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Literature / Hagwood

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From left to right: Gamaliel Tumpin, Rhiannon's owl provost, and the Wandering Smith. Illustration by Robin Jarvis.
A trilogy of High Fantasy books by Robin Jarvis. In order they are Thorn Ogres of Hagwood, Dark Waters of Hagwood, and War in Hagwood.
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The main characters are a fictional race known as werlings. They are small, elfin creatures with the ability to shapeshift into animals, mostly for the purpose of protecting themselves. When a mysterious stranger passes through their woods, they suddenly find themselves thrust into a battle to overthrow the High Lady of the Hollow Hill, Rhiannon. Long ago she used magic to literally remove her still-beating heart and placed it in an enchanted casket that can only be opened with its matching key. This was to remove all goodness from her so she could kill her father and brother and assume the throne. As a result, though beautiful on the outside, she became a sadistic monster inside. The casket was stolen and Rhiannon will never rest until it is found, for to open it and stab the heart within would be the only way to kill her. It falls to a bumbling werling named Gamaliel to unite the casket with the key and put an end to Rhiannon's evil reign.

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These books provide examples of:

  • Amazingly Embarrassing Parents: Kernella is greatly embarrassed by her father's eccentricities, especially his wearing a squirrel tail all the time while in his true werling form.
  • Angsty Surviving Twin: Bufus after his brother Mufus is killed.
  • Annoying Younger Sibling: Kernella Tumpin, although she is actually two years older than Gamaliel.
  • Anyone Can Die: You'd better believe it! Even the main character Gamaliel, whom Robin Jarvis based on himself, is killed off by the end of the trilogy.
  • The Atoner: Finnen Lufkin, and later Terser Gibble
  • Attractive Bent Species: In War in Hagwood, Rhiannon transforms herself into an owl. When her provost, a real owl, sees her in her new form, he is besotted with her... so much so that he eats the talisman she used to transform herself so she has no way of returning to her original shape. Rhiannon does not return his feelings and becomes so furious that she rips open his chest to retrieve the talisman, killing him.
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  • Author Avatar: Robin Jarvis has stated that he based Gamaliel Tumpin on himself as a child.
  • Be All My Sins Remembered: Finnen feels guilty when others compliment his amazing talent for wergling. The reason for this is soon revealed; he has been chewing bark from the Silent Grove to attain the skills of his ancestors, and has no real talent himself. It is regarded by the werling community as a reprehensible act and he is deeply ashamed of doing it.
  • Beat Still, My Heart: The disembodied heart of the High Lady
  • Beauty Is Bad: While she is stunningly beautiful on the outside, Rhiannon is as cruel and malicious as they come on the inside.
  • Big Bad: Rhiannon
  • Big Eater: Tollychook
  • Bittersweet Ending: In War in Hagwood, Rhiannon is finally killed, but at the cost of Gamaliel wergling into a replacement key. Transforming into an inanimate object was something no werling had ever attempted before, and it resulted in his turning entirely and permanently into a gold statue.
  • The Chosen One: Finnen and Gamaliel are both chosen by the Wandering Smith to defeat Rhiannon.
  • Deadpan Snarker: Bufus Doolan
  • Descriptively-Named Species: The name of the werling race essentially means 'little shapeshifters'. 'Wer' refers to their transformative abilities (Rhiannon even refers to them contemptuously as wererats), and the suffix '-ling' denotes something diminutive, which they are.
  • Dirty Coward: Terser Gibble
  • Dying as Yourself: At the end of War in Hagwood, Finnen uses Harkul the fire devil's powers to transform Frighty Aggie back into her former self, the werling Agnilla Hellekin. She whispers her thanks and shortly thereafter she dies.
  • Eats Babies: Rhiannon has plans to eat the human infant she has kidnapped after she is through with feeding off its life force. It is rescued before she is able to.
  • Evil-Detecting Dog: Fly the fox is able to alert the werlings of the disguised Rhiannon.
  • The Exile: Finnen Lufkin is exiled when it is believed his negligence resulted in the death of Mufus Doolan. Also playing a part in his exile is the bringing to light of his chewing on the bark from the Silent Grove to falsely obtain his wergling abilities. Later he is forgiven and able to return.
  • Eye Scream
    • Rhiannon had her provost owl eat Prince Tammedor's eyes as punishment for his rejection of her in favour of her sister. She replaced them with painful wooden pegs that are enchanted and so impossible to remove.
    • In the beginning of Dark Waters of Hagwood, Rhiannon has one of her scholars searching for information about the werlings. When he finds nothing and tries to excuse his failure by stating that his eyes cannot see something that isn't there, she punishes him by tearing them out with her fingernails.
  • Fallen Princess: Clarisant
  • Friend to All Living Things: Liffidia Nefyn
  • God Save Us from the Queen!: Rhiannon
  • The Hero Dies: Gamaliel
  • Heroic Sacrifice: Gamaliel
  • I'm a Humanitarian: Rhiannon plans to actually eat the human baby she kidnapped. Fortunately, she doesn't.
  • I'm Dying, Please Take My MacGuffin: The Wandering Smith gives Gamaliel the key to the casket right before his death.
  • Life Drinker: Rhiannon retains her youth by using the life force of an infant child she kidnapped.
  • Living Forever Is Awesome: Rhiannon clearly thinks so, and is willing to do anything to find the casket containing her heart before those who would open it and bring an end to her immortality.
  • King Incognito: Princess Clarisant and Prince Tammedor, who were transformed into hideous goblins in order to hide from the former's evil sister, who was out to kill them both. In their new forms, they are called Peg-toothed Meg and the Tower Lubber, respectively.
  • The Klutz: This applies to Gamaliel, though when all is said and done he proves to be the most heroic werling of them all.
  • Malicious Misnaming: Mufus and Bufus Doolan refer to Gamaliel as "Gammy"
  • Master of Disguise: This applies to the werlings, with their ability to take the form of animals. However, more fittingly it applies to Rhiannon. She and her sister Clarisant were given magical talismans as gifts when they were children. They allow the bearer to transform into any shape they wish. That is how Rhiannon is able to deceive others by assuming convincing identities such as that of Nanna Zingara.
  • The Mind Is a Plaything of the Body: In the legend of Frighty Aggie, every time Agnilla Hellekin wergled into an insect, her mind was gradually becoming irreparably damaged. Finally on the third try, she permanently became the grotesque insect creature that would come to be known as Frighty Aggie.
  • Noble Fugitive: Princess Clarisant and Prince Tammedor
  • Ominous Owl: The High Lady's provost
  • Patricide: Rhiannon killed her father, King Ragallach
  • Plot Coupon: The key and the chest
  • Powered by a Forsaken Child: Rhiannon has kidnapped a human infant and keeps it with her solely because its life force helps her stay young.
  • Princeling Rivalry: Rhiannon killed her brother, and would have done the same to her sister had she not escaped.
  • Rightful Queen Returns: Princess Clarisant comes out of hiding and, after her sister is defeated, takes her proper place as queen.
  • Sadist Teacher: Terser Gibble
  • Shapeshifting
  • Soul Jar: The casket containing Rhiannon's heart
  • Star-Crossed Lovers: Clarisant and Tammedor
  • Surpassed the Teacher: Finnen Lufkin, causing Terser Gibble to envy him to the point of making attempts to kill him during a wergling competition. When Gibble learns the shameful secret of Finnen's skills, he is quick to spitefully announce it to everyone.
  • Taken for Granite: In War in Hagwood, after Rhiannon has taken possession of the key to the casket and destroyed it, all seems hopeless. That is, until Gamaliel decides to wergle his finger into a replacement key. It opens the casket and Rhiannon is subsequently defeated, but there is no way to reverse the spell on Gamaliel and he slowly turns into a gold statue.
  • To Be Continued: The first book, Thorn Ogres of Hagwood, ended with this message. However, the wait turned out to be far longer than expected as it took fourteen years for a sequel to be published.
  • Tonight, Someone Dies: The prophecy in War in Hagwood. It turns out to be Gamaliel, who sacrifices himself.
  • Tragic Monster: Frighty Aggie was once a werling named Agnilla Hellekin. She was well-known for her wergling skills and could transform into any forest creature, but she craved more. Eventually she wanted to try wergling into insects, something that had never before been attempted by anyone. Her first two tries were successful, but on her third she found she could not change back. Thus she was stuck as a monstrous insect creature who had lost all memory of who she once was.
  • Trickster Twins: Mufus and Bufus Doolan
  • Unlikely Hero: Gamaliel Tumpin
  • Voluntary Shapeshifting: The werlings transform into animals by sniffing a pile of the selected species' fur and concentrating hard.
  • Was Once a Man: Frighty Aggie, formerly the werling Agnilla Hellekin
  • The Wise Prince: Tammedor
  • Would Hurt a Child: Rhiannon kidnapped an infant human solely to leech the youth from it. When she is through with it, she decides to eat it. However, it is rescued before she can do so.
  • You Have Outlived Your Usefulness: Rhiannon does this in a particularly despicable way to a loyal goblin servant who told her of a treasonous conversation he overheard. According to her, simply being there at all is a crime punishable by death, although she is indebted to him for the information he brought. She subsequently bashes his head in with a hammer.
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