Hagsfiends can also mean the scroom of an owl that has come out of hagsmire, or an owl that resides in hagsmire. Owls that have been sent to hagsmire have been described by Gylfie to have dozens of wings, each tipped with fire.
Before the Books
In the ancient days, there was only one type of each bird. Over the next one thousand years, they all eventually separated into different species. At one time, there was a hybrid bird with the qualities of both a crow and owl; also known as a crowl. These too eventually separated into different species but some crowls never did. These remaining crowls became the first hagsfiends. Despite having primitive brains, their gizzards were warped and they naturally had the ability to wield dark magic known as nachtmagen. They were first chronicled in the legends of Ga'Hoole revealed to the new king, Coryn and his uncle Soren by Ezylryb, who was on his deathbed at the time.
When the chaw of chaws are flying over the Mirror Lakes to find Eglantine and Primrose, the burning forest makes it looked like hagsmire in the reflection, and it is revealed that Hagsfiends had not two, but dozens of wings tipped with fire.
When Gwyndor is mobbed by crows, in his fright, he starts to see the crows as hagsfiends. Later, three hagsfiends come from Hagsmire to try to get Nyroc back to the Pure Ones, but he rejects them.
This is the book in which we really start to learn about hagsfiends and their abilities, obviously because this is the first book in the Legends trilogy. After Grank discovers his firesight and refines it to be more useful, he begins to wonder about magic itself. This is where he tells us about hagsfiends.
- Dear Owl, if you are reading this book centuries from now, you probably do not know what a frightful power magic was in those days so long ago. You must first understand that in that time before time, there were fewer kinds of birds. In the most ancient of times, long before I had hatched, or even my great-great-grandparents had come into the world, there had been just one kind of songbird and one kind of seabird and one kind of bird of prey. After thousands upon thousands of years, the various species of birds separated and became distinct. There came to be robins and nightingales and larks, and so on and so forth. At one time, as unimaginable as it may seem now, there was a bird that was both crow and owl - a strange commingling of blood! Then gradually over many, many years these "crowls," as they were called, separated into distinct species. Yet, oddly enough, some never did. And these remnant crowls came to be known as hagsfiends. Their gizzards were different, warped, many said. And although they had somewhat primitive brains, these birds possessed strange inexplicable powers that could only be called magical.
In this paragraph, Grank reveals to us the origins of hagsfiends. In this 'time before time' that he refers to, this was when birds were just evolving. Owls and crows were evolving, and for a brief time, there was also a species that was a mix of the two. Some just evolved back into owls or crows, but some didn't. These became hagsfiends, a distinct species of their own, over time.
Next, after finding the Glauxian Ember (the name at that time for the Ember of Hoole, before Hoole actually got it), falls into the lazy stupor, and gets the note from Joss, Grank remembers a strange event in his childhood with Siv and H'rath. An owl had invited the three of them, who had been having fun with flying, to eat a lemming. He insisted that H'rath, the king-to-be, eat first, but Grank had an episode of seeing with magic and had seen a deadly snake coiled inside, ready to strike. Grank hardly remembers it, but he was told by H'rath and Siv that he flew into the air and shouted strange words at the snake, and it went yeep. The owl had flown away during this. Later, Grank thinks more about this.
-I had many questions about what the three of us had experienced on that ice shelf in the twilight. Was the warrior indeed a hagsfiend in disguise? It was said that hagsfiends, very powerful ones, could change their appearance. Become more owl than crow, but that even in disguise they still carried the lingering scent of crow.
Grank also, during his stupid with the Ember, tells us about the ritual of warrior hagsfiends to cut off the heads of their victims and put them on ice scythes. Later, he tells us about another theory about the hagsfiends' existance, held by the Glauxian brothers and sisters.
-There was at that time a small group of owls - called the Glauxian Brothers - who believed that hagsfiends existed because owlkind had somehow lost its faith in Glaux, and in reason. They believed that this loss of faith and reason had created a tear, a rip in the very air of the owl universe, and it was through this tear that these creatures of rage and superstition and nachtmagen had entered our world.
It may be that this so-called 'rip' in the universe had let magic into the world, which might have infected these crowls and twisted their gizzards, much like how magic had 'bobbed out of nowhere' in the Harry Potter series by J.K. Rowling.
Now, we turn to Siv's point of view. Siv sent her servant Myrrthe to see if it was safe at the Glauxian sisters, as she was fleeing the evil Lord Arrin at this point.
ullyrck and others create there own group of only hagsfiends
After the Battle of Hoole, several hagsfiends revolted and formed their own alliances. Among these groups included those led by Ullryck and those that joined Shadyk in the takeover of the Ice Palace. A large group of hagsfiends were killed in the desert by the power of dire wolves. Another large number was killed, as Hoole's army fought during Short Light, making the hagsfiends' frygnot useless.
The Ember of Hoole was brought to the Great Ga'Hoole Tree. Soon after, Coryn and the band embarked on a journey to take the young king's mind off of his mother. But Coryn snuck off and discovered Trader Mags (a magpie who traded the Others' belongings) with the book of the archfiend Kreeth. Before he and the band could get to it, however, Nyra sent Stryker to get it for her. Coryn found a rabbit who could read spiderwebs and they worked out where Nyra was. She was going to try to recreate herself and Coryn as hagsfiends with the Book of Kreeth (they already were part hag anyway). An epic battle followed. The band brought wolves to fight with them, and the Pure Ones had vyrwolves. (Vyrwolves are like hagsfiends, except they are wolves.) Their fyngrot was called the jaunyx, but it wasn't cast during the battle. The cave in which the battle took place had the ashes of Kludd's burned bones. Ashes of owls and bones were supposed to have great power in nachtmagen. In the end, the Guardians won, and the book of Kreeth was taken to the Great Tree, hidden in Ezylryb's secret library.
When the chaw of chaws discovered the Middle Kingdom, they came across the Dragon Owls of the Panqua Palace. Digger suddenly had the impression that they were perhaps hagsfiends in a past life. This theory was supported by Tengshu's revelations that each Dragon Owl had their own phonqua to fulfill because of past actions. The H'ryth Gup Theosang also revealed that Theo had been the first H'ryth. Otulissa then found a reason for his disappearance at the end of the third volume of "The Legends of Ga'Hoole," To Be a King. Theo had lured the surviving hagsfiends to the Middle Kingdom and was able to flatter them and use vanity and the illusion of power to render them harmless and unable to cause any more harm.
Pellimore suspected in her mind that the Striga, the Blue Snowy Owl at the Great Tree, was a hagsfiend.
After the Striga was routed out of the Great Ga'Hoole Tree by the Guardians of Ga'Hoole, he entered into an alliance with Nyra, leader of the Pure Ones in an attempt to create a new generation of hagsfiends and rule over the owl kingdoms by the sheer might of nachtmagen. After the Pure Ones' failed slink melf in the Middle Kingdom, Nyra disappeared.
However, she revealed to the Striga that she had ventured into the crevasses that lead into the Panqua Palace where the dragon owls resided. Nyra encouraged some of these dragon owls to escape and join her cause. Many of the dragon owls did come to her aid, pulling out their excessive feathers just as the Striga had done and flew across the Sea of Vastness into the Northern Kingdoms to the ancient remains of the Ice Cliff Palace to tend to the newly laid hagsfiend eggs. These eggs were immediately destroyed by the owls of the Middle Kingdom whenever they were found in the Panqua Palace. The nesting place was eventually discovered by Cleve and Otulissa.
Coryn then arranged for the Dire Wolves of Beyond the Beyond to be lead by Namara (formerly known as Hordweard) to eliminate the nesting grounds of the hagsfiends. This tactic proved to be successful when the War of the Ember began because the Pure Ones had no hagsfiend reinforcements. Despite their victory, Nyra transformed into a hagsfiend and advanced on Coryn and Soren while utilizing the fyngrot.
She was eventually killed by the former by an ice splinter that plunged into her heart. The Striga mortally wounded Coryn when trying to escape, but never got the chance before Soren sliced off his head with Ezylryb's battle claws. With the Striga's death, the threat posed by hagsfiends to the owl kingdoms was no more.
- The Striga
- Lord Arrin
- Hagsfiend Queen (video game)
As mentioned above, nachtmagen is a powerful dark magic of the hagsfiend. The most well known of these is fyngrot, a hypnotic yellow light which can cause an owl to go yeep, making its wings fold and it falls to earth. There are a couple variations on it, including the nacht 'Ga, which makes an owl think it is turning into a hagsfiend, and then the hagsfiend casting it can control the owl. There is also the nacht blucken, which Pleek and Ygyrk try to use on Hoole. It works on owlets and chicks, making the chick resistant to half-hag poison (more about that later) and gives it a fyngrot (once you rip its eyes out, that is). This can be resisted by lack of awe and surprise of a hagsfiend, the green light of a Wolf of the Beyond's eyes, and (in theory) a reflective mirror. Staying with a hagsfiend for a long time causes an owl to lose various traits and become 'haggish." Some hagsfinds (especially Kreeth) can use various spells to render their victims helpless and aid in battle. A hagsfiend also has small "half-hags," which are flying creatures that have a poison which hagsfiends are immune to. They live under the hagsfiend's feathers and are used for tracking and battle by the hagsfiends. Despite their immense powers, their feathers lack oil and therefore become extremely heavy when they come into contact with salt water. This generally means certain death if a hagsfiend is flying over open salt water. One thing can help prevent the fyngrot is the wolf's green eyes which block it out. But in one of the book, Siv and Hoole look into the eye but prevent it from having an effect on them. The wolves of the Beyond are also immune, and can use their eyes to destroy it, but only temporarily.
The offspring of a hagsfiend starts as as egg which will grow darker as it matures until it hatches. Owls and hagsfiends cannot breed and expect the young to hatch, however this doesn't mean they are inable to breed. An example of hagsfiend/owl breeding is Pleek and Ygryk, a Great Horned Owl and a hagsfiend. An immature owlet could also be turned into a hagsfiend by removing its eye, setting half-hags on it, and casting an enchantment. Ygryk learns this from Kreeth, the arch-hagsfiend.
Hagsfiends are known to rip apart and tear off the heads of their defeated enemies and stab them on poles (ice swords) of ice to make a big show of it while marching. This happened to King H'rath and Myrrthe, Siv's trusted servant.
Hagsfiends also have a strange fascination to creatures weaker then themselves, especially young animals. This is usually not associated with love as Hagsfiends have been known to kill their own young.
The closer Hagsfiends get to the Ember of Hoole, physically, mentally, and sometimes even spiritually, the more "haggish" they become. This is most seen when there is a hagsfiend in disguise, which is a hagsfiend not in its original form, possessing another creature. Which explains Nyra and the Striga's "haggishness" in The War of the Ember.
- In the french edition of the books, Hagsfiends are called Hagsmon.
- In German, they're called both Hägsdämonen (hagsfiends) and Hexenkreulen (witch crowls)