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Willow’s World: Creatures & Spirits

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The fantasy realm is inhabited with beings both friendly and deadly.

Willow’s World is a series that explores the fantasy realm first depicted in Lucasfilm’s 1988 adventure, Willow. From its diverse peoples and ranging landscapes to unusual creatures and mystical powers, the world of Willow Ufgood and his companions is a complex mixture of light, dark, and the bond between all living things.

From the earliest moments of Lucasfilm’s Willow, the story is haunted by the cries of a terrifying pack of Death Dogs. These ravenous creatures serve the evil Bavmorda and her minions. Following scents at a great distance, they track the baby Elora Danan from Nockmaar all the way to the Nelwyn Valley. Their fur-covered backs, piercing red eyes, tusk-like fangs, and rat-like tails must have remained etched in the memories of the Nelwyns who witnessed one Death Dog’s attack during their festival.

Death Dogs are only one example of the fearsome inhabitants of Willow’s world. A pair of hideous trolls surprise the unfortunate Nelwyn during the battle at Tir Asleen. These fur-covered, humanoid creatures are hellbent on mayhem and climb stone walls with spider-like agility. Trolls seem to be a nuisance to just about everyone in this fantasy realm. Little else is known about them besides their cunning and ferocity.

Perhaps even more frightening is the towering Eborsisk that emerges at Tir Asleen and manages to consume one pesky troll. The two-headed, fire breathing dragon appears by accident, when a spell of Willow’s goes awry. Just where this monster first originated is unknown, but the Eborsisk manages to be a worthy foe against both combating armies from Nockmaar and Galladoorn. Arrows seem to be of little effect on its tough skin, and after Madmartigan finally manages to climb atop one of its heads and skewers it with his sword, the creature explodes in a great spectacle.

Though some are clearly to be avoided, not every creature in Willow’s world is what it seems at first glance. Arriving at a remote island high in a mountain lake in search of Fin Raziel, Willow is baffled to discover the sorceress in the form of a furry, squirrel-like rodent (though still able to speak). She has been trapped in the animal’s body by Queen Bavmorda, and will transform into a raven, a goat, and a number of other creatures before returning to her original Daikini appearance.

Raziel is not the only victim of such a trap, however. As Bavmorda looks down on the army who plans to besiege her castle, she declares them all to be pigs. Countless soldiers, including the Queen’s own daughter, Sorsha, transform into the helpless animal. Even the Brownies Franjean and Rool become piglets. Fin Raziel and Willow manage to avoid this fate, and return the Daikinis and Brownies to their own forms. Willow, of course, is a farmer very familiar with genuine swine. He even uses a piglet in his magic act at the Nelwyns’ festival. Bavmorda’s spiteful curse might very well have helped inspire the upstart sorcerer to reimagine this very trick and spell her ultimate undoing.

Earlier in the movie’s story, after Willow and Meegosh give the baby Elora Danan to the roguish Madmartigan, the pair encounter strange beings in an enchanted forest. Not akin to animals, but not exactly Nelwyn or Daikini, these are fairies who glow with their own light and flit amidst the trees. Chief among them is Cherlindrea, a wise and elegant spirit who can communicate with the infant Elora and sets Willow on the next stage in his quest. Enshrouded in mystery, she speaks with a voice “wind-soft yet clear” as author Wayland Drew notes in the Willow novelization.

Cherlindrea and her fairies are distinguished by their clear perception of Willow’s courageous heart. Throughout the story, most of the characters misunderstand or underestimate each other. The impish Brownies trap Willow and Meegosh for sport. Daikinis like Madmartigan, Sorsha, and the warrior Airk Thaughbaer first see Willow as little more than a diminutive “peck.” Even Fin Raziel in her animal form questions why Cherlindrea has sent this seemingly humble farmer to her aid. But the child Elora Danan sees otherwise, and the fairies are able to listen to her. The farmer then receives Cherlindrea’s own wand, crafted from a twisted branch or root, which he must learn to wield if the quest is to succeed.

Read More About Willow’s World: “Friendship & Heroism” and “Nature & Place.”

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