Narcons and dæmons
While reading The Familiar I’ve been frequently reminded of Philip Pullman’s His Dark Materials series. I know that at least one other person has made a connection between Xanther and Astair’s ‘animal game’ and the concept of dæmons as presented in Pullman’s books, but I wanted to dive a little bit deeper and look at how close this (intentional?) connection really is.
For anyone who isn’t aware, dæmons in Pullman’s books are the representation of a person’s soul / personality that walks beside them. The dæmons are initially able to shapeshift, but settle into a permanent form around the age of 12 (interestingly, the same age that Xanther is in The Familiar).
In The Golden Compass, the first book in the trilogy, it is frequently and clearly stated that all humans have dæmons, Narcon9 informs the readers that everyone has a narcon, including the readers themselves (us!). Also interesting to note is that Narcon9 explicitly states that narcons have the ability to appear in animal form based on their connections with a certain person in their subsets. In its explanation chapter, Narcon9 both states and proves that it has a certain affinity for Xanther. Furthermore, It states that “I cannot even tell what I am what I am.” which I took to mean that if it appears in a physical form during any of its simulations, it would not be able to recognize or communicate with itself, and it could not simply inform the readers or Xanther of its full nature. These bits of information taken together lead me to believe that the kitten that Xanther has found is the physical manifestation of Narcon9 and, since Narcon9 knows Xanther better than perhaps even Xanther knows Xanther, Kitten!Narcon9 is essentially functioning as Xanther’s dæmon.
Of course, there are still plenty of problems / question with this theory. Like, the connection between Narcon9, Xanther, and Tian Li – which is particularly puzzling since Tian Li was not listed as one of Narcon9’s subsets (if I remember correctly).