Iorek claims that bears have no daemons and just flat out die (don't go to the afterlife) when they die. But Will and Dr. Mary Malone (from our Earth) have daemons they don't know about; and of course it's possible Iorek is wrong about the afterlife.

Since the concept of daemon seems integral to consciousness in HDM, how can bears be conscious without it? And since Mulefa and Gallivespians and presumably other non-humans go to the world of the dead when they die, and since the whole world of the dead is set up by the Authority as a sadistic prison for conscious beings, why wouldn't bears go too?

Do we have reason to believe (from the books or from Pullman's commentary elsewhere) that Iorek is just wrong about this? Or is there possibly some reason this could make sense within the HDM universe? Or maybe is this just one of many little holes in the HDM schema?

...and also, if bears do have deamons and go to the world of the dead, what about semi-sentient Foxes, Cliff-ghasts, etc?

  • As you point out with Will and Dr Malone, just because they're not aware of it, doesn't make it false. Iorek may not believe that he has a Daemon, but that doesn't mean that he doesn't.
    – phantom42
    Oct 4, 2013 at 15:31
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    I vaguely remember something about their armor acting like their daemon... but not sure of exact details Oct 4, 2013 at 20:21
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    @DVK-in-exile Bears haven't got daemons. Their armour is a form of soul and is linked to there ability to see through deception. When Ulfar fights Iorek he is tricked as he wants a new soul. Bears souls are in there armour so they can only be truly bear if they have armour but their souls also exist inside them which is why bears can live without armour but are less powerful without it. Feb 14, 2016 at 21:23

2 Answers 2


Panserbjørnes don't have demons. They have their armor, the Panserbjørne equivalent of a soul. The magick associated with their armor is they are immune to deception and can see it being perpetrated. However, this only works if they are acting according to their nature as bears. When they covet the ways of other beings in their world, they become vulnerable to deception.

From the book: Killing the Imposter God: Phillip Pullman's Spiritual Imagination in his Dark Materials; written by Donna Freitas, Jason E. King.

Even though the challenging bear refused to respect the Panserbjørne rules for combat, Iorek should have relented. When he did not, he was banished from Svalbard and stripped of all rights to live with his kind, including his position as their king. Worst of all, upon arriving in Trollesund, Iorek is tricked into losing his armor, which as he explained to Lyra "is his soul, just as your daemon is your soul." (CG, 196-197)-the Panserbjørne equivalent of a soul or in Lyra's world, a daemon. So the townspeople are able to pacify and enslave him. Without his armor, he cannot fight and if he cannot fight he is not truly a Panserbjørne. In Iorek's mind, if he cannot count himself a Panserbjørne, then he is nothing. No wonder Lyda and Farder Coram find Iorek in such a miserable state when they first meet him.

  • I had forgotten the armour=daemon connection. thanks. now what about the afterlife?
    – zipquincy
    Oct 7, 2013 at 14:52
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    Looking at the same reference book, it is implied everything has an afterlife and that the whole premise of the series is a discussion about living in the present and accepting an afterlife is the less important aspect of being alive in the first place. Oct 7, 2013 at 16:57
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    This is quite correct, but I think there is something that should be added. The questioner seems to think that you can’t go to the afterlife without a daemon. But isn’t the opposite? Isn’t it impossible for a daemon to enter the afterlife (Lyra’s had to stay behind). This implies that some other portion of the soul is entering the afterlife (the idea of a multipart soul not being without precedent in Earth religions), and thus there’s no reason that Panserbjørne couldn’t have this soul go to the afterlife just like humans.
    – Adamant
    May 22, 2017 at 3:49

In Lyra's world there is a flow of dust, apparently following the aurora, into the Northern regions. This is why Lord Azrael wants to use the polar region for his investigations into dust. It is this flow of dust that gives the North bears and foxes that can speak, and probably is the reason that ghasts and witches are found only here.

So bears get their consciousness from this flow of dust. Humans, however have daemons. Having a visible daemon seems to be the result of the original "fall of man". Humans become a focus for dust, giving the three parts of man: body, daemon and ghost. (Pullman is aware of St Paul's line on man being composed of "body, soul and spirit")

There is no reason to think that the armoured bears have this three-part structure, and when they die, they die. Similarly Angels are composed only of dust, and are seen to dissolve on death.

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