Some familiars in Strike Witches are better than others for self-defense.
In the world of Strike Witches, young girls called “witches” fight with magic and technology as supersoldiers for the Allied nations against the dreaded Neuroi. Yet, they don’t fight alone. The witches form contracts with animal spirits in order to be able to use their magic. These animal spirits are called “familiars”.
Familiars come in many shapes and sizes, but so far they’ve always been mammals and birds. In most cases, they’re domestic animals. Specifically: cats and dogs. That’s not always the case though, and it’s these familiars which are the most interesting, and the most useful. Especially when it comes to defending yourself. Thus, here are the top 5 familiars that would be most useful for keeping away unwanted attention.
5. Stellar’s Sea Eagle
This is a rather unique familiar, owned by one Hanna-Justina Marseille of Karlsland (read: Germany) and no other. Eagle familiars in general are rather uncommon, but the Stellar’s sea eagle takes the cake here.
The Stellar’s sea eagle (Haliaeetus pelagicus) is one of the heaviest eagles in the world, matched only by the harpy eagle and the Philippine eagle. Its diet consists mainly of fish, waterfowl, and the occasional carrion. However, that doesn’t stop it from having long sharp talons, and a wickedly curved beak.
Both these features, in addition to its ability to fly, would make it a good self-defense tool. Its large size and weight would also give its blows a lot of momentum that would be hard to stop. If a swan can break a person’s arm with its wings, I don’t doubt a Stellar’s sea eagle would be able to do the same. Eagles can’t be ridden for obvious reasons though, which make them useless at carrying their witch to safety.
Which is why I put the Stellar’s sea eagle, and all eagle familiars in general, at fifth best for self-defense.
4. Black Panther
Francesca Lucchini is a witch from Romagna (Strike Witches‘ not-quite-counterpart to Italy), and her familiar is the black panther.
The term “black panther” is a bit misleading. Black panther refers to any big cats of the Panthera genus that show an all-black fur coloration. The term generally refers to either the leopard (Panthera pardus) or the jaguar (Panthera onca), neither of which are found anywhere in the Italian peninsula.
Regardless of how Francesca got her familiar though, a black panther would work pretty well for intimidation. A big cat padding alongside her would deter any would-be attacker from going after her, and anyone who stole from her would quickly find a large predator capable of easily climbing obstacles chasing after them. In addition, one advantage Francesca currently enjoys is that she’s just small enough for a black panther to be able to carry her to safety if need be. This advantage is only for short distances though, since big cats aren’t really built to even a child for long periods of time. And as Francesca gets older, she might lose even this advantage.
Thus, I rate the black panther as the fourth best familiar for self-defense.
Wolves are actually one of the most common non-domestic animal familiars in the world of Strike Witches. Several witches have had them as familiars, and for good reason.
The wolf (Canis lupus) comes in many different flavors, but they’re all still wolves. Wolves are pack hunters, which makes them social animals. It’s this sociability that made our distant ancestors domesticate them thousands of years ago. Therefore, a wolf who can perfectly understand and obey your commands is simply a very big dog.
Need I remind people how much a large dog can protect them? A wolf would be a very large dog indeed, with sharp fangs that would maul attackers. Even though a wolf would be unable to carry the witch away, their many benefits and uses would outweigh that one disadvantage. All the witch has to do is make sure that her wolf is well-fed and happy, and she has a loyal bodyguard and tracker.
Thus, I rate the wolf as the third best familiar for self-defense.
As of this article, there are 2 witches in canon who have horse familiars: Marian Carl and Angela Salas Larrazabal. They have the American Quarter Horse and the Andalusian Horse respectively as their familiars.
People have been domesticating horses (Equus ferus caballus) since around 4000 B.C. due to the vast number of uses they have. Even today, there are certain jobs in which horses outperform any machine made so far, such as mounted policework and search and rescue. This makes them invaluable for human use, and that’s why they would make great familiars.
A horse familiar would be one of the best self-defense tools ever. Not only is the horse large and strong enough to lash out at attackers with its hooves, but if the witch ever finds herself in a fight she can’t win, she can just hop onto her familiar and ride away into the sunset. This ability to fight or flee at will makes a horse the almost-perfect partner. This was exactly why people domesticated them in the first place.
Which is why I put horse familiars at second best for self-defense.
1. Polar Bear
Aleksandra Ivanovna Pokryshkin is a witch of the Orussian Empire (Strike Witches‘ counterpart to Russia), and her familiar is a polar bear. Yes, you heard that right: a polar bear.
Polar bears (Ursus maritimus) are one of the largest carnivores to ever walk on land. Polar bears are even native to the Arctic Circle, which includes northern Russia. This explains how she has one as her familiar. Adult male polar bears can measure up to 9′ 10″ long, and can weigh in at up to 1,543 pounds. Females are roughly half the size, but that doesn’t make them any less big. Having such a large animal as a familiar would be quite useful for intimidation.
I mean, seriously, who would bother a girl who has a polar bear padding alongside her all the time? It’s better than a gun for self-defense. Even the dumbest mugger or burglar ever would think twice before assaulting her or breaking into her home, lest they find themselves on the wrong end of a bear that can crush their skulls in a single swipe. And in case fighting doesn’t work, the polar bear is easily large enough to carry its witch to safety.
Thus, I’d rate the polar bear to be the best familiar for self-defense period, even leaving aside the issues of how she feeds it.