Who Rules the Haunted Woods?
The Haunted Woods encompass an absolutely massive swath of land in southern Neopia. From the Werelupe Woods to the halls of Castle Nox, most of the Haunted Woods is ruled by local Lords, Ladies, and other kinds of nobility who govern their own patches of land. While the Haunted Woods has no formally declared ruler, is there someone who stands out above the rest as a de facto leader? I’ll be evaluating the arguments for and against the leadership of a number of powerful Neopians who call the Haunted Woods their home.
Perhaps it would be prudent to introduce the main fiefdoms of the Haunted Woods. There is the Haunted Woods proper, where characters like Edna the Witch, Eliv Thade, the Esophager, and the Brain Tree live. Then there’s the Deserted Fairground, where one can find all sorts of shopkeepers and carnival booth operators. Most notably, the castle and property of Hubrid Nox sits on the outskirts of the fairgrounds, just beyond where normal Neopets would dare to travel. Then there’s the Gypsy Camp, which showed up a few years ago and guards the entryway to Neovia. Neovia was once actually owned by local nobility, but over time the leadership was passed on to mayors, most notably Mayor Thumbart. Since his defeat a new mayor has not been elected. Not located on any map is the Werelupe Woods. This dangerous domain can be found in the Northeast corner of the Haunted Woods is home only to the Werelupes and was ruled by the Werelupe King. Lastly and least known is the expansive labyrinth of trees known as the Outskirts. This is where Sophie the Swamp Witch, Ilere, Bruno, and others live. It is home to the most mysterious and dangerous Haunted Woods residents.
The Werelupe King:
I’ll begin with the only Neopian on this list to actually be called a King or Queen. The Werelupe King, whose real name has been lost to the ages, rules over the Werelupe Woods. In the peak of his power he commanded a large army of strong Werelupes, temporarily invaded Illusen’s Glade, and had control over Gnarfas, a ferocious four-armed Lupe. His control of a proper army and his escapades in foreign lands makes him an excellent contender as the ruler of the Haunted Woods, not to mention that he is already a King, but where has he been lately? Since Tormund defeated him in battle he hasn’t been seen pillaging any lands, and Werelupe presence is down overall. Therefore I believe it can be concluded that the Werelupe King has lost the majority of his power and is no longer a contender for the title of “Ruler of the Haunted Woods.”
Eliv Thade, a mysterious Kacheek, is no doubt a powerful and intelligent Neopet. He owns a castle in the Haunted woods and is the author of the Grimoire of Thade. Clearly he has strengths in devising puzzles and can create decently powerful magic. Eliv Thade, however, has never shown any interest in dominating Neopia or even just the Haunted Woods. He’s never made any kind of attempt to conquer anything and has no minions of his own. Despite his wealth and knowledge, he really doesn’t have much sway in politics and has no one under his command. Therefore, he is simply a wealthy occupant of the Haunted Woods.
Hubrid Nox makes an excellent case for himself as Ruler of the Haunted Woods. He has his own castle, an entire staff of guards, he was able to control other Neopets and get them to fight for him, and he even had the ambition to take over all of Neopia. Magax, another powerful warlock, was once his student and considered Hubrid Nox to be such a threat to the Haunted Woods and Neopia that he made it his life goal to defeat him. His ambition and power seemed to know no bound, that is, until Xandra got to him. Now that this rather suave Chia s a ghost, he seems to live his life in retirement. There’s been no new plans to take over Neopia, and he has even been seen reportedly starting food fights with Magax. While I’m glad his enjoying his post-living days, he has also given up the right to be the Ruler of the Haunted Woods.
Edna the Witch, The Esophager, and the Brain Tree:
These three characters have a lot in common. They are powerful with magic, send Neopians out on quests, and occasionally attack passersby. Perhaps if they teamed up they could be a force to be reckoned with, but they primary are interested only in knowledge, and food… apparently. They protect the Haunted Woods proper simply by existing with their domineering presence, but since the Brain Tree and the Esophager don’t move, I highly doubt we’ll see them conquering any other parts of the Haunted Woods any time soon. (And don’t tell Edna I said this, but I’m not sure how competent of a witch she really is if she turned herself into a Zafara by mistake!)
Sophie the Swamp Witch:
Now HERE we have a real contender, and for the first time, it isn’t a Neopet with any sort of nefarious intentions! Sophie wasn’t always a powerful witch, but after being removed from Neovia by the faerie Ilere, she not only survived but GREW UP in the Outskirts in her swamp, making her one tough Ixi. Additionally, she has a powerful wand, excellent potion making abilities, and has even been known to stick up against the Werelupes. Considering she saved Neovia, many of the regular Neopets in the Haunted Woods consider her some kind of a hero, further bolstering the argument that she is the “Ruler of the Haunted Woods.” But I argue that someone else is in charge here.
I wouldn’t call Ilere the “Ruler of the Haunted Woods” but she’s certainly the one in charge. The events of the Tale of Woe revealed that this Earth Faerie’s reach extends through every vine in the Haunted Woods. Some of the most prominent witches, spirits, and wizards will defer to her. She has connections to the extremely powerful Spirit of Slumber and Sophie, who is one of the most powerful witches in Neopia. Bruno even sensed Ilere's innate power and determined it to be immense. She had the ability to help the Neovians but refused to do so. She seems to be able to manipulate the minds of Neopets and has some say everything that happens in the Haunted Woods. Most mysteriously, she has not demonstrated any motivation for what she does. We know her power to be great, but we also have no knowledge of just how strong she is. Given her elusive nature, Ilere is likely much more powerful than she lets on. Her magical prowess combined with her influence over characters like Sophie and the Spirit of Slumber make her eligible to be the most powerful Neopian in the Haunted Woods. How she will use this power is yet to be determined.
In the end it appears that those with the most power in the Haunted Woods don’t own castles or have armies, but they live in small shacks deep in the Outskirts, keeping to themselves. Perhaps one day, circumstances may arise that will reveal who truly has the most power. Is it Ilere with her magic and faerie powers, or Sophie with her wand and the power of friendship? Only time will tell.