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Oddities of the elemental planes, animentals are as the name implies; animals (or more rarely, monsters) composed fully of one of the various elements. Elemental manifestations of true animals, these beings fill the Inner Planes, adding a touch of life to even the most lifeless of them.
Animentals are formed of the residual life left in an animal when its life force departs for the planes. Animals, upon their death, manifest in the Outer Plane most closely matching the beast's devotion (rather than alignment, which of course for the majority of animals is merely neutral); most commonly, the Beastlands. Sometimes, though, not all of it gets through. The remainder gets dumped into the Inner Planes (most likely through an elemental vortex), forming an animental in the elemental plane where it happens to end up, a duplicate of its once-physical body. Contrary to expectation, the animental need not reflect any qualities of the animal in life; a traveler is as likely to find a falcon of air as a falcon of magma or salt.
This process occasionally occurs with more monstrous beings as well, though such encounters are more rare. Griffons, dragons, gorgons, and other animal-like monsters can form animentals as well as true beasts. And these animentals can be as varied as those from animals, with no bias towards any specific element, regardless of ties it may have with the monster's nature.
Though vastly changed in physical form, animentals remain the same in many ways. They still require food, for one, though even normally-herbivorous creatures often tend towards meat eating in their new home, thanks to the relative sparsity of plant-life on the Inner Planes. They still keep their minds and habits, and unlike true petitioners, those with the mental capacity still possess at least some knowledge of their life before, though usually quite patchworked. Despite all this, though, some sages believe them to not truly be alive in any real sense. Instead, they believe them to be mere reflections of life, element given form by wayward energies from the Prime. This theory may have some grounding; when an animental is killed, its body falls apart, reverting into its component forms and leaving no sign the animental ever existed. This certainly suggests a transient nature to their existence, rather than any sort of true life.
Animentals are rarely encountered away from the Inner Planes, most often found outside in situations involving the summoning of a large amount of elemental matter, in which they're often carted away. On the planes, most ignore them, thinking them nothing but phantoms. A few noble genies or other high-ranking elemental figures, however, do occasionally keep some as pets.
Strangely enough, true humanoids of such an elemental nature have never been encountered, though they are rumored to exist; many speak of animental giants, for one example. Some believe such beings to be the progenitors of the genies. Others believe these beings are enslaved by the genies, forced to work in order to keep them out of sight from the non-elemental races for whatever reason.
- Planescape MCIII, pp. 14-15