An annis, (pronounced: /ˈænnɪsÆN-nis[6] about this audio file listen) sometimes specified as an annis hag, was the most dreaded kind, spreading fear through fiction and ruling through it in reality.[7] The child-eating hags were the undisputed queens of barbarism,[7] combining the wicked cruelty of dark fey with the unbridled strength of evil giants.[1][4]

Be good, or the annis will get you.
— A parental warning in villages tormented by an annis[1]

Description[edit | edit source]

Annis hags were the most physically imposing of their race, standing 7 ft (2.1 m) at minimum[1][4] and sometimes towering over 8 ft (2.4 m) in height. Defying the stereotype of the withered crone, they were covered in musculature, although the nature of their builds varied. Some were described as lean and quick with long, lanky limbs but others were more akin to ogresses with gnarled muscles and jutting bones comprising their hulking frames.[4][7] Such annis hags, even with their hunched backs and humped shoulders, were still massive,[1] and known to weigh around 325 lb (147 kg).[2] Their stretched skin was covered in scars and blemishes, and they had a blue-black complexion as if their flesh had been deeply bruise.[7][1]

Vast talons, foul with human flesh, there grew
In place of hands, and her features livid blue,
Glared in her visage; whilst her obscene waist
Warm skins of human victims embraced.”
— John Heyrick, Leicestershire poet[7]

An annis hag's nails were not simply as sharp as blades, but were actually made of iron that magically grew like the keratin nails of normal humanoids. Normally they were 3 in (76 mm) long but often stylized by annis hags into long spirals that could inflict unnerving, circular wounds. They were naturally a glossy shade of black but like ordinary steel would oxidize over time, turning their shiny nails into rusted corkscrews.[7] Their sharpened teeth[3] were also metallic and their filthy hair had a similar luster.[2][4] Above an annis's dull, greenish-yellow eyes[5] were a pair of black, upward-arching horns barely longer than a human's thumbs. The nubs were seemingly vestigial, neither long enough to reach enemies or hardy enough to pierce them.[7]

An annis with a troll's hand grafted onto her own rises from the swamp with his former kin.

Prone to bodily modification, annis hags were known to deeply scar themselves and use grafts in order to augment their already grotesque features to make themselves even more terrifying. One was said to have chewed through their cheeks to etch a gangrenous grin on their faces and there rumors of an annis that stitched the members of her coven onto her back, trapping her flailing sisters in a semi-conscious state.[7] Normally they wore disheveled peasant's clothes but when needed they could use their illusory abilities to blend into other societies in a variety of ways. Their guises could range from wizened woman[1] to beautiful amazons in the form of tall humans, small giantesses, or ogres,[2] and even animals such as bears.[5]

Personality[edit | edit source]

While just as intelligent as the sly, seductive green hags, annis hags outmatched them and other hags in terms of both physical prowess and unwieldy egotism. By far the most conceited of hags, annis were also the most easily bribed with offers of magic and living prey. The source of their narcissism was their size and strength which to their twisted minds were to be considered virtues. They loved receiving recognition for such traits and so dominated powerful races of humanoid brutes, the stronger the better, who might hold similarly savage mentalities. They were also fiercely territorial, and might tear through entire settlements to destroy even minor threats to their reign.[7]

Just as annis hags were eager to subjugate the strong they delighted in dominating the weak, particularly other hags and striking fear into them.[7] Killing was a favorite activity alongside sowing suspicion and confusion and so they left signs of their terrifying activities on the outskirts of their territories.[1][8] Nothing brought an annis more joy than spreading dread and worried anger to a once healthy community, and leaving sinister signs wasn't their only method. One particularly vile tactic was to approach children unseen as kindly crones and slowly warp their sense of morality. What might start as vandalism and wandering off could turn into arson and reckless actions like pushing someone down stairs, until a frightened community was unenviably compelled to punish or exile them.[1]

Abilities[edit | edit source]

The flesh of an annis hag was comparable to leather armor with plate-mail durability, which combined with an annis's magical resistance, made them difficult to assail.[7][4] Cutting and piercing the skin was ineffective but as a result of their brittle bones, bludgeoning them was relatively easy.[8] In terms of offense, annis hags were reliant on their monstrous strength to crush their victims or their iron teeth and claws to rip and rend them.[1][3]

Annis hags were unbelievably durable

An annis's teeth and nails were also inherently magical, and if pulled out could be fashioned into small, iron tokens such as coins, rings or small mirrors. Afterwards, if within 10 miles of each other, her and the recipient could conduct whispered conversations only they could hear, a useful item for corrupting children. An annis could detect the approximate location of tokens but could only have three active at any one time, although she could near-instantly disable them from any distance and render them magically inert.[1]

Aside from her nails, the only inherent magical abilities of annis hags were those of disguise and the power to conjure cold clouds of dense fog.[7]

Combat[edit | edit source]

Those who would dismiss the strength-obsessed annis as simple savages would be making a fatal assumption. Despite being powerful and proud of it, annis hags shunned simple assaults, instead dividing and disorienting their enemies before battle in order to defeat otherwise dangerous opponents.[2][7] Before battle they disguised themselves as commoners to lower their victim's guard[2] or used the mist to sneak up on their targets.[7] They also used the fog clouds to bewilder resisting foes or delay dangerous attacks.[3]

In battle, an annis hag favored closing in and grappling, using the unbelievable strength behind their talons and teeth to sink into their victims and continuing to do so until they were dead.[3] The spiraling of their nails was neither a detriment or boon during combat but it was nonetheless disconcerting to see the deep wounds they left.[7] While they might train as barbarians or fighters they might also try to improve their natural magical talent as sorceresses.[7][8]

Society[edit | edit source]

Unlike most hags, who preferred clever minions rather than stupid goons, annis hags sought to put less intelligent beings under their thumb.[1] Similarly to how they might befriend children, they often adopted ogres, trolls, certain evil giants and other louts, acting as the verbally abusive matron of a potentially racially mixed community.[1][4] They ruled them through brute strength and superstition,[1] gaining information, companionship, security and better food, possibly the giants themselves, for the effort.[4][9] Even if not technically in charge, they sometimes took up the role of the chieftan's wife, ruling from behind the throne rather than atop it.[9]

A hag ritual being headed by an annis.

It was common both for annis hags to act alone or in coveys,[4] but rarely were their sisters treated with greater care than their other underlings. Annis hags established covens simply by physically overpowering weaker hags and maintained them through fear and force. Such tactics rarely wrung compliance from other annis hags which shared not only the brawn of their kin but the spitefulness and sense of superiority. The extremely rare covens with more than one annis hag were sustained only when the two were constantly wary and conniving towards each other or only had to form them temporarily, although they often ended with bloody backstabbing either way.[7]

Lair[edit | edit source]

Annis hags often took up residence in ruins and caverns, their presence marked by the signs of their leatherworking; they flayed children to make more supple skins. Within their lairs, more powerful annis hags, such as grandmas or aunties, could conjure caustic clouds of thick black smoke. The regions such hags occupied might also have more bizarre indicators of their presence, like small, random avalanches or the sourceless laughter of themselves or of children. Other signs included safe gravel paths suddenly becoming dangerously jagged for dozens of feet, or the presence of minor cairns, possibly housing bones, haunted by skeletons, specters or angry fey.[1]

Language[edit | edit source]

Annis hags spoke their own language as well as the typical giant tongue, the dialects of evil giants, Jogishk,[3] Sylvan and small fragments of Common.[1][4] More intelligent ones spoke Common more fluently and knew various other demihuman languages.[3]

Religion[edit | edit source]

Despite being incredibly prideful in their power, annis hags were the most likely of hags to acknowledge the superior power of others, especially when it was beneficial and if the beings in question might be sympathetic towards them. They were known to become clerics under savage gods of evil, as well request aid from hag powers such as Cegilune, Baba Yaga or the Hag Countess.[7]

Ecology[edit | edit source]

As the strongest of hags, annis hags typically resided in mountainous or hilly regions due to their easily scalable terrain.[1] They were also known to reside in cold, dark decaying places such as moors or marshes and would claim entire forests and swamps as their own.[7]

Their infravision was average but they were known to have above average perception of smell and sound. Despite such keen senses, they were so utterly rapacious that they would consume a stench kow, although they favored human flesh[3] and particularly that of children.[1]

Annis hags were said to live for 500 years,[3] although some claimed that hags could live longer than elves or even dragons.[1]

History[edit | edit source]

With their bruise-blue skin and enigmatic horns, some scholars believed that annis hags were in some way related to ogre mages. The same characteristics were also used to defend the idea that night hags were in some way related, although the idea that annis hags were their ancestors was widely debated.[7][4] Other theories postulated that the reverse was true, and that annis hags were the degenerate grandchildren of night hags and humans or demihumans. Those that suggested such an origin also claimed that the result of the union was the green hags, which bred with ogres and giants to create the magically deficient and shorter-lived annis, with even their language being a degraded version of one unique to night hags.[9]

Rumors and Legends[edit | edit source]

A wide variety of colloquial stories and old wives tales were told about annis hags, known by giants and other races alike. Hag history was difficult to trace due to their propensity towards lying and self-interested exaggeration, but one myth known by ogres and hill giants corroborated a certain legend. In it, annis hags were one of the first hags, alongside sea hags and green hags, to emerge after the hag goddess Cegilune, formerly a moon goddess, self-indulgently ignored her worshipers only for them to lose faith in her. The loss of worship cost Cegilune much of her power and all of her beauty, her anguished abandonment of her remaining followers twisting them with her hatred and transforming them into hags.[7]

Notable annis hags[edit | edit source]

Appendix[edit | edit source]

Appearances[edit | edit source]

Dungeon #29: "Nymph's Reward"Dragon+ #12, "The Barber of Silverymoon"Waterdeep: Dragon Heist
Referenced only
Hellgate Keep (adventure)
Card Games
Dragonfire (Moonshae Storms)

Further Reading[edit | edit source]

References[edit | edit source]

  1. 1.00 1.01 1.02 1.03 1.04 1.05 1.06 1.07 1.08 1.09 1.10 1.11 1.12 1.13 1.14 1.15 1.16 1.17 1.18 1.19 1.20 1.21 Mike Mearls, et al. (November 2016). Volo's Guide to Monsters. Edited by Jeremy Crawford, et al. (Wizards of the Coast), pp. 52–62.159. ISBN 978-0786966011.
  2. 2.0 2.1 2.2 2.3 2.4 2.5 2.6 2.7 2.8 2.9 Skip Williams, Jonathan Tweet, Monte Cook (July 2003). Monster Manual v.3.5. (Wizards of the Coast), p. 143. ISBN 0-7869-2893-X.
  3. 3.0 3.1 3.2 3.3 3.4 3.5 3.6 3.7 3.8 Doug Stewart (June 1993). Monstrous Manual. (TSR, Inc), pp. 181–182. ISBN 1-5607-6619-0.
  4. 4.00 4.01 4.02 4.03 4.04 4.05 4.06 4.07 4.08 4.09 4.10 4.11 Gary Gygax (August 1983). Monster Manual II 1st edition. (TSR, Inc), p. 9. ISBN 0-88038-031-4.
  5. 5.0 5.1 5.2 5.3 Jennell Jaquays (1988). The Savage Frontier. (TSR, Inc), p. 24. ISBN 0-88038-593-6.
  6. Frank Mentzer (January 1985). “Ay pronunseeAYshun gyd”. In Kim Mohan ed. Dragon #93 (TSR, Inc.), p. 25.
  7. 7.00 7.01 7.02 7.03 7.04 7.05 7.06 7.07 7.08 7.09 7.10 7.11 7.12 7.13 7.14 7.15 7.16 7.17 7.18 7.19 7.20 F. Wesley Schneider (July 2006). “The Ecology of the Annis”. In Erik Mona ed. Dragon #345 (Paizo Publishing, LLC), pp. 64–68.
  8. 8.0 8.1 8.2 Jennifer Clarke Wilkes, David Eckelberry, Rich Redman (February 2003). Savage Species. (Wizards of the Coast), p. 24. ISBN 0-7869-2648-1.
  9. 9.0 9.1 9.2 Nigel Findley (September 1987). “The Ecology of the Greenhag”. In Roger E. Moore ed. Dragon #125 (TSR, Inc.), pp. 10–12.
  10. Eric L. Boyd, Ed Greenwood, Christopher Lindsay, Sean K. Reynolds (June 2007). Expedition to Undermountain. Edited by Bill Slavicsek. (Wizards of the Coast), pp. 176–177. ISBN 978-0-7869-4157-5.
  11. Jeff Fairbourn (May/June 1991). “Nymph's Reward”. In Barbara G. Young ed. Dungeon #29 (TSR, Inc.), pp. 8–24.

Connections[edit | edit source]

AnnisBheurBog hagGreen hagHagspawnHannyaNight hagSea hagShrieking hagSilat
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