October 19 is novelist Philip Pullman’s birthday. I started looking for public domain images on the internet when I was compiling a guide to his trilogy, His Dark Materials. So today I’ve decided to indulge myself and return to have a look at some of these.
The characters in His Dark Materials move between worlds. One of them is ours, and one, the setting of the first novel, Northern Lights in the UK and The Golden Compass in the US, is a lot like ours, but has a number of intriguing differences. One is that the soul or conscience, the essence that distinguishes humans, called a dæmon, is externalized in the form of an animal. In childhood a person’s dæmon can change forms, but once puberty is reached, it settles in one species’ form.
In the course of the story, the main character, Lyra, matures into a young woman. As a child, one of her dæmon Pantalaimon’s favorite forms was that of a pine marten, and that is what Pan settles as. Here, courtesy of the US Fish and Wildlife Service, is a delightful image of a pine marten.
Another wonderful dæmon is Hester, whose person is Lee Scoresby, a brave and compassionate aëronaut. Hester settled as a hare, and this jackrabbit at Yellowstone National Park reminded me of her.
Jackrabbit. By W.L. Miller for the National Park Service
In Lyra’s world, history has taken a different route as well, but some of the peoples, if not nations, are the same as in ours. Lyra’s father tells her he’ll bring her back a carved walrus tusk from his travels to the Arctic, and one of the windows connecting her world to ours is not far from Nunivak, Alaska. So I was pleased to find this image in the Library of Congress:
The ivory carver–Nunivak by Edward Curtis, 1929. LC-USZ62-74131
A turquoise ring of his mother’s is important to Lee Scoresby and Stanislaus Grumman, who in our world was an explorer but when he accidentally found himself in Lyra’s took instruction from a Siberian shaman.
Navajo silversmith by William J. Carpenter, 1915. LC-USZ62-99580
Goldi shaman priest and assistant by William Henry Jackson, 1895. LC-USZC2-6391