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» Hatrack River Writers Workshop » Forums » Open Discussions About Writing » Shapeshifters

   
Author Topic: Shapeshifters
Teraen
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I'm not very up to date with ancient or modern mythology, so I figured I'd try to see if anyone here is familiar with something I could use.

I need a being that can change between a human and an animal form (preferably something mythical and vicious) for a short story I am writing, and I wanted to know if there were any well known examples before I made up my own.

So far, the best example I have is a werewolf. Anyone else know any good ones?


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Meredith
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There's the Native American tradition of skin walkers.
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JSchuler
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The Japanese have the Kitsune, a fox that transforms into a human. Meanwhile, the Scots have the Selkie, a shape shifting seal.
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Corky
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You can put "were" on the front of any animal you choose and people should know what you're talking about. (As in "weretiger" or "werebuffalo" or "wereotter" and so on.)
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Teraen
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Thanks for the good ideas so far.

My initial thought was some biological explanation, like caterpillars turning into butterflies but on a larger scale. But then the story started to evolve. I just didn't want to make up something to fit my needs if there is something more profound I could tap into. Having my main character fight a were-yak is not as fulfilling to the psyche as if I chose something people can identify with and carry their own schemas of what it is. For instance, if I use it to explain the phenomenon of Bigfoot, it is instantly linked with something people are already interested in.

And I forgot to add, the beast it changes into should be bigger than a human. Like, capable of eating a human bigger.


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DRaney
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Oh you should definitely check out Octavia Butler, 'Wild Seed'. The MC is a very interesting shaper shifting being. The story is incredible...
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JSchuler
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The more fantastical legends of the Norse Berserkers might serve your purpose, as they were rumored to turn into bears.

Also, I believe Nagas were said to be able to change into a fully human form.


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Corky
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quote:
the beast it changes into should be bigger than a human.

So you're not going to worry about conservation of matter? (Not that you have to or should, but it's something some writers take into consideration with their shapeshifters.)

If you are thinking a caterpillar to butterfly kind of change, would it be permanent, or could your being change back?

If it's permanent, it could be a disease that affects humans and turns them into this larger-than-human human-eating monster. In that case, I'd say to pick a big animal that you think is really cool, and base your new critter on that.

(I always thought Disney's Beast, from BEAUTY AND THE BEAST, was pretty cool. You could pick something like an American bison--what Americans usually call a "buffalo"--or a yak--as the basis for your critter and have it look like the Beast.)


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Merlion-Emrys
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Generally speaking a lot of "shapeshifters" in mythology were either humans that had the mystical ability, from one source or other, to turn into some animal (this was the case with the werewolf originally before the notion of lyncanthropy came to be) or they are non-human animal beings that can assume human form (like the Kitsune which is also known to possess humans.) Also most spirit and fairy-type beings that may or may not have a set physical form can change shapes, especially water-related beings.
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Robert Nowall
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It's popped up in a couple of places, but I kinda like the notion that the wolf itself, and not the human, is the natural form of the werewolf. (Larry Niven used that in his "Magic Goes Away" series.)
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WouldBe
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How about pre-election and post-election politicians...no...never mind. You wanted them to get bigger, not smaller.

A hulk-like character sort of fits your second description. You'd have to be careful not to step on Hulk's toes, or no one would publish it. You can also look to mythology and SF...a creature within, such as a Trojan horse or the Alien movie.


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MikeL
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I like to listen to coast to coast radio, it gives me ideas. One episode talked about yetti's, being an alien, that could change shape using various quantum harmonic resonances, I.E. sound causing the quantum change. ...or something along those lines.

You could substitute almost anything in the shape changing process.


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DerekBalsam
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...and of course there is the Rakshasa of Hindu myth. They are supernatural beings that can appears as humans or any other form they desire. They can shift their shapes and have the power of illusion. Big and mean, too.
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Robert Nowall
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Just last night at work I saw an ad postcard going through, advertising a shapeshifter's school. Really. I didn't have time to read it thoroughly or get an address (you can guess how the post office feels about reading other people's mail), but I gather it had something to do with some sort of "shamanistic" education seminar.
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Pyre Dynasty
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You can shift into something bigger while still paying homage to conservation of matter, it's all about density.

There is also the idea that the other form is stored somehow in an ethereal plane of some kind. When you change to that form your regular body transports to that world. (This is the shamanistic method.)

All the Greek gods were shapeshifters, but I don't think you really want to go in that direction.


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