Create Your Own Familiar

We've been traveling around the country visiting schools and at each one the students have created their own Familiar Story.

Tuesday, September 7, 2010

Familiars Throughout History

GUEST POST on Liyanaland

Familiars are the animal companions to a wizard or witch. They are mentioned several times in the Bible, from Deuteranomy to Leviticus. Shakespeare's Macbeth had them, too. Familiars were common in Europe during the Middle Ages, and could be seen in the Salem Witch Trials of 1692. They existed in popular culture since the 1800s. The earliest and most recognizable of these magical assistants were the black cats of a witch. You’ve seen them on Halloween posters rubbing up against the leg of a woman dressed in black. Surely you are aware of some of the more famous familiars, like Harry Potter’s owl, Hedwig, or Gandalf’s horse, Shadowfax, or Merlin’s owl, Archimedes. Disney’s animated films added many more familiars to the lore, including Jafar’s parrot, Iago, Ursula’s eels, Floatsam and Jetsam, or Maleficant’s crows.

One thing in common with all of these depictions was that familiars always seemed to be sidekicks, relegated to the background, never having their own story. We decided to take a traditional fantasy world, one whose conventions were at once familiar and recognizable, and shift the perspective to that of the animals. For the first time, the adventure would rest on the shoulders of the familiars. The mythology of familiars is one that in many ways had yet to be explored. Where did they come from? How did they get their magical powers? Do they even have magical powers? How are they linked to their witch or wizard? All of these were questions that we were curious about, and questions that we strove to answer. We hope that readers will never look at their family pet the same way after reading this book, perhaps wondering if they too possess some kind of magic.

Who’s your favorite familiar? And what kind of magical power do you imagine your family pet has?

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