzy and
    funny-looking, but in their element (flying and snatching food from
    under one’s nose) they are spectacular. They tend towards monogamy,
    which I admire, taking time to build up bonds. This reflects pretty
    closely how I form relationships. They also mature quickly and can
    function independently but stick around with ma and pa for quite a
    while, until they’re totally on their feet.
    Phewf! I guess you didn’t ask “why” my daemon would be that animal, but
    once I started thinking about it I was on a roll. ;D

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