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"I was just going to end this right now. I would hit the glass at full speed and maybe that would awaken me from this nightmare. [...] I didn't care. I wanted to hit something. I wanted to wake up. I wanted to fall to the ground because my wings had disappeared and been replaced by clumsy legs and flailing arms. I wanted to be me again."

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


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...

When Tobias, Jake, Rachel, Marco, and Cassie were given the ability to morph, they were also given one very important warning: Never stay in morph for more than two hours. It seemed a small price to pay, since the kids know that humans everywhere are being forced to let slimy, spineless creatures creep into their brains. And when the only way the kids can fight back is not to be human.

But Tobias stayed in his morph too long. And now he's a hawk — with a boy's mind — forever. Tobias knows they can't give up. That they all made a promise. So now it's four kids and a hawk against a force that is determined to destroy them. Or die trying...

When Tobias and his friends were given the power to morph, they were also given an important warning: Never stay in a morph for more than two hours. But Tobias broke the time limit, and now he's trapped in the body of a hawk—forever.

Tobias won't give up, though. They all made a promise to fight. So when he discovers an important Yeerk secret, he knows he has to do everything in his power to destroy it. But to do so, Tobias will have to contend with a part of himself that's wrestling for control. A part that isn't human.


On a Saturday, Tobias is flying above the Dealin' Dan Hawke's Used Cars dealership, where he notices that a live commercial is about to begin. He watches as Dealin' Dan Hawke opens the cage door to his captive red-tailed hawk, whom he named Price-Cut Polly and uses as a mascot for his business. Tobias has formulated a plan to free Price-Cut Polly, as he disagreed with keeping hawks locked in cages. As the commercial begins filming, Tobias dives from the sky and lands on the cage, inputting the combination that he saw Dealin' Dan Hawke input earlier. A handful of the employees try to attack Tobias, although Rachel, who is also participating in this mission and has morphed into an African elephant, distracts the men by stomping on the cars on the lot. With their attention diverted, Tobias successfully opens the cage, and Price-Cut Polly escapes and flies away. As they hear sirens, Tobias and Rachel make their way to the small patch of woods behind the dealership, where Rachel demorphs and takes the bus back home.

Tobias then heads Downtown where he feels a moving object above him that speeds away from him, although Tobias is able to tell that it came from the mountains. Tobias then flies to Rachel's house just as she gets off the bus, and flies into her window as she makes her way to her room, where Jake, Marco and Cassie are waiting. The three of them, who had seen the live commercial, berate them for using their powers to free a bird and for during so during a live taping that Controllers probably watched. They quickly settle their argument and their conversation turns jovial before they all leave, and Tobias spends his evening flying.

The next day, Tobias spends his Sunday flying when he feels the disturbance above him once more; he then watches as the object flies into a flock of geese, killing and crippling most of them. As the bodies of the geese strike the object, it reveals itself to be a cloaked Yeerk ship, and Tobias is able to discern that it is headed towards the mountains. Tobias then gathers the other Animorphs at the Wildlife Rehabilitation Clinic at Cassie's farm and informs them about the Yeerk ship that comes and goes from the mountains. The Animorphs then decide to head to the mountains tomorrow after school.

Animorphs encounter book 3 inside cover high res

Tobias in the forest near the mountains

On Monday, the Animorphs gather at the clinic once school lets out. However, due to their worry that bird-watchers will notice their assortment of bird-of-prey morphs, the four morph-capable Animorphs decide to use wolf morphs to run through the forest to reach the mountains, acquiring the pair of wolves that are patients at the clinic; Jake acquires the male while Rachel, Cassie and Marco acquire the female wolf, as Cassie believes that wolf packs have a hierarchy where there can only be one alpha male. Entering the national forest as it borders Cassie's farm, the four morph into wolves and run to the mountains. Tobias flies off from the group to perform reconnaissance and notices Park Rangers who are Controllers patrolling the forest with machine guns, taking away civilians who are in the area, while a Park Service helicopter drops off Hork-Bajir-Controllers around a lake. Tobias then flies back and gets into an altercation with a wild wolf pack before regrouping with his friends, whom he relays his newfound information to.

Red-Tailed Hawk

Tobias by the lake

The Animorphs then make their way to the lake, where they observe the Controllers and notice the flying ship land on the water, where it uncloaks itself and extends pipes into the lake to drain the water. The Animorphs remark air intake valves as well and dub the ship as the Truck ship, designed to obtain oxygen and water and bring it to the Yeerk mother ship in orbit. Tobias spots Price-Cut Polly flying above him, realizing that she has established a territory around the lake. He flies up to her, but is repulsed by the mating instincts occurring within his hawk body and mind. He then flies back towards the forest and spots the others in a face off against the rival wolf pack. Tobias breaks up the altercation by redirecting the attention of the rival wolves, allowing his friends to escape. He then spots a clock and is horrified when he registers that that his friends have gone over the two-hour limit by seven minutes.

Tobias makes his way back and yells at his friends to demorph since their time has run out, although he chooses not to reveal that they have gone over the limit. The Animorphs struggle to demorph, but they are eventually able to resume their human form. As they rejoice over being able to avoid being trapped in morph, Tobias begins to feel the weight of never being able to be human and flies away from the group. That night, Tobias returns to the attic of Jake's house, where he is sleeps and eats dinner that Jake leaves in Rubbermaid containers, although Tobias cannot eat most of it. Tobias is able to suppress the urge to hunt and flies out to see Rachel. Entering through her bedroom window, the two share a conversation, where Rachel apologizes for their insensitive rejoicing. Tobias speaks to her about the pull he feels towards Price-Cut Polly and how he forgot what his human form looked like. Rachel then shows him a photo she has of his human self, and Tobias eventually returns back to Jake's attic.

The following day, on Tuesday, the Animorphs hold a meeting in Jake's room after school, where they decide to uncloak the Truck ship when it flies above the city, believing that uncloaking it will reveal the existence of extraterrestrials to humanity and will cause the authorities to start fighting the Yeerks. They form a plan to enter the lake in fish morph and get sucked up by the Truck ship's pipes, which will allow them to enter the ship, after which they can seize the ship. Rachel then leaves to go to the mall, where she will be participating in an exhibition for her gymnastics class, which Marco informs he will be attending.

Tobias then leaves to resume flying, and spots a rat in a meadow. Before he can stop himself, he flies down, kills the rat and takes a bite. Horrified at his actions, Tobias panicks and takes to the sky, deciding to see Rachel. However, as he arrives above the mall, he decides to end his life and dives towards the glass doors, although a shopper opens the door, causing Tobias to then enter the mall. Tobias then navigates the mall and flies above where Rachel has just begun her routine. After trying to hit a wall, he yells to Rachel that he has lost himself and has killed an animal before deciding to fly towards the skylight and end his life. His attempt is thwarted once more when Marco, who is on the second floor of the mall, tosses a baseball at the skylight to shatter it, allowing Tobias to survive and escape. Tobias then surrenders mental control of his body to the hawk.

Tobias spends the next few days living in the wild as a true red-tailed hawk, establishing his own territory in the meadow where he killed the rat and spending his days hunting prey for food. On Friday, thinking of Price-Cut Polly, Tobias flies to the mountain lake and spots her. He then watches as a man is being chased by a Hork-Bajir-Controller, the sight of which restores his human consciousness. Now back in control, Tobias gouges the Hork-Bajir's eyes and uses his thought-speak to guide the man into successfully escaping. He then flies to Rachel's house; while she is glad to see him alive, she berates him for disappearing on them after the incident at the mall, which caused them to believe he was dead. Tobias declares that he will continue fighting the Yeerks since he understands what it is like to be trapped in a body, a sentiment that humans who are infested by the Yeerks also feel.

The next morning, on Saturday, the Animorphs reconvene and travel to the lake, where they spend hours fishing before Cassie successfully catches a trout that they acquire. Just then, the Park Ranger Controllers arrive. As the Truck ship lands, it is guarded by four Bug fighters as well as the Blade ship, from which Visser Three and numerous Hork-Bajir-Controllers emerge from. Tobias informs the others about Visser Three's arrival; due to the additional security patrolling the lake, the Animorphs realize that their plan to enter the lake and morph into fish is now impossible. Cassie then suggests morphing into trout while on land and having Tobias pick them up and drop them into the lake, which Tobias does one by one until all four of them are deposited into the lake. Tobias is spotted by a Hork-Bajir-Controller, who accidentally shoots at the Truck ship while trying to kill Tobias. The Hork-Bajir-Controller is then killed by Visser Three, although a suspicious bird being in the area plus the bird from the day before who attacked the Hork-Bajir-Controller makes Visser Three realize that the hawk above them is an Andalite bandit in morph.

Realizing that the Yeerks are afraid to shoot at the Truck ship due to the brutal death the Hork-Bajir-Controller just received, Tobias lands on the Truck ship for protection. Rachel then thought-speaks to Tobias, notifying him that the four of them are trapped in the water tank and have no way to enter the actual ship. The four other Animorphs have resolved to enter battle morphs once the Truck ship docks with the mother ship, although they do not wish to be taken alive; as a result, Rachel asks him if he can find a way to destroy the Truck ship so that it kills them. Tobias then tries to tell her that he has feelings for her, but Rachel interrupts him and tells him that she knows.

As Taxxons begin to crawl onto the surface on the Truck ship, Tobias attacks one of them and steals their Dracon beam. Tobias then flies to the front of the ship and squeezes the trigger, using the Dracon beam to destroy the ship's controls. The Truck ship begins to careen and collides with both a helicopter and a Bug fighter, the latter of which hits the side of the water tank and explodes. This creates a huge hole in the water tank; as the water rushes out like a waterfall, the other four Animorphs tumble out, although they are able to rapidly morph into birds-of-prey in seconds and survive. As the Truck ship crashes onto the ground, it creates a shockwave that causes the nearby animals to flee. Price-Cut Polly exits the forest and flies into the sky, where she is shot by a Dracon beam due to the Yeerks assuming she is Tobias. Her wing is then disintegrated, causing her to fall onto the ground below.

The Yeerks destroy the remnants of the Truck ship to hide their evidence as the Animorphs escape. The next day, Tobias goes to Rachel's house and speaks to her, where Rachel offers to help him find Price-Cut Polly, although Tobias refuses, mentioning that she will be found by another animal who will then eat her, citing that it is the way life works. Rachel replies that life only works that way for wild animals and not for humans, and Tobias responds that he is both hawk and human before flying back out to spend the day flying.




Other Characters:





Major/Highlighted Events

  • Tobias is revealed to be living in Jake's attic, with Jake feeding him leftovers from his dinner. Jake, on Tobias' behalf, has sent messages to Tobias' aunt and uncle to convince them that he is living with the other permanently. A few weeks have passed since he has been trapped in morph, and he attempts to maintain his humanity and repress the hawk mind, which includes feeling mating instincts for Price-Cut Polly. However, after giving in to the hawk's hunger, causing him to kill and eat a rat, Tobias attempts to commit suicide by flying into a mall's glass skylight, although Marco manages to shatter the skylight with a baseball to save his life.
    • As Tobias flies through the shattered skylight, he surrenders himself to the hawk mind and lives the next few days in a meadow, creating a nest and feasting on prey, although the sight of a man being chased by a Hork-Bajir-Controller restores his human sense of self.
  • The Animorphs begin to use the Wildlife Rehabilitation Clinic as their meeting spot for the first time.
  • The group, minus Tobias, morph into wolves and go seven minutes over the two-hour time limit. They manage to demorph, although not without considerable difficulty, thus revealing that the two-hour limit is not exactly 120 minutes.
  • Despite the morphing process usually taking minutes, the Animorphs are able to morph into birds within seconds when they fall out of the Truck ship, further exemplifying that the time needed to morph can be sped up through sheer will in life-and-death situations.
  • Tobias realizes that the feeling he has of being trapped in a body is the same way someone infested by a Yeerk feels; however, unlike him, a host body can be freed. Tobias decides he wants to free these host bodies, giving him his personal reason to keep fighting in the war.
  • Tobias and Rachel's relationship is explored a bit further, with the first indication given that Tobias has feelings for Rachel. While Rachel did show signs of affection towards him in The Invasion, it is revealed that Rachel build a birdhouse outside her window for Tobias to land on, as she often invites Tobias to fly into her room late at night. She also reveals that she has a photo of Tobias as a human in her drawer, telling Tobias that he looked much better in real life than the picture depicted. She also hugs Tobias and caresses his crest, a sensation Tobias describes as "pleasurable". When Rachel believes and that she and the other Animorphs are going to die, Tobias tries to bring up that he never told her how he felt about her, only for Rachel to interrupt and state that she already knew.


Morpher Morphs acquired Morphs used
Jake Wolf, Trout Wolf, Trout, Peregrine Falcon
Rachel Wolf, Trout African Elephant, Wolf, Trout, Bald Eagle
Cassie Wolf, Trout Wolf, Trout, Osprey
Marco Wolf, Trout 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.
  • This book takes place a few weeks after the first book, although Tobias mentions that it has not been a month yet.
  • This book marks the first time David Mattingly did the cover art.
  • This marks the first time one of the Animorphs use thought-speak to communicate with someone outside of their group, in this instance, Tobias using it to guide an innocent bystander out of the Yeerks' path.
  • Unlike the first two books, which were written as if the characters were writing down events that had already happened in their past in some form of journal, this book presents the events as occurring in the present, while retaining a first person narrative style. This style is kept for the remainder of the series until the penultimate book, which briefly mentions the notion of transcribing the events.
  • 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 The Invasion.
  • This is also the first book where the narrator does not acquire a morph, but another character does.
  • The Wildlife Rehabilitation Clinic is referred to as the Wildlife Rehabilitation Center in this book. It was referred to as "Clinic" in the first two books. The series would go on to use both terms interchangeably, although Clinic was not only used the most, but is the official name of the business. The 2011 reprint fixes this and correctly uses the word "Clinic".
  • Rachel states that one of Marco's favorite words is "insane", which would go on to become his go-to word in the series, often used right before a mission or any other dangerous situation. Ironically, Rachel uses "insane" prior to a mission in this book while Marco is the one who says "Let's do it!", the latter of which would go on to become Rachel's catchphrase and something she would almost always utter prior to a mission.
  • In this book, Jake refers to Cassie as "Cass", although he only says it once. This is also the only time he ever shortens her name in the entire series until the final book, where he calls her "Cass" for a second and final time.
  • In this book, Tobias states that the term Controller refers to someone who has a Yeerk in their head, whereas in the previous book, Rachel said that the term Controller referred to the Yeerk who controlled a host body.
  • 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 subsequent printings, this credit was removed. In subsequent books, David Mattingly is credited on the copyright page as "Cover illustration by David B. Mattingly" instead of on the cover.
  • ANIBASE: 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."


  • Dealin' Dan Hawke is doing a live commercial for thousands of people using a caged red-tailed hawk as a mascot. In reality, the commercial would not be aired live. Additionally, keeping red-tailed hawks in captivity to use as a mascot is illegal. The graphic novel addresses this by having reporters mention Dan Hawke's illegal captivity of Price-Cut Polly.
  • When deciding to morph into wolves, Jake is the only one to acquire the male wolf while Marco is asked to acquire the female wolf, as Cassie states that wolf packs can only have one male, who serves as the alpha. However, the notion of the sole alpha male pack hierarchy has been since proven to be scientifically unfactual, and thus this reasoning was removed in the graphic novel.
  • Tobias mentions that Marco had acquired and morphed a bald eagle alongside Rachel; however, Marco's raptor morph is that of an osprey. This is fixed in the reprint and in the graphic novel.
  • A group of infested Park Rangers enter the national forest with official Park Service vehicles and force campers to evacuate, while the Yeerks use Park Service helicopters to bring in Hork-Bajir-Controllers to the forest. However, national forests are administered by the United States Forest Service and thus are not within the Park Service's jurisdiction; therefore, the presence of Park Service trucks and helicopters within the national forest acting in an official capacity should theoretically have caused suspicion.
  • As Cassie morphs into a wolf, it describes her knees as changing directions. Wolves do not have "reverse knees"; the bend is their ankle.
  • The Animorphs spend a lot of time fishing in order to acquire a fish; however, Cassie and Marco have osprey morphs while Rachel has a bald eagle; both birds-of-prey are designed to hunt fish.
  • The Animorphs come tumbling out of a hole in Truck ship while in their human forms. Despite the damage being observed by Visser Three and his minions, the falling humans morphing into raptors through the gushing waterfall is somehow not seen by the Yeerks.
  • According to Tobias, both of his parents died when he was a child. However, in The Change, he mentions that both his parents abandoned him, while in The Pretender he remarks that his mother disappeared while his father died. This inconsistency is lampshaded in Back to Before, where Tobias reveals that he was told his father left prior to his birth and that his mother abandoned him some time after; he then made up stories about what happened to them, citing that the real truth had become lost a long time ago.

2011 Relaunch Differences

Original Edition 2011 Relaunch
I guess I was a dweeb, kind of. Big, but not big enough to keep from getting picked on. I guess I was a dork, kind of. Big, but not big enough to keep from getting picked on.
Her dad runs the Wildlife Rehabilitation Center in the barn on their family farm. The Center takes in wild animals that are sick or hurt and cares for them. Her dad runs the Wildlife Rehabilitation Clinic in the barn on their family farm. The Clinic takes in wild animals that are sick or hurt and cares for them.
"Okay, so now what?" Marco asked. "Do I sneak into the mall without Rachel being able to see me, or do we all sit around and play Doom?" "Okay, so now what?" Marco asked. "Do I sneak into the mall without Rachel being able to see me, or do we all sit around and play video games?"
It's kind of a shame, really. With my eyesight and the reaction time I have, I could probably be major competition in Doom. It's kind of a shame, really. With my eyesight and the reaction time I have, I could probably be major competition in first-person shooters.
Nine West. Radio Shack. B. Dalton. Benetton. A world I knew. A world where I belonged. Places I had been. Foods I had eaten. The world of human beings. Nine West. Radio Shack. Barnes & Noble. Benetton. A world I knew. A world where I belonged. Places I had been. Foods I had eaten. The world of human beings.
Marco and Rachel had both previously morphed bald eagles. Bald eagles are huge birds, much bigger than red-tailed hawks. Marco had previously morphed an osprey as well, and Rachel a bald eagle. Bald eagles are huge birds, much bigger than red-tailed hawks.
  • The aforementioned bald eagle error is fixed in the reprint, this time correctly citing that Marco morphed an osprey and not a bald eagle.
  • The original edition refers to the clinic as the "Wildlife Rehabilitation Center" despite it being officially called the "Wildlife Rehabiliation Clinic." While the reprint fixes this, one of Marco's lines where he mentions "the Center" is retained in the reprint.
  • In the original edition, Marco and Tobias mention the video game "Doom". In the reprint, Marco merely mentions "video games" while Tobias refers to it as "first-person shooters."
  • In the original 1996 edition, one of the stores Tobias passes in the mall is B. Dalton, a retail bookstore chain that was defunct by 2011. The reprint changes this to another well-known and currently active bookstore chain, Barnes & Noble, in an effort by the publisher and the editors to remove outdated references.
  • The spelling of "Salad Shooter" is changed to "SaladShooter".


U.S. Images

International Covers

Japanese Illustrations

Re-release Images

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
Graphic Novels #1 The Invasion | #2 The Visitor | #3 The Encounter | #4 The Message | #5 The Predator | #6 The Capture