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First Known Use of shape - shifter , in the meaning defined above. Learn More about shape - shifter. Share shape - shifter. Resources for shape - shifter Time Traveler! Explore the year a word first appeared. Dictionary Entries near shape - shifter shape memory shapen shape note shape-shifter shape target shape up shape-up. Statistics for shape - shifter Look-up Popularity. Time Traveler for shape - shifter The first known use of shape - shifter was in See more words from the same year. Comments on shape - shifter What made you want to look up shape - shifter? Get Word of the Day daily email!
Need even more definitions? A History Focusing in on what we do best. Ghost Word The story of an imaginary word that managed to sneak past our editors and enter the dictionary. In one story, she was so proud, that her husband, Zeus, tricked her into changing into a fly. He then swallowed her because he feared that he and Metis would have a son who would be more powerful than Zeus himself. Metis, however, was already pregnant. She stayed alive inside his head and built armor for her daughter. The banging of her metalworking made Zeus have a headache, so Hephaestus clove his head with an axe.
Athena sprang from her father's head, fully grown, and in battle armor.
In Greek mythology , the transformation is often a punishment from the gods to humans who crossed them. Zeus repeatedly transformed himself to approach mortals as a means of gaining access: Vertumnus transformed himself into an old woman to gain entry to Pomona 's orchard; there, he persuaded her to marry him. In other tales, the woman appealed to other gods to protect her from rape , and was transformed Daphne into laurel, Cornix into a crow.
Unlike Zeus and other gods' shapeshifting, these women were permanently metamorphosed. In one tale, Demeter transformed herself into a mare to escape Poseidon , but Poseidon counter-transformed himself into a stallion to pursue her, and succeeded in the rape. Caenis , having been raped by Poseidon , demanded of him that she be changed to a man. He agreed, and she became Caeneus , a form he never lost, except, in some versions, upon death.
As a final reward from the gods for their hospitality, Baucis and Philemon were transformed, at their deaths, into a pair of trees. In some variants of the tale of Narcissus , he is turned into a narcissus flower. After Tereus raped Philomela and cut out her tongue to silence her, she wove her story into a tapestry for her sister, Tereus's wife Procne, and the sisters murdered his son and fed him to his father. When he discovered this, he tried to kill them, but the gods changed them all into birds.
Sometimes metamorphoses transformed objects into humans. In the myths of both Jason and Cadmus , one task set to the hero was to sow dragon's teeth ; on being sown, they would metamorphose into belligerent warriors, and both heroes had to throw a rock to trick them into fighting each other to survive.
Deucalion and Pyrrha repopulated the world after a flood by throwing stones behind them; they were transformed into people. Cadmus is also often known to have transformed into a dragon or serpent towards the end of his life. Pygmalion fell in love with Galatea , a statue he had made.
Aphrodite had pity on him and transformed the stone to a living woman. Fairies , witches , and wizards were all noted for their shapeshifting ability. Not all fairies could shapeshift, and some were limited to changing their size, as with the spriggans , and others to a few forms and other fairies might have only the appearance of shapeshifting, through their power, called "glamour," to create illusions. Witches could turn into hares and in that form steal milk and butter.
Pwyll was transformed by Arawn into Arawn's own shape, and Arawn transformed himself into Pwyll's, so that they could trade places for a year and a day. Llwyd ap Cil Coed transformed his wife and attendants into mice to attack a crop in revenge; when his wife is captured, he turned himself into three clergymen in succession to try to pay a ransom.
Math and Gwydion transform flowers into a woman named Blodeuwedd , and when she betrays her husband Lleu , who is transformed into an eagle, they transform her again, into an owl. Gilfaethwy committed rape with help from his brother Gwydion. Both were transformed into animals, for one year each. Gwydion was transformed into a stag, sow and wolf, and Gilfaethwy into a hind, boar and she-wolf. Each year, they had a child.
Math turned the three young animals into boys. Gwion , having accidentally taken some of wisdom potion that Ceridwen was brewing for her son, fled her through a succession of changes that she answered with changes of her own, ending with his being eaten, a grain of corn, by her as a hen. She became pregnant, and he was reborn in a new form, as Taliesin.
Tales abound about the selkie , a seal that can remove its skin to make contact with humans for only a short amount of time before it must return to the sea. Clan MacColdrum of Uist's foundation myths include of a union between the founder of the clan and a shapeshifting selkie. Such stories surrounding these creatures are usually romantic tragedies. Scottish mythology features shapeshifters, which allows the various creatures to trick, deceive, hunt, and kill humans.
Water spirits such as the each uisge , which inhabit lochs and waterways in Scotland, were said to appear as a horse or a young man. Tam Lin , a man captured by the Queen of the Fairies is changed into all manner of beasts before being rescued. He finally turned into a burning coal and was thrown him into a well, whereupon he reappeared in his human form. The motif of capturing a person by holding him through all forms of transformation is a common thread in folktales. Perhaps the best known Irish myth is that of Aoife who turned her stepchildren, the Children of Lir , into swans to be rid of them.
He can transform into many different, terrifying forms. Sadhbh , the wife of the famous hero Fionn mac Cumhaill was changed into a deer by the druid Fer Doirich. In the Lokasenna , Odin and Loki taunt each other with having taken the form of females and nursing offspring to which they had given birth. A 13th century Edda relates Loki taking the form of a mare to bear Odin's steed Sleipnir which was the fastest horse ever to exist, and also the form of a she-wolf to bear Fenrir. Svipdagr angered Odin , who turned him into a dragon.
Despite his monstrous appearance, his lover, the goddess Freyja , refused to leave his side. When the warrior Hadding found and slew Svipdag, Freyja cursed him to be tormented by a tempest and shunned like the plague wherever he went. She also possessed a cloak of falcon feathers that allowed her to transform into a falcon, which Loki borrowed on occasion. The Volsunga saga contains many shapeshifting characters.
Siggeir 's mother changed into a wolf to help torture his defeated brothers-in-law with slow and ignominious deaths.
The dwarf Andvari is described as being able to magically turn into a pike. Fafnir was originally a dwarf, a giant or even a human, depending on the exact myth, but in all variants he transformed into a dragon—a symbol of greed —while guarding his ill-gotten hoard. In Scandinavia , there existed, for example, the famous race of she-werewolves known with a name of Maras, women who took on the appearance of the night looking for huge monster half human and half wolf.
If a female at midnight stretches the membrane which envelopes the foal when it is brought forth, between four sticks and creeps through it, naked, she will bear children without pain; but all the boys will be shamans , and all the girls Maras. The Nisse is sometimes said to be a shapeshifter. This trait also is attributed to Huldra.
She is the central character of the novel Mother of Kings by Poul Anderson ,  which considerably elaborates on her shapeshifting abilities. In Poland , in the parish church of Schwarzenstein , hang two horse-shoes related to the story of the tavern-keeper of Eichmedian. A greedy woman, she charged double the honest rate for board and lodging.
Late one evening, a group of guests accused her of cheating them. Defending herself, she swore an oath before them, saying: The room suddenly darkened and the Devil suddenly appeared before her. He gestured, and unable to resist, she knelt on all fours and found herself changing into a bay mare. The Devil mounted, gave a great laugh and rode her out of the village.
At headlong speed he rode to the town of Schwarzenstein, and to a blacksmith's shop there, arriving in the small hours of the morning. He roused the blacksmith and demanded that his steed be shod at once. The blacksmith, yawning, complained of the late hour and that his forge was shut down and cold.
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But the Devil insisted and promised gold if it were done swiftly, and so the blacksmith agreed. He lit his furnace, and had the Devil work the bellows. The blacksmith had not long begun his work however when the mare began to speak, evidently having worked out how to form human words with her equine lips. The Devil raged but there was nothing he could do, and as a cock heralded the arrival of dawn, the spell was broken. The Devil vanished and the tavern-keeper returned to her human form.
Repenting of her greedy ways, she had the two horse-shoes which the smith had already fashioned nailed up in the church as a warning to other cheats. In Armenian mythology , shapeshifters include the Nhang , a serpent-like river monster than can transform itself into a woman or seal, and will drown humans and then drink their blood; or the beneficial Shahapet , a guardian spirit that can appear either as a man or a snake.
Scriptures describe shapeshifting Rakshasa demons assuming animal forms to deceive humans. The Ramayana also includes the Vanara , a group of ape-like humanoids who possessed supernatural powers and could change their shapes. In the Indian fable The Dog Bride from Folklore of the Santal Parganas by Cecil Henry Bompas , a buffalo herder falls in love with a dog that has the power to turn into a woman when she bathes. Philippine mythology includes aswang , a vampire-like monster capable of transforming itself into either a large black dog or a black boar in order to stalk humans at night.
The folklore also mentions other beings such as kapre , tikbalang , and engkanto , which change their appearances to woo beautiful maidens. Also, talismans called " anting-anting " or " birtud " in the local dialect , can give their owners the ability to shapeshift. In one tale, Chonguita the Monkey Wife ,  a woman is turned into a monkey, only becoming human again if she can marry a handsome man. Tatar folklore includes Yuxa , a hundred-year-old snake that can transform itself into a beautiful young woman, and seeks to marry men in order to have children.
Chinese mythology contains many tales of animal shapeshifters, capable of taking on human form. The most common such shapeshifter is the huli jing , a fox spirit which usually appears as a beautiful young woman; most are dangerous, but some feature as the heroines of love stories. Madame White Snake is one such legend; a snake falls in love with a man, and the story recounts the trials that she and her husband faced. The fox, or kitsune is among the most commonly known, but other such creatures include the bakeneko , the mujina and the tanuki.
Korean mythology also contains a fox with the ability to shapeshift. Unlike its Chinese and Japanese counterparts, the kumiho is always malevolent. Usually its form is of a beautiful young woman; one tale recounts a man, a would-be seducer, revealed as a kumiho. In Somali mythology Qori ismaris "One who rubs himself with a stick" was a man who could transform himself into a " Hyena-man " by rubbing himself with a magic stick at nightfall and by repeating this process could return to his human state before dawn.
The Ligahoo or loup-garou is the shapeshifter of Trinidad and Tobago's folklore. This unique ability is believed to be handed down in some old creole families, and is usually associated with witch-doctors and practitioners of African magic.
The name of the Nahuel Huapi Lake in Argentina derives from the toponym of its major island in Mapudungun Mapuche language: There is, however, more to the word "Nahuel" - it can also signify "a man who by sorcery has been transformed into a puma" or jaguar. Shapeshifting may be used as a plot device , such as when Puss in Boots in the fairy tales tricks the ogre into becoming a mouse to be eaten.
Shapeshifting may also include symbolic significance, like the Beast's transformation in Beauty and the Beast indicates Belle's ability to accept him despite his appearance. When a form is taken on involuntarily, the thematic effect can be one of confinement and restraint; the person is bound to the new form. In extreme cases, such as petrifaction , the character is entirely disabled.
shapeshifter - Wiktionary
On the other hand, voluntary shapeshifting can be a means of escape and liberation. Even when the form is not undertaken to resemble a literal escape, the abilities specific to the form allow the character to act in a manner that was previously impossible. Examples of this are in fairy tales. A prince who is forced into a bear's shape as in East of the Sun and West of the Moon is a prisoner, but a princess who takes on a bear's shape voluntarily to flee a situation as in The She-Bear escapes with her new shape.
Le Guin depicts an animal form as slowly transforming the wizard's mind, so that the dolphin, bear or other creature forgets it was human, making it impossible to change back.
This makes an example for a voluntary shapeshifting becoming an imprisoning metamorphosis. Some are rare, such as Italo Calvino 's " The Canary Prince " is a Rapunzel variant in which shapeshifting is used to gain access to the tower. In many cases, imposed forms are punitive in nature. This may be a just punishment, the nature of the transformation matching the crime for which it occurs; in other cases, the form is unjustly imposed by an angry and powerful person. In fairy tales, such transformations are usually temporary, but they commonly appear as the resolution of myths as in many of the Metamorphoses or produce origin myths.