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"We beat an empire, my friend, the six of us, and we did it in large part because you didn't know any better than to trust your own instincts."
Marco to Jake[src]

The Beginning, published in May 2001 and written by K.A. Applegate, is the fifty-fourth and final book in the Animorphs series. It is narrated by all six members of the Animorphs.

Official Description

No one ever thought it would come to this. Jake, Rachel, Tobias, Cassie, Marco, and Ax know that even if they could have warned people in the beginning, no one would have believed their story. A story about an invasion of parasitic aliens. So, for all this time, Jake, the other Animorphs, and Ax have secretly fought a desperate battle. Secretly held the Yeerks at bay.

But those days are over.

It's come down to the final battle between the Yeerks and Animorphs. And no one knows who will win, lose, or live...

Plot summary

Continuing on immediately from The Answer, Rachel attacks the Yeerks in control of the Blade ship, and kills Tom, before dying at the hands of his Yeerk allies shortly after; the Ellimist briefly stops time to memorialize her death, tells his own story to her, and she dies. Tom's morph-capable Yeerks escape in the Blade Ship, abandoning the disabled Pool ship to the Animorphs. Visser One, realizing that he was defeated, leaves Alloran-Semitur-Corrass's body after being knocked unconscious by Ax. The remaining Animorphs, as well as Alloran (freed after nearly two decades under Esplin 9466's control over his body), contact the Andalite fleet, and after hours of negotiations, the Andalite fleet promotes Ax to rank of Prince, and declares the war over. The Animorphs attend Rachel's funeral, and Tobias flies away with Rachel's ashes.

54cast-475

Inside cover showing the faces of all six Animorphs.

The remainder of the book plays out over the course of three years after the war. Jake, Marco, and Cassie become instantly rich and famous, while Ax returns to the Andalite homeworld a hero. Surrendered Yeerks are allowed to choose an animal form in which to become a nothlit, and similarly Arbron's Taxxons are granted their wish and become nothlits anacondas or other big snakes, relocated to the Amazon Rainforest. Unable to morph out of his Taxxon form, Arbron is soon killed by poachers. The free Hork-Bajir colony is moved to Yellowstone National Park, and are protected by Toby Hamee and Cassie; while humans and Andalites develop an alliance, based mostly around Andalite access to human junk food. Marco embraces his new fame, and winds up becoming the self-proclaimed "spokesman" for the Animorphs, as well as a TV star; Cassie rises as an activist for the environment and the Hork-Bajir; however Jake adjusts less easily than they do to the new conditions and becomes depressed.

A year after the conclusion of the war, Esplin 9466 is put on trial in The Hague, Netherlands for war crimes and is found guilty. Jake has slumped into depression in the year since the war ended, having minimal contact with his friends and not morphing at all. During Jake's testimony at the trial, Esplin's defense lawyers attempt to discredit Jake by claiming that he is a war criminal for his actions, such as his emptying of the Pool ship that killed 17,372 Yeerks. Though this objection is overruled, Jake is deeply shaken by it, as he feels that it, along with many of his actions during the war, was immoral or mistaken. In a desperate bid to cheer Jake up, his friends capture him and dump him into the ocean, thinking that by forcing him into a dolphin morph (dolphins being naturally happy) they can cheer him up. Jake remains aloof however.

Two years after Esplin 9466's sentencing, Ax is charged with finding the Blade Ship. He notes that the military is being shrunk back, and that he easily has the most interesting assignment. The ship crew finds a mysterious DNA sample, a polar bear. Ax leads the investigation team. As First Officer Menderash-Postill-Fastill later recalls, the ship came alive and attacked. Menderash broke off from the ship, but they were then attacked by pirates. He is the sole survivor.

Meanwhile, Jake finally concedes and agrees to train some special ops teams to use the morphing power. After a few months of meetings, two Andalite officials approach him. Menderash relays Ax's story. Jake agrees to help. He approaches Cassie and Marco. Cassie is now a government official. With her boyfriend, Ronnie Chambers, she scouts out new areas for the Hork-Bajir to inhabit. Cassie offers to come, but Jake declines, saying that her role is over, and that she is doing what she wanted to do the most. He gets her to find Tobias, who has since shut himself away from the world, and has remained angry at Jake for Rachel's death. Marco agrees to come, but only after yelling at Jake, and telling him that he cannot undo his past mistakes, and that, just as during the war, they will only succeed if they follow his instincts, no matter how "crazy, reckless and ruthless." Jake selects two of his students (Santorelli and Jeanne Gerard} to come as well. They were picked because they have no close friends or relatives.

As the mission is top-secret and unauthorized, Jake and the others conduct a very elaborate plan. Marco knocks out two Andalites who are guarding a shuttle. They use the shuttle to take off and board a former Yeerk cruiser. Then they crash the shuttle into the ground. The official story would be that terrorists overpowered the Andalite guards but could not pilot the ship and crashed.

The ship is an elegant cruiser. Menderash, following an Andalite tradition, believes it bad luck to board the ship before it is named; after Tobias notes that it is "beautiful and dangerous and exciting," the group gives it the only fitting name, The Rachel. After several months in space, the Animorphs find the Blade Ship, only to discover that Ax has been assimilated into an entity only known as The One. The One threatens to consume the Animorphs, as it had done to Ax. Jake comments on Marco's earlier call to be "crazy, reckless and ruthless," and, with a smile that Marco notes makes him look like Rachel, orders them to ram the Blade ship.

Appearing

Featured Characters:

  • Jake (Final Appearance)
  • Rachel (Final Appearance) (Death)
  • Tobias (Final Appearance)
  • Cassie (Final Appearance)
  • Marco (Final Appearance)
  • Ax (Final Appearance)

Supporting Characters:

Villains:

Other Characters:

Locations:

Items:

Major/Highlighted Events

Present Day (2000)

  • Rachel, who is on the Blade ship in flea morph, demorphs and remorphs as grizzly bear, fighting Tom and his five morph-capable followers. The battle is observed by the other Animorphs and Esplin 9466 (Visser One) through the Pool ship's computer. Rachel bites down on Tom, who is in cobra morph, killing him and his Yeerk, and then proceeds to demorph. She turns towards the screen and notices the Animorphs watching her, with Tobias having morphed into his human form. She tells Tobias she loves him and is then killed by Tom's comrade, who is in polar bear morph. The five human-Controllers then flee Earth in the Blade ship.
  • The Controllers on the Pool ship surrender and agree to leave their hosts under the condition that they be given access to Kandrona rays as well as morphing powers, promising to become nothlits.
  • Esplin 9466 surrenders and leaves his host, freeing Alloran-Semitur-Corrass, his host body, who had been infested by the visser for over two decades.
  • Ax uses the Pool ship's communicators to contact the Andalite military fleet and informs them that the Yeerk forces on Earth have surrendered. Before Captain Prince Asculan-Semitur-Langor can reply, Marco notifies him that Ax is sharing their communication with the rest of the Andalite homeworld, meaning that Andalite civilians are currently patched in. Alloran suggests that the Animorphs disable the remaining engines and weapons on the Pool ship and turn it over to the Andalite fleet.
  • Ax is promoted from aristh to Prince and is given four morphing cubes to do with as he pleases.
  • The Andalite-Yeerk War, also known as the Human-Yeerk War, officially ends.
  • The surrendering Yeerks and the Taxxons are now nothlits while the resisting forces are killed.
  • The five remaining Animorphs arrive in Washington, D.C. and share their story to the news reporters and authorities, becoming worldwide celebrities.
  • The Blade ship jettisons Rachel's body into space, where it is found by Andalites and returned to Earth, where she is cremated, with the ashes taken by Tobias. Her funeral becomes a national ceremony, with the President of the United States in attendance.
  • It is revealed that the Animorphs' hometown is in California.

One Year Later (2001)

  • Marco is now a wealthy seventeen year old, with multiple cars and working as an actor and spokesperson, as well as having multiple brand deals and appearing as guest stars on various television and news shows.
  • Cassie has been designated "Undersecretary for the Interior of Resident Aliens" and works with Toby and the free Hork-Bajir, who are given Yellowstone Park as their new protected home, which gives a surge in tourism for the park.
  • Arbron and his Taxxons relocate to the Amazon Rainforest, where Arbron is killed by poachers; Arbron's Taxxons remains are sent to the Andalite homeworld, where he receives a memorial.
  • Wealthy and influential Andalites acquire human morphs and vacation to Earth, experiencing the sense of taste. Trades also occur between Andalites and humans, granting technology to Sony, Adobe, Microsoft and Nintendo and providing Boeing and Lockheed the tools to create a Z-space craft that will allows humans to become a spacefaring race.
  • Jake is idolized as a national hero and is coveted by various colleges, brand deals and government institutions, although Jake refuses, become withdrawn and depressed, living with his parents, who are now freed, and visiting Rachel's memorial at night, sitting there for hours and hoping for Tobias to show up. Additionally, he and Cassie are no longer together.
  • Marco, Cassie, Jake and Ax are called to testify against Esplin 9466, who is undergoing trial at the Hague in Netherlands, which is being televised worldwide. During Jake's testimony, Esplin's lawyer dubs Jake a war criminal for his actions during the war, which bothers Jake. The other three Animorphs knock Jake unconscious and dump him into the ocean, forcing Jake to morph into dolphin, hoping that the dolphin's natural joy would override Jake's depression, although it fails. As Jake rages, he explains that being branded a war criminal bothers him, and reveals that he relished flushing the 17,000 Yeerks into space, which, while understandable to Marco and Ax, causes Cassie to become further distant with him.
  • Esplin is sentenced to life in prison and is confined to a specially built prison in Kansas, where he receives Kandrona rays that allow him to survive.

Two Years Later (2003)

  • Ax, who is now the Captain of his own cruiser fleet (The Intrepid), is chasing the Blade ship through outer space. Ax prefers to be hands-on with the lower ranking crew members, as opposed to traditional Andalite military custom, and thus joins a boarding party to investigate a damaged spacecraft which has traces of Earth-based DNA. On the ship, a sample of polar bear DNA is found (the Controller who killed Rachel), although the ship, hiding the Blade ship, attacks. Ax and his crew are taken prisoner while the rest are killed, except for First Officer Menderash-Postill-Fastill. Menderash, accompanied by Prince Caysath-Winwall-Esgarrouth, make an unsanctioned visit to Earth to visit Jake, since Ax's last words were "Jake."
  • Jake is now employed for the Department of Defense, working as a morphing professor. The Andalites have allowed certain countries access to the Escafil Device under the condition that the cube remains under Andalite custody, and Jake is teaching a combat unit comprising of individuals from various countries.
  • The Andalites inform Jake that they cannot chase after Ax's fleet because he has been taken into Kelbrid space; the Andalites and the Kelbrid have a treaty, which prevents them from entering the other's domain, with Menderash becoming a human nothlit to avoid breaking the treaty.
  • Cassie is now dating Ronnie Chambers, an environmentalist six years older than him. Jake pays Cassie a visit, notifying her of Ax's predicament, in which Cassie realizes that Jake now resembles Rachel in both appearance and personality, with Jake unable to live without a war and Ax's predicament serving as a self-proclaimed lifeline. Jake demands to know Tobias' location, although he prevents Cassie from coming along, citing that she has done something good post-war, with her efforts involving the Hork-Bajir, and that she should remain on Earth.
  • Jake recruits Marco, Tobias and two of his students, Sergeant Santorelli and French officer Jeanne Gerard, since they have no families, and hijacks an Andalite ship on an unauthorized mission to save Ax.
  • The team steal a Yeerk cruiser-class ship, which Marco and Tobias christen The Rachel.
  • After over six months in space, the team come across a being known as The One, who has assimilated Ax and has subjugated the human-Controllers who were on the Blade ship. Jake orders the crew to ram the Blade ship, citing the decision to become reckless and ruthless, with Marco realizing that Jake has become very much like Rachel, as he is now reckless, ruthless and craves a war.

Morphs

Morpher Morphs Acquired Morphs Used
Jake -- Siberian Tiger, Bottlenose Dolphin, Peregrine Falcon, Wolf
Rachel -- Flea, Grizzly Bear
Tobias -- Human (himself), Andalite (Ax)
Cassie -- Wolf, Bottlenose Dolphin (Monica)
Marco Eagle Silverback Gorilla (Big Jim), Eagle, Bottlenose Dolphin, American Lobster (partially)
Ax -- Bottlenose Dolphin
Esplin 9466 -- --
Tom's Yeerk -- Cobra (through Tom's body)
Human-Controller #1 -- Leopard
Human-Controller #2 -- Lioness
Human-Controller #3 -- Lioness
Human-Controller #4 -- Polar Bear
Human-Controller #5 -- African Cape Buffalo
Arbron's Taxxons Anaconda and other various snakes Anaconda and other various snakes
Andalite Tourists Human Human
Menderash-Postill-Fastill Human Human (becomes trapped in morph)

Trivia

  • The outside cover quote is "It began with six. It will end with five...".
  • The inside cover quote is "It's the beginning of the end...".
  • This marks the ninth time that an Animorph is killed and the third and final time that Rachel is killed, following Elfangor's Secret and Back to Before; the fate of the other Animorphs, minus Cassie, are left ambiguous.
  • This is the eighth book where an Animorph travels somewhere on Earth outside of their hometown, with the surviving Animorphs, minus Tobias, traveling to The Hague in the Netherlands for Esplin 9466's trial.
  • This is the only book to have the 'Watch Animorphs on TV' logo on the back cover, instead of the front.
  • The surviving Taxxons are relocated to the Amazon Rainforest, where they are protected. In The Forgotten, Jake and Marco remarked that the rainforest would be a suitable home for the Taxxons.
  • The book ends with a letter to the fans penned by K.A. Applegate:
"I know, I know, it's rotten of me to leave you hanging at the end like that. But I figured the Animorphs should go out the same way they came in: Fighting. Well, here it is at long last: the final chapter in the Animorphs story. It began in the summer of 1996. It ends in the summer of 2001. Five years, 54 regular titles, 4 Chronicles, 5 Megamorphs and 2 Alternamorphs. An amazing number of you have read all those books. I am deeply grateful. I had a lot of fun writing these characters. I know it sounds pretentious to say that I'll miss them, but I will. It seems strange to think that I won't ever again write "My name is ..." It makes me a little sad to say good-bye to Andalites, Hork-Bajir, Chee, Taxxons, and even Yeerks. It was fun sitting down every day at my computer to invent that strange universe. There are a bunch of people to thank. (Hey, what is this, an Academy Awards speech?) First of all, Scholastic, in particular Jean Feiwel, Tonya Alicia Martin, and Craig Walker. Also the talented folks who created such great art for the series. And, of course, the people who never get mentioned but who are responsible for the crucial step from publisher to bookstore: the sales and marketing force. Mostly, I want to thank you guys, the readers. You praised, you complained, you extolled, you demanded, you asked questions that sometimes I couldn't answer. You told your friends, you started Web sites, you sent letters and e-mails, and wrote fan fiction. You pointed out every error I made. You were thoughtful and critical and imaginative. You were loyal. I want you all to know that it is my choice to end Animorphs. Much as I'll miss it, the time had come. Time to say good-bye, Jake. Good-bye, Cassie. You, too, Tobias and Marco and Ax. Goodbye, Rachel. And now would be the time for me to say good-bye to you ... but, I'm off to a new series called Remnants, and I'm hoping I'll see you over there, in that new universe. If not, thanks from the bottom of my heart for everything. If you're coming along on the next trip, grab onto something because we're going to start off by blowing up the entire world. Then the real trouble will start. You may now demorph."
  • All of the models for the Animorphs featured on the front and inside cover had been changed since the series began, mostly because the original kids had grown up and moved away to college. Only Cassie's model (Biko) remained close enough to still model for Animorphs. And of course Ax, who is actually just a cardboard cutout.
Rolling stones greatest hits hot rocks cover

The cover of Rolling Stones Greatest Hits Hot Rocks 1964-1971, which was the inspiration for this book's cover.

  • This is the only numerical book in the series that doesn't have the usual morph steps, going from their natural form to a kind of animal. Instead, the steps in this case go through all of the characters as a homage to the cover of The Rolling Stones' greatest hits Hot Rocks 1964-1971 album. Likewise, the page-flipping morphing animations featured at the bottom right-hand corner of every Animorphs book is also different in this one, as it goes through all the Animorphs one by one, fading away down to only Jake at the end.
  • ANIBASE: For all of you Lord of the Rings fans, here's an interesting comment from Katherine Applegate about what inspired her when creating the ending for her long-running series:
"I'd always known that Animorphs would end the way it did. I knew I wanted it to end with victory, but I also knew I didn't want a clean victory. I wanted more Lord of the Rings, less Star Wars in the ending. I always admired the way Tolkien gave his characters victory, but left them with a sadder, less exciting, less enchanting world in the end."
  • The letter at the end of the book confused many fans, as it mentioned that there were 5 Megamorphs made for Animorphs, whereas there were only 4 released at the time. Turns out that there really was a Megamorph #5 planned alongside with the release as #54, but it was scrapped near the end and the change had not been reflected onto K.A's letter. Jeff, from Morphz, passed on this explanation from K.A to the fans:
This is what K.A. told me about the cutting of Megamorphs #5 on October 17, 2000:
"Anyway, on to the saga of the missing MEGA. It's all about contracts, actually. I had signed a contract for 6 ANI long-form books, meaning Megas or Chrons. And I had, at a different point, signed a contract for the last bunch of regular-length ANI's. But the two contracts weren't synchronized, so the due dates of the long forms extended well out beyond the due dates of the regular-length books. Then I decided to pull the plug on the series, leaving Scholastic in something of a quandary as to 3 long-form books.
"One of the long books we agreed to make a series bible. Another one was going to be a 'whatever happened to . . .' kind of book to be published a year out in the future. And the third one would be a final Mega to be published (according to the regular schedule) at the same time as 53. Fine, but then I realized 53, 54 and the Mega were all going inevitably to be one, continuing storyline. So how do we get kids to realize Mega and 53 were in sequence when they were published at the same time? We then agreed to move Mega to run at the same time as 54, hoping that would clarify things. But Scholastic sales and marketing guys had different plans already in the works. And let me say that I love Scholastic sales and marketing, they have done very, very well for me.
"Anyway, I think (though I do not know) that sales was concerned that two ANI books in June would step on the release of REMNANTS at the same time. These plans are all made long, long in advance and involve all sorts of details and arrangements, and my messing with the sequence wasn't helping their lives any. So we all jointly decided to take BOTH the final Mega and the 'Whatever happened to . . .' books and add them to the REMNANTS contract.
"I am not personally at all upset. I think the finale is fine the way it's going, though I understand that some readers may have wanted one big, final MEGA. Still, I think they'll get some of that in 54."
  • Following intense backlash from readers regarding how the series ended, K.A. Applegate penned another letter to fans, this time in response to the criticism:[1]
Dear Animorphs Readers:
Quite a number of people seem to be annoyed by the final chapter in the Animorphs story. There are a lot of complaints that I let Rachel die. That I let Visser Three/One live. That Cassie and Jake broke up. That Tobias seems to have been reduced to unexpressed grief. That there was no grand, final fight-to-end-all-fights. That there was no happy celebration. And everyone is mad about the cliffhanger ending.
So I thought I'd respond.
Animorphs was always a war story. Wars don't end happily. Not ever. Often relationships that were central during war, dissolve during peace. Some people who were brave and fearless in war are unable to handle peace, feel disconnected and confused. Other times people in war make the move to peace very easily. Always people die in wars. And always people are left shattered by the loss of loved ones.
That's what happens, so that's what I wrote. Jake and Cassie were in love during the war, and end up going their seperate ways afterward. Jake, who was so brave and capable during the war is adrift during the peace. Marco and Ax, on the other hand, move easily past the war and even manage to use their experience to good effect. Rachel dies, and Tobias will never get over it. That doesn't by any means cover everything that happens in a war, but it's a start.
Here's what doesn't happen in war: there are no wondrous, climactic battles that leave the good guys standing tall and the bad guys lying in the dirt. Life isn't a World Wrestling Federation Smackdown. Even the people who win a war, who survive and come out the other side with the conviction that they have done something brave and necessary, don't do a lot of celebrating. There's very little chanting of 'we're number one' among people who've personally experienced war.
I'm just a writer, and my main goal was always to entertain. But I've never let Animorphs turn into just another painless video game version of war, and I wasn't going to do it at the end. I've spent 60 books telling a strange, fanciful war story, sometimes very seriously, sometimes more tongue-in-cheek. I've written a lot of action and a lot of humor and a lot of sheer nonsense. But I have also, again and again, challenged readers to think about what they were reading. To think about the right and wrong, not just the who-beat-who. And to tell you the truth I'm a little shocked that so many readers seemed to believe I'd wrap it all up with a lot of high-fiving and backslapping. Wars very often end, sad to say, just as ours did: with a nearly seamless transition to another war.
So, you don't like the way our little fictional war came out? You don't like Rachel dead and Tobias shattered and Jake guilt-ridden? You don't like that one war simply led to another? Fine. Pretty soon you'll all be of voting age, and of draft age. So when someone proposes a war, remember that even the most necessary wars, even the rare wars where the lines of good and evil are clear and clean, end with a lot of people dead, a lot of people crippled, and a lot of orphans, widows and grieving parents.
If you're mad at me because that's what you have to take away from Animorphs, too bad. I couldn't have written it any other way and remained true to the respect I have always felt for Animorphs readers.

Goofs/Inconsistencies

  • Rachel is able to hear verbal communication while in flea morph, despite numerous previous book stating that fleas are unable to do so. However, this is lampshaded with Rachel instantly explaining that with practice, one can learn to do so, although this is the first time it is mentioned.
  • Rachel described Jake's tiger morph as a Bengal tiger on p11, despite the fact that it is a Siberian tiger.
  • On p21, it is said that Tom's Yeerk screamed through Tom's mouth at Jake; however, Tom's body is currently in a cobra morph, and therefore Tom's Yeerk, while capable of using Tom's 'voice' through thought-speak, is unable to use Tom's mouth to communicate.
  • Toby's lines are written on p25 and p27 as if she is using thought-speak.
  • Jake's response about Ax's ship on p107 is written as if he using thought-speak, although he is not in morph.
  • Cassie remarks on p117 that Jake has never called her 'Cass' for short, although he did so once in The Encounter, on p27.
  • Jeanne Gerard is said to be a member of the French Deuxième Bureau, a French intelligence agency. However, the Deuxième Bureau became defunct in 1940.
  • In her letter to the fans added at the end of the book, K.A. Applegate states that there are five Megamorphs books, although only four were released. This is because a fifth Megamorphs book was planned, albeit scrapped.

Gallery

US images

International Covers

References

  1. KAA's Response
Books
Main Series #1 The Invasion | #2 The Visitor | #3 The Encounter | #4 The Message | #5 The Predator | #6 The Capture | #7 The Stranger | #8 The Alien | #9 The Secret | #10 The Android | #11 The Forgotten | #12 The Reaction | #13 The Change | #14 The Unknown | #15 The Escape | #16 The Warning | #17 The Underground | #18 The Decision | #19 The Departure | #20 The Discovery | #21 The Threat | #22 The Solution | #23 The Pretender | #24 The Suspicion | #25 The Extreme | #26 The Attack | #27 The Exposed | #28 The Experiment | #29 The Sickness | #30 The Reunion | #31 The Conspiracy | #32 The Separation | #33 The Illusion | #34 The Prophecy | #35 The Proposal | #36 The Mutation | #37 The Weakness | #38 The Arrival | #39 The Hidden | #40 The Other | #41 The Familiar | #42 The Journey | #43 The Test | #44 The Unexpected | #45 The Revelation | #46 The Deception | #47 The Resistance | #48 The Return | #49 The Diversion | #50 The Ultimate | #51 The Absolute | #52 The Sacrifice | #53 The Answer | #54 The Beginning
Megamorphs The Andalite's Gift | In the Time of Dinosaurs | Elfangor's Secret | Back to Before
Chronicles The Andalite Chronicles | The Hork-Bajir Chronicles | VISSER | The Ellimist Chronicles
Alternamorphs The First Journey | The Next Passage
TV Tie-Ins Meet the Stars of Animorphs