Shapeshifting or transformation is the ability to completely change one's body from one form to another, usually by magic or Applied Phlebotinum
. Common in Speculative Fiction
, and folklore and myths are replete with tales of princes transformed into frogs, gods turning themselves into animals, and so on. Several of these tropes are Older Than Feudalism
There are a wide
variety of ways that this can occur, but thematically it can be sorted into two broad classes:
- Shapeshifting: A character can transform their own body as a special power or ability. Obviously enough, they are called shapeshifters, and often ply their powers for fun and profit (whether good or evil), or simply to trick or play practical jokes on normal folks.
- Transformation: An otherwise non-shapeshifting character has a transformation cast upon them from an outside source (again, usually by magic or Applied Phlebotinum). This is typically Played for Drama; it may be part of a character's backstory, or even form the central conflict within the work. Curses are a popular source here, as it requires the character to go on a Quest to satisfy the Curse Escape Clause. A list of possible causes for transformations can be found here.
See also the Autonomous and Artificial Appendage Index
, Disguise Tropes
, and Werebeast Tropes
Tropes related to Shapeshifting as a power or ability:
- Dual Age Modes: The ability to change between an "older" and "younger" form.
- Elemental Shapeshifter: Transforming oneself (in whole or part) into an elemental energy.
- Eye Color Change: Some forms, where you can change your eye color repeatedly.
- Growing Muscles Sequence: Bulking up as you transform.
- Henshin Hero: A character who gains superpowers by transforming.
- Humanshifting: The ability to only transform into humanoids.
- Involuntary Shapeshifter: If you can't control when/where your shapeshifting powers kick in.
- Limb-Sensation Fascination: So that's what a tentacle feels like.
- Long Neck: What happens when your head needs to be way over there but the rest of you stays put, without detaching.
- Magic Pants: What happens to all your clothing when you transform (or more importantly, transform back)?
- Metamorphosis Monster: It may be cute and cuddly now, but just wait...
- Morphic Resonance: When a shapeshifter's forms all have some common feature that the audience can identify them by.
- Eyes Are Mental: Their eyes stay the same even if the rest of their bodies don't.
- Multiform Balance: When there are trade-offs between various forms
- My Instincts Are Showing: Behavior is frequently influenced by another form's instincts, during or after the morph.
- Narrative Shapeshifting: A silent character recounts a story by playing shapeshifting charades.
- One to Million to One: Shifting into multiple separate creatures, possibly to avoid an impact.
- Our Werebeasts Are Different: Not all of them are wolves with a lunar trigger.
- Rubber Man: They can stretch and flex themselves into almost any needed shape.
- Sexier Alter Ego: Transform into a more attractive or otherwise sexually appealing form.
- Sex Shifter: The ability to alter one's sex, male, female or other, rather than shape: a non-permanent Gender Bender.
- Shapeshifter Baggage: Some forms are smaller/larger or lighter/heavier than others.
- Shapeshifter Mashup: When attempting to mix-and-match multiple forms goes horribly wrong.
- Shapeshifter Mode Lock: A Phlebotinum Breakdown that leaves a shapeshifter Brought Down to Normal and/or trapped in one form.
- Shapeshifter Showdown: Shapeshifter vs. shapeshifter! Awesomeness ensues.
- Shapeshifting Seducer: Shapeshifter trying to get in your bed? It'll just turn into the most desirable person you've ever seen.
- Shapeshifting Squick: Shapeshifters must have a very interesting love life...
- Sizeshifter: The ability to alter one's size, rather than shape.
- Skin Walker: A supernatural skin-thief of Native American legends, but isn't always a bad type as some Skin Walkers are empowered by good spirits instead of Ritual Magic.
- Slow Transformation: The change happens gradually.
- Sprouting Ears: A little extra number and type of ears when Super-Deformed.
- Swiss Army Hero: Shapeshifting where each form has some kind of exclusive ability. A popular manifestation for Video Games.
- Technically Naked Shapeshifter: A shapeshifter whose clothes are part of their body.
- Totally Not a Werewolf: A shapeshifter becomes mistaken for whatever creature or monster they appear as.
- Transformation Is a Free Action: because it would be a vulnerability if it wasn't.
- Transformation Sequence: Activating one's superpowers may also induce a physical transformation. May become Stock Footage in serial works.
- Transforming Mecha: Shapeshifting for robots!
- Kibbles and Bits: Why does that car have sections that look like fists? Why does that robot have pieces of car dangling from its back?
- Transforming Vehicle: Normal cars (and other vehicles) can shapeshift too.
- Tricking the Shapeshifter: If you can't defeat a shapeshifter in one of their forms, convince them to transform into something you can.
- Voice Changeling: The ability to imitate anyone's voice, rather than their shape.
- Voluntary Shapeshifting: The "standard" shapeshifter package.
- You Sexy Beast: For cases where a less human form is considered more attractive.
Tropes related to transformations as an event:
- And Your Reward Is Infancy: When a person is transformed back into an infant.
- Baleful Polymorph: Transformation used as a weapon or punishment, to disable or dispose of an individual.
- Bewitched Amphibians, a subtrope. For whatever reason Frogs and toads are very popular animals for villains, especially classic witches, to turn people into.
- Become Your Weapon: When simple mastery is not enough.
- Becoming the Costume: Particularly popular around All Hallows' Eve, a curse that transforms the individual into whatever their costume resembles.
- Becoming the Genie: My third wish, make me an all-powerful genie! (Wait a second...)
- Bishonen Line: Transformation from a monstrous form into a much more elegant and human-like one.
- Bit-by-Bit Transformation: Transforming into a creature body part by body part.
- Clone by Conversion: Someone is turned into a copy of another person.
- Different for Girls: When a new form subjects you to new social norms
- Emergency Transformation: When the only way to save your dying body is to have it transformed into something else. Whether or not you'd be better off dead is up to you.
- Fisher Kingdom: A world or setting that transforms your mind, mood, and/or physical form to match its expectations or requirements.
- Fountain of Youth: Character spontaneously becomes younger.
- Baby Morph Episode: All the way to being a baby, and it takes a whole episode before they change back.
- Overnight Age-Up: Character spontaneously becomes older...
- Plot-Relevant Age-Up: ...so that a young character can quickly become old enough to have a legitimate role in the story's events.
- "Freaky Friday" Flip: Switching bodies with another person...
- Gender Bender: Being transformed into a member of the opposite sex.
- Humanity Ensues: An animal (or other non-human) is transformed into a human. They usually aren't happy about the change...
- Incredible Shrinking Man: Somebody shrinks.
- Just Woke Up That Way: And avoided a bunch of Phlebotinum, Nonsenseoleum, or Functional Magic by skipping straight to the results.
- Karmic Transformation: Getting transformed into something you despise or that is otherwise ironic; often caused by Laser-Guided Karma.
- Color Me Black: A bigot turns into a one of the group they're bigoted against.
- Metamorphosis: A permanent, one-time transformation that occurs over the long term, and you may know about it well in advance.
- The Mind Is a Plaything of the Body: Your thoughts and instincts transform to match whatever new form you have.
- Mutagenic Food: You are what you eat... literally.
- Mutagenic Goo: Gooey Applied Phlebotinum that can mutate and transform living beings into monsters.
- Not Quite Back to Normal: When a transformation leaves residual effects on the individual even after being transformed back.
- Oblivious Transformation: When the victim is initially unaware of their changes.
- Scaled Up: Is turning yourself into a giant snake ever a good idea?
- Shapeshifting Excludes Clothing: You may have changed, but your clothing sure didn't.
- Transformation Causes: Lists the number of ways a character can wind up transformed.
- Transformation Fiction: When a work revolves around transformation and/or shapeshifting.
- Transformation of the Possessed: When the new tenant in your body decides to do a little remodeling.
- Transformation Ray: A convenient way to keep the action moving when you're Travelling at the Speed of Plot.
- Viral Transformation: Spreading a transformation from one person to another.
- The Virus: A monster that infects people and turns them into one of its species.
Other shapeshifting tropes:
- Animorphism: Transformation into an animal, either as a special power or a one-time event...
- Appearance Is in the Eye of the Beholder: How you look varies depending on who's looking at you.
- Attack of the 50-Foot Whatever: Because bigger is better...
- Bewitched Amphibians: They could be a prince, they could be a lying frog...
- Body Horror: Sometimes changing shape ain't pretty.
- Breast Expansion: A character's bosom grows a few cup sizes (often as Fetish Fuel).
- Cape Wings: For when a cape mysteriously transforms into fully-functional wings and then back into a cape, or wings to cape and then back.
- Chest Monster: A predatory creature that disguises itself as a seemingly innocuous object.
- Face Stealer: For when you have to harm the target to assume their appearance.
- Game Face: Revealing the true face of evil.
- Lie to the Beholder: A psychic illusion that makes you look/sound like someone else, without involving a physical transformation or shapeshifting.
- Mistaken for Own Murderer: Shapeshifting can make someone think you're a monster and killed "yourself."
- Morph Weapon: A transforming weapon.
- One-Winged Angel: When the villain shouts "Behold my true form!" before the final battle...
- Puppet Permutation: Transformation into a puppet doll.
- Shapeshifting Lover: Females are usually a Voluntary Shapeshifter; males are usually victim of a Baleful Polymorph Curse.
- Showing Off the New Body: The individual closely inspects their new body, giving free Fanservice for everyone!
- They Look Like Us Now: Previously inhuman creatures discover a way to appear human, without possessing or controlling actual humans in the process.
- This Was His True Form: A reveal occuring after a shapeshifter has been killed or defeated.
- Toon Transformation: Toon world physics, meet toon world biology.
- Transflormation: When a character transforms into a tree, plant, or other type of flora.
- Transformation Conventions: Personality Powers applied to shapeshifting and transformations, often involving Animal Stereotypes.
- Transformation Trinket: When the transformation power resides in or relies on an amulet or similar token.
- You Are Who You Eat: Eating people allows non-humans to pretend to be human, and sometimes look like the person that was eaten.