In Animorphs why can't Tobias reuse the Escafil Device or the Morphing Cube once he becomes a nothlit (stuck as a red tailed hawk)? In the book The Change the Ellimist restores his power to morph.

However, as the Ellimist does not also restore Tobias' human form as his normal body, Tobias' normal form remains that of the hawk, from which he is able to morph to any other animal, including his original human form. The Ellimist makes the human morph possible by sending Tobias, still in his red-tailed hawk form, into an illusion in which he encountered his human form the day before the Animorphs gained their morphing ability.

Why couldnt a nothlit just re-touch the Escafil Device and regain the morphing abillity?

3 Answers 3


The specific mechanics behind why are never stated that I remember, but there are several pieces of information that combined seem to confirm the statement:

  • A morph cannot be acquired from someone else's morph, you need the original DNA.
  • You cannot morph from one animal to another without going through your base form.
  • Morphs are not physiologically identical to the original animal - modifications are made by the Escafil device to support thought-speak, and the ability to return to your original form still exists (your DNA is stored somewhere accessible and demorphing is triggered by thought).
  • Tobias still retained thought-speak during the interim after being trapped in morph and before the Ellimist intervened.
  • The Escafil device does not modify DNA, it is technology. Otherwise those who have morphed into each other (in particular, Tobias to Ax) could morph again.
  • Loren was able to acquire Tobias late in the series.

These would seem to indicate that a nothlit's "base form" is still their original body, it has just become inaccessible. The body they become trapped in still has the abilities and limitations of any morph, because that is how that body came into existence: The Escafil device won't work on it, they retain thought-speak, and can't be acquired for someone else to morph into.1

When the Ellimist gave back Tobias his ability to morph in The Change, he seems to have done it by resetting Tobias's current form and turning it into an almost normal, non-morph body with thought-speak. He then gave Tobias the ability to morph, as though he was a hawk that touched the Escafil device (like the ant and buffalo in The Hidden). This "reset" also explains why Loren and the auxiliary Animorphs could acquire Tobias.

After that point, if Tobias decided to morph human and become a nothlit again, the Escafil device would not work on his human body the same way it would not have worked on his hawk body previously.

1 Within books 2-13, everyone had their own bird morph, so I don't think anyone tried to acquire Tobias's hawk body. So while there's no proof of this, I don't think it's contradicted either.

  • This is a great answer.
    – tobiasvl
    Commented Mar 12, 2017 at 22:07

Same reason why Arbron was forced to live as a Taxxon when every other Taxxon in the galaxy got the power to morph. The morphing cube does not work on nothlits - if you're trapped, only a being such as the Ellimist, the Drode or the Crayak can change that for you.

  • Not to mention, Tobias doesn't even WANT to be human anymore, by the time the Animorphs start actively using the morphing cube.
    – Logan King
    Commented May 7, 2018 at 0:27

I think the bigger explanation goes back to the fact that the Ellimist is simply another as... butthole playing a god game. I am currently re-reading the series for the first time since...well since they were new, and I think the best answer as to why Tobias never attempted to even ask about becoming a human again and reusing the cube to get morphing powers is simply for the reason the Ellimist didn’t want that to happen... after all, why not just fix him from the very beginning when he reissued his ability to morph?

  • 2
    The Ellimist is powerful, but is he that powerful? Surely things can happen even if he doesn't want them to?
    – Rand al'Thor
    Commented Feb 5, 2018 at 2:03

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