I'm looking for a book I read in late elementary school, early secondary that is somewhere in late 90s. This was polish translation, so book is probably a bit older. I can't remember much but there are few details that stuck in my mind. There was a boy, a wizard apprentice, which was learning basics of magic, and was shown how to possess body of an animal. Possess is maybe not the best word, it was rather exchange. On one occasion he possessed a bird (probably a hawk) and was distracted by pleasure derived by flight, and did not return to his body in time. He was locked in birds body for some time and was later rescued by his master at the last possible instant. The change in bodies would become permanent, but caught in time It was said that this had no ill effects on long time-scale other than that the boy acquired taste for raw meat, and bird was thought to experience strange dreams about walking on foot.

If I recall correctly magic in this book was very well defined, it had extremely strict rules. You could die lifting heavy stone because it exerted heavy force on your mind, so you had to come up with some tricks like levers (magical ones, not real). But this magic part may be out of some other book.

This was probably first book of some cycle.

The boy probably had a friend his age, but this is all so lost in time...

  • Do you know what nationality/language the original book was?
    – Moogle
    Commented Sep 12, 2014 at 10:10
  • Not a clue - it was almost 20 years ago. But it was almost surely translation. Commented Sep 12, 2014 at 10:45
  • I discarded Pratchett almost at hand - I've obviously read it. And rules of borrowing minds are quite in good agreement. Commented Sep 12, 2014 at 12:31
  • And strict magic seems to come from The Wheel of Time cycle. But I'm not sure on that. So most likely I fused several books in my mind into one. Oh well. Commented Sep 12, 2014 at 12:33
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    @JarosławKomar: A fusion of several books seems likely. I could even suggest Animorphs or possibly The Lost Years of Merlin... they, as well as the others posted, have strains of what you remember.
    – Magus
    Commented Sep 12, 2014 at 15:20

6 Answers 6


Are you sure it's not Pratchett's Equal Rites? Taken from this synopsys:

There is an eagle circling, and Granny tells Esk the technique of borrowing its mind. The trick is not to take it over, but to sit quietly at the back of its mind and suggest to the eagle what it should do. Out of mischief however, Esk storms in and takes it over. Granny looks up as the eagle-Esk swoops away. She carries the girl's prone body back to her cottage. For a day she waits at her cottage for any sign of her, but to no avail. Esk is flying higher and higher, but to her horror she realises that her human mind is slowly diminishing-she is in fact becoming the eagle. She cannot escape. Granny goes to her garden and sends her hive of bees out to search. A huge swarm flies over the kingdom and finds nothing. She has one choice left-she goes to the staff and bids it take her to Esk. With Granny riding side-saddle, the staff hurtles away up the mountains. Granny eventually finds the eagle, lying half-dead in a snowdrift.

The bit about magic is taken from the first book in the series, Colour of Magic, and is expounded upon in Rites:

…magic had indeed once been wild and lawless, but had been tamed back in the mists of time by the Olden Ones, who had bound it to obey among other things the Law of Conservation of Reality; this demanded that the effort needed to achieve a goal should be the same regardless of the means used. In practical terms this meant that, say, creating the illusion of a glass of wine was relatively easy, since it involved merely the subtle shifting of light patterns. On the other hand, lifting a genuine wineglass a few feet in the air by sheer mental energy required several hours of systematic preparation if the wizard wished to prevent the simple principle of leverage flicking his brain out through his ears.

  • This was my initial suspicion too, except that Esk is most certainly not a boy, Granny is certainly a witch and not a wizard (the distinction is made, very clearly, in the book). Though Esk is actually a 'wizard' too, so if the asaker's memory is flawed, this may in fact be the book they're looking for.
    – Zibbobz
    Commented Sep 12, 2014 at 15:21
  • @mihai Neat, thanks for the extra information!
    – Rawling
    Commented Sep 12, 2014 at 16:04
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    Yeah it seems to be it. Pratchett seemed a little too tongue-in-cheek. Nevertheless passages from above clearly ring a bell. It seemed too me that this was something more "serious". Trip on TVTropes was good for memory too. I vaguely remember Wheel of Time. Add R.Feist and we have my mystic book. Commented Sep 12, 2014 at 16:45
  • @JarosławKomar A little bit of everything, then :D
    – Rawling
    Commented Sep 12, 2014 at 17:08

How about "The Once and Future King" by T. H. White? When Merlin is training Wart/Arthur, he becomes a bird, a fish, badger, etc.

Specifically the first part, "The Sword in the Stone".


  • Exactly what I was thinking.
    – CodeMoose
    Commented Sep 12, 2014 at 14:20
  • Me too. Also, note that the goose and the ant parts were transferred from The Book of Merlin, which had been the author's intended conclusion. Commented Sep 13, 2014 at 18:04

This could be the classic A Wizard of Earthsea by Ursula K. Le Guin.

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    No it's not, but it very well could. Ged was really transformed into falcon and too much exposure could lead to loose oneself. But there's one problem with that. It may be hard to believe but I've read Earthsea cycle this year for the first time. I had a huge break in reading during my master's and PhD, but now I'm back to business. That's why I wanted to find this book. And in Earthsea wizard wouldn't get taste for raw meat. Commented Sep 12, 2014 at 12:39

The lifting a rock idea certainly comes up in The Belgariad by David Eddings although what you are describing wouldn't be the first book- possibly the third, Castle Of Wizardry . That also has characters who can transform into animals and the concept of getting trapped as a hawk certainly fits with the way magic works in those books but I don't remember that scene.

  • 1
    There's nothing about getting trapped in a bird's body, unless you count Beldin going off as a bird at the very end of the Malloreon. Can't be what the OP means
    – Rand al'Thor
    Commented Sep 12, 2014 at 10:35
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    I thought there was a scene where Garion either transforms or casts his mind into a bird and he gets literally grounded by Polgara in a similar form to knock him out of it.
    – FuzzyBoots
    Commented Sep 12, 2014 at 12:44
  • I'm not sure that I've read it. But there was comment (now gone) on my question suggesting Pratchett's "Equal Rites" as to the bird part. And it's probably correct - I remember going through a lot of Discworld books but that was whole ages ago. So I most likely fused the memories of few books into one. I'll look into The Belgariad then - thanks for effort. Commented Sep 12, 2014 at 12:50

It has been around 15 years since I have read this book, and I don't remember too much of it either, but it sounds like Michael Ende's "Die Zauberschule im Wünschelreich" (Sorry, no idea what it would be called in Polish. Or for that matter, English). It is about the twins Mug and Mali, who attend the titular magic school and learn the various forms of magic, like moving objects, teleportation, invisibility, creating objects and finally, creating animals. Everything works by willing it to happen strongly enough, and more than once does something unexpected happen because one of the students didn't concentrate hard enough and his mind slipped for a moment. Also, the teacher was very strict about undoing everything they changed magically, like returning objects to their previous place, dissolving created animals and so on, after they were done. A scene you might remember is Mug and Mali trying to create a horse together - except they couldn't quite agree on what they wanted. It did not end well, the teacher had to step in and clean everything up again.


The "borrowing" animals & getting stuck in a bird bit reminds me of a novel from the 80's called "Song of the Wild" by Allan W. Eckert. I don't remember if he had a mentor in the beginning, but he found one later. A veterinarian becomes his mentor, & I think that he cautions him about getting lost in the animal. In the end, Caleb goes into a bird & I think he gets lost on purpose. His physical body gets killed by a horse, but his mind lives on in the bird. Awesome book, but kind of dark.

Twelve-year-old Caleb Erikson, who was born with a strange and wonderful talent that lets him take his mind inside any living creature he sees, sharing everything it experiences. With his special gift he can soar into the sky within a red-winged blackbird, run freely inside the horses he loves, or share the experiences of a great old tree as it undergoes the violence of a storm.

One remarkable summer, into Caleb’s life comes Dr. Colin Patrick, a warmhearted veterinarian with a rare sensitivity for animals and those who understands them; a man not so skeptical as others of Caleb’s amazing ability.

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