Study Guide

Sabriel's Father (The Abhorsen) in Sabriel

By Garth Nix

Sabriel's Father (The Abhorsen)

Don't Be A Stranger

Sabriel's dad is pretty much a long-distance parent, so we don't get to know him very well. He's a powerful sorcerer though, that much is for certain, and shows up in the prologue to save his newborn daughter from Kerrigor. He checks in long-distance, magic-style, to chat with Sabriel during her time at school, but he disappears in Chapter 1 and doesn't reappear until Sabriel finds him much later in the book. We don't even know his real name, just his title: The Abhorsen.

It's worth noting that despite his physical absence, his voice gives Sabriel comfort and warmth, "like a favorite childhood toy" (22.48). This suggests that though he doesn't show up much in the book, so it seems like he's managed to be a decent dad over the years—or at least during Sabriel's childhood.

Like Father, Like Daughter

Here's what we know about this dude: He's a lot like Sabriel. We know he's incredibly brave, since he pulled his newborn kid out of death, and he's self-sacrificing too, since he's given up all of his personal life to be the Abhorsen in the Old Kingdom. He's taught Sabriel everything he knows about necromancy over the years as well, so he's invested in both her future and his craft.

Importantly—insofar as we're talking about a dad—when Sabriel and her father are reunited, they share an emotional experience together in Death, knowing that once he is brought back to Life, he can only remain alive for a short time. In other words, though not around a whole lot, Sabriel's father totally loves her.

As they rush back to fight Kerrigor, Sabriel feels some bitterness that her father "hardly seemed to know her, except as a repository for numerous revelations and as an agent to deal with Kerrigor" (22.75). Sensing Sabriel's feelings, her father stops and expresses regret for not having been an ideal parent. He explains:

"When we become the Abhorsen, we lose much else […] Responsibility to many people rides roughshod over personal responsibilities […] You are my daughter, and I have always loved you." (22.77)

Though magical, this guy isn't perfect—but it seems like he tried to do right by his daughter, despite his commitments as the Abhorsen.

Sabriel gets really emotional when she rescues her dad, so we know that even though he was an absent parent, he made a huge impact on her life. Even though he's not physically there for most of the book, Sabriel thinks about him all the time, and she makes a lot of her decisions based on what she thinks her dad might do in the same situation. Turns out the long-distance chats made a big difference.