Brandon Mull returns to the world of Erdas for Tales of the Great Beasts, a collection of short stories that spins off of the Spirit Animal series.
When my daughter Sadie started begging for a dog, I was hesitant. I have four kids, and a dog would mean new responsibilities. But Sadie promised she would take care of the animal, and a bird we had owned previously gave me hope that she might mean it. Besides, I had a dog as a kid, and I didn’t want to deny my children that experience.
We settled on a Sheepadoodle—half Old English Sheepdog, half Standard Poodle. As it turned out, after getting the dog, Sadie kept her word. She took on the duties of feeding the dog (named Buffy the Vampire Slayer) and making sure the animal got opportunities to do her business in the side yard. It has been fun to watch the relationship between Sadie and Buffy grow, and to see my daughter learn lessons in responsibility.
The first book in the Spirit Animals series is dedicated to Sadie and Buffy (along with Fluffy, the dog from my childhood, and Mango, our bird that died). I dedicated Wild Born to Sadie and those animals because they reminded me how much people and animals can mean to each other.
Since the Spirit Animals series launched last year, it has been a pleasure to watch the stories and online game inspire kids to read and imagine. In the world of Erdas, when children reach a certain age, they have the chance to summon a spirit animal. If they do, that animal becomes a lifetime companion and friend.
I visit schools all over the United States, and the kids I’ve spoken with seem to love the idea. Many tell me what spirit animal they would choose, and ask what mine would be (dolphin for personality, tiger if I lived in dangerous times).
The Spirit Animals series was designed from the start to be written by a team of authors. My role was to create an outline for the series and to write book one. The other six books would each be written different authors. Since Scholastic put the team together, the other authors are all very talented people.
After completing the outline and book one, my role in the main series was finished, and I went back to work on my latest series, Five Kingdoms. But when Scholastic decided to make a book of short stories called Tales of the Great Beasts, I got the opportunity to tell one more story in the world of Erdas.
The Great Beasts are fifteen powerful animals who watch over Erdas. They are much larger than ordinary animals, capable of human speech, and virtually immortal. The four main animals in Spirit Animals were once Great Beasts, but they perished in battle to save Erdas and became known as the Four Fallen. At the start of the series, the four main characters of Wild Born summon the reborn Four Fallen as their spirit animals.
For my story in Tales of the Great Beasts, I dramatized the battle where Briggan the Wolf, Uraza the Leopard, Jhi the Panda, and Essix the Falcon fell. It’s a key moment in the history of the Great Beasts—bringing it to life felt like writing the climax of a novel.
I expect that Spirit Animal readers will enjoy experiencing that vital moment, along with other stories about the Great Beasts that will offer new insight into some of the favorite characters in the series. And I’ll enjoy watching kids and families continue to connect with Spirit Animals.