His Dark Materials
His Dark Materials

Gyptians crowding together

Gyptians were an ethnic group and made their homes in the Fens of Brytain in Lyra's world.[1] They were nomadic and travelled around on their boats through canals and rivers. Their culture was tightly knit although it was widespread. Their children were deemed as precious and were extravagantly loved. If a gyptian child wasn't in the sight of its mother, the mother knew that it would be near others who would protect it.[2]


A gyptian boat from above


The western gyptians were divided into six large families, the heads of which constituted the Gyptians' Council[3]. John Faa was the king of the gyptians and was also one of the members of the council. The other prominent member of the council was Farder Coram. This council helped decide what the group would do and discussed things during the Byanroping.


Gyptians attending a Byanroping

Main article: Byanroping

The Byanroping was a meeting in the Zaal where all the gyptians gathered together to discuss the future of their people and other important matters.[1]


They mainly lived aboard boats, traversing the canals and rivers of England. They also had connections with salt-water sailors. The gyptians' primary source of income was through trading goods as they travelled. Some gyptians and half-gyptians, such as Bernie Johansen took up employment on land. However, this was a cultural minority as some hide their gyptian heritage while still reporting information back to the gyptian leaders.


Lyra Silvertongue described them as coming and going with the spring and autumn fairs and could be seen as making them additionally analogous to carnival folk. They gyptians also held the Horse Fair in Oxford every July.[4] Gyptians were said to pride themselves on their ability at card games.[5]


The Fens

Gyptians had a distinctive accent, and their vocabulary contained 'Fens-Dutch' words which appeared to be generally unused by hegemonic society. They also had a distinctive physical appearance, which Lyra attempted to assume.


Gyptians were honourable people, and owed to Lord Asriel for defeating a proposed Watercourse Bill in Parliament as well as saving the two gyptians, Nellie and Ruud Koopman in the floods of 1953.[3]

The witch, Serafina Pekkala, and her clan shared a friendship with the gyptian people and assist them out of gratitude for Farder Coram once saving Serafina's life.


The Fens

Despite their honourable nature, they were sometimes perceived negatively by hegemonic society. Although they traded fairly, they were described as partaking in "incessant smuggling and occasional feuds" in which they killed other gyptians. Non-gyptian teenagers that Lyra talked to insinuate that gyptians steal horses, and were not worried by the disappearance of a gyptian child. At a party held by Marisa Coulter, Lyra stated that gyptians "take kids and sell 'em to Turks for slaves", although this was more likely to be an example of Lyra wildly inventing things.


An eel

Due to the gyptians living in the watery area of the Fens, waterbirds and eels formed a major part of their diet.[1] Gyptians also ate porridge and gingerbread.

General Oblation Board[]

The General Oblation Board was kidnapping children across the country and some, like Billy Costa, were gyptians. The gyptians believed themselves to be "hit worse off than most" by the spate of child abductions and this was what prompted them as a collective culture to plan a rescue attempt. This could also be a result of gyptians having little other recourse in society, as they were described as having little standing in the law.

The North[]

During a Byanroping with Lyra, the gyptians decided that they would take men to the North to try and rescue the children who had been taken. John was going to lead the mission and Michael Canzona was labelled as second-in-command. The gyptians, as a group, hated the way the General Oblation Board was dealing with the matters. Due to Lyra's father, Lord Asriel, having a high authority and even once passing a law which greatly benefited the gyptians, Lyra was helped by them. All gyptians had a right to speak at the Roping and Adriaan Braks, Dirk Vries, Margaret and Nell all asked John questions about the journey.[3] Despite their numbers, the gyptians gathered 170 men and Simon Hartmann, the treausrer, managed to collect lots of gold to assist Lyra. The gyptians hired a boat and sailed to the North. After disembarking in Trollesund they met the Witch-Consul. There, Lyra was able to pick the correct cloud-pine with help of her alethiometer. She was able to overhear Coram van Texel and Martin Lanselius talking about a certain witch prophecy.

The gyptians were able to enlist Lee Scoresby in their party as well as Iorek Byrnison, once Lyra told him where his armour was. Now they could set out towards Bolvangar.


After being involved in a fight with the Tartars, Lyra was kidnapped and taken to Bolvangar. After spending time there and almost going under the process of intercision, Lyra escaped and finally reunited with the gyptians after walking hours through the snow with the other rescued children. Marisa Coulter tried to capture Lyra not long after but she was able to get away in Lee Scoresby's balloon and set sail for Svalbard.

Notable gyptians[]



  1. 1.0 1.1 1.2 Northern Lights, Chapter 7
  2. Northern Lights, Chapter 3
  3. 3.0 3.1 3.2 Northern Lights, Chapter 8
  4. Lyra's Oxford, page 32
  5. Northern Lights, Chapter 11