Metamorphosis

A permanent, one-way case of Shapeshifting, in which the character completely changes form. As such, it's generally taken a lot more seriously by the subject, and less likely to actually happen. Voluntary metamorphosis is generally only agreed to after much thought; involuntary metamorphosis provokes much angst and anger at the responsible party.

Malicious examples can be inflicted as a form of Cool and Unusual Punishment. Benign examples can allow a character to return to nature or Ascend to a Higher Plane of Existence. May overlap with Karmic Transformation, Pinocchio Syndrome, Power-Upgrading Deformation or Baleful Polymorph.

Compare with Shapeshifter Mode Lock and First Law of Gender-Bending. Not to be confused with the usual Transformation Sequence, despite both Tokyo Mew Mew and Yes! Pretty Cure 5 using "Metamorphose!" as their trigger phrase, and "morph" being a key word in Power Rangers.


Examples:

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    Advertising 
  • A series of commercials for the Ratchet & Clank series showed weapons from the games being used in real life in a Jackass inspired way. Many of these included involuntary one-way transformations, where one guy gets turned into a chicken despite protesting, a few friends turn one of their mum's into a sheep by accident and two guys transform one of their friend's girlfriend into a cow just to mock him. And yes, they're all as full of Fridge Horror as they sound.

    Anime & Manga 

    Card Games 

    Comic Books 
  • Comet the Super-Horse, from pre-Crisis DC, was originally a centaur called Biron who wanted to be fully human. Unfortunately Circe made a mistake and made him fully horse instead. Because the spell couldn't be reversed, Circe gave him superpowers to try and make up for it.
  • The Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles are all up in this trope. Aside from the turtles and Splinter themselves, there's Leatherhead, Bebop and Rocksteady, Baxter Stockman (in the first cartoon), the Mighty Mutanimals in the Archie comics, etc.
  • In Megalex, Zerain's hump bursts and a pair of wings sprout from his back when he and Ram win the battle of the twelve chiefs. This is a sign that he's The Chosen One.
  • In The Incredible Hulk, Emil Blonsky aka the Abomination is a Gamma mutate similar to the Hulk. There are some key differences: the Abomination looks more monstrous and he's stronger than Hulk's baseline strength (though Hulk has the advantage of getting stronger as he gets madder). More importantly, the transformation is permanent. Even if Blonsky wanted to become human again, he can't.
  • In Fantastic Four, Ben Grimm is the only member of the Four who is stuck in his powered form, a rock monster. The others can turn their powers on and off at will. Ben, barring the use of phlebotinum that usually doesn't last longer than a single story arc, can't.

    Fan Works 
  • John is permanently changed into a Winged Humanoid (with various attendant perks and problems) in With Strings Attached. It's done to save his life by the Fans.
  • Fan stories for The Lord of the Rings have girls falling into Middle-earth. In some stories, the girl suddenly becomes an Elf or a Hobbit. This usually sets up a Fantastic Romance with another character of the same race, and is a frequent plot in Self-Insert Fic.
    • Among The Eorlingas transforms Veronica into a horse. She is an especially strong and fast mare, but dislikes being stuck in horse form, and would like to undo this transformation. The people of Rohan think that Veronica is one of the Mearas. Théodred gives her the name Lyfgast.
    • In The Awkward Adventures of Meghan Whimblesby, as Meghan enters Middle-earth, she becomes an elf. In a sequence of surprises, Meghan discovers her new Rapunzel Hair, her gown, her knee-high boots (a "miraculous and somewhat thrilling discovery"), and finally, her Pointy Ears.
    • In The Games of the Gods, Rachel and Kari become elves. Rachel also becomes taller, and her black hair becomes blonde. Rachel later identifies herself as a Mary Sue.
    • Troubled Waters is in a different category. The immortal spirit of Henneth Annûn sacrifices herself to save another life, and in result, Henneth becomes a mortal woman.
  • Pokeumans: The transformation into a Pokeuman is permanent, but don't worry because a Replacement Goldfish clone will take care of your old life while you're away. Hope you got a species of Pokemon you like.
  • In Justice Society of Japan after gaining superpowers, Kallen's eyes permanently turn bright red. Milly also seems to be changing in some way. But while everyone can see what's happening to Kallen, only Kallen and Milly herself can see what's happening to her.
  • Coyote Loon wrote a series of My Life as a Teenage Robot fanfics involving a teenager who is permanently transformed into a shape-shifting android after being exposed to several Cluster nano-probes and fights crime alongside Jenny.

    Films — Live-Action 

    Literature 
  • The Adventures of Pinocchio: The eponymous protagonist is a wooden puppet who wants to be a real boy. Eventually he gets his wish.
  • In Roald Dahl's The Witches, the witches plan to dispose of all children by turning them into mice.
  • In Franz Kafka's appropriately named story The Metamorphosis, the protagonist Gregor Samsa finds himself turned into a giant cockroach insect at the very beginning.
  • Evil Magician Trent from Xanth has the power to turn any living creature into any other. He sometimes uses it on people who annoy him, like Cynthia Centaur who was formerly Cynthia Human.
  • In the little-known 1980's SF/Horror novel Transformation by Edmund Plante the pregnant heroine is horrified to discover that an alien virus is transforming her into a psychic slug-and-lizard hybrid... at least until she she decides that a pregnant psychic alien slug/lizard is actually a pretty cool thing to be.
  • In Jack Chalker's better-known 1970's novel The Web of The Chozen a human hero is transformed by an alien virus into an alien creature. One attempt at getting help from his superiors is enough to convince him to abandon humanity in favor of his new species.
  • The twist behind The Soddit is that the Gandalf Expy is transforming into a dragon - as part of his natural life cycle: dragons begin life as dwarfs, grow into wizards, and finally become dragons.
  • Some Children Wander By Mistake by John Connolly features a child being permanently transformed into a monstrous clown, having been chosen as a fresh recruit by the other clowns several months before he was born.
  • The Ray Bradbury short story "Chrysalis" details the metamorphosis of a man exposed to radiation. Other characters include a co-worker of his and a couple scientists studying him as he transforms. The entire story takes place while he is in the cocoon (or chrysalis), and everyone wonders what to do with him, if he's dead, etc. Things are further complicated when it's revealed his co-worker is showing similar symptoms and likely the same will happen to him. In the end, the man emerges from his chrysalis... and is perfectly normal. Except not. The last paragraph has him fly off into outer space. It's implied his body and mind have very much transformed, but never said exactly how.
  • The premise for Edgar Rice Burroughs' The Land That Time Forgot is that all the creatures on the island are evolving from one species to another as they move inland and northward.

    Live-Action TV 
  • In Buffy the Vampire Slayer, a witch's rat-transformation spell turns out to be permanent when she uses it on herself — or at least, she can't undo it while transformed.
  • In Babylon 5 Delenn enters a cocoon in order to turn herself into a human/Minbari hybrid. Sinclair goes through the same process in reverse to become Valen.
  • In Star Trek: Deep Space Nine, Odo was turned into a solid (i.e. a non-shapeshifter) as a punishment for, in opposing his species' plan to take over the galaxy and protecting his fellow crewmates, killing another shapeshifter - a first for the species.

    Myths & Religion 
  • Numerous Greek myths involved permanent transformations. Ovid's Metamorphoses (the Trope Namer) featured a number of such stories.
    • The nymph Scylla was desired by the merman Glaucus (although she brushed off his advances). The sorceress Circe also loved Glaucus, and in jealousy poisoned Scylla, transforming her into a twelve-footed, six-headed monstrosity. Scylla adjusted well to the change: she moved to a rock on the strait opposite Charybdis (also a transformed nymph) and took to devouring sailors from every ship that passed beneath her.
    • Arachne and the goddess Athena had a weaving duel. There are many versions of this myth, and the only detail they can agree on is that the duel ends with Athena turning Arachne into a spider.
    • Actaeon, prince of Thebes and renowned hunter, was transformed into a stag by Artemis and killed by his own hounds. Depending on the version, this was either punishment for spying on Artemis bathing, or for boasting that he was a better hunter than Artemis.
    • Similarly, when Siprotes saw the goddess bathing, he got changed into a woman instead. The difference, though, was that Actaeon had gazed at Artemis, while Siprotes tried to avoid eye contact as soon as he saw her.

    Tabletop Games 
  • Medeans voluntarily undergo a transformation to become Medeans.
  • The Elans of Dungeons & Dragons are humans who have undergone a secret, voluntary transformation that leaves them looking exactly the same, but they are effectively immortal, being able to live purely on psychic energy. There is just something off-putting about them that makes the normals uncomfortable, though: by game rules, they have become Aberrations like a rust monster or a mind flayer.

    Toys 
  • In BIONICLE, some Av-Matoran undergo metamorphosis into Bohrok as a natural part of their life cycle.

    Video Games 
  • In the modern usages of both words, "metamorphosis" would be a much more accurate term than "evolution" for when this happens in Pokémon.
  • The latter character from platforming series Jak and Daxter after coming into contact with dark eco.
  • Happens to Morph Moth in Mega Man X2. He starts out as a small chrysalis, but once his health gets to half, it retreats, splits open, and then you fight the actual moth reploid. His Japanese name is even "Metamor Mothmeanos".
  • In StarCraft this is the primary means that the Zerg race produce their units and buildings by "morphing" larva into a unit or a drone into a building. During morphing stage the larva transforms into a chrysalis/cocoon for some time. Some units have a second stage of which makes them even more effective or change their role entirely.
  • The Inklings of Splatoon have metamorphosis as part of their life cycle. As shown in this picture, they are born as baby squids made of ink, and as they grow they slowly become more humanoid until they take their familiar almost human-looking form when they hit their teenage years. This metamorphosis also marks the development of their ability to freely swing between squid and humanoid form.

    Web Comics 
  • In Gunnerkrigg Court, metamorphosis accompanies immigration and emigration to and from Gillitie Wood. Regional Fairies and other forest-folk become humans in order to leave Gillitie and enroll at the Court, and a family of humans transform into birds before moving into the Wood.
  • In Exiern dragons are born looking human and don't metamorphose into their true form until they reach adulthood. Adult dragons destroy human settlements and plant their young amongst the survivors to be raised by humans like cuckoos. The heroine's pretty sure her romantic interest is a dragon (she barely survived an encounter with his half-transformed sister) but hasn't figured out how to tell him.
  • Tony of Skin Deep turns into some kind of bird creature after a spell keeping him human breaks (we think) It turns out to have been some sort of karmic or cosmic backlash to the spell that turned his harpy mother into a human.
  • This Lightning Made of Owls strip parodies the Kafka work by having one of the characters transform into Kafka himself

    Web Original 
  • In Receiver Of Many Demeter tries to transform her daughter Persephone permanently into a tree. It's stated that for this process to work the target needs to be a virgin.

    Western Animation 
  • My Little Pony: Friendship Is Magic:
    • Downplayed at the end of the third season, in which the protagonist, Twilight Sparkle is transformed into an alicorn princess. Evidently, the transformation can't be reversed, but all that's really changed about her is that she now has wings, a longer horn, got a little taller and is a bit more powerful.
    • In the fourth season, we have a non-living example with the Keys of Harmony; they're inanimate objects that transform into Cool Keys upon making contact with the box they're supposed to open. They do not appear to be able to change back, although we may never know, seeing as they along with the box are now embedded into the Earth and have sprouted a new home for Twilight after her old one was destroyed.

    Real Life 
  • Metamorphosis is a natural process for various species of animals, where their juvenile forms look little (or nothing) like the adult. The transformation of tadpoles into frogs and caterpillars into butterflies are two of the best-known examples, with butterfly metamorphosis transcending to the point of metaphor.