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 traveled around on their boats through canals and rivers. Their culture was tightly knit although it was widespread. They showered special love on their children, particularly when they lived separated from their mothers.[citation needed]



The western gyptians were divided into six large families, the heads of which constituted the Gyptians' Council[2]. 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 traveled. 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.[3] Gyptians were said to pride themselves on their ability at card games.


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.[2]

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.


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 Mrs 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.


The Fens

The Fens

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

General Oblation BoardEdit

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. Charlie, a gyptian child, claimed to have seen them.

The NorthEdit

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. The gyptians, as a group, hated the way the General Oblation Board was dealing with the matters. Despite their numbers, the gyptians gathered 170 men and lots of gold to assist Lyra.


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 traveled with the gyptians away from the North.



  1. 1.0 1.1 1.2 Northern Lights, Chapter 7
  2. 2.0 2.1 Northern Lights, Chapter 8
  3. Lyra's Oxford, page 32