Daemon AU

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Trope · Genre
Synonyms: Dæmon AU, His Dark Materials Fusion, Daemons AU
Related: Alternate Universe
See Also:
Tropes · Slash Tropes · Tropes by Fandom
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Daemon AU is a type of Alternate Universe fanwork that incorporates daemons, the fictional creature that appears in His Dark Materials by Philip Pullman. Not to be confused with demon AU, an unrelated horror trope. Daemon AU works may also be a fusion with His Dark Materials, incorporating the events of the series into the world of the fic, or they may use the daemons and nothing else from HDM's world building.

In the book series, daemons are the external physical manifestation of a person's 'inner-self' that takes the form of an animal. Daemons have human intelligence, are capable of human speech—regardless of the form they take—and usually behave as though they are independent of their humans, although they cannot travel far away from their humans. Daemons frequently interact with each in other in ways that mirror the behavior of their humans, such as fighting one another when their humans are fighting, or nuzzling one another when their humans embrace, and such contact between daemons is unremarkable; in contrast, humans touching other people's daemons is taboo. When one's daemon dies, so does the human and vice versa.

In the books, the spelling used is always "dæmon." However, "daemon" is used more frequently in fandom because it is typed more easily.

Similar to the debate over how to sort characters in Hogwarts AUs, (or the forms of their Animagus or Patronus), different fic writers can have different ideas about what animal their character would have as a daemon. The daemon represents an important piece of characterization in daemon AUs.

Meanwhile, ship fic often expands upon the implied suggestion in the books that contact with another person's daemon contact feels sexual, or at least extremely intimate.

In the books, it is typical for the daemon's gender/pronouns to be that of the opposite sex of their human. In many fanworks, the daemon's sex is an indicator of a character's sexuality, with same-sex daemons implying homosexuality. However, this trope has also been criticized as overly simplistic and dualistic, as well as unhelpful for ace, bi, trans or genderfluid characters. [1]

Example Fanworks

Explanations from Fans

Some notes for those who haven't read the books:

1. A daemon is your external soul, living outside your body in the form of an animal. It is an independant character from you, with a name, voice and opinions of its own, but is ultimately part of you. It is always the opposite gender to you. 2. Children's daemons can change shape according to the child's mood or the impulse of the daemon. At some point during early puberty, the daemon 'settles' into one shape and stays that way for life. The shape it takes is the one that best reprisents the essence of the person they belong to.

3. While different daemons can touch each other, you should never, EVER touch another person's daemon without express permission from the person whose daemon it is (and that is likely only ever to be given under the most extreme or intimate of circumstances).

4. Daemons have a sort of telepathic link with their humans - you can interact with your daemon without anyone else being able to hear either of you. A daemon can also transmit things to you, and, depending on how directly you are linked to your daemon, you may find yourself trying to talk to someone but being distracted because your daemon has wondered off round a corner and you are seeing and hearing what he/she is hearing and seeing at the same time as what you are.

5. Daemons will often talk to other daemons but rarely will they talk to other humans. When they do so it is often at times of great stress or need (such as the human suddenly being rendered unable to talk for themselves).

6. Daemons have a link to their human counterpart which stops them being able to move too far away without both parties suffering extreme physical pain, and possibly severing the link. Thus, it is extremely unusual to see a human without a daemon, or a daemon without a human, and seeing either would be the equivilant to seeing a ghost, or a person without a head - frightening and disturbing.

7. The greatest fear you will ever have is that of someone taking your daemon away from you.

8. Witches' daemons, however, CAN move any distance away from them - can, in fact, go many miles away from them without any ill effect, and are often seen without each other. This is one of many reasons why many 'decent' people find witches to be unsavoury and unsettling characters.

9. Physical sensations can be passed between you and your daemon. If you daemon is in pain, you will feel it (and vice versa). If you fall asleep, your daemon will likely also fall asleep. If you are ill, your daemon will likely also be affected. If something - say, another daemon - touches your daemon, you will also feel something, even if it is not a directly similar physical sensation. (The daemons of two adults caressing each other, for instance, would widely be seen as an intimate - if not necissarily sexual - act that would like affect both of the humans involved).

10. Your daemon can act independantly from you - can actually do the exact opposite of what you want them to, and it is perfectly possible to get into fairly severe arguments with them, because they reprisent the contrasting and complete part of your character.[2]
A lot of dæmonfic takes dæmons in a much more telepathically-bonded companion direction, more like dragons in animal-companion fiction – I seem to vaguely recall a Sherlock fic in which Sherlock is Mycroft’s dæmon, and quite clearly has a life and personality all his own, despite the mind-connection. Other dæmonfic is much more explicit about the dæmon as the soul, the inner essence of a person made physical. There’s also a lot of different ideas about the nature of the bond between human and dæmon, often going well beyond the visceral sensations described by Pullman, and nearly everyone has their own system (or lack thereof) for choosing what a dæmon’s shape should be and why. And most dæmon fics do not interpret settling as something that happens when you fall in love / sexually awaken. The point I want to make is that fandom has been very transformative about the concept of dæmons, not just in dæmon AUs but in fanfiction of His Dark Materials itself, and much more transformative than we think we are – most of us stray rather far from what Pullman was originally doing. And that’s great! But I think that for those of us who want to do cohesive, in-depth worldbuilding of our own, we need to be clear about what principles our own takes on dæmons are based on. [3]
personally I imagine daemons to have a little internal structure; not much but enough to provide like, differing firmnesses if you poke them, enough throat to not look weird when they open their mouth, etc etc. they don’t have a heartbeat but if they make an effort daemons mimicking species with lungs can have ‘lungs’ in the form of simple sacs, without any of the fine structure; they basically just do this so they can dramatically sigh, or sneeze to get stuff out of their nostrils, and then go back to having no lungs. so like no metabolism or anything, but yes some structure. its all dust though, just dust of different firmness, eg 'bones’ are very densely packed dust, 'muscles’ are less densely packed dust. basically just texture. [4]

Links & Resources

Examples Wanted: Editors are encouraged to add more examples or a wider variety of examples.

fan-made primers


  1. ^ [1]
  2. ^ Title: Another World (archived) Author's Notes, by gnimaerd. Nov 13th, 2008.
  3. ^ The principles of dæmons
  4. ^ a daemonverse headcanon