A set of images have been released for HBO series His Dark Materials, spotlighting the zoological variety to be seen throughout the show. The story is kicked off when Lyra Belacqua, an intelligent and inquisitive young tomboy, begins the search for her best friend after he goes missing in the latest of a series of child abductions, and in the process is revealed the truth of her own life, as well as secrets that threaten the fundamental fabric of the universe.
The story of His Dark Materials is set in a magical alternate reality, where every person is accompanied by a dæmon, a physical manifestation of their soul that comes into existence when they are born and with whom they share a mental and physical symbiosis, and remains their constant companion throughout their entire lives. They shapeshift through various animal forms as a person grown up, settling on a final one as their human reaches maturity that represents their personality.
The pictures of dæmons were posted to the His Dark Materials Twitter feed, and are images taken from the full trailer for the series, which debuted yesterday at San Diego Comic Con. One image shows Lyra with her dæmon Pantalaimon as a stoat, the favorite of his forms and one of multiple he will doubtless take throughout the series. She is also seen studying the alethiometer, a compass-like device that can answer any question its user puts to it through complicated interpretation of its pointing needles and myriad symbols, and Lyra’s unprecedented intuitive use of which is a significant plot point recurring throughout the whole story. Also seen is Stelmaria, the snow leopard dæmon of Lyra’s uncle and adoptive father Lord Asriel; and a golden monkey (who went unnamed in the books) who is the dæmon of Mrs Coulter, a ruthless agent for the theocratic regime that rules Lyra’s world. While not a dæmon, also shown is Iorek Byrnison, the most prominent of the panserbjørn, a race of sentient warrior bears with a culture akin to Vikings who can speak human languages and fashion suits of armor from meteoric iron.
His Dark Materials is the second attempt to adapt the ‘90s YA novel trilogy of the same name, consisting of The Golden Compass (published as Northern Lights outside the US), The Subtle Knife and The Amber Spyglass. Intended as a movie trilogy, it stumbled after the release of first installment The Golden Compass, mainly due to its middling approach to the book’s more controversial aspects such as the heavy anti-religious themes that were watered down enough to annoy existing fans, yet still prominent enough to offend the fundamentalist sensibilities they criticized. The TV show is in a perfect position to avoid repeating the movie’s mistakes, and should be a far more faithful adaptation.
It’s that focus on religion that makes the dæmons such an important component of the world of His Dark Materials, in particular their spiritual significance as human souls. A major aspect of the story is its criticism of religion, specifically Catholicism and the way it uses faith as a means to control people’s behavior. The proper portrayal of the dæmons is a vital aspect of the show, and if what we see here can be taken as indicative of how they will be presented, there should be nothing to worry about.
Source: His Dark Materials