Taking Inventory: Elytra

Winging it

It’s scientifically proven that every time a Minecraft player straps on our item of the week for the first time and jumps off a cliff, they’ll emit a curious noise. “Wheeeeeeeeeeeee!” they say. It’s thought to be a mix of the words “whoa” and “aieeeeeeee”, but we’ll likely never know the truth. 

Elytra are an item that lets players fly, even in survival mode. And by fly, I actually mean “fall more slowly and less painfully than normal”. Pop them into your chestplate armour slot, clamber up somewhere high, fall off and then hit the “jump” button while falling.

With the power of magic/science, the elytra will spread apart like the wings of a bird and you’ll gain control over your descent. Aiming downward will increase your speed, and aiming upward will decrease it again. Sharp turns will also cut your speed, so be careful of that. Oh, and try not to fly into a cliff. It hurts. I learnt that the hard way.

By now, I’m sure you’re rubbing your hands with glee and you’re ready to find out where you get your grubby little mitts on them. Well it’s not great news – they can only be found in End cities, in the treasure room of an End ship. Which, let’s be honest, are not especially easy to track down. They’re guarded by a shulker too, so watch out for that.

If you do manage to find one, though, you’ll notice it gets damaged over time. To repair it you can either trek out to the End and find another Elytra (which is easier if you’ve got one already), then combine the two in an anvil. Or, you can repair it with phantom membranes – which also preserve any enchantments you’ve put on the Elytra. Each membrane restores about 25% durability. Probably a better choice.

Unlike most of the rest of what you’ll find in the End, Elytra are a real thing in the real world, and when you learn what they are you’ll probably be less keen on wearing them. 

They’re beetle wing cases. They come in pairs, like trousers do, and a single one is called an “elytron”, which comes from a Greek word meaning “sheath” or “cover”. When a bug wants to fly, they open them up and expose a set of wings underneath. Imagine a ladybug’s red-spotted shell casing. That’s the elytra.

Humans do not have wings, so we have little need for wing cases. But some humans have figured out how to slow their descent in a similar way to Minecraft’s elytra. By wearing a wingsuit, which adds membranes between the arms and legs, people can gain control of their descent and glide. By holding the proper body position, wingsuiters can glide forward three metres for every metre they descend.

Scientists are yet to confirm whether they, too, are incapable of not uttering a “Wheeeeeeeeee!” all the way down.

Duncan Geere
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Duncan Geere
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