To begin with, we must stress that the Fylja (pronounced FILE-jah) are creatures of story, myth and legend, though there are those in Sarvonia who will swear they exist. With apologies to such believers, we of the Compendium have made it our task to seek out and publish truth wherever and however we find it, and in the interests of bringing education to our readers, we give all that we have been able to establish about the Fylja – as a creation of fiction. You are doubtless aware that Fylja are supposed to be furred shapechangers – intelligent folk who have not only a human shape but a beast one, and can take either at will. We have all heard the nursery tales of the Fylja Boar who eats up babes who stray afield, or the Northern barbarian’s legend of the White Bear. Many other tales and stories of the Fylja exist, some giving them generosity and kindness to the humans they meet, others making them savagely bestial. For further reading, we refer you to Master Tribell, whose wonderfully atypical story of "The Fylja of the Forest" is quoted below in full.
Fylja vary in appearance as they take the form of various beasts. Most
frequently mentioned are the shir, the boar,
the bear, and some type of feline such as the
pard or herin. However, bird forms such
as the hraven (jav'veir) and corbie,
or the toran eagle, have also been
named as Fylja. In their beast form, they are indistinguishable from an ordinary
animal, save for the uncanny brightness and focus of their eyes. They will stare
at a person and meet their gaze as no real beast would ever do. They also retain
their intelligence and are thus portrayed as cunning thieves, dangerous
adversaries, and excellent trackers.
In their human shape, though, they are said to have certain characteristics by which one may remark them. They are often strikingly-haired, not only of head or face, but also of body. Fine hairs may grow on their extremities: on the tops of the feet (though not the luxuriantly curly growth of a hobbit), the backs of the hands, and, some say, in tufts between the toes and fingers. The ears point somewhat more than a human’s, both upward as in a maelf (half-elf) and outward as some gnomish ears do. The philtrum, or cleft between upper lip and nose, is often strongly demarcated, even to the point of being darker like a cat’s muzzle. A Fylja’s eyes are also striking, usually mentioned as ‘green’ or ‘golden’, though sometimes a dark amber, or even ‘turkoise’.
Some stories say that they have tails even in human form which they must conceal under long skirts or baggy trews, while others do not mention this detail.
Territory. Tales of Fylja seem to come almost exclusively from the more northern areas of Sarvonia. Two centers of ‘activity’ are usually identified; the Shaded Forest in the lands of the Kuglimz, and the Icelands along the far northeast coast.
Habitat/Behaviour. Fylja frequent the wildest and least-used places of a country, particularly forested areas. Tales have them either ripping apart foolish lost travelers in dramatic transformation scenes, or guiding them anonymously back to safety (then vanishing as a beast at the last moment). There is a certain ambiguity to all these tales which matches the very character of the Fylja themselves – perhaps an examination of our own human strengths and weaknesses, which we would like to match with the best and worst of the beasts’ world? Pardon our scholarly digression; stories are as revealing of the teller’s heart as they are of his society and culture.
The Furred Folk also supposedly move among us, going into villages in man or woman-shape to obtain things they desire. Sometimes they barter rare roots and berries for cloth, or jewelry, or wrought metal, though the taletellers never detail what Fylja might want with such things. Female Fylja, like the dor’en and magpie, are said to covet bright sparkling objects without regard to their worth and will trade anything for a cheap necklace – but those sorts of stories we are not documenting at present.
Fylja, when shown as eating or drinking, partake of human foods or wild meats alike. They are at ease with bread, roast taenish, and ale, or with a raw haunch of deer and water lapped from a mountain spring. Again, many a story enjoys making this contrast.
Myth/Lore. Many a tale is told about the mysterious creatures of the Fyljas, but let us look into a local inn, where we have Master Tribell himself as guest:
The Fylja of the Forest. You are well
come to our hearth, friends and neighbors and guests of the inn! We are
favoured this night, though the weather is rough and stormy. Meda has
built the fire high, and there’s plenty of ale in the tap, so finish off
your farmer’s stew and draw round.
Information provided by Bard Judith