His Dark Materials’ Golden Monkey daemon explained

Everything you need to know about the peculiar relationship between Mrs Coulter and her daemon.

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One of the key features of Lyra’s world in Philip Pullman’s His Dark Materials is the fact that each character has a daemon – an animal companion that is essentially the physical manifestation of their inner self.

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However, many fans of the BBC adaptation and Pullman’s original novels have noticed that Mrs Coulter (Ruth Wilson) has a slightly more peculiar relationship with her daemon (an unnamed golden monkey) and this has become a source of several questions on social media and beyond.

Most notably Coulter is apparently able to separate from her daemon (i.e. they can survive far apart without pain), which is an ability normally only open to witches, but more generally she also seems to have a more fractious relationship with her daemon than other characters.

As for her daemon himself, well, he’s notable for his lack of canonical name (though in one adaptation he was credited as Ozymandias this has never been explicitly confirmed) and his muteness, with the character never uttering a word in any book or TV episode.

So what’s with this unusual daemon/human pairing? We’ve answered all the most common queries about Mrs Coulter’s daemon below.

Why can Mrs Coulter separate from her daemon?

Ruth Wilson and Dafnee Keen in His Dark Materials (BBC)

Normally, it is impossible for a human character to separate from their daemon without meeting terrible consequences – only witches and a few other unusual figures have this ability.

But on various occasions – and especially in the most recent episode – we have seen Mrs Coulter put quite a bit of distance between herself and her daemon, without any notable repercussions.

This is the case in the book as well, but the reason for their ability to separate is never explicitly stated (or at least, not yet).

Could it be that Mrs Coulter and her daemon have gone through the process of intercision, the horrific practice of separating a human from their daemon that played a huge part in the first series?

It’s not impossible, given that Mrs Coulter played a huge part in the development of this practice, but it certainly isn’t confirmed either.

Why does Mrs Coulter hate her daemon?

Ruth Wilson
Mrs Coulter and her monkey daemon in His Dark Materials season 2 (BBC)

Despite some disagreements, nearly every character in Lyra’s world is shown to get on well with their daemon, but Mrs Coulter has often had a much less amicable relationship with hers, frequently hurting him and snarling at him.

So why is this? Well essentially, it is representative of some of the inner conflict Mrs Coulter herself is feeling – remember, the daemon is merely an extension of her own self, so any anger expressed towards it is basically anger at herself.

Interestingly, a key scene in episode two of the current series saw a rare moment of affection between the two, with Mrs Coulter holding her deamon’s hand after the encounter with Lee Scoresby (Lin Manuel Miranda).

The series’ VFX Supervisor Russell Dodgson recently explained to Den of Geek how significant this moment was, saying, “It’s the first time they hold hands co-operatively, yes. The moment that happens is one of those rare times where she’s let her emotions in, instead of fighting them away.”

Why can Mrs Coulter’s golden monkey daemon not speak?

Ruth Wilson's Mrs Coulter with her monkey dæmon (BBC)
Ruth Wilson’s Mrs Coulter with her monkey dæmon (BBC)

Most characters from Lyra’s world regularly converse with their daemons – and indeed some pretty major names have been drafted in to voice the various daemons in the show, including Fleabag star Phoebe Waller-Bridge.

But Mrs Coulter’s daemon is the exception to this, he never says anything beyond a growl and the two certainly don’t have lengthy discussions.

At the time of the first series last year, Ruth Wilson explained to Entertainment Weekly why this was the case, explaining that the daemon’s lack of voice represented Mrs Coulter, “silencing herself in some way.”

So in a sense, the answer to this question relates to that above : it’s all to do with Mrs Coulter’s own inner demons.

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Read more about the His Dark Materials cast, the His Dark Materials release schedule, the His Dark Materials books and the His Dark Materials age rating, plus find out where His Dark Materials is filmed, including the scenes set in Cittàgazze.

His Dark Materials continues on BBC One on Sunday 6th December at 8:10pm. While you’re waiting, visit our TV Guide to see what’s on tonight, or check out our guide to new TV shows 2020 to find out what’s airing this autumn and beyond.