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In His Dark Materials, what is an Intention Craft?

In "His Dark Materials," an Intention Craft, also known as a "spirit craft," is a vessel navigated by sheer willpower and thought. These crafts traverse the mysterious voids between worlds, embodying the series' blend of fantasy and physics. Intrigued by the mechanics of mind-driven flight? Join us as we unravel the secrets behind these fascinating vessels.
Brendan McGuigan
Brendan McGuigan

An intention craft is a fictional vehicle from Philip Pullman’s His Dark Materials series of fantasy novels. The craft appears in the last book of the series, The Amber Spyglass.

The main mode of transport in the air used in the books is a zeppelin, and it appears that this is the main airship used in the world Lyra hails from. All manner of other air transport exists throughout the many universes that make up the story, however, ranging from the airplanes and helicopters of our world to the mountable dragonflies of the Gallivespian’s world.

Woman holding a book
Woman holding a book

Lord Asriel, Lyra’s father, appears to have created his own form of air transport, unique to the many universes. This airship is the intention craft, and is made so that Lord Asriel’s army can reach the Kingdom of Heaven in its flying Clouded Mountain, something that seems to be difficult or impossible for other modes of transport.

The intention craft appears superficially to have the cockpit of a gypropter, which is the word used in Lyra’s universe for what we would term a helicopter. It is covered in a "glass canopy," allowing the driver to see out. It has a number of different levers for controlling it, as well as a metal cap to tie the person’s thoughts directly to the intention craft. It stands on six legs, which seem to be asymmetrical, and is made up of various pipes, cylinders, cables, gauges, and other apparatuses. Overall it seems to draw on the visual style of what is commonly called steam-punk.

The source of power for the intention craft is the energy that connects a human with his or her daemon, and so the intention craft can only be flown by a human with a daemon. How exactly power is extracted from the interaction is not made clear, but it does not appear to be a traumatic procedure.

The intention craft is equipped with advanced weaponry, making it an ideal combat vessel. It seems to use some sort of advanced laser, which can be fired with extreme accuracy, allowing it to destroy enemies instantly, and even to intercept artillery in mid-air.

The mechanism by which the intention craft flies is never made clear in the books, but it does not appear to be any sort of traditional propulsion. It seems most likely that the intention craft makes use of some sort of anti-gravity technology, as it is able to hover perfectly still in the air and then move immediately in any direction. Although it can be controlled by levers and operated in the same way as a traditional aircraft, it is also able to tie directly into the controller’s mind, allowing for an unprecedented level of responsiveness, moving based solely on the pilot’s intention.

Mrs. Coulter steals a prototype of the intention craft from Lord Asriel in order to reach the Clouded Mountain in the final book. It is made clear, however, that Lord Asriel has a more advanced version of the intention craft as well. Whether or not there are only two, or many more, is never made entirely clear. Nor is it certain where the technology for the intention craft came from, whether it was created by Lord Asriel’s army, or whether it was discovered in one of the many worlds that joined in his struggle against the Kingdom of Heaven.

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