As cunning as a fox who's just been appointed Professor of Cunning at Oxford University

I am almost finished listening to the audiobook of The Amber Spyglass, the third book of the His Dark Materials series¹. I started thinking about animal form my dæmon would have if I lived in Lyra's world.

The Intarnets tell me that it would be this:

Apparently I have twelve days before my dæmon settles, and if you don't think this form accurately represents me, you all have some influence in changing it by clicking above (if you can't see the button to go to the next question, it's that brown area in the bottom right corner). I'm not wild about the crow-dæmon it came up with, myself. I like to think that if I had a dæmon it would be a fox. The reasons for the box the fox are twofold.

First, I've always felt a connection to the fox in St-Exupéry's The Little Prince:

"To me, you are still nothing more than a little boy who is just like a hundred thousand other little boys. And I have no need of you. And you, on your part, have no need of me. To you I am nothing more than a fox like a hundred thousand other foxes. But if you tame me, then we shall need each other. To me, you will be unique in all the world. To you, I shall be unique in all the world..."

[...]

"My life is very monotonous," he said. "I hunt chickens; men hunt me. All chickens are just alike, and all the men are just alike. And in consequence, I am a little bored. But if you tame me, it will be as if the sun came to shine on my life. I shall know the sound of a step that will be different from all the others. Other steps send me hurrying back underneath the ground. Yours will call me, like music out of my burrow. And then look: you see the grain-fields down yonder? I do not eat bread. Wheat is of no use to me. The wheat fields have nothing to say to me. And that is sad. But you have hair that is the color of gold. Think how wonderful that will be when you have tamed me! The grain, which is also golden, will bring me back the thought of you. And I shall love to listen to the wind in the wheat . . . "

The fox gazed at the little prince, for a long time. "Please -- tame me!" he said.

"I want to, very much," the little prince replied. "But I have not much time. I have friends to discover, and a great many things to understand."

"One only understands the things that one tames," said the fox. "Men have no more time to understand anything. They buy things all ready made at the shops. But there is no shop anywhere where one can buy friendship, and so men have no friends any more. If you want a friend, tame me..."

"What must I do, to tame you?" asked the little prince.

"You must be very patient," replied the fox. First you will sit down at a little distance from me -- like that -- in the grass. I shall look at you out of the corner of my eye, and you will say nothing. Words are the source of misunderstandings. But you will sit a little closer to me, every day..."

[...]

So the little prince tamed the fox. And when the hour of his departure drew near--

"Ah," said the fox, "I shall cry."

"It is your own fault," said the little prince. "I never wished you any sort of harm; but you wanted me to tame you..."

"Yes, that is so," said the fox.

"But now you are going to cry!" said the little prince.

"Yes, that is so," said the fox.

"Then it has done you no good at all!"

"It has done me good," said the fox, "because of the color of the wheat fields."

- The Little Prince, chapter 21

Second, the foxes in His Dark Materials (which are animals rather than dæmons but must represent the personality of foxes in that world) are pretty entertaining:

"The foxes of the Arctic, scavengers that they were, had picked up some language, but their brains were so formed that they could only understand statements in the present tense. Most of what Iorek and Serafina said was meaningless noise to them. Furthermore, when they spoke, much of what they said was lies, so it didn't matter if they repeated what they'd heard: no one could sort out which parts were true, though the credulous cliff-ghasts often believed most of it, and never learned from their disappointment."

- The Amber Spyglass, chapter 3

They're shy and skittish, need lots of attention and lie their heads off! What could be more appropriate? Everyone go find a way to get me a fox dæmon!

¹ How much I like one of the His Dark Materials books seems to depend on how much Lyra is in it, because I usually want to punch her in her stupid face. So The Subtle Knife is best because there's hardly any Lyra in it, The Amber Spyglass is next, and The Golden Compass is chock-full of Lyra and is therefore terrible. I don't recommend getting involved in the series, because you'll get sucked in and have to invest so many hours in something that - overall - isn't that great. The character development in particular is pretty poor.

srah - Sunday, 16 March 2008 - 12:01 PM
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Comments (8)

gravatar Cheri - March 16, 2008 - 1:42 PM -

I had to read The Golden Compass for the children's lit class I had. I also had to read another book by Pullman, The Ruby in the Smoke. I ended up liking The Ruby in the Smoke far more than The Golden Compass and I don't get what the big deal is with the His Dark Materials books (granted, I haven't gotten around to the other two).

gravatar srah - March 16, 2008 - 1:50 PM -

I guess he does a good job of creating fantasy worlds, but I need to care about the characters to really enjoy a book.

gravatar Gretchen - March 16, 2008 - 3:21 PM -

I've gotta agree with Cheri, the Sally Lockhart books are much better.
My daemon would be a lioness. I kind of wish they were real, 'cuz that'd be awesome to have a lion.

gravatar nancypearlwannabe - March 17, 2008 - 7:57 AM -

Oh, I was a monkey! And it bummed me out to think of being a golden monkey, but I was more of a cute little brown monkey. Pullman's series is my very favorite.

gravatar chris - March 17, 2008 - 11:01 AM -

is this the devils work????

gravatar EV - March 17, 2008 - 4:17 PM -

Did you plan to rip my heart out with that footnote, or was it accidental? But seriously, I'm kind of shocked you can be as engaged in Harry Potter as you are and think this trilogy isn't that great. One question: did you happen by chance to see the movie before you read the Golden Compass? Because if I had done that, I'm pretty sure I'd automatically associate Lyra with bile creeping up in my throat. This might also happen if your first exposure was through audiobooks--Lyra is probably a lot less annoying if she sounds like the voice in your own head. I realize I'm grasping here, I just got my head blown up by those books, and I don't get my head blown up by stuff so easily at all.

I will agree with the others that the Sally Lockhart books are way excellent, and if you're not totally fussed with His Dark Materials, Sally is a definite change of pace.

gravatar srah - March 17, 2008 - 4:40 PM -

It wasn't an attack on you in particular!

I started out reading and then switched to audiobooks, and finished the first book before I saw the movie, which was, yes, even worse than the book. I don't know if the audiobook format had anything to do with it.

I just don't get Lyra. I don't understand her motivation for anything she does. J.K. Rowling creates these characters that make you go, "Oh no! I can anticipate how Character X is going to react to that, because I feel like I know him!" and that builds tension. Whereas Lyra is completely unpredictable (the lying doesn't help) and thus - to me - not very interesting. She whines a lot, too. Harry Potter himself can be quite annoying, but I always knew that he meant well. Lyra just seems to be out for herself. She's not particularly smart or well-behaved or truthful. People keep saying that her strength is love but I feel like I'm being told rather than shown that she can love, because she seems to take a lot more than she gives. People are drawn to help her, for some reason, but she doesn't really do that much for them. I do like Will better - I think he's nicer and we learn more about his background, which made The Subtle Knife more interesting.

gravatar EV - March 17, 2008 - 5:43 PM -

Oh I know, I'm teasing. And for sure the reason I love these books is because of the story and the creativity, not Lyra herself--she's a vehicle, which I guess didn't annoy me enough to ruin the awesomeness overall.

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