This article is written from a Real World point of view.

The Encounter, published in August 1996 and written by K. A. Applegate, is the third book in the Animorphs series. It is the first book narrated by Tobias.


Official Description

When Tobias, Jake, Rachel, Marco and Cassie were given the ability to morph, they were also given one very important warning: Never stay in a morph for more than two hours. But Tobias stayed in his morph for too long. Now he's a hawk -- with a boy's mind -- forever.

And he's starting to forget what he looked like. He's losing control, and wants to give in to the hawk brain inside him. Tobias knows he can't give up, but he's spotted a rat down below. He turns in midair and plummets down to the earth. He's focused. He's determined. He strikes...

Plot Summary

Tobias is out flying one afternoon where he divebombs down so he can liberate a female red-tailed hawk that was kept in a cage, where it's being used as a mascot called "Price-Cut Polly" in advertisements for a used car dealership. The dealer was starting a commercial when Tobias comes and grabs the cage and uses his beak to turn the combination, but people, including a mechanic with a wrench try to shoo Tobias away. Fortunately, Rachel had come to help, she was in her elephant morph and started stomping and crushing cars. Tobias finally unlocks the cage and frees the hawk just as they hear police sirens. They head for the woods behind the dealership so Rachel can demorph.

Animorphs encounter book 3 inside cover high res

The first-page illustration from The Encounter, showing Tobias, now as a red-tailed hawk, perched on a tree in a mountainous region.

Later that evening, Tobias is flying and sees a shimmering in the air, which perplexes him. He decides to check it out again the next day at the same time, and this time, he notices a flock of geese seemingly run into an invisible wall in the air. Tobias suspects the anomaly to be a Yeerk ship using a cloaking device to hide itself and tells the others about it. The group morphs into wolves to follow the last known direction of the ship into the mountains. They arrive at a lake that's heavily guarded by human and Hork-Bajir-Controllers. The ship decloaks over the lake, revealing itself to be a massive manta-ray shaped ship that collects water and air for the Yeerk Pool ship in orbit. Tobias also sees the hawk that he and Rachel freed, and has an urge to be with her.

As the Animorphs head back, they're confronted by a real pack of wolves, and they were about to get into a battle over territory and a dead rabbit. Tobias divebombs and takes the rabbit away while the Animorphs run for it. As Tobias gains altitude for a time reading, he panics to see that the morph time for the others was up and he yells to them to demorph right away. Jake, Rachel, and Marco are stuck midway through morph, but Cassie gets them out of morph. They laugh with relief, though Tobias is happy, he doesn't want to be there and he flies off. Later that night, Tobias flies to Rachel's room, where he talks with, telling her that he's starting to forget himself, but she tells him that he is still the same on the inside, not the outside.

Rachel gymnastics tobias the encounter japanese illustration

Tobias interrupting Rachel's gymnastics exhibition at the mall.

The next day, they make plans to return to the mountains and morph into fish in the lake so that they get sucked up by the "Truck ship" that they call, and disable it from the inside and even show it to the world. Tobias heads up to the lake again to scope out potential hiding places, but his hawk instincts overpower him on the way and he kills and eats a rat. Greatly disturbed by the experience, he flies to Rachel's gymnastics exhibition at the mall. He flies around the mall in a panicked state until Marco smashes open a skylight for him to escape. Tobias then regresses into his hawk instincts for several days, living in the woods and hunting rodents. His human side only re-emerges when he sees an old man running from a Hork-Bajir near the mountain lake, and helps him escape. He returns to Rachel to talk about what happened, and he decides that he needs to keep fighting the Yeerks to remain human. The Animorphs revisit the lake and hide in an old bear cave until the Yeerks arrive. They spend a lot of time fishing in order to acquire and morph into trout. Once they are finished, Tobias carries them one-by-one to the lake to avoid notice by the Yeerks, who have the area locked down. The others are successfully sucked up into the ship, but they discover that the water tank is sealed off inside; they are trapped.
Tobias carrying trout the encounter japanese illustration

Tobias carrying one of the Animorphs, morphed as trout, from the cave to the lake.

They communicate this information to Tobias and ask him to bring the ship down if possible. Meanwhile, Tobias is spotted by Visser Three and is identified as an "Andalite bandit." To avoid attacks from the Blade ship the Bug fighters and helicopters, he lands on the Truck ship, the one place he can be sure the Yeerks won't risk firing. A Taxxon emerges out onto the deck to kill him, but Tobias kills it and takes its Dracon beam. He struggles up to the front, where he fires the beam at the ship's bridge, and causes it to fly out of control and crash into a Bug fighter. A large gash is torn in the side of the ship, and the other Animorphs come pouring out with the water that had been collected. They quickly morph into their bird of prey morphs and try to escape, but the Blade ship follows them. Tobias again sees the female hawk, but the Yeerks, mistaking her for him, fire a Dracon beam, killing her. They escape and having destroyed the Truck ship, but the Yeerks are able to cover it up.

Tobias feels distressed over the death of the female hawk, but realizes that this emotion is what makes him human, because a true hawk would not have cared if another hawk had died. Tobias discusses this with Rachel, and begins to accept his newly found balance between being a hawk and a being a human.


Featured Characters:


Other Characters:




Morpher Morphs acquired Morphs used
Jake Alpha Male Wolf, Trout Alpha Male Wolf, Trout, Peregrine Falcon
Rachel Female Wolf, Trout African Elephant, Female Wolf, Trout, Bald Eagle
Cassie Female Wolf, Trout Female Wolf, Trout, Osprey
Marco Female Wolf, Trout Female Wolf, Trout, Osprey


  • The front cover quote is "Now you see them. Now you don't...".
  • The inside front cover quote is, "It's a bird. It's a plane. It's Tobias....". which is an obvious direct reference to Superman's famous tagline.
  • The UK front cover quote is "I'm forgetting what it's like to be human...", most likely because the story centers around Tobias and his fear of losing his humanity.
  • The summary on the back cover is different from the Official Description (which was found on the scholastic animorphs web site). This difference is found for a few of the earlier books.
  • K.A. Applegate dedicated this book to the Raptor Center of the University of Minnesota, where she learned about how hawks live and act. This dedication takes place on an entirely separate page, right after the page dedicated "To Michael".
  • The very first printing of the book had the credit "©MATTINGLY 1995" on the lower right of the front cover. By the second printing and for subsequent printings, this credit was removed (see picture in gallery). Possibly this was because The Encounter was the first Animorphs cover created by David Mattingly, who would design the covers for the rest of the numbered books of the series and the Megamorphs books. For books after The Encounter, David Mattingly is credited on the copyright page as "Cover illustration by David B. Mattingly", not on the cover.
  • For the first several printings, the cover had the Animorphs logo with a white background, and the title and author text in yellow. For later printings, the Animorphs logo background and the title and author text were silver. This basic pattern is repeated for the first 10 or so books, which had the Animorphs logo with a white background in earlier printings, and a more colorful or shiny background in later printings.
  • This is the first book in which the cover art does not depict a morph acquired in the book, as Tobias had already acquired and morphed into his iconic Red-Tailed Hawk form back in Book 1 The Invasion.
  • One of the most common questions asked by fans when this book came out was, "Is that Jake on the cover?" Nope, it sure isn't. When the model was hired to portray Tobias, he had blond hair, just as the character was described in the books. But then the model showed up at the photo shoot with brown hair! Since he was already under contract, he had to be used, and K.A. started writing that Tobias had dirty blond hair to compensate.
  • ANIBASE:  K.A. on why she chose a red-tailed hawk morph for Tobias to be trapped in:
"Tobias' form was chosen because red-tails are among the most common hawks in the US. I liked thinking that kids driving with their folks across Kansas or wherever would daydream that they were seeing Tobias. Probably should have made him a turkey buzzard, they're so ubiquitous. I knew right from the start I would trap Tobias in morph, by the way, never a doubt. Had to be. I knew it would drive some readers crazy, but I also knew they'd want to know more."


1996 Original Release - US Images

1996 Original Release - International Covers

Original Release: International Back Covers

2011 Re-release Gallery

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

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