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Literature / Guardians of Ga'Hoole

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Guardians of Ga'Hoole is a children's fictional book series written by Kathryn Lasky and illustrated by Richard Cowdrey. Most of the main characters are owls, and the series is a cross between animal fiction such as Watership Down and epic fantasy.

The protagonist for the majority of the books is Soren, a young barn owl. He is pushed out of his nest by his malicious older brother Kludd and then kidnapped by owl scouts from a mysterious institution called St. Aggie's Academy. He soon makes friends with an elf owl named Gylfie and together they resist brainwashing by the St. Aggie's owls. Soren and Gylfie draw on the legends of an order of noble owls called the Guardians of Ga'Hoole for inspiration. They eventually escape, but upon discovering that their families have disappeared while they were imprisoned in St. Aggie's, they decide to search for the legendary Guardians. Soren and Gylfie are joined by Twilight, a great grey owl, and Digger, a burrowing owl. All four of them, each of their lives impacted by St. Aggie's, form "The Band" and join the Ga'Hoolian owls.


Subsequent books deal with The Band's education and training in Ga'Hoole and also the rise of a group even more dangerous than St. Aggie's called the Pure Ones. The Pure Ones believe in the superiority of Barn Owls above all other owl species.

The Film of the Book, Legend of the Guardians: The Owls of Ga'Hoole, was released in September 24, 2010, by Zack Snyder and the guys who did Happy Feet.

The main series (totaling fifteen main books - including the three-part "Legends" arc, giving the history of several important owls from the past - and two guidebooks, 2007's A Guide Book to the Great Tree and 2010's Lost Tales of Ga'Hoole) was released from 2003 to 2010, and was followed by the six-book spinoff series Wolves of the Beyond (2011-2014; follows the Wolves of the Watch after the events of the final book, focusing on Faolan, a young dire wolf who grows up to become a gnaw wolf, a sort of story recorder, and eventually a watch wolf), the 2013 prequel The Rise Of A Legend (which tells of how Ezylryb/Lyze of Kiel came to be the owl he was in The Journey), the distant prequel series Horses of the Dawn (2014-2016; telling of the arrival of Spanish conquistadores in America through the point of view of the horses they brought with them, who manage to escape and become wild), and another sequel series, Bears Of The Ice (2018-ongoing; starring polar bears in the northern owl kingdoms).


Guardians of Ga'Hoole provides examples of the following tropes:

  • Actual Pacifist: Theo, the gizzard resister, and Cleve, who doesn't believe in war.
  • After the End: It's heavily implied that the Others (i.e. humans) are long gone/extinct. All that remains of The Others' civilization are ruins and artifacts.
  • An Arm and a Leg: Chopping off an owl's wing is always fatal, no exceptions.
    • Possibly justified, because they cannot fly with only one wing. If they get their wings chopped while they're in mid-flight, they more often than not fall to their untimely doom.
  • Animated Adaptation
  • A Nazi by Any Other Name: The Pure Ones are owls who believe that Tyto Alba — barn owls — are superior to any other species of owl.
  • Anti Anti Christ: Nyroc/Coryn.
  • Apocalypse How: Class 3b appears to have happened at some point in the past, leaving the owls with ruins belonging to the "Others".
  • Awesome Moment of Crowning: When Coryn becomes king, although there was no actual crown. Made awesomer by the dire wolves' pledge:"We have all chosen to remain as wolves, to serve you, King Coryn, but we have also chosen to regain what we had lost in order to serve the Sacred Ring. Our twisted limbs have been straightened. Our eyes restored, our tails made whole once more. But we shall always be prepared to serve you, good King Coryn, always. That is our pledge."
  • Axe-Crazy: Nyra definitely qualifies.
  • Badass Boast/I Shall Taunt You: Twilight .
  • Battle Amongst the Flames: At the end of The Shattering and The Burning.
  • Battle Couple:
    • Boron and Barran, the king and queen of the Guardians.
    • Later Soren and Pelli.
    • Lyze and Lil
    • Nyra and Kludd
  • Bears Are Bad News: Inverted, since polar bears are good guys.
  • Big Bad:
    • Metal Beak/ Kludd serves as this in the first arc of the series. After he dies, his mate Nyra takes over for the second arc, which lasts the remainder of the series.
    • Nyra is the only recurring villain throughout all of the arcs (except for in the Whole Arc Flashback, of course), but they team up with other villains in each arc, who have about the same status in the story.
  • Big-Bad Ensemble: The forces of St. Aegolius and the Pure Ones are not on good terms. In the end, the Pure Ones win, force the surviving members of the academy out and St. Aggies is more or less forgotten.
  • Big Good: The ruler of the Ga'hoole tree is usually this. Also Ezylryb counts
  • The Big Guy: Twilight.
  • Boisterous Bruiser: Twilight again.
  • Book Dumb: Ruby describes herself this way. She makes up for it by being an excellent flier.
  • Brainwashed:
    • Moon blinking, and moon scalding (which is basically moon blinking taken Up to Eleven.)
    • Not to mention stone stunning and shattering.
    • And fire blinking.
  • Cain and Abel: Soren and Kludd . However, contrary to expectations, Twilight is the one who actually kills Kludd in The Burning.
  • Canis Major: The Dire Wolves and the Vyrwolves who only get bigger.
  • Carnivore Confusion: Generally averts the "Predators Are Mean" aspect (owls, wolves, and bears are protagonists). Lampshaded when Digger (burrowing owl) and Mrs. P (snake) first meet, as burrowing owls are a predator of snakes. This becomes most apparent when the band is genuinely horrified that Twilight would suggest drying out a sea-star to use as a decoration. Outside of needing to eat, the owls generally leave prey animals alone.
  • Clever Crows: Both ravens and crows are present in the books. Crows are usually antagonistic (except to Doc Finebeak, who recruits them for the war in the last book), while ravens are more benevolent. Truth in Television, perhaps, if one believes ravens are more intelligent than crows.
  • Cluster F-Bomb: The Rogue Smith of Silverveil curses a lot. This being an alternate society, the curses are somewhat exotic.
  • Creepy Crows: Both ravens and crows are present in the books, crows usually being antagonistic (except to Doc Finebeak, who recruits them for the war in the last book).
  • Crystal Dragon Jesus: Glaux.
  • Cool Old Guy / Badass Grandpa: Ezylryb, all the way.
  • Cool Sword: Owls from the Northen Kingdom use swords made from ice as weapons.
  • Cult Defector: Soren and Gylfie meet when they're both taken to an Orphanage of Fear known as "St. Aggies", where young owls spend their time being brainwashed and assimilated. Each night, they attempted to resist, but were caught and subjected to a stronger form of the regular brainwashing. However, through reciting legends about the mythical GaHoole, they were able to resist that brainwashing, too. Though they were able to escape by learning to fly, they were chased down by a patrol and the two other owls who weren't being brainwashed, Hortense and Grimble, were both caught and killed for their troubles.
  • Dan Browned: Quite a bit of it, unfortunately, mostly having to do with owls' biology. Could be excused as extreme Artistic License, but the books' information says that the series was the alternative to a nonfiction book the author wanted to write about owls, and thus she attempted to include owls' natural history. By and large, it appears she was unsuccessful... For more detail, see the Headscratchers tab.
  • Defector from Decadence: Lots of characters, most importantly Nyroc.
  • Dirty Communists: St. Aggie's is essentially this.
  • Disney Death: Hortense.
  • Dreaming of Things to Come: Soren has this ability.
  • Dude, Not Funny!: In-universe example; Primrose the Pygmy owl suffers from an allergic reaction from a slug and has to be taken away to be healed. Ginger, a Pure One spy, makes a joke about getting Primrose's dessert, only for Otulissa and Gylfie to tell her sharply that it wasn't a time to make a joke.
  • Egg McGuffin: Nyra's egg, before Eglantine breaks it.
  • Enemy Mine:
    • The Guardians briefly join with the leaders of St. Aggies in the 6th book, who get killed trying to double cross them during a battle.
    • Crows are recruited to help fight the Pure Ones in the last book, and in the end are acknowledged as being as noble as all the other species that fought in the war.
  • Eviler Than Thou: St. Aggie's vs. The Pure Ones.
  • Evil Matriarch: Nyra, especially after Kludd dies
  • Evil Uncle: Nyra raises Coryn (Nyroc) to believe this of Soren, telling him that his uncle was an evil owl who mercilessly murdered Kludd. But Coryn later realizes out that Soren was actually a good owl, and he finds out that it was Twilight, not his uncle Soren, who killed Kludd.
  • Eyepatch of Power: Otulissa, after losing an eye in Exile.
  • Eye Scream: Otulissa. She lives, though.
  • Face–Heel Turn: The Striga Orlando.
  • The Fair Folk: Hagsfiend are both this and demons.
  • Family-Unfriendly Death: And how! Deaths by dismemberment, decapitation, impalement, burnings...
  • Fantasy World Map
  • Fantastic Racism:
    • The Pure Ones are a group of Barn Owls and related Tyto species who look down on other types of owls. And the Barn Owls even look down on other Tytos, like Sooties and Grass Owls.
    • Owls in general tend to be a bit speciest and look down on seagulls and other birds because they don't produce pellets. "Wet pooper" is an insult owls use sometimes.
  • The Farmer and the Viper: Simon saves Kludd, who kills him for his efforts.
  • Fictionary: Krakish.
  • Final Boss: Kludd for the part of the series following Soren. In the very last book, the final boss is Nyra, aided by the Striga.
  • Foreshadowing: When Nyroc is recaptured by Nyra and he asks her if she loves him, Nyra mentions that Nyroc will be as great as King Hoole. It turns out that he succeeds King Hoole, one book later.
  • From Nobody to Nightmare:
    • Metal Beak, the infamous leader of the Pure Ones, was originally an ordinary barn owl named Kludd.
    • The Striga burned important books, owl homes, and owls themselves for the sake of his extremist views on "vanities". With such a reputation, who could guess that he used to lounge around in a palace, so obsessed with beauty that he'd grow feathers so long that he would be unable to fly?
  • Genius Ditz: The puffins.
  • Gondor Calls for Aid: In the last book. They end up recruiting wolves, bears, eagles, crows, seagulls, and puffins.
  • Good Scars, Evil Scars:
    • Ezylryb has a missing claw, while Kludd has half his face missing.
    • Nyra and Coryn both have on opposite sides of their faces. Nyra received it from Otulissa and Coryn from Nyra herself
  • Grim Up North: Inverted; while it is quite grim and desolate up north, the inhabitants become valuable allies for the Ga'Hoole owls. This is also where Ezylryb hails from.
  • Heaven: Glaumora.
  • Heel–Face Turn:
    • Grimble, to St. Aggies.
    • Nyroc, to the Pure Ones.
    • Uglamore, preforming a Heroic Sacrifice in the process.
  • Hell: Hagsmire.
  • Heroic Sacrifice: Uglamore, after his Heel–Face Turn, by flying into a wolf with a foaming-mouth sickness that was about to bite Coryn.
  • If I Can't Have You...: Why Ifghar betrayed the Kielian League.
  • I'm a Humanitarian:
    • Well, the owl version. Some of St. Aggie's troops end up eating Digger's brother.
    • St. Aegolius, paticularly Auntie, likes to eat eggs and deformed hatchlings.
  • Improbable Weapon User: Northern owls use weapons carved from ice. In the last book, the puffins use frozen fish.
  • Insufferable Genius: Otulissa is Hermione Granger in owl form.
  • Kid Hero: Soren (until he grows up), and Nyroc/Coryn.
  • Kill It with Fire: The Band's and the Guardians' battle strategy. They like to use branches that are ON FIRE.
  • Lady of War:
    • Strix Struma.
    • Strix Emerilla, Otulissa, and Queen Siv also fit into this trope. Notice now they're all spotted owls...
  • Lethal Lava Land: Beyond the Beyond.
  • Malevolent Masked Men: Metal Beak.
  • Manipulative Bitch: Nyra
  • The Man Behind the Man: Metal Beak, Nyra, and the rest of the Pure Ones behind St. Aggie's in the first six books.
  • Mentor Occupational Hazard: Grimble dies after teaching Soren and Gylfie how to fly, in the first book. In later books, Otulissa's mentor Strix Struma is killed in battle. Ezlyryb also dies, albeit from old age.
  • The Mole: Ginger
  • The Movie: Legend of the Guardians: The Owls of Ga'Hoole, directed by Zack Snyder.
  • Noble Bird of Prey: A relatively rare instance of owls being given this treatment. The two bald eagles who help Hortense in her rescues are a more conventional example.
  • No Name Given: The rogue smith of Silverveil. Her name has been revealed as Thora Plonk in "Lost Tales".
  • No Pronunciation Guide: You can normally just pronounce St. Aegolius as St. Aggie's (and most of the characters do anyway). Let's face it, how many kids in the book's demographic are going to be able to pronounce it?
  • Not Allowed to Grow Up: Averted. Soren eventually finds a mate and has three daughters. Ezylryb dies before the Hoole trilogy, and the rulers of the tree die just as Coryn arrives.
  • Ominous Owl:
    • The villains (especially Nyra) play the creepy owl factor for all it's worth.
    • Hagsfiends. They're first mentioned as evil owl ghosts, and then, in books nine through eleven, it turns out that they're an actual species, but have since died out aside from the Dragon Owls. It's even implied that an owl can turn into a hagsfiend if they are extremely evil, which is implied to be the fate of Nyra.
  • The One Thing I Don't Hate About You: In book one, Ms. Plithiver thinks to herself that there is something very wrong with Kludd. He then coughs up a pellet and she reconsiders that no bird with such a noble digestive system could be completely bad. If only...
  • Orphanage of Fear: Definitely the St. Aegolius Academy for Orphaned Owls.
  • Orphan's Ordeal: Soren, Gylfie, and Digger, among others.
  • Our Demons Are Different
  • Pardon My Klingon:
    • A lot. Notably, "sprink", which is considered the most vile word in the owl vocabulary.
    • Frink, an equivalent to piss (the verb, not the bodily fluid), and racdrops, an equivalent to... well, you should be able to tell.
  • Parental Abandonment: Quite a lot.
  • Parental Favoritism:
    • The rogue smith's stepmother doted upon her sister due to her lovely singing voice, leaving her out in the cold.
    • Kludd seems to believe this was the case with his father and Soren.
  • Plot Device: For all that the Ember of Hoole is fretted over, it does remarkably little over the course of the series.
  • Precision S Strike: Otulissa, twice.
  • Prequel: Ezylryb's story called The Rise Of A Legend.
  • The Quisling: Dewlap panics and sells out the Great Tree to the Pure Ones in The Siege. To say she ends up regretting this decision after Strix Struma's death would be an understatement.
  • Recycled In Space: Essentially World War II WITH OWLS!
  • Reverse Mole: Hortense
  • Royals Who Actually Do Something: Boron and Barran.
  • Satisfied Streetrat: Twilight, who has graduated from the orphan school of tough learning.
  • Sdrawkcab Alias: Ezylryb is Lyze of Kiel.. Nyroc later becomes Coryn.
  • Seers:
    • Owls with Starsight like Soren and Hortense will often have precognitive dreams of an upcoming event. Gylfie describes that it is like peeking through the holes in dreams.
    • Firesight users like Grank,Hooks and Coryn can see visions of events that happened in the past, present and future by looking at fire.
    • A rabbit that Coryn spared and had a conversation, can read fragments of the past, present and future events from spider webs. Unlike firesight, if he shares his name with anyone, he will lose it.
  • Seldom-Seen Species: Many of the owl species, as well as blind snakes, flying snakes, puffins, and dire wolves.
  • Self-Made Orphan: Kludd.
  • Servant Race: Blind snakes are kept as nest maids by owls to keep their nest clean by clearing out maggots and other creepy crawlies.
  • Shout-Out:
    • "Call me Grank", the first line from The First Collier.
    • At one point, a group of owls try to save books from the Pure Ones by memorizing them, saying they got the idea from a book written by one of the Others, named "Ray Brad" (although they think the name may have been cut off).
    • There are tons of 300 references in the last book. "We will fight in the shade" and "[you want our weapons?] Come and get them!" to name a few.
  • Sickening Sweethearts: Sweetums and Swatums, a pair of sooty owl who the Band encounter near the begining of The Journey. Soren finds them especially nauseating.
  • The Siege: ''The Siege'', on the Great Ga'hoole Tree carried out by the Pure Ones.
  • Skewed Priorities: In The Capture, Soren is being carried off by a St. Aggie's patrol owl. Rather then worry about how to escape, all Soren is worried about is that said patrol owl called him stupid.
  • Slashed Throat: Lots of characters die by getting slashed in the throat or neck, such as Aunt Finny.
  • Snake Talk: The flying snakes do this, though it's averted with the nest-maid and Kielian snakes.
  • Somewhere, an Entomologist Is Crying: Spiders and centipedes are referred to as "insects".
  • Somewhere, a Herpetologist Is Crying: The flying snakes can inject venom with their tongues.
  • Somewhere, a Mammalogist Is Crying: It's implied at certain points that bats are birds, and are blind.
  • Stepford Smiler: Under all of the sweet talking, Aunt Finny is quite sadistic.
  • Tomboy and Girly Girl: The Rogue Smith of Silverveil and Madame Plonk fit this to a T.
  • Took a Level in Badass:
    • Otulissa gets special mention. She is introduced as a prissy know-it-all bookworm, now she has an Eyepatch of Power.
    • The puffins in the last book. And how!
  • Treacherous Advisor: Striga/Orlando to Coryn in the last two books.
  • True Companions: The Band in the first couple books, later the Chaw of Chaws. Some consider Coryn a member of the Band.
  • Tsundere: Otulissa. She reveals the "deredere" when she talks about her idols or is with Cleve.
  • Unexpectedly Human Perception: The series is from the point of view of owls, animals that typically see in limited or monochrome vision, but everything is described in full color. The most notable example is Nyroc first discovering the color of green, which he has a strong reaction to, despite not being able to see it in real life.
  • Unfortunate Names: Nyroc is named after Nyra, the most feared/hated owl in the entire Owl Kingdom. Even though Nyroc has never really done anything bad, his name still gives him a bad reputation, until he gets the ember of Hoole.
  • Unholy Matrimony: Kludd and Nyra. They actually love each other, which makes it, if possible, even creepier.
  • Waif Prophet: Hortense.
  • Warrior Poet: Twilight and Ezylryb.
  • Wham Line: When Metalbeak is finally unmasked, both Soren and the audience get a shocking revelation...
    Soren: Kludd!
  • Where the Hell Is Springfield?: It's never established where, in real-life terms, the series takes place. No single location could account for the variety of owl (and other bird) species seen in the series, most of which don't coexist in real life. The Film of the Book implies it's in Australia by showing a Tasmanian devil and an Echidna and giving the characters Aussie accents, but even that doesn't really fit.
  • Whole Episode Flashback: Books 9-11 are a Whole Arc Flashback!
  • You Are Number 6: The owls in St. Aggie's.


Example of: