The BBC adaptation of His Dark Materials has added all sorts of things to Philip Pullman’s original story, from expanded characters and new meetings to additional teasers taken from follow-up trilogy The Book of Dust.
However, fans now think the series latest episode has added a detail that solves one of the longest-running mysteries in His Dark Materials – just what is the name of Mrs Coulter’s monkey daemon?
You see, in the fantasy world much of the series is set in every character has a daemon, an animal representation of their inner soul who has a full personality, the power of speech and a name – all except one. Because despite appearing in multiple books and episodes of the TV show, the daemon of Ruth Wilson’s Mrs Coulter (a golden monkey known for his love of road safety) is never named, and never utters a recorded word.
In a way, this reflects Mrs Coulter’s own nature – like her daemon she’s mysterious and unknowable, and her disconnect from and suppression of her inner self is reflected in his quiet and anonymous behaviour – but that hasn’t stopped fans trying to work out what he’s called. And now, His Dark Materials the TV series has dropped a big clue that may answer those questions.
Watching series two’s fifth episode (titled The Scholar), eagle-eyed fans who had subtitles on during the episode noticed that during a drag-down fight between Mrs Coulter’s daemon and Lyra’s (Dafne Keen) daemon Pan, the golden monkey was credited as Ozymandias a few times (i.e. Ozymandias screeches, and so on).
On BBC iPlayer this subtitle remains (see below), suggesting that the golden monkey is indeed named after a certain king of kings – and if Ozymandias really is his name, it’s a significant choice. You see, the one time the monkey did receive a name in the past it was for a BBC radio adaptation of His Dark Materials, and author Philip Pullman later revealed he disliked the choice of moniker.
“It was a silly name, and if I’d had the chance, I would have vetoed it,” he said.
That name was, you guessed it, Ozymandias. So if the BBC adaptation of His Dark Materials is picking a name that Pullman himself wasn’t a fan of, it’s certainly a surprising move.
Or could it be that this isn’t what has happened at all? Previously, the creators of the hit BBC series have expressed a reluctance to name the monkey precisely because of his unique nature, and earlier in the same episode the subtitles also avoid naming him (as he makes noises the credits note that “he whimpers” without giving him a name).
So what if this crediting was just an accident? What if whoever subtitled the episode went to check the golden monkey’s name, found the BBC Radio version (which is listed as his official name on many sites) and just added it in, not knowing it wasn’t fully sanctioned?
It’s certainly possible – notably, no-one involved in the production has come out to confirm or deny the name, which also hasn’t cropped up in other episodes – and so for now, it’d probably be premature to update the golden monkey’s name in our address book. It certainly sounds like Philip Pullman prefers him to go unnamed anyway.
“The golden monkey doesn’t have a name because every time I tried to think of one, he snarled and frightened me,” he once said.
If a nameless daemon is good enough for him, it’s good enough for us.
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 at 8:10pm on Sundays. Want something else to watch? Check out our full TV Guide.