The Sorcerer's Conspectus:

A comprehensive view of Andre Norton's Witch World

by Lotsawatts

Races of Witch WorldFalconers


Falconers are a mercenary race. They were apparently gated in some time back, but whether they gated themselves or were gated in or stumbled upon a Gate is unclear. It's possible Jonkara herself gated them into the Witch World since she refers to herself as "Opener of Gates".

Appearance: Falconers have dark, reddish hair and brown-yellow eyes1. Their skin color is not mentioned, though it probably is light and possibly ruddy.

Living Area(s): Eyrie. Originally they came from Salzarat, a land apparently to the south of Karsten somewhere.2 In Falcon Hope Tarlach is trying to establish a new Eyrie in High Hallack. In Falcon Law another Eyrie is established somewhere in the mountains between Karsten and Estcarp again by a group of tradition bound Falconers.3

Life Span: How long Falconers live is not mentioned directly, but presumably they live a good deal shorter lives than the Old Race.

Power: Falconers can bond with their falcons. They can also create talismans that cannot be removed from their owners without their free consent - a virtue that passes to anyone one it is gifted to.4 It could be Falconers had more Power in the past but it is no longer practiced. This is supported in part by Falcon Blood where Jonkara, one of the Dark Old Ones, was partly defeated by a ritual Langward learned.

Other: In Witch World it is mentioned that there is a complex communication device attached to the Falcons they use. Later stories mention they actually bond with the falcons and imply that such devices were used to disguise their true bond and the intelligence of the falcons from other races. Each Falconer appears to have a different level of bond with their falcon. Some Falconers may only have an empathic bond and they may not be able to speak telepathically with their falcons which may be another reason for the communication devices. On the other hand, in Witch World one of the falcons seems to speak to Simon, so the devices could be used for long-distance communication and listening by Falconers or it could allow the falcons to express their thoughts aloud to non-Falconers. In any case, the devices are no longer mentioned after Witch World.
Similarly, in Witch World it is mentioned that the Falconers were chased out of their lands by barbarians, which is largely contradicted by other books. They are also mentioned as having come over and settled in some hundred years or more before the story.
The Falconers leader was called the Lord of Wings (see: Witch World) but he may have decided to fall with the Eyrie because he is not mentioned in later books when the Falconer race is divided between those who accept women as equals and those who remained separate, though the Warlord Varnel is mentioned as their leader in Falcon Hope. It could be that Varnel is the Lord of Wings but doesn't use the title outside the Eyrie.
Falconer falcons are black birds with a white ‘v’ on their chests5, and Falconer males bond with the falcon for the life of the bird via some form of Power. After the death of the bird the Falconer can die from shock, though it may be less if the bird dies of natural causes like old age.6 A Falconer may bond again with another bird. Male Falconers bond most strongly with male falcons, though they can bond with females as well.7 This is fairly rare and almost never happened before the Turning.8 The Falconers were one of the first peoples brought through the Gates (Seakeep). It is assumed the Gate they were brought through was shut.
Though they could bond as well, female Falconers, until recently, have not been allowed to bond since it helped keep them passive. This was due to the interference of the Dark One Jonkara, who enslaved Falconer men through the women they cared for (causing the women to become extensions of herself). It may be possible that Jonkara was not truly of the Dark but a Great One called upon for vengeance.9
The books make it unclear exactly how human-like the intelligence of the Falconer falcons are. They are certainly able spies and can report by mind-send to their partners. The falcons apparently die if their partners die, and vice versa (though it is easier for the Falconers to resist death). A notable exception is in Songsmith where the falcon accompanying Alon lives well over a year after his Falconer partner dies.


Sorcerer's Notes:
Because the falconer Falcons may be at least as intelligent as their human partners they might rightfully be called another race.
Another unclear point is what, if any, relationship Volt may have had with the Falconer race. He seems to be of avian decent and could, possibly, have been the one to gate them in.

1. page 146, Annals of the Witch World specifically gives them reddish hair and brown-yellow eyes like their falcons. Other stories sometimes give them other colored hair or eyes. In Falcon Blood, Tanree describes Rivery's hair as dark, (looking black when wet), green eyes and paler skin than her Sulcar tan. In Ware Hawk Nirel the Falconer is described as having hair as dark as Tirtha's and a face not too far from that of the Old Race. He could possibly be mixed-blood. In Seakeep and Falcon Hope there are blue and silver eyes among the Falconers. Since they tend not to breed with outsiders variations in hair or eye color seems unlikely, though since the Turning it is more probable.
2. See Falcon Blood
3. However, several books and stories have the mountains between Estcarp and Karsten be uninhabitable.
4Seakeep and Falcon Hope
5. In Falcon Law the females are described as much larger than males and purely white. Though raptor females in real life do tend to be larger than raptor males, it seems odd the dichotomy would also include coloration - though this is also common in birds.
6. Except for in Falcon Magic it is unclear whether the lives of the falcons are extended to beyond normal falcon life spans. It seems more likely that a falcon would be given the life span of it's Falconer partner via Power, but it's also possible they just live a long time due to being well-treated and need to be replaced every so often.
7Falcon Hope
8. See: Falcon Law
9. See: Falcon's Chick & We the Women. In We, the Women it is further implied that the women of Arona's Womens' Village were descended from the same race as the men who later became the Were-Riders and that they were captured by the Falconers when the Falconers arrived in the Witch World.

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Formatted and Edited by Jay Watts ~ May, 2022

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