Objects of His Dark Materials

This is a list of objects of "His Dark Materials" trilogy of novels by the fantasy fiction author Philip Pullman.


An alethiometer is a device which measures the truth. The word comes from the Greek "alètheia" for "truth", and meter for measure so "alethiometer" means "truth measurer." A misunderstanding over the author's early title for the trilogy ("The Golden Compasses"), and the resemblance of the device to a large navigational compass caused the American publishers of the first book, originally entitled "Northern Lights", to retitle that book "The Golden Compass". [Philip Pullman later explained the mix-up in a quotation that can be found on this [http://bridgetothestars.net/index.php?p=FAQ#4 fan site] .] It is described in "Northern Lights" thus: cquote|It was very like a clock, or a compass, for there were hands pointing to places around the dial, but instead of the hours or the points of the compass there were several little pictures, each of them painted with the finest and slenderest sable brush.

An alethiometer is given to the leading character, Lyra Belacqua, by The Master of Jordan College. He tells her that it is a rare device, being one of only six ever made. He also explains its function to her, and says she'll have to learn how to use it by herself.

To use the alethiometer, the user directs three needles to lie over certain symbols on the face of device, and forms a question in his or her mind. The fourth needle then responds to the question, swinging over different symbols to form answers. Any given symbol may have numerous meanings. The user needs a special form of focus to make the alethiometer work. When the user has the three needles set and the question in mind, the fourth hand will begin to move, going through a sequence of movements over each symbol related to the answer, sometimes quivering to indicate the meaning (Lyra was told that each symbol has various "rungs" of meaning), each quiver being one rung. The fourth arrow will continue to spin around and repeat the sequence until the user breaks their focus, and has to use the symbols to determine the answer. The compass provides its answers through the influence of Dust, or elementary particles called shadows (dark matter). A skilled user can use the alethiometer to answer any question on any past and present events, but the alethiometer is not capable of predicting future events, although it can project to a limited extent as to what would happen if certain actions are taken (such as the effects of leaving the underworld on the ghosts that later did so).

The actual mechanism of the device is shadowed in mystery. The original prototype was designed to track the motions of the planets as a compass tracks magnetic north; the free floating needle was intended to track the movements of the heavenly bodies such as Venus or Mars instead of tracking north and south. However this original intention failed. Lyra believes that the free floating needle's movements, caused by interaction with dust particles, are similar to the interaction of a Crookes radiometer and photons.

A scholar who has mastered the art of reading the alethiometer is referred to as an "alethiometrist"; notable alethiometrists include The Master of Jordan College, Fra Pavel, Teukros Basilides, and Lyra, who is able to use it by intuition, rather than the many years of study normally required, although she lost the ability towards the end of the trilogy after her need of it had passed. She then decided she would dedicate her education to relearning to use the alethiometer.


Æsahættr IPA| [ˈaɪs.(a.)ɦaɪt.ɝ] , which means "Os's-threats" or "threats at God", is the Icelandic name of the subtle knife. Its other name in Hellènic is "teleutaia makhaira": "lattermost sword".

A knife with a double-edge, the Æsahættr possessed one edge of keen steel, which could cut through any physical material. The other edge was even sharper, extending to a point so fine that the eye could not see it. This edge was able to search out gaps in the fabric of space and thus cut through the fabric of the universe and into others, referred to in the books as other worlds. No known material can resist the knife, although it will break should its wielder attempt to use it whilst thinking about a person they love. The characters believe that this is because the knife is incapable of cutting through love.

The knife was made by philosophers of Cittágazze, from the Torre degli Angeli, who cut many windows in their world. It was won in a fight by Giacomo Paridisi, who lost the two small fingers on his left hand obtaining it, and became the bearer. He hid in the Torre degli Angeli from the insurgence of Spectres in his world, for many years protecting the knife. A young Cittágazze man named Tullio tried to take it from him, but Will Parry and Lyra Belacqua had been sent by Lord Boreal (Sir Charles Latrom) to possess the knife, and Will fought Tullio, prevailing, obtaining the knife, and losing the same two fingers on his right hand in the process—marking him as the new bearer.

Sir Charles Latrom and the Magisterium of the Church wanted to possess the knife because its ability to cut through any material threatened their Authority, who had survived the First Rebellion only because the rebel angels could not harm him with any existing weapon or material at the time (their fears were later confirmed when Will and Lyra used the knife to free the Authority). Will and Lyra instead took the knife and used it to travel between their worlds for a long while, though the knife once broke when Will, trying to open a window, was distracted by the thought of his mother. The shattered pieces were collected by the two children, and repaired by the armoured bear and great metalworker Iorek Byrnison.

Iorek warned Will and Lyra that the knife had purposes of its own—indicating an intelligence akin to that of the alethiometer. He also indicated these purposes might not be good. Near the conclusion of the trilogy, the angel Xaphania explains that Dust had been leaking out of the worlds through the windows made by the knife, and that each time the knife made a window, it drew up a Spectre from the Abyss. Thus all windows leading between worlds had to be closed by the angels, except for one. Will and Lyra initially believed this one window could be between their worlds, but then realized that they had made a promise to the shades in the world of the dead: to leave them an opening so that they can leave it and rejoin the universe, by emerging into the world of the mulefa. Thus, Will realized he had to shatter the knife. As people in the trilogy's fictional multiverse are not capable of surviving for long outside their own universes, it was also necessary that Will and Lyra part.

Intention craft

The intention craft is a "flying" machine, but has no engine or wings. It has a cockpit and controls like a gyropter (helicopter from Lyra's world) and six bug-like legs. However, there is a helmet and leather wrapped mechanism on a string, so that the craft can be controlled by the driver's intentions. It can only be used by a being with a dæmon, as the daemon bites or holds on to the mechanism attached to the string. At least two exist, one more advanced than the other.

The intention craft appears to be armed with very advanced weaponry. It was able to destroy artillery shells before they could hit their targets, and could also wipe out enemy aircraft before they could respond. Its weapon resembles that of a laser or particle beam. The technology used to create both the craft (which presumably moves via some kind of anti-gravity system) and its weaponry appears to be exceptionally advanced for our world, being aeons ahead of Asriel's universe. It is never explained how he was able to develop such advanced technology in such a short time (although fans have speculated he may have either got it from one of the many universes his army amassed from or secretly developed it himself; he had already developed considerably advanced equipment before which enabled him to open up a portal between universes).

It is used by Mrs Coulter to escape Lord Asriel's fortress, by Lord Asriel, to rescue Mrs. Coulter, then again by Mrs. Coulter to reach the Clouded Mountain, in order to trick the Regent of Heaven, Metatron.

Amber spyglass

The amber spyglass is a small telescope fashioned by Mary Malone and the mulefa. The lens is not actually made of amber, but sap lacquer, which takes on the same golden color. By looking through the spyglass, one can see Dust as shimmering golden particles. Mary Malone had not intended to build a spyglass in the first place; rather, it started out as a mirror in an experiment try to catch Shadows (or Dust), as well as to help the mulefa save the dying wheel-pod trees. With some serendipity, she discovered that only when two pieces of the lens are about a hand-span apart and coated with a layer of oil from the seed pods of the trees in the mulefa's world can one look through and see the Shadows, or Dust. The mulefa also built a tube of bamboo to hold the plates apart at each end. With the spyglass, Mary Malone discovered that the trees were dying because the Dust was streaming away from the trees' flowers, rather than drifting down into them as it had always done so before; this caused the decline of the mulefa's world three hundred years prior to the trilogy's setting.

The amber spyglass is the only one of the three titular objects in "His Dark Materials" that does not require "negative capability" to use, as one only needs to look through it to see Dust. However, Mary discovered that while looking through the glass, if one uses this negative capability, one's consciousness can fall into the flow of Dust and away from one's body.

Lodestone resonator

The lodestone resonator is an instrument used for communication. It resembles a short rod made of lodestone (another name for magnetite), and rests on a stand of wood. To transmit a message, one must sweep a bow resembling that of a violinist across one end of the rod while pressing one's fingers against the surface at certain points. To receive a message from another resonator, a pair of headphones must be wired around two pegs in each end of the stone.

The lodestone resonator works by the phenomenon of quantum entanglement. A piece of common lodestone goes through a process whereby all its particles are "entangled", and is then split in two. When a user produces a series of notes on one piece, the other corresponding piece reproduces the sound in the exact same way, no matter how far apart the two pieces are. This means that messages can be transmitted across vast distances, even between different universes. The Chevalier Tialys uses a small Gallivespian-size lodestone operator in "The Amber Spyglass" to communicate with his commander Lord Roke, who holds the counterpart to his resonator. It should be noted that while quantum entanglement does exist in reality, it cannot be used to transmit information faster than light, as it is impossible to control the information sent between the two ends (for a more detailed discussion, see the no-communication theorem).


External links

* [http://bridgetothestars.net/index.php?d=encyclopaedia&p=alethiometer His Dark Materials: The Encyclopedia: The Alethiometer]
* [http://www.hisdarkmaterials.org/srafopedia/index.php/Alethiometer Srafopedia: His Dark Materials Encyclopedia: The Alethiometer]
* [http://www.randomhouse.com/features/pullman/materials/materials.html How to read the Alethiometer]

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