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A Form You Are Comfortable With

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In the '70s, aliens appeared as sandals.

Joan: Are you — Are you being snippy with me? God is snippy.
God: Let me explain something to you, Joan. It goes like this: I don't look like this. I don't look like anything you'd recognize. You can't see me. I don't sound like this, I don't sound like anything you'd recognize. You see, I'm beyond your experience. I take this form because you're comfortable with it, it makes sense to you. And if I'm "snippy", it's because you understand snippy.

Sometimes, when God or some other vastly powerful or very strange Cosmic Entity needs to have a chat with mere mortals, they are aware that the meeting might be a little too overwhelming for the human to handle. Sometimes the non-human being isn't so powerful, but still has a Masquerade to maintain. Or they fear having to deal with hours of questions and a great deal of prejudice; humans tend to flip out when they see a dragon or learn that fairies are real.

In many cases, the nonhuman being will appear in the form of something, usually a humanlike form, that the human can wrap his head around, because not doing so might ruin the point of the entity talking to the humans in the first place.

Of course, the practical reason for this trope is that it is easier (and more realistic) to cast Morgan Freeman as God than it is to figure out what God really looks like. For added effect, the cosmic entity may also rearrange the local environment into a place the human is comfortable in, just to be extra accommodating—or because the unaltered environment is an Eldritch Location that would be just as dangerous or distracting as the being's unaltered form.

This is a common practice among Sufficiently Advanced Aliens, along with Translator Microbes, to allow full communication. Compare how Heaven tends to be this way for observers/visitors. See also You Cannot Grasp the True Form. There is also some crossover with Shapeshifter Default Form. Also compare the Humanoid Abomination, which stumbles unintentionally into A Form You Are Uncomfortable With.

Related to Lies to Children, especially if the form taken is in some way representative or symbolic of the thing's true nature. Contrast They Look Like Us Now and Prefers the True Form. See also God in Human Form and Interface with a Familiar Face.


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    Anime & Manga 
  • It's predictable that demons in Ah! My Goddess are actually monstrous, but it's revealed at the same time that even Belldandy isn't as human as she normally appears. Keiichi decides he doesn't care.
    • To be fair, he's only seen one demon's true form, which causes him to nearly lose his mind seeing it, and it did make him consider what Belldandy actually looked like. It also appears that gods and demons don't have too much control over how they look, considering that Skuld is stuck looking like a kid, much to her chagrin. Apparently the forms that gods and demons appear in to humans are a 3-dimensional translation of their true 10-dimensional bodies.
  • Sebastian of Black Butler is strongly implied to have no form he's truly comfortable with, not even his own demon form, and simply chooses this human form for the sake of Ciel. That, or Sebastian just likes the clothes.
  • Cerberus/Kero and Yue in Cardcaptor Sakura/Cardcaptors. At first, they sleep mode as a stuffed animal and ordinary human, but even after recovering their true forms, they don't use them much. Probably because a large flying lion with some kind of helmet and a rather scary blueish angel would freak people out. The main cast, however, doesn't care. It serves a practical function as well, particularly in the case of Yue. Their true forms constantly emit magic (since both are the products of magic), which becomes dangerous if prolonged. This becomes a plot point in the "Sakura Cards" arc when a magic field prevents both of them from returning to their "borrowed forms" and Sakura has to come up with a solution.
  • The anime adaptation of Didn't I Say to Make My Abilities Average in the Next Life? plays with this for "Nano", the physical representation of the nanomachines that enact this fantasy world's pseudo-magic. When they originally appear to Mile, she complains that they look scary, like a swarm of metal bees. They change into a shimmering vaguely-humanoid metallic shape, which reminds Mile too much of the bad guy from Terminator 2. She asks them to take a cute form, but they have trouble with the concept, and she ends up having them change forms over a hundred times (offscreen) before settling on something that looks like a cross between Pikachu and Kerberos/Kero.
  • This is the reason why the Scab Coral created human form Coralians to interact with humanity in Eureka Seven.
  • Fairy Tail: When we're first introduced to Virgo, she appears as a giant and bulky gorilla-like maid under the service of Duke Everlue. Later when Lucy obtains her key, she reappears with a petite yet curvaceous body and a delicate face. She explains that she can assume the appearance that pleases her owner (Duke Everlue had a fetish for ugly women).
  • FLCL Progressive & Alternative reveals that this is true of Haruko Haruhara, as she takes on a much more disturbing form to devour Jinyu.
  • Technically, Envy from Fullmetal Alchemist would count. He is a shapeshifter, and... well, his true form isn't exactly beautiful. Although in his case, it's because he is envious of humans, rather than wanting them to be comfortable. Truth takes this trope a step beyond: it wears YOUR body parts. So... a form you are uncomfortable with?
  • In Hellsing, Alucard, due to the thousands of souls inside him causing a lack of a definite gender, can change his appearance at will. To quote the man himself, "Form means nothing to me."
  • In I Am a Hero, the zombie Hive Mind chooses to present itself this way for those who enter it but are still aware that they exist as individuals. One of the protagonists, amusingly, experiences it as a Message Board.
  • In Inuyasha, Youkai of a particularly high level can turn into a completely human form. It also makes it easier to wield a sword.
  • The Seraphim in Itsuka Tenma no Kuro Usagi appear as a massive, statue-like thing with lava veins and no face to speak of. Apparently, their true form would shatter reality. This doesn't stop Gekkou from talking down to them.
  • Izanami, ruler of the underworld in Kamisama Kiss, takes the form of Nanami's rival Kayako when she appears before her since Izanami's own form rotted away long ago.
  • Inverted in The Legend of Zelda: Twilight Princess (2016). The Hero’s Shade spends most of his time as a skeletal wraith, like in the game, but he has the ability to make himself look like his old self as the Hero of Time.
  • Mekakucity Actors: It is revealed in the series' penultimate episode that the version of Ayano Shintaro is shown conversing with at the start/end of several episodes is actually his power, the Recording Eyes Snake, borrowing her voice and appearance while she tries to make him remember everything from past loops. Even after the façade is broken, she retains Ayano's voice.
  • Orochimaru, a major antagonist from Naruto, reveals to his former sensei, the Third Hokage, that he has been using a technique called Living Corpse Reincarnation to transfer his soul into a different body once every three years. As expected, the Third Hokage is horrified by this revelation when Orochimaru shows him the true face of his host's body which comes off as completely unfamiliar to him.
  • Neon Genesis Evangelion: Multiple:
  • Whoever sees Izanami in Noragami sees her in the appearance of someone who they are most comfortable with. For Yato, it was Hiyori. For Ebisu, it was the old woman who owned his favourite restaurant.
  • The Lord of Nightmares from Slayers can pick any form she wants, being god and all. She prefers to appear as a slender blonde woman, though... at least, when she's not inside someone else's body.
    • This is also the standard skill for Gold Dragons (Filia, however, isn't very adept with it, with frequent tail-related Glamour Failures). Among the Mazoku, however, only the truly powerful can convincingly take human forms; middle-level Mazoku like Kanzel and Mazenda tend to have Red Right Hands.
  • In One Piece, this is often the case with most Zoan users and even some Logia users where they often stay in their human forms, hybrid forms, or even full animal forms in very few cases. They always take their respective forms when fighting but these users are the ones that take their forms almost every day.
    • The best example is Tony Tony Chopper who is a reindeer that ate the Hito Hito no Mi that allows him to become a reindeer/human hybrid. Chopper has many forms called Points that he often takes at different points such as Walk Point and Heavy Point but his default form is Brain Point where he stands on two feet and is a lot smarter. Chopper is a rare case of an animal becoming a human instead of the other way around.
    • Marine Vice Admiral Dalmatian is always seen in his hybrid dalmatian form instead of his full human form.
    • The Jailer Beasts of Impel Down are this as well. They're Awakened Zoan Devil Fruit users where they recover from damage much quicker than others. They're also always seen in their hybrid forms.
    • Caesar Clown is, so far, the only Logia example of this. Caesar often stays in his gaseous form which does help considering he can't be hit normally and can fly/float around.
  • Its hinted that what we see of Kyubey in Puella Magi Madoka Magica is not his true form, but a form he takes to better entice young girls into trusting him. What he really looks like has yet to be revealed.
  • An episode of Smile PreCure! featured the Cures visiting Märchenland for the first time. In order to not spook its citizens, Pop uses his magic to turn the girls into fairies.
  • Shinigami in Soul Eater is in appearance a Lighter and Softer version of your classic Grim Reaper-type being. He states at one point he took on this look (and associated Cloudcuckoolander persona) in order to recruit children to his school, as his true form kept scaring them away. Thus he invoked Don't Fear the Reaper. When he loses said persona, it is an indication that he's either truly angry or simply tired of his staff mucking around.
    • Kid's human appearance could be seen as Shinigami deliberately invoking this trope, as it's a long time before Kid's nature becomes apparent, and by the time it does, his True Companions don't care, they just see him as a friend.
  • Backfires on Space Pirate Mito, a small childlike alien who uses a high tech "Mail Suit" to look like an adult human woman. She tries to re-use the suit after accidentally revealing her true form to her half-human son Aoi hoping it will convince him to call her "Mom" again, but now that he knows the truth Aoi finds the suit even more disturbing than her true form.
  • Holo of Spice and Wolf is a wolf deity, and over 500 years old, but takes the form of a young girl. She says that the human guise isn't uncomfortable, but her real reason is because she's afraid of frightening off Lawrence. This very nearly happens anyway, as Holo is forced to turn wolf to protect an injured Lawrence. Lawrence reacts badly to being approached by a giant wolf, which in turn only alienates Holo further. Lawrence comes to his senses quickly, though, and manages to salvage the relationship. From then on, Lawrence seems comfortable with both forms, having learned that Holo is the same regardless of appearance.
  • In The Visitor, a one-shot manga by Kanno Miyamoto, a Shinigami explains that when visiting humans, he takes a form that would be comforting to that person. When he checks a file and sees that the dying man is gay, he notes: "That explains why I appeared as a man." So in this version, the Shinigami apparently have no control over which form they initially take.
  • The President in Wish Upon the Pleiades does this, being actually an energy being.
  • The wolves of Wolf's Rain spend most of their time as humans, even when they should be in wolf form (for example, when humans are nowhere to be seen, or when they ate a dead deer). Presumably this was because Most Animators Are Human and it was just easier to have their human forms be on screen. This is most likely a device to reinforce the fact that the "human form" seen by the world and the viewer is really an illusion. Very often, when the plot doesn't force the viewer to see them in a specific way (as people in the presence of people, for example), the viewer sees them switch back and forth: often very quickly from cut to cut.
  • In Yu-Gi-Oh! 5Ds, Zone takes the appearance of Sherry's deceased father as a form that would leave her more open to his recruitment.

    Comic Books 
  • Adam: Legend of the Blue Marvel: The Watcher turns into a black man in order to talk to the title character. Humorously, the Watcher only did so because he misinterpreted Blue Marvel's joke about finding a white man on the moon.
  • Conan the Barbarian: In Conan the Slayer, a hideous-looking sea witch desires to breed with Conan, so she uses a glamour spell to look like a beautiful nymph in order to seduce him. It doesn't work because he already knew what she looked like beforehand.
  • Doctor Strange:
    • Inverted intentionally by Shuma-Gorath, who invades dimensions in whatever form will terrify the inhabitants most. On Earth, he appears as a single glaring eyeball surrounded by tentacles.
    • Played straight with the Vishanti, who take vaguely human or animal visages to avoid terrifying their worshipers.
  • Earth X: It is revealed (as part of a broader Meta Origin for all the superpowered races in the Marvel Universe) that the Asgardians from Thor are simply Sufficiently Advanced Aliens who used shapeshifting abilities to make themselves look like Norse deities.
  • Eight Billion Genies: The genies appear as tiny floating toddlers with etherial, wispy bodies. In reality, they resemble glowing trees/coral with hundreds of branches, each end tipped with a prismatic ball.
  • The Eternals: In the Neil Gaiman iteration, the Dreaming Celestial takes on Sersi's form to communicate with Makkari. After he complains that it's kind of creepy having the Celestial's voice come out of her mouth, the Celestial puts its face on her body, which Makkari finds even creepier.
  • Fantastic Four: God Him/Her/It/none-of-the-above-self appears to the Fantastic Four as Jack Kirby. Or is Jack Kirby. It's not clear.
  • Fantômas: In one issue, the thief/hero tries to steal a unique duck-billed dog. It turned out to be an alien sent to Earth to study humanity, who tried to take the form of a dog to go unnoticed, but something went wrong with the process. At the end of the story it changes into an eagle instead, this time more successfully.
  • Fine Print: A cubi's true form can get rather Lovecraftian and have adverse effects on humans who see them, so they cover it in layers of Glamour to interact with people properly. When a person sees past their glamour and sees cupids or cubi under their human disguises, this usually means that they are ideal candidates for making deals. When Merryl accidentally shows her divinity to Lauren, she becomes genuinely worried that she would bleed from her eyes (which eventually does happen) and spontaneously combust, questioning if she is a demigod when it doesn't happen right away.
  • Galactus and other Marvel Comics "higher plane of existence" beings look humanoid to us, but that's just our filter. Most of them "wear" temporary bodies when visiting the material universe, made to order for them by a being called Antropomorpho. Despite this trope, they're almost always shown in the same individual forms.
    • Galactus, however, doesn't have such a temporary body. Instead, his own form looks different to different viewers; for instance, a Skrull sees him as Skrull-like. (Galactus's original form as a mortal being in the universe preceding our own, however, was indeed humanoid.) One issue featured a scene where humans and dozens of aliens gazed upon him at once, the frame was filled with smaller images representing what each of them saw him as. Galactus's range isn't limited to the humanoid; Squirrel Girl's squirrel companion Tippy-Toe confirmed that Galactus looks like "a regular guy" — by her standards, that is; he's momentarily drawn as a five-hundred-foot-long squirrel.
  • The Great Power of Chninkel: Volga the Seer explains that she needs to have sex with J'on to be able to use her powers of foresight to help him with his quest. However, Volga is a writhing blob of flesh, tentacles, and multiple mouths and eyes, so J'on is understandably hesitant. However, she uses her magic to change both their forms to an athletic black man and a buxom white woman respectively so he's able to perform.
  • Green Arrow: In the Quiver storyline, Hal (during his time as the Spectre) is forced to do this twice for Oliver Queen, first into his Green Lantern costume and then the second time into his normal pilot's uniform.
  • Hellblazer:
    John: Aisha can't see the horns?
    Lucifer: No.
    John: Why can I seem them?
    Lucifer: Because I know you like them. [Brandishes his forked-tongue mockingly]
  • Immortal Hulk: Inverted; The One Below All uses avatars to avoid breaking mortal minds because it wants them to suffer instead. It most often is shown using David Banner, specifically because it unnerves the Devil Hulk. For others it uses a Nightmare Face.
  • God, in Lenny Henry and the Quest for the Big Woof, appears as a slightly geeky white guy, in green-tinted glasses and Joseph's dreamcoat. When Lenny questions this, he says he could manifest an explosion of white light, but "Who'd want to sit behind this at the cinema?"
  • Martian Manhunter: The Martian Manhunter, shapeshifter extraordinaire, avoids using his "true" Martian appearance to avoid frightening people. Miss Martian, similarly, goes for a cute, green-skinned humanoid form because her original form makes J'onn's Martian appearance look like a cute cuddly teddy bear in comparison.
  • Zigzagged by Marvel's Death. She might appear as either an attractive hooded woman or a hooded skeleton depending on her fancy. Played straight when she first met Thanos in his origin story and basically copied his mother Sui-San's appearance to gain his trust, but defied in another story when she appeared before the adult Thanos as a little girl while speaking of her desire for him. Played for laughs in her interactions with Deadpool, who seems to prefer her skeletal look.
    Thanos: Do you really have to take that shape?
    Death: Lesson learned, Thanos of Titan. I am Death. I am not of comfort.
  • Ms. Marvel (2014): When, after being exposed to the Terrigen Mist, Kamala Khan receives a vision of someone or something calling themselves "faith". The form they appear in? Captain Marvel, Iron Man, and Captain America. This surely tells us something about the girl.
    • Immediately afterwards, as her shapeshifting abilities manifest, she subconsciously turns herself into a clone of Carol Danvers in her old Ms. Marvel costume. This reflects Kamala's own insecurity and her wish-fulfillment, but she quickly finds that she feels incredibly uncomfortable, and soon learns to fight crime as herself.
  • The Phantom Stranger: When the Source appears to the Phantom Stranger in the New 52, it's in the form of ... a terrier. Apparently said entity has a strange sense of humor.
  • Powers: The aliens who direct the Millennium Corps appear to Walker in human forms, most commonly those of Zora and Retro Girl. A subversion in that Walker has made it clear that he is not comfortable with them taking on the shapes of his dead friends and lovers.
  • Proposition Player: In a variation, Bill the Angel of The Lord claims he uses that name because were he to speak his real name, the sky would rupture, the oceans turn to blood, a thousand virgins die, etc., etc. Given that he's a bully and leg-breaker for the forces of Heaven, it's not certain whether he's sincere or just being an egocentric jerk.
  • Red Sonja: When Red Sonja finally meets Death in a fever dream, Death appears as Sonja-but-more-so: ten feet tall in chainmail bikini with a skull motif. Death intends it as a tribute to Sonja's service by delivering so many lives to her.
  • Runaways: Xavin deliberately shapeshifts into the form of a human teenage boy when he first meets Karolina, believing that it's something that she'd be comfortable with. When she's shocked by his appearance, s/he figures that her parents prepped her for him/her arriving in his/her natural Skrull form (really, she's surprised at the fact that her parents promised her hand in marriage to him/her.) When Karolina reveals that she's a lesbian, Xavin takes the form of a human teenage woman, a form which s/he stays in most of the time when around Karolina. For the few times when Xavin thinks it's more helpful to be in a male form, Karolina does not interact romantically with him/her ("If you were a girl right now, I'd kiss you.")
    • Inverted during the "Dead End Kids" arc, where Xavin assumes a white male form for most of the team's stay in 1900s New York, as s/he assumes that she'll experience less problems that way. Karolina comes this close to dumping her over it.
  • The Sandman (1989):
    • This happens all the time with Dream:
      • When appearing to his lover Nada, Morpheus himself takes on the form of a tall, African man covered in tribal markings. He did a very smooth statuesque thing with Augustus Caesar, and got mistaken for Apollo, about which he was rather snippy. Morpheus and the other Endless have a different appearance to each person that looks at them (the one we see seems to be the default British/American Caucasian version, though the art style shifts all the time because different artists came in for different chapters).
        Marco Polo: Are you always so pale?
        Dream: That depends on who's watching.
      • Dream also appears as a black cat to cats, black fox for foxes, and a blackened face inside a fire vortex to the Martian Manhunter. The conceit is that people see the Endless as being either like themselves or like what they expect.
      • Dream seems to go back and forth with this: half the time he wears period clothing, but he sometimes shows up in the human world wearing ridiculous capes and things, which have drawn comments from humans who run into him. John Constantine complained about the Robe of Flames being embarrassing, so he put on a black trench coat. John then complained about no sense of humor.
      • This trope was also explicitly mentioned by caliph Harun al-Rashid when he tries to summon Dream and demands that the lord of dreams shows himself to the caliph in a form Harun will be comfortable with.
    • When done by others:
      • During the Season of Mists storyline, Lord Kilderkin of Order manifests himself as the supreme icon of order — an empty cardboard box.
      • Likewise, the Chaos Lord called Shivering Jemmy of the Nightmare Brigade manifests as a three-year-old girl, complete with a balloon and a love of ice cream.
        Jemmy: Nobody clever bes boxes!
      • Gilbert, a rotund and helpful middle-aged man, was a manifestation of Fiddler's Green, an intelligent place that inhabited the dream realm. Also, he looks and sounds very much like G. K. Chesterton.
      • Cain And Abel also qualify. It's heavily implied in A Parliament of Rooks that they weren't the first human murderer and victim, but in fact the first murderer and victim in the entire history of the universe and their true forms are actually Starfish Aliens. Also, they aren't really related to Eve, who may or may not have ever been a real person to begin with, let alone whether or not she was really human.
      • Invoked when Delirium actually mistakes a goth-dressed (lesbian) human for her sister Death in the beginning of Brief Lives. (It's unlikely that any of the other Endless would mistake a human for one of their own, but Delirium and reality are not always on speaking terms.)
      • Lampshaded when Orpheus pays an unexpected visit to Death in Fables And Reflections, catching her dressed down. She changes her twentieth century apartment, complete with a teddy bear, a fish-bowl and discarded stockings, to something with lots of stone columns and eternal gloom, and her own T-shirt and jeans attire to a black Gorgeous Period Dress and a veil.
    • In the Lucifer comics, God appears to Elaine in the form of her loved ones at first, and when Elaine tells Him to be someone she doesn't know, He chooses to appear as an elderly British gentleman in a bowler hat. He appears content to stay in this form for the rest of the comic after that, something Lucifer comments upon.
    • The "out of continuity but very much inspired" Murder Mysteries had God disguised as a strange wingless angel, which the protagonist comments had eyes that seemed to contain more than the others as one of the first hints to his real identity. Oddly enough, once revealed as being God himself, he is never shown in panel, despite no evidence of any transformation taking place.
    • The entire Sandman universe could be said to be this in meta form, hence why Earth Is the Center of the Universe and we never see any stories that interact with alien life.
  • Secret Wars II: In Marvel's Crisis Crossover, the Beyonder (a non-corporeal Cosmic Entity) has to take a physical form when he comes to Earth. His initial form is a bizarre humanoid patchwork consisting of bits from the many heroes and villains he met in the original Secret Wars. After some experimentation, he settles on a superficially modified version of Captain America's body.
  • Sonic the Hedgehog (Archie Comics): The goddess Aurora looked like whatever those who saw her imagined her to look like. To Knuckles, she looked like an echidna.
  • Spongebob Squarepants: In one comic, a Mola-Mola mind-melds (well, heart-melds) with Spongebob and takes the form of a Krabby Patty.
    Krabby Patty!Mola-Mola: Don't eat me.
    Spongebob: You ate me first!
  • Storm (Don Lawrence): The living planet Pandarve appears in several forms, most often something the hero would recognize from millions of years ago on Earth, such as Alice (from Alice in Wonderland), Medusa, and Marilyn Monroe.
  • Superman:
    • Implied in Whatever Happened to the Man of Tomorrow? as the reason for the fifth-dimensional trickster Mr. Mxyzptlk's usual form as a little man in a purple suit, when he mocks the characters for thinking that's what he actually looks like. Narrating the story years later, Lois Lane describes being confronted with his true, hyper-spatial form: "I can't describe what Mxyzptlk then became. He had height, width, depth... and a couple of other things." Within the comic, he's drawn as a gigantic energy being.
    • The Phantom Zone: After flying into the core of a cosmic being called Aethyr, Superman and Quex-Ul are intercepted by a giant, purple bat-like dragon head. Superman believes he has found the Aethyr, but the dragon's head explains the very universe where they have gone into is the Aethyr. Superman is addressing to a mere interface which he can understand and talk to.
    • Inverted in Superman Smashes the Klan: When Clark first starts getting visions of his birth parents they have green skin, red compound eyes, pointed ears, and antennae, looking like B-Movie alien villains due to his discomfort with his Kryptonian origin. When he becomes comfortable with it, they shift to the usual DC depiction of Kryptonians as Human Aliens.
  • Tom Strong: One time-travel adventure for Tom Strong sees him encounter one his recurring enemies, the Pangean, who generally takes the form of a giant slime mold (who at this point, is roughly the size of a small country). Reasoning that Tom would rather speak to a biped, he splits off a part of his biomass, forming it into a shape resembling a green man wearing 17th century style clothing so that they can communicate more easily.
  • In Ultimate Marvel continuity, the Kree aren't the Humanoid Aliens of the regular Marvel Universe, but are Starfish Aliens. Pluskommander Geheneris Hala'son Mahr Vehl (Ultimate Captain Marvel) takes a humanoid form to talk to SHIELD.
  • Wonder Woman: While the Olympians almost always manifest as human and at human scale when interacting with people they are usually giants compared to people, as seen when Cassie first visited Olympus in Volume 2 and Poseidon in particular doesn't bother trying to look particularly human, generally choosing a teal skinned giant merman form pre-Flashpoint and an Eldritch Abomination in Wonder Woman (2011). There's also the fact that they are generally in more than one place at a time with multiple manifestations, particularly their Greek ones vs their Roman ones. Other Greek gods are less choosy about their forms, with Ares and Aphrodite's fear god children in particular generally choosing unsettling forms, either humanoid forms with writhing snakes for hair and non-human limbs or as monstrous dogs with their skulls exposed.

    Comic Strips 
  • In one Garfield Story Arc, Garfield's conscience took the form of Garfield's food dish for this reason. (He really looks like everyone's mother.)

    Fan Works 
  • In The Myth of Link & Zelda: Breath of the Wild, a fanmade novelization of the titular game, the Sheikah are established to learn combat from their ancestors, who adopt the form of Sheik, through the use of a Spirit World. The spirits are not incomprehensible for human minds, but adopting the form of Sheik gives the Sheikah a face and a voice from whom to learn, and the spirits of the Sheikah are aware that this is more effective.
  • The Bridge: Mothra arrived in Equestria in the form of a Changeling Queen. Since Changelings are feared by the population, she shapeshifts into an alicorn in public.
  • Deconstructed in Supergirl (2015)/The Flash (2014) crossover Call Me Kara. Jeremiah lets J'onn know that's he's alright with J'onn taking on the appearance of Hank Henshaw despite the fact that Jeremiah only knew the man as a villain, as he knows that his shape-shifting Martian friend finds it more comfortable.
  • In the Mass Effect story Crucible, a star, if not reincarnating as a living being, will usually appear in the form of a loved one of whoever was looking at them.
    • The bare-faced Turian called The Trickster, meanwhile, appeared just like that but had hinted that he had many other forms. One of them was a Batarian deity with 8 arms and blue tatoos when he came to get the soul of a dying Batarian girl. Another form of his was Jane's father, Sam Shepard. He took that form again to take away her soul and ease her pain at the beginning of the second game.
  • In Holly Potter and the Witching World, Lily Potter's spirit visits her daughter Holly in her dreams. She always appears to be Holly's exact age, and while it's not directly stated, it's implied that this is because Holly is more comfortable talking to someone her own age.
  • Infinity Train: Blossoming Trail: When the Unown adopt the form of UnChloe, her exact appearance depends on who exactly is looking at her. For instance, Parker sees her as his sister in the black witch outfit she was supposed to wear for the talent show, while her bullies Sara and Yeardley see her as she looked after they ruined her costume, dripping with blood rather than the red paint they dumped on her. All these differences reflect how Chloe felt as though nobody saw her for whom she really was, projecting their desires and expectations onto her; even Parker, who knew her best, idealizes her as a "princess" despite her disliking that term.
  • In Inspired Voyage, the Doctor, AKA the EMH, reveals that he doesn't actually need the Robert Picardo Hologram body, since he could just operate all the medical equipment himself and doesn't need to talk to people with a mouth (he could do it over loudspeaker). However, a ghost room that talks to you and operates medical equipment on its own tends to unnerve people, so the hologram stays.
  • Inverted in The Judgement of the World (5Ds). While Honest normally uses hypnosis so others will see him as his human partner, Yusuke Fujiwara, he decides to just appear in his true form to Aki when he finally approaches her to explain his situation, as he knows she wouldn't appreciate any further deceptions.
  • In The Many Worlds Interpretation, blending the Discworld and The Big Bang Theory, Sheldon Cooper has a brush with the DEATH of the Roundworld. He is angry and irritated that DEATH takes the traditional form of The Seventh Seal type - a medieval robed spirit with scythe. Sheldon defiantly folds his arms, digs his feet in, and stubbornly says that unless DEATH takes the form of a perkily pretty Goth girl in her late teens, then he isn't going anywhere.
  • Harry Potter still appears like an ordinary human in Master of Death and What it Means, but before using "a drop of his power" as the Master of Death, he warns The Avengers not to look because he wasn't meant to be seen by mortals and their minds won't be able to comprehend it.
  • In Musical Mayhem, the titular akuma wields items based off of various musicals, including his own version of the SQUIP from Be More Chill. Just like in the musical, the SQUIP uses this tactic on anyone it's affecting — Juleka sees it as Billie Eilish, Nathaniel sees it as Stan Lee, and Marc sees it as Kodo Nishimura. The author also jokingly states at the end that her SQUIP would probably take the form of Lance from Voltron: Legendary Defender.
  • In My Mother, when Obi-Wan's Force ghost appears to Padme, he initially appears as the old man he was when he died. However, he is able to change his appearance to the younger man Padme is more familiar with.
  • Some Naruto fanfiction show the various bijuu choosing to assume human forms in order to communicate with their containers. Whether the bijuu are more sociable or not varies from author to author, but Kurama (the Kyuubi) almost invariably ends up being a redheaded woman with a model's body, which often leads to a standard speech that "You think a female can't be strong?" from the demon. The fact that bijuu are living masses of chakra with no actual physical form, and thus no gender, is conveniently ignored.
    • The Melt has Kurama appear as a Sharp-Dressed Man in black with slicked red hair. Upon Naruto saying "I thought you were a fox", Kurama shows his true form, promptly scaring Naruto and causing the former to point out that he chose that form for a reason.
    • In Destiny is a Hazy Thing, Kurama and Daiki (Yog-Sothoth) appear as (according to Naruto) "The most beautiful women he had ever seen with red-gold hair and in a plain brown dress" (Kurama) and a rather handsome man with short black hair wearing either blue and gray robes or a leather vest, trousers, and boots (Daiki). Justified in that Daiki is a Reality Warper and in foresight thought of this trope and chose genders for both him and Kurama to make conversations with Naruto easier.
    • Played with in the Reaching for a Dream series. After attaining godhood, Naruto and Xanna appear mostly the same as before, though with horns like Kaguya, and Xanna's hair turns from red to white while Naruto is permanently in sage mode. In later stories, Naruto makes it clear that neither of them is remotely bound to his or her physical form and that they simply use them to enjoy mortal pleasures, such as food, sleep, cuddling, and sex.
  • The Night Unfurls: In order to avert Go Mad from the Revelation, together with concealing the existence of the Eldritch Truth and anything related to Yharnam, the Good Hunter takes the form of a youthful man. Ironically, said "form" is also quite scary and sinister to look at.
  • In Pokémon Reset Bloodlines, at one point MissingNo appears before Ash and takes on the forms of Dawn, Iris, and Serena (albeit with their edges pixilated) just to torment him.
  • Pony POV Series:
    • Defied by Havoc, Discord's father, in the Dark World Series. Rancor, Discord's little sister, says He was going to drop her off personally using an Avatar, but didn't because He was outright trying to avoid this trope and couldn't decide if His pony Avatar was still scary due to being 'outdated' or more scary due to Uncanny Valley. Considering He's the Anthropomorphic Personification of Mass Hysteria, this makes sense. During Starlight's trial, He assumes the form of an alicorn version of Starlight, but this is less for her comfort and more to appeal to her ego trying to win her soul. During the Finale arc he seems to have gotten better at this, as he assumes the form of a young pegasus foal named Phobia to guide the CMC.
    • The Father of All Alicorns also averts this, as the few times we've seen Him, He doesn't bother to disguise Himself, even though His true form is rather confusing. This may be because His presence is naturally comforting, so he doesn't see the need. When He appears in Starlight's trial, He assumes the form of a colt, but that was presumably because His true form would've tipped Starlight off as to which side was on her side. He also appears as a colt named Pearly Gates while helping combat the villains during the Rumors Arc, which is much more this trope.
    • His wife, Fauna Luster, also does this, even once in the spirit world. Given she's empathy incarnate, she's probably playing this a bit straighter. During the Rumors Arc, she assumes the form of a filly named Creative Spirit while helping combat the Rumors with the other Elders.
    • Referenced in the Finale Arc when Nurse Redheart asks the being before her, Saint Sweetheart, if she is really an alien being posing as her idol to make her more comfortable, until she is told she truly is who she looks like.
    • Entropy has taken to using her mortal incarnation Maud Pie for this purpose. Her original manifestation during the Rumors Arc was a unicorn mare with a cracked horn named Mrs. Void, but it was altered into Maud's by shielding the CMC from the World-Wrecking Wave that started the rumors.
    • The deities all do this when interacting with mortals in their true cosmic state. When Strife and Cadenza manifested before Moochick and Heathspike, they appeared as a member of their respective species to them.
  • Played with in Son of the Warp. A Lord of Change sent to mentor Joseph tries to invoke this by taking the appearance of Chiron. Joseph actually finds this uncomfortable and instead orders the daemon to take the form of Winston Churchill.
  • Parodied in this short story, which itself is a loose parody of Stanisław Lem's Ijon Tichy short stories.
  • The Stars Will Aid Their Escape: Herald looks like an ordinary stallion but is actually an Eldritch Abomination in pony form (Nyarlathotep, in fact). This carries over to a cutie mark that seems to constantly be changing form (though it's hard to see on his dark coat, and trying only gives you a headache), and the fact that if you see him without his mask on, you go insane (which he inflicts on Twilight).
    • It's also implied that the princesses do this as well, as when they fight Nyarlathotep outside reality, they take on forms of pure power that no pony would recognize as them.
  • A benign version in Strings, when Korra reaches Avatar State after being forced to return to Tarrlok, Aang appears to Korra as his twelve-year-old self.
  • Thousand Shinji: After their ascension to godhood, the new Chaos Gods—a., k., a. Shinji, Asuka, Rei and Misato—have a myriad of shapes and faces visible to mortals, but they usually take human forms to talk to their followers or keep themselves grounded.
  • In We Are All Pokémon Trainers, Tagg theorizes that the creation trio might do this when interacting with mortals, considering their eldritch natures. He turns out to be quite right when he sees Dialga in the Temporal World, who takes the form of a vaguely draconic shaped mass covered in diamonds.
  • In When Reason Fails, the Outsider of Existence, also known as Aiko, takes the form of a human child specifically to prevent Izuku and his friends from going mad from her true form.
  • Played with in With Strings Attached. The Fans look like featureless human mannequins to the four, but that's because they're stuck using standard humanoid telepathic avatars; they aren't especially worried about what the four might think of their real forms.
    "So what do you two really look like?" Ringo asked again.
    "Not as pretty as you guys," said Varx.
    Shag elbowed him. "Shut up, Varx! We're not human, Ringo. We'd show you, but we don't have the ability here. This is a preset background with limited variability, so we're stuck with these avatars. But we're kind of... um...."
    "Kinda lizardy, kinda birdy," Varx said helpfully.
    "With claws," said George.
  • In The Legend of Zelda fanfic Wisdom and Courage, the three golden goddesses, Din, Nayru, and Farore, take on human forms to meet with Zelda in chapter 35 because, as Din states, their true forms are beyond her mortal comprehension.
  • Like in canon, dragons in Wizard Runemaster can take on humanoid forms when dealing with mortals. When Harry remarks on the differences between Ysondre and her mother Ysera, Ysondre changes her form to more resemble her mother and informs him that their forms are entirely a matter of choice. Onyxia uses three separate forms over the course of the story: Katrana Prestor, a more draconic version of Katrana resembling Alexstrasza's humanoid form, and a blonde bombshell. The last is used around anyone who doesn't know her true identity.
  • In the Marvel Cinematic Universe fic Z To A, the essence of the Infinity Stones appear to Peter after he used the new Infinity Gauntlet to stop Thanos in the forms of people they consider their 'ties' to reality; Soul as Natasha, Time as Doctor Strange, Power as Star-Lord, Space as Carol Danvers, Mind as Wanda Maximoff and Reality as Jane Foster (the last taking Peter a moment to recognise as he knows Jane the least).
  • The Zeppo In Mind: Faith's mind appears to Xander as a combination of an office and a control room, with the changes made to her body by him, the slayer spirit, the Primal, or the Soldier, appearing as paperwork that they have to fill out. It takes Xander some time to realize that both are just how his mind interprets things rather than how they truly look. Likewise, any minds in Faith's head appear in a way that are easier to comprehend. The slayer spirit takes the form of the First Slayer, and Faith's conscience takes the form of a naked Xander (though appearing as Faith for Xander's sake). The primal spirit appears as a giant Hyena, and the Soldier looks like Faith in BDUs and a ponytail.

    Film — Animation 
  • In Aladdin: The Return of Jafar, Jafar's true form of a huge red genie is too much for thief Abis Mal to handle, so Jafar spends most of the film in human form, transforming back to his genie form during his musical number/confrontation with Genie and the climactic battle with Aladdin and his friends. Granted, this only helped a little, since let's face it, even human Jafar is pretty damn intimidating.
  • Care Bears Movie II: A New Generation: The Big Bad Dark Heart spends most of the movie in the form of a human boy other than his red cloud form. Said form is what he permanently ends up taking on once he undergoes a Heel–Face Turn in the end.
  • The LEGO Movie 2: The Second Part: Parodied. When introducing herself to her captives, Queen Watevra Wa-Nabi shows her ability to take any form by turning from a horse to a Starfish Alien. Batman is disgusted and asks for her to change back to the former.
  • The 1600's Louds' spirits in The Loud House Movie, despite having died when they were much older, appear as they did in their family portrait. It is implied by Lucille that they choose to appear that way out of nostalgia for their old home of Loch Loud.
  • The Prince of Egypt: God manifests Himself as a burning bush. He also speaks to Moses with Moses' own voice. Of course, there's some precedent for that in the source material.
  • In Soul, the Jerries and Terry are all beings made of the quantal energies of the universe. They simply present themselves in (vaguely) humanoid form as human souls wouldn't be able to comprehend them otherwise.

    Film — Live-Action 
  • 2001: A Space Odyssey
    • The situational variant of this is used in the first movie. David Bowman travels through the Star Gate, which we presume is even more mind-blowing in the flesh, so to speak, and ends up... in a hotel room. Not only that: in the novel, Dave notices that it's a bad rendition of a hotel room. It might look okay on the surface, but he quickly finds out that he can't open any drawers, the books are painted on the bookcase and all food and drink containers, such as cereal box and beer cans, are filled with some spicy, blue stuff that smells like macaroons. It's as if someone was trying to imitate a hotel room without understanding it. He finally finds out why when he turns on the TV and sees the same room in an old soap opera on the screen. The aliens had based the room on what they had learned from various earth broadcasts. But then again, it is the result of the trope being played as straight as possible. It never was the idea that Dave should take residence in the room; its function was merely to calm him by placing him in a familiar environment, in order to prepare him for his transformation into the Star Child.
    • In 2010: The Year We Make Contact, Dave, having ascended to a higher plane of existence in 2001, creates a holographic image of himself as a human in order to communicate with Dr. Heywood Floyd aboard the Discovery. The film version is something of a Mind Screw, as he changes appearance randomly throughout the encounter; this is explained in the novel as Bowman having trouble remembering being human.
    • The Monoliths themselves are often described as having a dimensional ratio of 1:4:9 (1, 2, and 3 multiplied by themselves). Dave Bowman heavily implies that the progression continues into dimensions that humans cannot perceive, and also that every Monolith encountered is actually the same one, and that despite appearing from several feet to several miles in length, it has only one size, "as large as necessary".
  • It is revealed that the chairman of The Adjustment Bureau has met with every single living person at some point in their lives, each time with a different look and gender.
  • In A.I.: Artificial Intelligence, the Specialists talk to the ressurected David in the form of the Blue Fairy from The Adventures of Pinocchio, whom David was searching for earlier in the film.
  • Inverted in Avatar, it's the humans who take on the form of aliens in an attempt to begin diplomatic negotiations with them while they plan to destroy the planet. Inverting this trope was the main thrust of Cameron's original script, in which the Na'vi are Starfish Aliens. (Sully still falls in love with a Na'vi in his Avatar form.) The avatars are still different from the Na'vi, being Na'vi/human hybrids. They have smaller eyes and ten fingers and ten toes (the Na'vi have eight of each). Presumably, this is so that avatar operators don't have to re-learn how to use their hands, and can still use most equipment designed for humans in their avatar bodies.
  • In Bedazzled (2000), the Devil briefly appears as a giant red horned demon. Brendan Fraser hastily admits he prefers the form of Elizabeth Hurley (in a bikini).
  • Used up to a point in Bless the Child, where most of the demons and angels look like regular people until the climax of the movie.
  • In Bruce Almighty and its sequel, Evan Almighty, God first appears as a janitor, played by Morgan Freeman.
  • One of the Sufficiently Advanced Aliens in Contact takes the form of Eleanore Arroway's dead father in order to be able to talk to her. The Caribbean beach upon which they hold said conversation is also an example of this trope. Everything she saw outside the capsule after entering the second wormhole was previously shown in the film, implying that she was in some kind of VR from that point until she was returned. The alien's "unfocused" form implies that it's a tall Gray Alien, similar to the one in Close Encounters of the Third Kind.
  • In the remake of The Day the Earth Stood Still, Klaatu says that his true form would "only frighten [humans]".
  • Dogma:
    • The entire point of Metatron's existence:
      "Human beings have neither the aural nor the psychological capacity to withstand the awesome power of God's true voice. Were you to hear it, your mind would cave in and your heart would explode within your chest. We went through five Adams before we figured that one out."
    • God also does this, spending most of the movie in the form of a middle-aged homeless man in a coma, and at the end appearing as a beautiful woman.
  • Dreamcatcher: The true form of the aliens is a massive, tripodal creature that can devour humans; knowing that this form will instigate aggressive reactions, they project a telepathic image of the traditional Gray alien into human minds, making them appear weak and near-human.
  • Galaxy Quest: The Thermians disguise themselves as humans when visiting Earth. Their native form looks more like a mollusk than a human. In one scene, the Thermians forget to put on their disguises when visiting the Show Within a Show's stars — causing the latter to be quite disturbed.... They also keep up the disguises when no humans are around, because their slavish devotion to the Galaxy Quest "historical documents" made them build the ship exactly as they saw it — i.e., with controls designed for human beings. In their true forms, they can't use their own ship!
  • Ghostbusters (1984): Gozer first takes the aspect of an androgynous human, then an aspect of the Ghostbusters' choosing.
    Winston: I thought Gozer was a man.
    Egon: It's whatever it wants to be.
  • It Came from Outer Space (1953). The aliens can copy human form; naturally this only serves to freak out those humans they're trying to reassure about their peaceful intentions.
  • Lifeforce (1985): The space vampires took human form by probing the minds of the astronauts for suitable shapes. The human explorers, who presumed they were dealing with Human Aliens, decided to take them to Earth for further study. Their real forms are those hibernating bat-like creatures found inside the alien spacecraft, which are only shown in their full glory when the female vampire visits Carlson in his dreams, and when the second male vampire is killed at the end.
  • Marvel Cinematic Universe:
    • In Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2, Ego the Living Planet has the ability to create a humanoid avatar in order to interact with other sapient beings that he states comes complete with everything seen in organics, including working genitalia. He uses this form to create progeny with others races with the hope of finding one that has inherited his powers as a Celestial to aid him in his Assimilation Plot.
    • In Captain Marvel (2019), the Supreme Intelligence's avatar looks different to everyone who interfaces with it, taking the appearance of someone close to them — to Vers, it takes the form of an older woman with green eyes, but she seems to not recognize her. It's later revealed that this is based off of Dr. Wendy Lawson, AKA Mar-Vell, whom Vers was close with before becoming a Kree.
  • In Mr. Destiny, Fate itself manifests to Jim Belushi as a bartender who looks a lot like Michael Caine.
  • In Oh, God!, God specifically tells Jerry Landers that he could have appeared in any other form, but chose one that Jerry could understand. God does the same thing in the two sequels. And both times, he looked like George Burns. So did The Devil. Which stands to reason, since God specifically tells the protagonist, who just thought the Devil was trying to trick him, that Harry O. Tophet (H.O.T., get it?) always wants to look like and sound like him.
  • The fairies in Pan's Labyrinth at first appear more like overgrown grasshoppers but when Ofelia shows them pictures of the fairies in her storybook, they transform into them to please her.
  • The Percy Jackson and the Olympians movie adaptation has Hades, whose style resembles Mick Jagger's. When Percy, Annabeth and Grover are a little bit surprised by his appearance, he shows them his true form — a big, talking flame — and changes right back. His looks aren't discussed any further. The humanoid version is implied to be closer to his true form — the flaming-demon-shape was just a form he picked to make them uncomfortable.
  • Progeny: The aliens project the Gray form to make the abduction ordeal more comfortable for humans. Their real form, as revealed part-way through the movie, is horrific, non-humanoid, and vaguely reptilian.
  • In Purgatory, the Indian and coach driver are actually angels.
  • Santo vs. la Invasion de los Marcianos (Santo Vs The Martian Invasion): The Martians are human-shaped to start with, but decide to run themselves through a transformation machine to get more human bodies. This meant they wouldn't have access to their Death Ray Third Eye while in human form ... but that's good, because now the scriptwriters don't have to try explaining why Santo doesn't get vaporized when he goes mano-a-mano with them. Being able to ditch the long blond wigs probably made life easier for the wrestlers playing Martians.
  • In The Shack, protagonist Mack was abused as a child by his father and has difficulty with the concept of accepting a father's love. To make him less apprehensive, God spends most of the film appearing as the kind-hearted neighbor woman who used to give him apple pie, played by Octavia Spencer.
  • The title character in Starman takes the form of Jenny Hayden's recently deceased husband for exactly this reason.
  • Starship Troopers 3: Marauder: Subverted. Turns out that using the zombified remains of the dwindled members of the Dwindling Party as your mouthpiece only really serves to make everybody a lot less comfortable. Even The Mole is visibly thrown a bit by this.
  • Used in Star Trek V: The Final Frontier with the alien "God" on the planet Sha Ka Ri. Inverted when the alien turns out to be not so nice (in the original screenplay, he's the imprisoned devil, trying to escape). He then uses this to torment Well-Intentioned Extremist Sybok by becoming a mirror image of him and telling him that rather than enlightening people, he had created a God in his own image.
  • Terminator Salvation: SkyNet takes the form of Dr. Serena when she debriefs Marcus in his role as her Unwitting Pawn. To add extra creepiness to the "kindness", she offers to switch her appearance into that of John Connor or Kyle Reese as she is having both killed mere floors below. Needless to say, this was not a successful persuasive tool. Oh, and her eyes turned red like a Terminator's do.
  • The Voyage of the Dawn Treader: Played by laughs. Liliandil is a star that transforms into a beautiful woman.
    Caspian: You are most beautiful.
    Liliandil: If it is a distraction, I can change form.
    Edmund & Caspian: (hastily) No!
  • Zarkorr The Invader has a man who is judged to be the median of human society, chosen to prove his species's worth by (somehow) defeating the titular monster. The one who relays this challenge to him takes on a form that is made to be "familiar and unthreatening". In the protagonist's words: a "tiny, teenage mall-tramp."
  • Zack Snyder's Justice League: Victor Stone/Cyborg uses his former self wearing his GCU jacket as avatar whenever he ventures in the digital world.

  • Almost Nowhere: The anomalings don't have bodies in the conventional sense so they interact with humanity via "shades" which mostly look human but can be almost anything with a floating sphere and a talking dog both having shown up on screen.
  • The Android's Dream features an example of "a form we're both comfortable with". Two characters interacting in a cybernetic mindscape (one which is otherwise abstract rather than a reality-mimicking "Cyberspace") shape themselves a nice little garden in which to chat, and human "bodies" to wear while doing it.
  • Animorphs:
    • The Ellimist takes the form of a girl known by the Animorphs when he humbly requests their help. As he also stops time along with this, Jake thinks to himself that it's not really all that humble. Most of the time, he appears to the Animorphs (and Elfangor, in the 80s) as an adult male, or a wrinkly elf-like creature (as seen on the cover of The Ellimist Chronicles). At the end of The Andalite Chronicles, Elfangor sees the Ellimist as he truly is: "An indescribable being of light and time and space."
    • When the Ellimist appears to Tobias in The Change, he appears as a mixture of birds. "I saw it flying toward me. It was a bird of prey. A raptor. Some undefinable shape, part falcon, part eagle, part hawk. It had a snow-white belly and reddish-brown back and a tail that spread to show a dusky rainbow of colors."
      When Tobias comments that this wasn't how the Ellimist looked the last time the Animorphs saw him, the Ellimist says that he chose a shape Tobias would identify with.
    • The Ellimist tends to prefer this even when it's not necessary; in his confrontation with Crayak at the end of The Ellimist Chronicles, he chooses to take the form of an ordinary Ketran (the species he originally belonged to).
  • In a short story by Margaret Attenborough, when God visits Kitty Heaven (which is actually Human Hell), he takes the form of a white Persian.
  • In Baccano!, the demon summoned aboard the Advenna Avis has taken to adopting a human form (which can be recognized as one of the supporting Camorra gangsters, Ronnie Sukiart). His true form is never shown in the anime, but the Light Novels imply that it's rather disturbing.
  • Played with in The Bartimaeus Trilogy: spirits' forms can be purposefully disturbing, to distract their masters, but some of their true forms border on Eldritch Abominations. To better mingle with the humans, however, spirits often take on humanoid or animal forms. Some are also more comfortable themselves, such as it is, in a humanoid Shapeshifter Default Form. In fact, if he has a choice, Bartimaeus prefers to become Ptolemy because it is the form he is comfortable with, Ptolemy having been the one master who showed him true respect, got to know him on a personal level, and even ventured into the Other Place.
  • Blind Lake: Mirror Girl adopts the image of little girl Tess in order to talk to humans.
  • Burying the Shadow: The eloim took on human forms to avoid overwhelming humans by merely existing.
  • In Isaac Asimov's short story "Buy Jupiter", aliens who inhabit the coronas of stars (and thus exist at temperatures in the thousands of degrees) interact with humans by projecting human forms to Earth. The humans are fully aware that they are talking to simulations.
  • In Childhood's End, the Overlords hide their true form (they look like classic demons) for a long time, because they know that we will not be comfortable with it.
  • The Chronicles of Narnia: Aslan the talking lion is Jesus. Or rather, on Earth, among humans, he went by that name and form, while in the Talking Animal world of Narnia, he manifests as a fellow talking animal.
  • ConSentiency has interfaces in the "Beachballs" as the main means for contact with a Caleban — very tenuous, between barely understandable speech and apparently meaningless visual representation. But it turns out this counts as a quite good job, considering the scale of the problem.
    McKie: And all we see here is this... this bit of nothing.
    Caleban: Not put something here. Self-I put something here and uncreate you. McKie discontinues in presence of I-self.
    McKie: Do you hang that, Tuluk?
    Tuluk: Hang? Oh, yes. She seems to be saying that she can't make herself visible to us because that'd kill us.
    McKie: That's the way I read it.
  • Near the end of Contact, the main character encounters an alien being that has taken the form of her long-dead father in an attempt to make the experience less frightening. The other characters encounter something similar. One person sees his granddaughter. Another sees her long-dead husband. And the Chinese archaeologist sees Confucius.
  • The Cosmere:
    • The Shards, the people who wield the Pieces of God, typically choose to appear in the form they had before they Ascended. Looking too closely — especially at the eyes—can lead to seeing the Shard behind the form, which is usually so overwhelming that the person looking breaks down into tears. It should be noted that the evil Shards are more likely to alter their forms to something people find more comfortable, as well as more likely to throw off the facade and humble people with their true form. Ruin appears as Vin's brother and Kelsier at various points, while his opposite Preservation only ever shows up as a humble man with a survivalist's knife on his belt. Odium appears to Dalinar as a human but to the parsh as a parshman, both times wielding an ornate golden scepter. Cultivation appears as a human woman with pure black skin, although this hides that not only is she a Shard but that her true form is that of a dragon. And Autonomy has apparently created multiple pantheons where every single member is just a different version of herself.
    • The Sleepless in The Stormlight Archive also adopt this. Each Sleepless is a massive, disconnected consciousness of thousands of individual insect-like creatures who are spread across the entire planet. Since talking with a vast horde of insects is rather disconcerting, the Sleepless have bred groups of their individual creatures to be able to assemble themselves into a body that is indistinguishable from a human's, with individuals making up fingers, skin, hair, eyes, and other features.
  • Most entities in H. P. Lovecraft's Cthulhu Mythos don't know what form humans would be comfortable with or don't care to try:
    • Averted by the Great Old Ones, as they can't be concerned with whether their appearance causes puny human minds to shatter like glass.
    • The Outer God Nyarlathotep, however, does take the form of a Pharaoh, a swarthy Egyptian man, or a pitch-black humanoid. This is because he likes to interact with humanity more than his brethren, albeit for his own malicious reasons. In an odd inversion, each of his forms is said to drive some race in the universe into gibbering insanity, without exception.
    • The Mi-Go in "The Whisperer in Darkness" take a stab at this trope with the... materials they have at hand.
    • Shub-Niggurath's non-Brown Note form sparked the Satyr myths, as she often takes the form of a goat/human hybrid when looking to make some more of her innumerable children.
  • In David Starr, Space Ranger, when David, talking to a telepathic Energy Being, finds it uncomfortable speaking to thin air, the alien states taking a fully human shape would be "a poor and undignified imposture", and instead appears as a vague glowing shape seven feet tall, just so Starr will have something.
  • Discworld:
    • This apparently used to be the case for Death, who would appear in the form of whatever Psychopomp the deceased expected. But he eventually decided it was more trouble than it was worth, and it's not like anyone really expected him to turn up at all, so nowadays he sticks with the robed skeleton carrying a scythe, because it's a form he's comfortable with. However, when he interacts with normal people outside of his duties, he tends to appear as something inoffensive to protect their minds. Most notably, Mort's father saw him as an undertaker who was looking for an apprentice, and Miss Flitworth saw him as a normal farmhand.
    • The God of Evolution in The Last Continent takes the form of an elderly man with a long white beard, despite possibly not being familiar with humans at all (his backstory seems a bit confused on this point), because he can sense that this is a form which the wizards (who are mostly elderly men with long white beards) associate with wisdom.
  • The Divine Comedy: The speech of Dante's great-great-grandfather in the Heaven of Mars expresses thoughts so deep a mere mortal could not comprehend. In his deep sympathy for his great-great-grandson, he allowed "his speech to descend to meet the limit of our intellect" and refrained from speaking truths beyond mortal comprehension.
  • Doctor Who New Adventures novels by Dave Stone, including Sky Pirates! and Death and Diplomacy, reveal that the way the TARDIS interior appears to humans is "A Form You Are Comfortable With" (in its natural form the controls try to bite you), and strongly imply that the same applies to the Doctor himself.
  • In Dragonvarld, Draconas is the the designated guy to do this on behalf of his entire species. He's a dragon inside, and can use their magic, but generally looks like a normal human, so can be sent among humans without a fuss.
  • In the Dumarest of Terra book Prison of Night, Dumarest meets with a Hive Mind. It takes the form of a religious leader he'd known years before, stating that the hive has assumed this appearance because "the shape is one you find comforting and trust." Dumarest isn't a very trusting person, so this is a strong statement.
  • The Elenium:
    • Subverted by Aphrael. Although she is a goddess, she chooses to appear as a barefoot little girl — not so much for the comfort of the humans with whom she interacts, but for her own. She likes to be cuddled and kissed and treated like a little princess, so she adopts the form that is virtually guaranteed to win her such treatment. Her true form isn't that difficult to get around — a gorgeous, pale, nude young woman. Who glows. And flies. And is a source of magic. And can destroy you with a thought, if she feels like it. The only reason Sparhawk isn't comfortable with her true form is her nudity goes against his gentlemanly propriety. Also, by the time he first sees her true form she's already assumed a new disguise form as his daughter, so naturally seeing her as a beautiful naked woman is a little off-putting.
    • Played straight in The Tamuli trilogy with Xanetia. The most skilled of the Delphae, when she ventures outside her city, she alters her natural light emission to make herself look like an ordinary Tamul. This is not so much for the comfort of the heroes who are by this point used to the idea but rather for the general public since the general reaction to seeing a Delphae (better known as the Shining Ones) is to run in terror.
  • Everworld:
    • Senna has her astrally-projected form take the form of a military-looking man when communicating with her followers, wisely suspecting they would find that more authoritative than a pretty sixteen-year-old girl. When she actually brings them to Everworld she eventually creates the illusion of herself as a pseudo-Valkyrie for the same reason.
    • Dionysus also admits that the gods (at least the Olympians) do this, taking whatever form they feel suits their particular profession; he, for example, goes for a more "approachable" look since he enjoys mortal company. When Christopher questions why Artemis (goddess of virgins) would choose to look attractive, Dionysus replies that a pledge of eternal chastity wouldn't be worth as much if men didn't want to have sex with her.
    • Zeus is so overwhelming that seeing him will kill a mortal . He talks with mortals by first taking some other form (first an eagle, later a bull) and slowly easing himself into a more humanoid appearance. April notes that she has to look away as he does this, since looking for too long feels like staring into the sun.
  • Flatland: A Romance of Three Dimensions, features an interesting variation of this trope. As the Square passes through Lineland, the king of Lineland can only perceive the Square as another Line. When a Solid passes through the plane of Flatland, the Square can only perceive the Solid as another Shape.
  • Garrett, P.I.
    • In Petty Pewter Gods, it turns out that practically all of the gods of the various pantheons are actually refugees from another dimension that feed on faith. Their true form seems to look something like a giant glowing sea anemone — or at least, that's the form of something that tries to break free and into the real world.
    • In Cruel Zinc Melodies, a mysterious presence that's really a miles-long sentient fungal mass under the World Theater's construction-site sends a projected image of Eleanor to communicate with Garrett.
  • Gaunt's Ghosts: In Ghostmaker, an Eldar Farseer requires the aid of Rawne's Ghosts to defend a lost webway gate, but doesn't want the Eldar presence to be known to them. So, he uses his psychic abilities to produce a sort-of Lotus Eater effect, making them believe that they're on Tanith fighting alongside other Guardsmen against the forces of Chaos, when in reality, they're fighting through the ruin and the Guardsmen they're fighting alongside are actually Dire Avengers. The masquerade isn't very convincing and it's eventually broken by the Ghosts themselves.
  • Ghost Story: Harry starts out the book in a place that's "in-between" the normal world and the afterlife, possibly some sort of limbo. When he asks one character there what's going on, Harry is told that he's "allowed to see as much as he can handle". When he tries to use his True Sight to see what's really going on, he's very politely stopped.
  • Abstract example: Stanisław Lem's Golem (an artificial intelligence of the 14th generation) is pure intellect and has no personality whatsoever. When it gives lectures at the M.I.T. for a while, it is forced to assume a personality (an eloquent and apodictical preacher) so the humans can at least begin to accept it as an interlocutor, even though both sides are perfectly aware of the pretense.
  • In The Great Divorce, a spirit in Heaven posits that all our choices, and even Time itself, are essentially a kind of image through which we can perceive eternal reality.
  • In The Gunslinger, this is the reason Walter o' Dim took the appearance of Roland's bondsman, Marten.
  • Halo: Hunters in the Dark: Subverted. After Olympia Vale is kidnapped by an ancient artificial intelligence, it assumes a holographic form resembling Vale so the two can converse. Rather than being comforted by it, though, Olympia finds talking to "herself" to be rather unsettling, especially when the AI reveals it's the one that activated the Halos, which will cause the xenocide of all living species.
  • Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows: After being "killed" by Voldemort, Harry finds himself in an Afterlife Antechamber that looks like King's Cross Station. Dumbledore, who meets him there, is a bit surprised by the description, but says it's what he can cope with. When Harry asks if he has to go back, Dumbledore extends the metaphor: he could, if he wished, metaphorically catch a train. "Where would it take me?" "On." Another possible interpretation of that scene is that Dumbledore himself is actually Death, in a form Harry would trust as advisor.
  • Haruhi Suzumiya:
    • The Data Overmind is of an existence completely alien to physical humanity, yet wants to discover what makes the title character able to do what she does; it has constructed humanoid Agents who can observe and interact. These Agents are partially their own being, partially of the Overmind. How exactly individual Yuki is in comparison to the Overmind is a common theme in the series.
    • Kuyou Suou, an agent of the competing faction the "Sky Canopy Domain", has no individuality at all (at least according to Kyon); she's entirely a humanlike mouthpiece for the Domain. This doesn't make Kyon feel more comfortable, though, because Kuyou's horrible social skills (being unable to even talk coherently or look normal/visible) make the plan for them a failure in that respect.
  • Incandescence: When someone is living on a processor, they see everyone they talk to as their own species and hear all speech as their own language, no matter how many kinds of aliens are present. They also perceive their environment as something familiar from their home planet.
  • Janitors of the Post-Apocalypse: The Krakau are squid aliens whose names are half song, half skin-changes, and one feels that in air as opposed to water their song is harsh and atonal. One's name translated into Human (English, for the purposes of the readers) just ends up being "Orange" followed by several Dots and Dashes. To make things easier on their Servant Race, Krakau who have much to do with humans go through an archive of human music and pick songs whose names they use for them. Including Pachabel D Major, Aliouette, and Final Countdown.
  • Kate Daniels: The shapeshifting infodealer named Saiman uses his ability to physically become any man or woman he can imagine in his efforts at ferreting out information and for various social dealings. When he's doing his thirty-six-hundred-dollar-an-hour infodealing business (which, truth be told, he's worth the price because he gets results) in the comfort of his own home, he chooses to look like a pleasant, intellectual fellow approaching forty. The trope is subverting, too, as Saiman really doesn't like his own natural form — a pure-white-skinned, ice-green-haired brutish looking absolute brick of a bruiser who's incidentally about eight and a half feet tall. See, Saiman owes his shapeshifting powers to his heritage. He is one-half ice giant, one-quarter human, and one-quarter god. Specifically, his grandfather is Loki. And he doesn't feel his muscles-like-rock exterior matches his genius interior. So the various striking appearances he crafts — striking men and beautiful women, depending on what he feels is appropriate — are all an effort to make a form he himself is comfortable with.
  • Parodied in John Dies at the End by David Wong. When traveling to another dimension, the inhabitants there greet them completely in the nude for fear of appearing otherwise would disturb the visitors. They couldn't be more wrong.
  • Journey to Chaos: Gods in general are like this.
    • The innards of Noitearc, the Great Tree that Supports the worlds, are seen as tunnels of rainbow light by the mortals traveling them. This is because they can't comprehend its true nature.
    • Right in the first chapter of the first book, Tasio's true form is stated to be something "far less pleasing" to behold than his default elven form.
    • Reapers look like The Grim Reaper because that's what humans are familiar with. Being abstract creatures, they shift their physical manifestation in order to appear more comforting (rogue reapers do the same to inspire terror).
  • Played with in a Judge Dredd spin-off novel, Wetworks, by Dave Stone. An alien adopts the form of a certain famous cartoon character in an attempt to make the humans it deals with more comfortable; it doesn't really work, partly because seeing a cartoon character in the flesh is actually pretty discomforting, and partly because although the alien's shape has changed it neglected to do anything about the fact that it constantly emits a toxic gas.
  • In The Kharkanas Trilogy Azathanai don't have one fixed physical form, as they can shapeshift at will. So, when Draconus poses as a Tiste to be able to live among them they accept him as one of them.
  • The Lensman series:
    • The Arisians. Mentor, in particular, has manifested as a giant brain in a jar, a giant brain not in a jar, a hard-bitten detective, a university professor, and a seven-foot woman. Though, given how the Arisians work, this may be less "A Form You Are Comfortable With" and more "A Form That Will Elicit the Desired Reactions". In any event, they don't achieve this by taking physical forms but rather by projecting the desired forms as mental images to their audience. (It's revealed to Kimball Kinnison on what he believes is his second visit that it's the first time he, or in fact any human, has ever actually landed on the planet Arisia. Also, not only is Mentor's apparent form not his real form, but he's not even really an Arisian ... "he" is a mental fusion of four individual Arisians.)
    • Played straight later when one of the Lensmen encounters an Eddorian. The Arisians, knowing that even a second-level Lensman looking upon the true form of an Eddorian will go mad, "disguise" the Eddorian as a giant brain-thing and pass it off as a renegade Arisian. The third-level Lensmen who later encounter Eddorians presumably get the full experience, but they're also mentally equipped to handle it, having minds that (at least in potentia) surpass the Arisians' own.
  • In Luke Skywalker and the Shadows of Mindor, the rock-inhabiting energy beings humans call Melters have none of the same senses humans do, but sense the slight electricity in human bodies. Luke is known for being able to communicate with anything, but when he tries to communicate with Melters he has to perceive the world the way they do, and it's too alien for him to be able to make sense of it. Instead he interprets the experience as floating in space, with himself and all other lives, including theirs, as different stars. He's aware that it's a metaphor and that if he stretches it too far it's just not going to work.
  • Explored extensively in The Madness Season. The forbearer-type aliens called Saudar went to immense efforts to tame and enslave the inherently formless beings known as the Mara, who could not only adapt themselves to any shape, but could analyze the brain of the shape they took to immediately become fluent in spoken language, body language, and given enough time, social and cultural nuance as well. They went to all this trouble because, as we find out towards the end, the Saudar were ugly as sin and would not have been accepted by any alien race they encountered; they needed the shapeshifters to act as their ambassadors.
  • The Memory Wars: Gods present themselves in a variety of forms, to fit how a given culture or society has interpreted them. Morrigan, for instance, has also been known as Hecate, Janus, and Loki.
  • The Mortal Instruments: Nobody from Earth would want to see what Asmodeus really looks like, so in City of Heavenly Fire he presents himself in a humanoid form not that different from Magnus.
  • The Name of the Game (Elrod): Apparently the forms demons take on aren't a form of shapeshifting (or at least not entirely) and are instead a form of Glamour that doesn't work on each other, hence why Succubi and Incubi are all attractive (and nearly identical) by default, yet find each other physically repulsive.
  • In The Nekropolis Archives, the collective being called the Watchers originally had no physical form. After observing the Darkfolk, they learned to assume shapes in order to interact with other beings. They primarily manifest as insects, but can also take any other form.
  • In Neuromancer, Wintermute speaks to the main character through cyberspace and takes the forms of people from his past. Largely because he lacks a personality of his own, adopting that of others is the only way he can communicate with humans. Neuromancer, on the other hand, has constructed a personality for himself, and takes the form of a 13-year-old Brazilian boy.
  • In Nyaruko: Crawling with Love!, Mahiro (a fan of the Cthulhu Mythos) comments on how the last thing he expected Nyarlathotep to look like was a silver-haired teen girl, Nyarko offers to show him her true form, but says that he might Go Mad from the Revelation; he wisely declines.
  • Wheeler, an alien of some kind or other beyond human understanding in the Jack Potter books by Eric S. Nylund takes on a sort of human form. He takes on the form of the protagonist, Jack, except for perhaps some odd little differences such as the spinning gears in his eyes.
  • Orion: First Encounter: The titular ship Orion reshapes itself to fit its pilots.
  • In Otherland, Jongleur tries to force this on The Other through the use of computer simulations. However, it's alien enough and has enough control that the simulation always warps into something disturbing. It may be telling that he ends up preferring to communicate with it as Anubis, while it whispers to him from a coffin.
  • In The Outside, the Vaurian Akavi has two dozen forms memorized for generic situations, as his Shapeshifter Default Form has translucent skin and colorless hair and eyes that tend to make people uncomfortable.
  • In the Parrish Plessis series, after the hero is infected with The Corruption, the Eskaalim parasite appears in her mind in the form of an angel. It claims that her subconscious mind is responsible for giving it this appearance since she cannot comprehend its true form.
  • Percy Jackson and the Olympians:
    • The Mist is used to blur the perception normal people have when witnessing demigod events. For instance, in The Lightning Thief, during the showdown between Ares and Percy on the Los Angeles beach, they have swords but bystanders and LAPD officers think they are having a gunfight. It causes a Gas Leak Cover-Up event afterwards since it is said that Ares "fired" a shot that caused an underground gas line to rupture and blow up several police cars — in reality Ares waving a fireball at the cruisers.
    • In The Last Olympian, Percy believes that the reason Mrs. O'Leary is not noticed while bounding through the busy streets of Manhattan at mid-day is because the Mist makes them mistake her for a semi truck.
    • Chiron can choose to appear in a wheelchair instead of Centaur form depending on what he feels like.
    • In general the gods, Titans and the like take human or humanoid form around company, partly because it allows them to multitask elsewhere, and partly because any lesser beings who see their true, divine forms tend to disintegrate into ash.
    • In the Sequel Series The Heroes of Olympus, Tartarus takes humanoid form to engage in direct combat with Percy and Annabeth, thus manifesting inside his own heart.
  • Subverted with Reketrebn in Doug Naylor's solo Red Dwarf novel, Last Human. As a Symbi-morph, it attempts to please Lister by appearing as Kochanski. He tells it not to, as he is missing her deeply. Reketrebn takes Rimmer's form, which Lister definitely doesn't want to see. As a result, Reketrebn takes on its neutral form unless required for practical reasons (such as appearing as Kryten will allow Lister to access his subconscious, as Lister generally knows what to do, but consults Kryten as he lacks confidence in his own intelligence).
  • The Screwtape Letters: Screwtape is reaming Wormwood for allowing his patient to die, and in his beautifully goosebumps-inducing description of what it is like when humans encounter God after they die, one of the things he says is that God "wears the form of a man."
  • In Seraphina dragons must stay in their saarantras around human territories.
  • In The Seventh Sword by Dave Duncan, the demigod of volcanoes always appears as a five-year-old street urchin. Early in the first novel, Wally asks him to show his true form and "sees" an immensely powerful and wise being making him feel incredibly inferior. Wally cowers and incoherently begs for mercy and the demigod in his boy form has to calm him down.
  • Subverted in Solaris; a planet-sized alien intelligence spawns human replicants convincingly interacting with the protagonists, while the purpose of this phenomenon and the message, if any, behind it are a maddening enigma.
  • The Sorrows of Satan: The Devil tailors both his physical form and his personality to the person he's trying to tempt at the moment. He spends most of the book as Prince Lucio Rimânez, whose cynical and sarcastic personality appeals to Geoffrey.
  • The Spiral Series does this twice to the protagonist. In Chase the Morning, it's part of the Battle in the Center of the Mind with the villain, and in Cloud Castles, it's his interaction with the Big Good. Both times it's presented as a business deal in his office, since that's how his brain could best handle what was happening.
  • In Space Opera, a species of sentient computers, out of politeness to humanity as the new kid on the galactic block, prints themselves a body that mimics electronic assistant who is supposed to help navigate a complex and confusing system. Unfortunately, their research missed some important cultural context, so they didn't realize that hardly anyone actually finds Clippy (as in, yes, the paperclip from Microsoft Word, except giant) helpful and therefore they've missed the mark on "comfortable". Especially because a giant moving version of something usually encountered as a little pixel creature on your screen would be unnerving even if people did like it. (It also doesn't help that they get snotty and hostile when they realize it's not working.)
  • In The Space Trilogy, the angelic Eldila are ordinarily barely-visible disturbances in the light. Near the end of Perelandra, two eldila attempt to find a suitable form to take when they meet the king and queen of Perelandra. Good thing, too, as their first two attempts wouldn't have worked at all. In particular, one of those forms is described as being a particular perception of the eldila in much the same way as suffering a concussion and seeing stars is a particular perception of a rock (i.e., one that has been thrown at your head).
  • Star Trek Novel 'Verse:
    • In their natural state, the Seleneans are only semi-humanoid at best, and rather ferocious-looking. The Selenean Pod Mothers, who have great control over their offsprings' genetics, have bred certain broods designed specifically for offworld contact. These individuals, Y'Lira Modan of Star Trek: Titan among them, take a form more pleasing to humanoid eyes, but retain the ability to shift into their natural state if need be.
    • Inverted in the Star Trek: The Next Generation novel Eyes of the Beholders. The Enterprise encounters an artifact of an extinct race that is sending out a psychic beacon that causes insanity with prolonged exposure. It's so oddly shaped that they can't look at the thing, and beaming aboard it overloads Data and sends Worf on a homicidal rampage. Although they deduce that it's the cultural legacy of an extremely unique race (it was a spacefaring art museum with psychic advertising) Picard orders it to be destroyed, before they realize that they can reprogram Data to be comfortable enough with it to go in and turn it off.
    • In The Q Continuum, Q takes Picard into the distant past to witness Q's meeting with 0, a being not unlike a Q who inspired much of Q's interest in testing lesser races. Q initially has them both appear as a three-headed serpent, his favoured guise at this time of galactic history, but when Picard has trouble coping with such sensory input, Q adjusts the scenario so that Picard perceives Q's younger self as a junior version of the human form he often assumes in the present day, with the Q accompanying Picard appearing in his familiar human disguise and his and Picard's clothing growing more modern as the events they are watching grow closer to the present. When other higher-dimensional beings appear, Q also adjusts Picard's perceptions to fit something Picard can comprehend, justifying such details as one alien known as The One manifesting as a pillar of fire when the relevant Christian imagery won't be formed until several millennia into the future.
    • On another occasion, Q takes Picard and Data to the Q Continuum itself, but the unfiltered sensory perception of the Continuum makes Data shut down. Picard, by contrast, readily perceives it as looking like a Dixon Hill holo-novel in NYC.
  • Played with in Joe Haldeman's short story "A Time to Live", when the protagonist is talking to a Sufficiently Advanced Alien.
    I asked him why he didn't show me his true form. I am too old to be afraid of bogeymen. He did change into his true form and I asked that he change back into one of the others. I had to know which end to talk to.
  • Tolkien's Legendarium:
    • In The Silmarillion, the Ainur, who are normally incorporeal spirits, capable of changing their physical shape as easily as people can change clothes, upon arriving to Arda, take on a form closely resembling the "Children of Iluvatar" - Elves and Men, for the sake of convenience during future interactions with them.
    • The Fall of Númenor: Originally an incorporeal spirit, Sauron appears as a tall, handsome and resplendent humanoid to trick Elves and deceive Men. After several successive defeats, though, he gets locked in the form of a terrible and ugly warlord.
  • Tomorrow And Tomorrow by Charles Sheffield has its protagonist awaken in the insanely-far future, where most sapience has existed in the form of computer software for untold ages. The locals have no clue how to communicate with the uploaded copy of a 20th-century mind, and he has to teach this trope to them simply to avoid having his mind shattered. All the story's 'characters' from there onward are instances of this trope, technically including the protagonist himself.
  • The Traitor Son Cycle:
    • The Dragons are not exactly very approachable in their natural form, so they shapeshift whenever they want to chat.
    • The Wyrm of Erch pretends to be a human - "Master Smythe" - whenever he interacts with people.
    • Ash mocks the trope - every time he interacts with Thorn, he takes on a form of a human afflicted with a bad case of Body Horror.
  • The Unexplored Summon://Blood-Sign has a slightly predatory variant. The White Queen is not mortal, but she shapeshifts to match the age of her Love Interest, regardless of how many years it's been since they last met. The form(s) she takes when she's afraid or angry are much less human.
  • Whateley Universe: On Parents' Day, Carmilla's father showed up looking like a charismatic dad of Hispanic ancestry. He's actually the demon Gothmog, child of Shub-Niggurath. In his first appearance, he looked like a giant mass of flesh and slime and eyes and tentacles.
  • In Worm, Scion is actually the avatar of a Sufficiently Advanced Alien, who deliberately chose an appearance that would appeal to human ideals of worship.
  • The three Mrs W's of A Wrinkle in Time mainly appear to the children as elderly women, but their true nature is far enough beyond human existence that they're not very good at it. Mrs Whatsit pulls it off fairly well, being the youngest (at over 2 billion) and closest to physical reality. Mrs Who has the form down, but has difficulties with the concept of language that she gets around by quoting others. Mrs Which has a difficult time materializing in the first place, so her form is always hazy and her voice has a distinct echo.
  • The Zombie Knight features reapers who act as Psychopomps for the dead. The reapers are basically imaginary. They don't have a "true" form and those who can see them perceive them exactly as they expect a reaper to look.
  • Warrior Cats:
    • When the deceased ancestors of StarClan want to send a message to a living cat, they choose as messenger someone who had a close relationship with the recipient. For example, Firestar talks to Spottedleaf, an old friend of his. Echosong talks to Fawnstep, who was the medicine cat of SkyClan before her. Aside from comforting both cats, this custom means they can skip introductions and get down to business.
    • StarClan are this trope in another way. They are actual literal stars, as is visible when they're descending into someone's dreams or their brightness blinds onlookers. But they are also normal (if stardust-covered) cats, and perceive each other as such. Don't think about it too hard. In one book, Firestar thinks about how different his mentor looks now that she's ascended into StarClan, and is disconcerted when he realizes she doesn't look much like the cat he knew at all.

    Live-Action TV 
  • The Argonds in The Adventure Game look like dragons (hence the many anagrams of the word "dragon" in the series, including "Argond" itself and the names of the various Argonds), except in Series 2 when they looked like they were wearing fuzzy Halloween ghost costumes. However, when the planet is visited by teams of time-travellers, they transform themselves into humans (so that in the credits, the humans are credits as being played by the Argonds instead of the other way round) to make the contestants feel more at home... except for their monarch, the Rangdo of Arg, who turns into a potted aspidistra in Series 2 and 3 and a giant teapot in Series 4.
  • Angel:
    • Jasmine goes through great pains to manifest as a beautiful black woman in this plane, but her real form, which can be glimpsed when she's feeding, involves green light and tentacles. Also, anybody who comes in contact with her blood will see her as a rotting corpse.
    • Again used with Illyria, who uses the general form of Fred (granted she's blue) despite the fact that it makes some people (especially Wesley) uncomfortable.
    • In "Birthday", Skip creates a "reality construct" to talk to Cordelia. It's The Mall, where he assumes she'll be comfortable.
  • Done in the Animorphs live-action adaptation, where the Andalite Visser 3 takes the form of a human in order to make his enemies (humans who he thinks are Andalites) more comfortable. If you think that sounds like a poor excuse to cut corners on the show's special effects, congratulations, you're smarter than the target demographic. (In the books, Visser Three does a human form that he uses on a few occasions, but always with a specific purpose; it's a tool like turning into a bird or a bear is for the Animorphs themselves, and he has more than one. On Yeerk ships, he looks like his usual Andalite self, and in combat, he has a different horrifying alien morph every book. In the show, V3 not in human form is a rare sight even when there's no in-universe reason to do it.)
  • Depending on your interpretation of the Ashes to Ashes (2008) finale, Nelson could be an Angel in Human form (supposing that Angels wouldn't look like humans to begin with), Jesus or God himself.
  • Babylon 5
    • Lorien appears as a wizened old man-alien... but his true form is a starship-sized ball of tentaculared glowy gas...
    • The Vorlons — When Kosh saves Sheridan, he appears as whatever each person thinks an angel (or the equivalent) looks like, and he appears in Sheridan's and G'kar's fathers in their minds. It isn't until later, when Ulkesh (and the remaining fragment of Kosh hiding in Sheridan's body, which has apparently called Ulkesh out for a fight to the death) appears outside his encounter suit, that the true form of the Vorlons (thus far revealed only to Dr. Kyle and Lyta) appears: giant flying plasmatic squiddy things. Slightly subverted with the Shadows, who are frequently invisible but always corporeal and vaguely resemble giant spiky scorpions.
    • Londo claimed to see nothing when Kosh left his suit, with the implication that this was because he was touched by the Shadows. Word of God is that "Londo saw what he said he saw". It has been proposed by some that Londo saw nothing because he is an atheist, although his status as an atheist is only suggested in a conversation reported by Vir many years later.
    • Both the Vorlons and Shadows play the trope when they try to make one final push to woo the Younger Races in the Season 4 episode "Into The Fire". Sheridan, being convinced by the Vorlons, sees an Anthropomorphic Personification of justice encased in ice. Meanwhile, Delenn, being convinced by the Shadows, sees the people she's been most familiar during her time on B5, one by one, eventually seeing a duplicate of herself.
  • Battlestar Galactica (1978): The angelic-like ascended aliens (called Beings of Light) from the original series did this when they needed Apollo's help with a mercy mission. He got a sidekick that only he (and later Starbuck) could see called "John".
  • Battlestar Galactica (2003):
    • Angels appear to characters throughout the series in the form of other characters. Notably Six to Baltar and vice versa, as well as an angel who looks like Leoben to Starbuck. Head-Leoben is the only one who confirms this, though. Head-Six and Head-Baltar appear in these forms even when no-one is around to see them. In fact, Tyrol implies that the Final Five designed Cylon Model Six after the angel they saw, not vice-versa.
    • That incident where Head-Baltar appeared to Baltar. Baltar was everything but comfortable.
  • Buffy the Vampire Slayer.
    • Played with by the First Evil. Able to take the form of any person who has died, the First sometimes will manipulate people by appearing as a comforting, departed loved one... but more often than not, it will maliciously choose whatever form will most freak its victim out. And it's really good at it, too.
    • During "Once More, with Feeling", Buffy is trying to draw her vision of the afterlife/Heaven from when she was dead. However, her limited human perception only allows her to remember the classic "white light" surrounded by darkness.
  • Doctor Who:
    • "Let's Kill Hitler": The TARDIS does this when communicating to the Doctor how much time he has left to live. It's even Played for Laughs, when the first form the TARDIS uses is the Doctor himself, he says, "Oh no, no, no, no, no. Give me someone I like." The interface turns into Rose, Martha and Donna, but this just makes the Doctor feel guilty. It settles on Amelia Pond — as in, Amy as a child before her various Doctor-related traumas.
    • "The Name of the Doctor": The Doctor admits that having travelled in time more than any other Time Lord in history, long-term exposure to the background radiation of the Time Vortex has rendered his "true form" as a Negative Space Wedgie woven within the fabric of the universe. This is revealed to be the "corpse" held within his tomb, rather than the actual physical body of his final incarnation.
      The Doctor: What were you expecting, a body? Bodies are boring. I've had loads of them.
    • In the 50th anniversary special "The Day of the Doctor", the sentient superweapon known as the Moment appears as the Bad Wolf version of Rose Tyler, since it knows she is someone the Doctor trusted. Except he hasn't met her yet.
      The Moment: She's from your past. Or was it your future? I always get those two mixed up.
    • Done by the TARDIS as a Take That! against Clara in "Hide", where the holographic interface specifies it took the form Clara has in the highest esteem, which is Clara herself.
    • "The Pyramid at the End of the World": The Monks, Reality Warper aliens who look like tall, cadaverous forms in tattered red robes, claim they chose that form for the benefit of humanity. When an American military officer points out that they look like corpses, they respond that they see humans as corpses due to their short lifespans.
    • "It Takes You Away": When speaking to the Doctor alone, the Solitract takes the form of a talking frog, telling her that it finds the form delightful as it once delighted Grace.
    • "Spyfall": The Kasaavin, mysterious extradimensional aliens, take glowing humanoid forms. However, they claim that the forms are to mock humanity instead.
    • In "The Vanquishers", the personification of Time takes the form of Swarm when speaking to him. The Doctor mocks the blatant ego-appeal, only to change her mind when Time takes her form.
    • In "The Power of the Doctor"
      • An Energy Being takes the form of a Deliberately Cute Child, so whoever observes it will instinctively want to protect it.
      • While the AI hologram of the Doctor is talking to past companions Tegan and Ace, it changes to their respective Doctors, Five and Seven.
  • Parodied in a Christmas special for Everybody Loves Raymond where Rob pretends to be Santa, but Ray's daughter isn't fooled. His response? He had taken the form of her uncle Rob because it's a form she'd be comfortable with. This is immediately Lampshaded by Ray, who says "You're Santa Claus, not a Klingon."
  • In The Expanse, this is how the Investigator appears to Holden, taking the form of the deceased Detective Miller in order to communicate with him. In reality, the Investigator is an incalculably powerful and intelligent automated protomolecule-based system that is trying to communicate with an intelligent lifeform vastly beneath itself in terms of both computational power and perceptions. As a result, most of the Investigator's statements are at first complete nonsense and later on it talks about things that are vastly beyond Holden's ability to understand unless they get broken down into understandable metaphors like "crime scene".
    Investigator: (points to himself) Calculus. (points to Holden) Amoeba.
  • Farscape
    • Both types of Ancients use this trope to appear to John Crichton: "Jack" of the Endangered Ancients typically appeared as Crichton's father, only manifesting his true insectoid form three times—including his death. On the other hand, "Einstein" (as John Crichton calls him) of the interdimensional True Ancients chose the form of a well-dressed gentleman, albeit with pitch-black eyes. Crichton lampshades the trope on their first encounter.
      Crichton: Nice threads. Helps to humanize you. Makes it easier for me to sympathize with your problems.
    • In "Unrealized Reality" as Einstein's ability to maintain this form in this realm fades, this trope is taken up by Talking Heads of former friends and acquaintances of John Crichton as they try to explain to him how to navigate wormholes.
      Crichton: I don't...understand any of this.
      Cut to Ex-Girlfriend: There's nothing to understand. It's not a science, John.
      Cut to Schoolteacher: It's an art.
      John: You failed me in Art. Not to mention 3rd grade English and I still do not understand the proper use of a COMMA!
  • In The Flash Barry briefly enters the speed force while attempting to regain his speed after surrendering it to Zoom. The whole place appears to be Central City, though mistier than normal, while the force talks to him in the forms of people he values in life, like Joe and Iris. He finds the whole situation more unsettling than comfortable, though.
  • Game of Thrones: Presumably why Arya's instructor(s) at the House of Black and White look like "Jaqen H'ghar".
  • The '80s Channel 4 Edutainment Show Helping Henry as described in the Expository Theme Tune:
    And so we crossed the universe disguised as dining chairs.
  • This occurs in Hannah Montana during the Disney Channel "Wish Upon A Star" crossover. After Miley wishes herself to actually be Hannah Montana, a guardian angel appears to her in the form of her bodyguard, Roxy, saying she is shaped like Roxy to "make her feel comfortable".
  • Joan of Arcadia: God tells Joan directly, "I look and sound like this because this is what you can understand." At one point, he even notes that she chooses what he looks like, when he appears as a boy her age because it's easier for her to be mad at him in that form.
  • The Imagin in Kamen Rider Den-O have an interesting take on this trope. They ALWAYS take a form their host has knowledge of, as their form is from their memories. While this normally more comfortable than taking with a random floating orb of yellow energy with no face, it's different in that it's not for the host's benefit but because the Imagin wants a physical form.
  • The Good Place: The cosmic Genius Loci known as the "IHOP," or the "Interdimensional Hole of Pancakes," initially looks like a pure acid trip, but is quickly turned into a "normal" IHOP restaurant for the benefit of the human protagonists. Michael is also a giant squid the height of a skyscraper, and the other demons are fire monsters and acid snakes, but they stay in human "skin suits" most of the time.
    Vicky: I am a strong, independent acid snake in the skin suit of a strong, independent woman.
  • In Lost, the Man in Black/Smoke Monster can take the form of any person he wants, and he takes different forms to appeal to different people. To Jack, he was Christian; to Eko, he was Yemi; to Ben, he was Alex; to Richard, he was Isabella; and in his final form, when he intended to influence the island's entire population, he was John Locke. He could create hallucinations of almost anyone, but it’s implied that he could only physically mimic a limited number of people. Every solid human shape he takes is of a dead person whose corpse is on the island ("Isabella" never physically interacts with Richard). This would explain why he took the form of Christian in front of characters for whom that form carried no significance; Christian was the most convenient non-threatening form that he had in his repertoire at the time.
  • Lucifer (2016): Lucifer's true form is close to the prototypical Big Red Devil, with exposed red flesh and glowing red eyes. However, his "human" appearance is a handsome dark-haired man. Of course, that was his original form, but when he was banished to Hell his self-loathing grew to the point that he began to see himself as a monster hiding under a veneer of civility. Due to the way angels work, that became true.
  • Subverted in a big way on Married... with Children where the Grim Reaper takes a form that Al is not comfortable with at all - Peg. And worse, while she does promise to spare him if his family admits that they need him, she cruelly mocks him the whole time, telling him about terrible fates waiting for him in the afterlife, then adding "maybe" to the end, just to keep him guessing. She does keep her word after Al wins the bet, but still manages to make one last jab before she leaves, saying she'll be back the day after he wins the lottery (adding "maybe" to the end once again).
  • Played straight in Odyssey 5 when the chararacters meet a member of a race of Sufficiently Advanced Aliens:
    Sarah: I guess I should've expected it.
    Neil: What?
    Sarah: God is an old white guy.
    Kurt: It's probably an artificial construct so we won't freak out, derived from TV transmissions.
    Sarah: How do you know that?
    Kurt: 300 hours of Star Trek.
  • Used in Power Rangers Megaforce, where mentor Gosei, an alien, admits quickly to the Rangers shortly after recruiting them that his appearance as a tiki-like face on the wall is merely one taken because its more comfortable for them than his true appearance, conveniently making him look similar to his mentor, Zordon, not that the Rangers could know it.
  • On Revolution, the nanites like to mimic the forms of people familiar to and loved by the person they're talking to, specifically because the person will pay attention and not freak out quite as bad (they do occasionally tend to think they're going crazy, though). They don't physically manifest, though; they simply alter the brain of the person to perceive them as being there - which tends to support the crazy theory, as others think they are Talking to Themself. Of course, since they're actually robots the size of viruses, seeing them at all would be quite difficult for a naked human eye.
  • Zig-Zagged in Riverdale's Time Travel Episode "Angels in America". When Tabitha is sent back in time, an angel named Raphael appears to her and keeps changing between forms of her friends in each timeline she visits. At one point, he weaponizes this by revealing his true form to the town sheriff (and thankfully, not to the viewer) so that Tabitha can sneak a wanted family out of the diner, leaving the sheriff paralyzed with blood coming from his eyes.
  • Sabrina the Teenage Witch makes a literal date with Destiny and he shows up in the form of a handsome young man. He says he could transform into the form with the flowing robes and white hair but most people tend to prefer the young man.
  • The Operators, Specialists, et. al. of Sapphire and Steel. Maybe.
  • Stargate SG-1
    • Both the Ancients and the Ori use this trope. The series even lampshades it stating that the Ancients used to be human-like beings anyway, so taking our form is as natural to them as breathing. If they still breathed, that is. Similarly to the Q Continuum example below. During his time in the plane of the Ancients, Daniel precieved it as "A Form You Are Comfortable With" — specifically, a homely American diner that Daniel had gone to as a kid. Interestingly, Anubis appears as an overweight guy, which is definitely meant to trick Daniel, as Goa'uld always take beautiful hosts (his true form would be a small snake).
    • The Asgard, who in their real shapes are typical grey aliens, have been impersonating the gods of the Norse pantheon by the way of holograms for millennia, until they deem the societies they protect are advanced enough to handle the truth.
    • The Gadmeer are a sulphur-based, reptile-like species that can't live in a regular nitrogen/oxigen atmosphere and have a very different set of senses compared to humanoids. So, to deal with the human-descended Enkarans and SG-1, their giant ship creates an android based on the appearance of an Enkaran.
    • Turned sideways with the Spirits from the episode of the same name. In their true form they're typical Rubber-Forehead Aliens. For centuries they've posed as various animals to take on the role of the Native American Spirits that the humans on their planet worship. At the end of the episode when the truth is let out they offer to use whatever form the humans want.
      Xe-Ls: You view us now in our true form, but this is one of many forms we can take. Our friends from this world call us aliens. You call us spirits. From now on, Tonane, you and your people may view us in the form which pleases you best.
      Tonane: You have always been kind to my people. So, whatever makes you happy.
      Xe-Ls: I think this form makes us happy.
  • Star Trek:
    • Every time a member of the Q Continuum visits the USS Enterprise, the Deep Space 9 station, or the USS Voyager, this trope occurred. Often, the Q in question would make some sort of snarky remark about having to wear a meatbag suit while doing it. Q joked in one appearance that he should have chosen a female body to deal with Picard after seeing how easily his current love interest manipulated him. Though Q doesn't quite get it right on his first appearance.
      Q: (appearing in guise of an Elizabethan sea captain) I present myself to thee as a fellow ship captain, that thou mayst better understand me.
    • Data zigzags this trope. His distinctive pale gold color and inability to use contractions were purposefully done because the colonists on Dr. Soong's planet were intensely uncomfortable with his earlier, more human models. They were more comfortable with a form less like their own.
    • Star Trek: The Original Series featured Trelane, the Thasians, the Organians, and the Metrons, all of whom took human form in order to interact with the mere mortals.
      Thasian: I have taken my form from centuries ago, so that I may communicate with you.
    • Star Trek: Deep Space Nine:
      • The wormhole aliens used the forms of the various cast-members when they manifested to Sisko. In the first episode they keep showing him the battle where his wife died, and one of the aliens takes her form. When Sisko angrily tells them he doesn't like this, she replies that "You exist here"—in other words, it's what they can get out of his mind because it's the thing he thinks about the most. Once, Quark found a way of talking to them, and they got to use Sisko's form as well. What's interesting about this example is that the wormhole aliens aren't just doing this for Sisko's benefit; they have no concept of linear time or corporeal beings, so this whole charade is more about them trying to figure out him!
      • This also applies when Sisko and Dax first enter their realm. They each perceive it in different ways — Sisko sees a rocky, stormy cliff (it's implied due to his repressed grief), while Dax sees a beautiful sunlit meadow. Sisko is completely confused when Dax talks of how beautiful it is.
      • The Changelings. Odo was essentially doing this every episode, which would actually make this the most frequent occurrence of this trope in the whole franchise. It was actually an instance of Character Development when he stopped being so compulsive about "A Form You Are Comfortable With" and became more interested in experiencing his own shapeshifter-hood, acquiring quarters and outfitting them with various objects to imitate, and "sleeping" anywhere he liked instead of in a bucket in his office. It was also provocative when he met Laas, another one of the hundred changeling babies sent to explore the galaxy, and one who, bitter at the Solids, had no interest in making them "comfortable". But like the Q example above, all of the other changelings appear in a form resembling Odo's mostly-human-but-just-a-little-off appearance despite being capable of perfectly mimicking any species in the galaxy (Odo, being young for a changeling and having been separated from the people who could teach him, isn't quite that proficient).
      • The other Changelings' chosen appearance is actually a variation of this if you think about it. The first time we meet them, they're taking on that form in order to be this to Odo, who has never met another of his own species. In their future dealings with the Alpha Quadrant, they recognize that the Alpha Quadrant's idea of what Changelings look like is based on Odo, so when they're openly presenting themselves as Changelings, rather than imitate any particular species, they take on the form that they know people will recognize as "Changeling".
      • Inverted in-universe during the brief period Odo was a solid. When the Great Link locks Odo into his familiar humanoid form as a punishment, it's stated that they could have made him look more realistically human—or, more likely, Bajoran—they simply didn't. Odo speculates that this was probably meant to emphasize to the solids how different Odo is.
    • Star Trek: Voyager:
      • After being abducted by the Caretaker, the crew of Voyager beam over to his space station only to find themselves in a holographic simulation of an old-type farming community on Earth. Tuvok speculates this is meant to calm down the abductees prior to their medical examination. The Caretaker himself appears as an elderly human man, as opposed to its true jellyfish-like form, briefly glimpsed at the end of the episode.
        "Well! Since no one seems to care for any corn, we'll have to proceed ahead of schedule."
      • Invoked in "Coda". During a Near-Death Experience, Captain Janeway encounters her father as a psychopomp encouraging her to Go into the Light, but he turns out to be an imposter. When exposed, he claims to be using this trope, but Janeway correctly assumes she's being manipulated by a being whose intentions are not benevolent.
      • In "Death Wish" the crew is taken to the Q Continuum, which looks like an old service station in the middle of nowhere because the true nature of the Continuum is beyond the safe limits of mortal comprehension. Then in "The Q and the Grey", a civil war in the Continuum is perceived as The American Civil War.
      • In "Faces" a Vidiian scientist attempts to do this, but fails spectacularly. Because Vidiians suffer from a disfiguring disease, the scientist tries to make B'Elanna Torres more comfortable in his presence by stealing her shipmate's face and grafting it over his own. Torres is understandably horrified.
      • Species 8472 are three-meter tall tripeds, but in "In the Flesh", they take human form to rehearse infiltrating Federation headquarters on Earth. They decide to establish diplomatic relations with the Voyager crew instead, and keep this form during negotiations.
      • In "The Fight", Starfish Aliens communicate with Chakotay via a Clip Show montage of dialogue taken from his memories. Even then he doesn't find it very comfortable.
    • Star Trek: Discovery: Invoked in "Saints of Imperfection" by the spore that took the form of Tilly's teenaged acquaintance May so she could communicate what was happening in the mycelial network to her.
  • In the '80s medical drama St. Elsewhere, Dr Fiscus (Howie Mandel) had an out of body experience while in surgery after an accident. During his ordeal, he meets God, who looks exactly like him. God's explanation: "I made you in my image, didn't I?"
  • Supernatural:
    • Played with the Crossroads Demons, who almost always take the form of a sexually appealing woman. Considering that the demon seals her Faustian deals with a kiss, this probably plays into her advantage. Same goes for Lilith, who at first appeared as a Creepy Child to murder their families, but when she realized she had to broker a deal with Sam she showed up in an older meat suit. Subverted in later episodes. The demons will appear in whatever body they've decided to possess, and they don't always pick a body just to seduce a human. Instead of a sexy lady or a young stud, Crowley (King of the Crossroads) possessed something along the lines of a well-heeled, middle-aged Englishman.
    • Angels have to possess human "vessels" in order to interact with humans, because seeing an angel's true form will burn out a person's eyes and its true voice causes shattered glass and bleeding ears. Castiel eventually reveals his true form is "about the size of your Chrysler Building." This is inverted with the Fallen Angel Anna, who takes a form she's comfortable with. She was a human, but became an angel again, which destroyed her human body. She decided that she liked that body, and "calls in some favors" to get it back.
    • In season 5, when Lucifer is released but has not taken a human vessel yet, he appears to his first vessel Nick in the form of Nick's deceased wife to make the offer to become his willing channeler more persuasive. Later in the season, he appears to Sam as his dead girlfriend Jessica.
    • In "Dark Side of the Moon", the brothers visit Heaven. While there, the garden at the center of Heaven will change its appearance according to what the viewer most expects it to look like, becoming the botanical gardens in Cleveland for Sam and Dean. Also, angels still appear human and wingless, which is even lampshaded by Zachariah:
      Zachariah: In Heaven I have six wings and four faces, one of which is a lion. You see this because you're... limited.
    • Reapers also tend to appear in the form of a human to the recently deceased, such as Tessa appearing to Dean as an attractive young woman when her true form proved rather frightening to him.
      Dean: You sure are a lot prettier than the last reaper I saw.
      Tessa: You saw my true form and flipped out. It kinda hurts a girl's feelings.
    • In "Death Takes a Holiday", the ghost of a young boy was frightened of even Tessa's human form, until on Dean's advice, she changed her denim and leather outfit into a cute white dress.
    • God chooses to appear as the writer Chuck Shurley and his sister the Darkness chooses to appear as a young girl who quickly ages into a beautiful grown woman who calls herself Amara. Their real forms are a blinding divine light in the case of the former and a cloud of darkness in the case of the latter, but since they can't carry on a legible conversation that way, God in Human Form it is.
  • The Wheel of Time (2021): In episode 8 Ba'alzamon, the Big Bad, appears in a dream looking like he did in earlier episodes — with burning eyes and mouth and covered by gray shriveled skin — and gets an arrow in the eye. Then he pushes the arrow and the skin into the wounded eye and changes into what Elan Morin Tedronai looked like 3000 years earlier.
    There, that's better. Hard to have a real conversation otherwise.

    Myths & Religion 
  • Classical Mythology Zeus: The story of Semele has Zeus forced to show her his true form, which promptly kills her.
  • The Bible:
    • The "burning bush" from which God spoke to Moses.
    • Played straight by God in Human Form Jesus. Seeing the face of God is said to result in instantaneous death. Moses, a favored prophet, was treated to a view of the back of God; it left his face glowing. In fact, God is said to have no physical form, and it is considered blasphemous to ascribe one to him. Jesus, on the other hand, interacted with many people without people dying from his presence.
    • Docetism, an early splinter doctrine of Christianity, postulates that the form Jesus took during his time on Earth wasn't truly human, but merely appeared as such for the purpose of interacting with mortals.
    • There are a number of angels who appear in human form. Given what they're normally described as, this is likely for the benefit of the person they're speaking with.
  • Taoism: The Tao te Ching is an attempt to do this to the Tao, through a series of analogies.
  • Egyptian Mythology: Egyptians understood that the various forms ascribed to their various gods weren't supposed to be how the gods actually were. Those forms were supposed to be symbolic of concepts and traits found in the gods, with the actual gods themselves being thought to exist as abstract forces.
  • Hindu Mythology: This is sometimes performed through the use of avatars. Most famously, Vishnu occasionally manifests on earth to communicate to mortals in human form. In the Bhagavad-Gita, Vishnu speaks to prince Arjuna through his human avatar Lord Krishna. At one point, Arjuna asks if he can be allowed to see Krishna's true eternal divine form and the avatar agrees. He does first have to grant Arjuna a divine sense however, since human eyes cannot see or comprehend the universal form of God. Of course, being able to do so leaves him terrified out of his wits, and he quickly asks Vishnu to change back to Krishna.
  • In Buddhism the Boddhisatvas are Buddhas who choose to remain in the universe to help other beings. The true form of a Buddha can't be grasp for the human mind thus they take other forms, including humans (tulkus). The most famous tulku is the Dalai Lama who is this trope of the Buddha Avalokitesvara.

  • The Alien Worlds episode "The Leukocyte Maneuver" had Jon Graydon and Buddy Griff encounter an energy being that chooses to take on the form of a gigantic white blood cell after observing that Buddy is recovering from an illness and determining that assuming the form of a leukocyte would assure the two that it does not intend to harm them.

  • Kaja of AJCO is normally quite human in appearance, despite the wings and halo, solely to make sure humans like and trust her. Get her angry enough, however, and she'll drop the act. It's pretty horrifiying.

    Tabletop Games 
  • The Pentapods in 2300 AD are a downplayed example - the instances that interact with humans still look very alien, but have had their shapes and colorations tweaked in ways that their research suggests look aesthetically pleasing to humans.
  • Call of Cthulhu
    • Nyarlathotep, alone among the Outer Gods, cares enough to manifest in an appearance that won't drive human beings insane. Ultimately subverted, as this is just a subtler way for him to spread madness and destruction.
    • Nodens and Hypnos also exhibit this trope, albeit for very different reasons.
  • Dungeons & Dragons:
    • Most Beholders are insane, convinced that they embody the perfection and any minuscule deviations from it should be exterminated, and thus (being an extremely flexible species) wage constant species-wide civil war. It's caused by their deity, "Great Mother" who also spawns different hive mothers in every clutch who in turn spawn different variant beholders. But how it's compatible with seeing Great Mother itself? Simple: every individual sees its own features (scaled up).
    • More literally, the very intelligent large or magically mighty beings in D&D, like dragons and deities, will often use their shape-changing abilities to become a human simply to make their human associates less freaked out (usually for the ulterior purpose of getting laid). It's where all the ridiculous half-whatever templates come from. Although sometimes it does cross over with forms the being finds comfortable — silver dragons stereotypically really like hanging out in humanoid form to the point they have been known to do it long-term with only other silver dragons around.
    • In the few instances from Ravenloft history when the Dark Powers have contacted someone, they've done so with an audio-only inversion of this trope: taunting, tempting and tormenting a nascent darklord using the voices of said darklord-to-be's friends, family, and enemies. In short, A Voice You Are Uncomfortable With.
    • According to Keith Baker, creator of the Eberron setting, The Daelkyr appear as a perfect paragon of the same race as the person viewing them (i.e. a human sees a perfect human, a goblinoid sees a perfect bugbear, etc). Their true form cannot be interpreted by a rational mind and the perfect appearance is merely a rationalisation, and they're distinct from shapechangers because they have no control over how they appear.
  • Exalted
    • The Unconquered Sun has appeared in the form of a handsome four-armed human since the time when humans became the dominant race of Creation. Prior to that, he appeared as a golden scaled humanoid tyrannosaurus in honor of the Dragon Kings, who were his most ardent worshipers. He's also capable of assuming practically any form if he wants to make himself more (or less) comforting to another. His reason for assuming other forms is partially as an expression of respect and solidarity, partially for the sake of being comforting and partially because his true form (a humanoid figure of molten gold and obsidian studded with galaxies, with blazing eyes and countless arms) would burn out the senses of practically any being that viewed it.
    • Other Incarnae also have the power to assume more comforting forms. Luna in particular is defined by being a shapeshifter, with a multitude of forms and identities, some of which are specifically assumed to be comforting to others.
    • There's also the implication that some of the jouten (bodies) of certain Primordials serve the purpose of giving them a means of interacting with lesser beings in a context other than complete awe and terror. In most cases, this doesn't constitute actual shapeshifting; they're just capable of existing as multiple bodies simultaneously.
  • Warhammer 40,000:
    • The Emperor did this as a matter of necessity, appearing as (very) large human wearing armour because his true form would also expose any viewers to his psychic presence, which even ten thousand years after his apparent death is powerful enough to burn out the eyes of anyone who makes even momentary psychic contact with him and is capable of maintaining a galactic navigation beacon. Sort of. He actually IS a giant man in stupendously ornate armor. Whether he grew into gianthood or performed genetic experimentation on himself is never stated. What he actually masks is his psychic power, not his body. Baseline humans that see him are dazzled by a blinding light about one notch down from a Beatific Vision. Psykers get a wonderful dose of Your Head Asplode. Then he starts actually doing things and it makes sense why he's referred to later on as the God Emperor. On the other hand, Psychic blanks like his Sisters of Silence bodyguards see... just a man.
    • Slaanesh, like the other Chaos Gods, can't really be said to have a true form due to being a product of the Warp (the collective psychic energy of all living things). What makes her/him/it a little different from the other gods is that as the god(dess) of desire, she/he/it shapes itself to the person's deepest desires. As you might have surmised from the confused pronouns, this includes Gender Bending.

  • In Marlowe's Doctor Faustus, the eponymous scholar is appalled by the first form Mephistophilis presents himself in after being summoned (it's never made explicit in the text what that form resembles), and asks him to come back in the shape of a Franciscan Friar.

    Video Games 
  • In AI: The Somnium Files, Date's Robot Buddy Aiba is an artificial eyeball that lives in his empty left eyesocket, but can leave it and cover herself in an artifical gelatin and become a cute hamster-like creature. At some point in the past, she got bored and decided to design a human form for herself based on Date's interests, which she uses while Date is using the Psync machines to enter someone's Somnium.
  • In Baldur's Gate III, The Reveal is that the Mysterious Protector appearing to you in your dreams is an illithid Rogue Drone who took on a humanoid form to gain your trust (with the default being an attractive woman). You can even have an Optional Sexual Encounter with him and he'll offer to go back to his old form during sex to make it "easier to navigate".
  • In the God Game Black & White (specifically, the first one), the mortal villagers of Eden only see You as a rotating ball of energy with a symbol on it. As the player, You see a hand... one that that reflects everything You've done on Eden. As the developers wrote in the making-of book, there are no mirrors on Eden.
  • The various dragon gods in Breath of Fire IV each possess two different forms, a giant, monstrous form they take when summoned and a smaller humanoid form they take when conversing with the party. During the party's first meeting with Pung Ryong, the wind dragon, he comments "perhaps this form will be easier on your eyes" as his humanoid form appears.
  • Played with in Catherine. Catherine is a succubus, meaning that she changes appearance playing up to the fetishes of the men she seduces prefer. You only see one form during the game, but we possibly see her true form in the True Cheater Ending.
  • Implied to be the case with the shapeshifting Flemeth in the Dragon Age franchise. In the first game, she presents herself as a ragged old woman, and only goes One-Winged Angel if forced. In the second, when rescuing the Hawke family from darkspawn, she starts out in her dragon form and then shifts to a white-haired valkyrie look. She notes how "bodies are such limiting things" and alludes to the fact that she's much more than a "simple" Monster Lord. What she is exactly remains a major mystery of the series.
    Hawke: Impressive! Where did you learn to turn into a dragon?
    Flemeth: (laughs) Perhaps I am a dragon?
  • Dragon Age: Inquisition:
    • Inverted with the Nightmare Demon. It, and the aspects of it that the group fights, take the form of what each person fears the most, though we only see from the Inquisitor's perspective. The Inquisitor and Hawke see spiders, Alistair or Loghain see darkspawn, Cassandra sees maggots crawling through filth, Sera sees empty blobs of nothing for a literal example of Nothing Is Scarier. The Iron Bull refuses to mention what he sees.
    • Cole, the friendly Humanoid Abomination from the same game, tells Varric during banter that the reason he took a human shape was because it was the best way to help others - by which he means that it was the least likely to terrify the living daylights out of everyone.
  • Inverted by the V'rix in Earth & Beyond. Design documents indicated that the insect-like appearance of them and their ships seen in game is not their true appearance. They took this form specifically to play off humanity's deepest primal fears.
  • The Elder Scrolls
    • This is implied to be the case for Nirn's Alien Sky. The two moons? The rotting "flesh divinity" of the "sundered" "dead" creator god, Lorkhan. The eight planets? The bodies of the eight Aedra who aided Lorkhan in creating Mundus, the mortal plane, and were thus bound to it. (Other theories state that the planets are their "bodies" after they died during creation (similar to Lorkhan and the moons), but now "dream" that they are alive and thus, can still influence the world.) The sun and stars? Holes punched from Mundus into Aetherius, the realm of magic, by Magnus and his followers, the Magna-Ge or "star orphans", who bailed out on creation rather than be bound to it like the Aedra. The nebulae visible at night? Magic flowing into Mundus from Aetherius. It's all implied to look this way because it's all your mortal mind can comprehend.
    • This is likewise the case for the Daedric Princes. According to some interpretations, the Daedric planes are the Daedric Princes is a Genius Loci way. The vast majority of the Princes will take more humanoid forms when dealing with mortals, with Hermaeus Mora as the main exception. In all cases, it is speculated that mortals Cannot Grasp Their True Forms, similar to the Alien Sky example of Lorkhan and the Aedra above. The Daedric realms are implied to be similarly shaped into something that mortals can comprehend, albeit to a more limited degree. They are still alien places even when shaped into something that mortals can perceive, and a few of these Daedric realities are very lethal to the unprepared.
  • Final Fantasy:
    • The alien conqueror Jenova from Final Fantasy VII. Her original form is that of a naked woman, though it's not a very convincing disguise: she's missing arms and feet, is surrounded by fleshy tubules (or, in the updated Crisis Core version, a giant heart) and monstrous wings, and Jenova was apparently fuzzy on where eyes are supposed to go. However, it was enough to lure the Cetra to their doom. Jenova's been locked in this form ever since she was mummified and placed in cold storage by Shinra Inc. Upon reawakening, she spends much of the game disguised as Sephiroth, who - in a role reversal - is frozen solid and requires Jenova to come free him.
    • Final Fantasy X: The aeons have two forms, their original human form for talking with summoners and their guardians and their spiritual form for fighting.
  • First Encounter Assault Recon: A rare example of this being played for horror comes in Project Origin with Alma. She pins Beckett to a wall, looming over him looking like an emaciated corpse, but then retreats and takes on the form of a healthy, attractive young woman. Made horrifying by the fact that Alma is in love with Beckett, and it's quite clear that she's doing this to appeal to him.
  • Implied in FTL: Faster Than Light. The Engi are beings composed of lots of nanomachines. They usually have a humanoid shape, but one event describes some Engi becoming vortices to work on special machines.
  • Guilty Gear: The true form of the main protagonist, Sol Badguy, is that of a humanoid dragon with a crustacean-like carapace. It's partly to hide his identity as a Gear, and partly holding back.
  • Half-Life: Likely the reason the G-Man appears human and yet is so clearly not.
  • In Helltaker, Beelzebub explicitly invokes this while conversing with the Self-Insert main character, taking the appearance of a drop-dead gorgeous girl. Of course, since she is the queen of the flies, her true form is every bit as gross-looking and frightening as you might expect. There's also some implication that the other demon girls are in a similar situation and you simply never see their true forms.
  • The Final Boss of The Legend of Zelda: Skyward Sword inverts this trope. Fi's scan reveals that his form is different every era based on what humanity fears at the time. A fitting trait for Demon King Demise.
  • Mass Effect
    • In Mass Effect 3, the Catalyst appears as the little boy who was killed at the beginning of the game.
    • When Shepard enters the geth consensus to remove the Reaper Code infecting the system, Legion installs sensory filters so that an organic can make some limited sense from a virtual world designed for synthetics. The anti-virus software takes the form of a giant gun. When asked about it, Legion clarifies that the geth chose something familar for their benefit, which Shepard takes as a backhanded compliment.
    • In the Leviathan DLC the actual Leviathans resemble the Reapers (since the first Reaper was created from them, but when telepathically communicating with Shepard they do it via a continuously changing vision of various people they have met. As the Leviathans are merciless and believe themselves akin to gods as much the Reapers do, including brainwashing and killing many people to prevent their discovery, it is unlikely they were doing this for Shepard's comfort, since the mental link causes Shepard to suffer a nosebleed.
  • Mega Man ZX
    • Played straight in the first game. If you attempt to talk to civilians while not using Vent/Aile's human forms, the civilians flip out. The official explanation for this is that they're afraid of you, but this hardly seems to hold for those who tell you that to talk to them, you need to "ditch the crazy outfit". Ironically, in order to get a certain equippable chip, you need to talk to a certain kid after completing a certain side-quest while in Mega Man form because he thinks it looks cool and could use the chip. The human form is also the only form that doesn't aggro city guards, as it's the only form that doesn't carry a weapon and they're set to act violent when detecting weaponry to protect the city from Mavericks sneaking inside.
    • Averted in Advent, as in that game everyone who Grey/Ashe can interact with is either a Hunter or people who are used to dealing with people like Hunters, so a gun-totting super cyborg warrior is an Unusually Uninteresting Sight that illicts no difference regardless if they're Megamerged or not. Grey/Ashe still do revert to their Model A Mega Man form if they're in an A-Trans form when talking to others, but that's more to make sure people know who they are since the majority of those forms are villains.
  • Middle-earth: Shadow of Mordor:
    • In flashbacks, Sauron appears as a fair-faced elf in elegant clothing. Until things get dicey, of course, at which point he transforms into an armored giant capable of crushing armies by himself. Some of the things Shelob and others say about him imply that the armored form isn't merely magically putting on armor, it's transforming into an empty suit of armor controlled by his dark will. This, apparently, is the closest to his "true" form.
    • Shelob from Middle-earth: Shadow of War is a formless force of darkness who prefers spending time as a giant spider; every time Talion enters her lair, that is the form she is in. However, after the first time they meet, she is careful to never let him see this form, and instead appears as a beautiful woman with long black hair.
  • In Neon White, the angels that White meets in Heaven Central Authority appear as cats. This is because an angel's appearance is apparently so alien and unknowable that it differs based on the viewer's psyche. So while Neon White and Neon Red see the angels as cats, Neon Yellow sees them as John Cena, of all things.
  • Mephasm, an Affably Evil pit-fiend in Neverwinter Nights 2, always takes the form of a purple-skinned half-elf when the player character sees him.
  • The Elder Powers in Nexus Clash are never seen in game, partly because their true forms are unknowable and partly so someone doesn't figure out how to kill them. In lore, they have a mutual agreement not to intervene lest they provoke similar intervention from their rivals, but several of them tried to game this by creating knowable mortal forms to puppet. Eventually, all of them took up this habit, which did away with the benefits of having an avatar to begin with.
  • The Conductor in Obsidian, as a physical humanoid interface for the nanobot-controlling AI, Ceres. For some reason she appears as a Robot Girl with a porcelain-like face and sports a plasma disc as a hat.
  • Used with terrifying effectiveness in Off, in The Judge's ending, wherein The Batter suddenly changes forms to become a Humanoid Abomination. However, this can be considered as an Epileptic Tree, due to the fact that we don't know if he suddenly changed, or if he looked like that the whole time.
  • Pokémon:
    • Subverted in Pokémon Mystery Dungeon: Gates to Infinity. The Voice of Life, the embodiment of the world's will to survive, has chosen you to help combat the forces that seek the world's demise. To do so, it takes the form of Hydreigon, a three-headed dark-type dragon with pupilless red eyes that even the Pokédex refers to as "the brutal Pokémon". It's more of a meta example, however, as the only Pokemon in the story who actually seems to be bothered by his appearance at one point is Dunsparce, who isn't exactly brave. The fact that he introduces himself as Hydreigon seems to imply that he might not have any choice in the form he takes, either.
    • Pokémon Legends: Arceus plays this straighter by all but directly stating this to be the case for Arceus, heavily implying that the physical body you can encounter and catch (and, by extention, the body you can catch in other previous titles as well) is an avatar created using only a tiny fraction of Arceus' full power, and that its true form is infinitely more powerful and incomprehensible. Considering that Arceus is the Top God of the Pokémon universe, this would certainly explain how random children have been able to capture it throughout the series.
  • Alex Mercer and Elizabeth Greene, from [PROTOTYPE], look human enough to begin with, albeit able to shapeshift and turn parts of their bodies into weapons. Eventually, though, you realize that the human form of Alex is just like all of his other disguises and that he is really the Blacklight Virus, released at Penn Station by the real Alex Mercer; before that, "he" just looked like thick, bright red goop in a test tube. Later in the game, Elizabeth Green turns into a mountain of flesh and biomass growing out of the sewer at Times Square, giving you a hint of how Alex might truly look. Subverted by the fact that Alex himself genuinely believes he is his human form, at least until someone tells him otherwise.
    • Unclear if this actually counts, since it's less of a case of "A Form You Are Comfortable With" and more of a case of Shapeshifter Default Form, as once you defeat her, Elizabeth Greene's One-Winged Angel form falls over and the "original" chunk of biomass that is her plops out looking just the same. It's difficult to rule it one way or the other as it's never fully explained in the game.
  • Voyager from Reverse: 1999 is actually a large, sentient, horrifyingly powerful nebula from a galaxy beyond the Milky Way. Other aliens fear her, abandoning entire galaxies if she so much as shows up there. On Earth, however, she decides to take the form of a young girl in a Soviet Russian girl's school uniform to more easily interact with others without freaking them out.
  • Shantae: Risky's Revenge: The belly dancer outside the Relic Hunter's Expo after Squid Baron is defeated, talks about Dance Spirits' forms. And the rumors are true.
    I hear they reflect the face of those who find them. Is that true?
  • Happens a few times in Shin Megami Tensei verse.
    • Persona 2 has Nyarlathotep, an excellent shapeshifter; being a mass of literal living, breathing evil, he often uses his powers to duplicate people to stab people from where it hurts most in the shape of the people they admire or love most by breaking them by talking, and mostly inverting this trope, generally with the purpose of heightening his enemies' despair so they break, general attrition damage, and for shits and giggles. Being born of Humanity's collective unconscious has made him very, very, good at this.
    • In Persona 4, Teddie, a Shadow, does this unconsciously so as to appear nonthreatening to the humans he wants to become like. Also, Izanami as the gas station attendant, and when she reveals herself for what she is. She just appears as a young woman wearing a shimenawa mask, whereas her true form is the hideous, rotting corpse from the myths, seen as the final phase of her boss fight (Izanami-no-Okami).
    • In Persona 5, Morgana takes the form of a cat-like being in the Metaverse, and an actual cat in the real world (despite his insistence that he's not a cat). He is, in truth, an attendant created by Igor, the master of the Velvet Room. On that same note, the Big Bad spends most of the game disguised as Igor, but his facade is not quite perfect: while he looks the part, his voice is noticably deeper.
    • In Shin Megami Tensei: Strange Journey, a God heavily implied to be YHVH disguises himself as Metatron in order to con the Player Character into freeing his power.
    • One character in Devil Survivor 2 is actually an Eldritch Abomination, but appears as a human most of the time. It's the Anguished One, or Alcor/Al Saiduq.
  • Male Morrigi in Sword of the Stars. Being powerful psychic beings, they automatically give off a psychic aura that makes anyone looking at them see a divine, "good" creature from their own mythology instead of their true forms (as an example, most humans see angels). Since the Morrigi are traders and diplomats by nature, this tends to smooth over diplomatic functions with other species quite nicely. Interestingly, this aura is primarily meant to attract females, similar to the tail feathers of male peacocks. Morrigi females look for a male with the most beautiful (i.e. strongest) aura, while Morrigi males look for a female who can resist their aura.
  • In Super Smash Bros. Ultimate, Palutena's Guidance about Bayonetta has Viridi state that Palutena's true form is rather different from the human form we see, and Palutena strongly implies the same is true of Viridi. Of course, they could be lying to mess with poor Pit.
  • It is hinted that Yukari Yakumo of Touhou Project only appears to be a middle-aged woman because she specifically altered herself to appear that way. Her gaps, tears in reality she uses for transportation, provide a glimpse of her original appearance, and it isn't pretty. More than just hinted: given what (many) Youkai are, it's probably safe to assume that many Touhou characters merely take human form for convenience and to wear frilly dresses. Outright stated with some characters that are shown to change into a human form.
  • A Very Long Rope to the Top of the Sky: Invoked. He is initially formless, but adopts his old body while quipping "Is this the form you're used to?" Raccoon says that when the heroes find him in Ubiquity's computer system, when Yvette requests he make himself tangible.
  • In The Wolf Among Us, Fables with monstrous appearances have to regularly purchase Glamours, magical disguises, so that they can freely walk around human society. Toad without a Glamour looks like a frog walking around on two legs and dressed like an English farmer, a sight that even New Yorkers would find weird. And then you have Bigby, who takes on the form of a grizzled mid-30's detective, but is actually a wolf about the size of a Stegosaurus.
  • Subverted in The World Ends with You with Joshua, because downtuning his vibe automatically gave him a human appearance. Played more straight with the Reapers, who appear in the Realground without their bat like wings.
  • World of Warcraft
    • All powerful dragons have the ability to take on a human(oid) form whenever they want. Some even adopt aliases and pass themselves off as (relatively) normal people to suit their purposes (be they good or evil). That said, the method of getting aliases and infiltrating mortal societies has become so well-known that savvy people can spot a dragon-in-mortal-form from a mile away. In response, some dragons have stopped bothering with perfect disguises and let some of their draconic featured remain visible, thus increasingly subverting this trope. Most dragons prefer to take elven forms, as they believe humans to be inferior creatures. Even Korialstrasz/Krasus, who is pretty friendly to humans, takes the form of an elderly elven mage. Deathwing and his ilk only take human forms in order to infiltrate the human society. Other dragons occasionally appear as other races, such as goblins, but only when they're undercover. Chronormu/Chromie seems to be the only dragon who preferentially adopts a gnome as their mortal form because it suits her personality.
      • According to Alexstrasza, dragons tend to take humanoid forms when meeting each other because it's easier to have a meeting space large enough for several humanoids than one for several dragons.
    • The ethereals also invoke this trope. Beings of pure energy in their normal form, they take a more approachable guise when trading with mortal races.
    • Implied with the goblin bank manager Glutonia. Alodi references her being an elf only for Meryl Felstorm to reply that she's a goblin, to which Alodi makes a remark about her changing forms every so often.
  • The Thin Men of XCOM: Enemy Unknown were apparently designed with this trope in mind. Taking on the appearance of gangly suited humans, they were specifically engineered to be spies that can blend into crowds with ease, though it does not take much effort at all to see something's not quite natural about them. Picture the Half-Life G-Man with sunglasses and hisses like a snake when his cover is blown and you're not too far off.
    • The Faceless take on a similar role in the sequel, albeit disguised as mundane civilians to infiltrate the resistance communities undetected. Their deception is actually much more lifelike compared to the Thin Men, appearing undistinguishable from the other ten-or-so cowering civilians around them until discovered, at which point they revert back to their real Eldritch Abomination selves.
  • Xenoblade Chronicles:
    • Xenoblade Chronicles 1: Alvis's human form... maybe. He implies that he is the true God of the universe, and that he takes his current form to put Shulk at ease. Even in the first game, that leaves questions.
    • Xenoblade Chronicles 2: Blades operate this way, at least slightly. Every time a Blade is awakened from their core crystal, they are affected by the Driver who awakened them. They lose all memory of their previous incarnation every time, but they retain bits of their previous Drivers, slowly transforming from a generic common Blade to a unique Blade. It's implied that Mythra, for example, acted like a Bratty Teenage Daughter because Addam was apprehensive about his wife's pregnancy, and Malos was so insane because Amalthus was consumed with misanthropy when he awakened him.
    • Xenoblade Chronicles 3: Almost all of Z's lines, especially in his theater when speaking to potential Moebius, are actually a reflection of what the person he is speaking to is currently thinking. This is why he seems somewhat inconsistent; as the Anthropomorphic Personification of humanity's desire for nothing to change, he doesn't really have any opinions himself.
    • Xenoblade Chronicles 3: Future Redeemed: The prequel DLC finally gives more information on Alvis from the first game. Alvis is an Aegis like Mythra and Malos, one of the three cores of the supercomputer that managed the divine Conduit. Alvis (or rather, Ontos' core) fell through a dimensional rift with Zanza. When Zanza awakened the core to help build a new universe, "Alvis" was awakened as male, subservient, and largely unable to act without direct orders from someone. He couldn't fix anything himself because he could only choose someone to wield his power. In Future Redeemed, we find out that Ontos was actually designed to be neutral, the mediator between the male Logos and the female Pneuma. The plot is that Ontos has separated into the male Alpha (who wants to destroy Aionios and save only those born within it) and the feminine-formed but non-binary A (who wants to save everyone). Shulk implies at the end that A is in fact the true form of Alvis, what they would have always chosen if they had a choice from the start.

    Visual Novels 
  • Higurashi: When They Cry subverts this heavily with Hanyuu. While the basic objective is the same (bonding with Rika better) her true form is actually just 10-12 years older than the one she uses.
  • Even by the standards of the mad world The Miskatonic is set it, the Dunwichians are so maddeningly horrifying to behold that the human mind just cannot survive witnessing their true form, so they automatically censor them into the shapes of tiny, cute, child-sized silhouettes with glowing orange eyes and glowing sharklike teeth (the better for eating grilled cheese sandwiches with).
  • Played with in Saya no Uta: Saya appears to Fuminori as a cute girl not because she's changed her form, but because Fuminori's altered perception makes her look that way to him; as a result, he's the only person who doesn't go insane just by looking at her.
  • In Sucker for Love, the Cute Monster Girl forms of Eldritch Abominations are just facades, as expected.
    • The true form of Ln'eta can be seen in "AWAKE END", a giant monster looking much like the classic portrayal of Cthulhu, towering over the city.
    • Estir is the planet-star Carcosa itself, and the humanoid form the protagonist interacts with is a projection cast by the star's light.
    • Nyanlatothep boasts of having over a thousand forms. Thirty seven of which are catgirls.
    • The true body of Rohk'zan is the entirety of the dark woods that are overgrowing Sacramen-Cho. When the protagonist asks if it means her true appearance is just a regular tree, she replies that it's a really sexy tree.

    Web Animation 
  • DSBT InsaniT: The Goddess Waterfall Girl inhabits a human body to communicate with mortals.
  • Downplayed in Chikn Nuggit. Fwench fwy, as an all-powerful wish dragon, takes a small, cute form to fit in with their Ridiculously Cute Critter friends. However, they still happily show Chikn their true form, which is much larger and more majestic. Chikn still finds it cute.
  • Dreamscape: Keedran hates this trope, but she knows that its a necessity. Thus she takes the form of a golden angel/mermaid/dragon instead of a Creepy Centipede.
  • Love of the S*n: Charger Block theorizes that the Operators aren't actually objects, and are instead some kind of higher being. This is confirmed in an auxiliary video.
  • In Red vs. Blue, when speaking with Caboose, Epsilon (or, rather, the memories of other AI fragments within Epsilon) takes the form of Delta, who he knows Caboose was comfortable with. He explains he isn't really Delta, but considering Caboose's mental state, he probably didn't fully understand that.

  • In The 10 Doctors, the Guardians say that their appearances change with the needs of their desired champions. In the story proper, they manifest as attractive humanoid women in order to toy with the Tenth Doctor's need for meaningful companionship, and in a flashback, the White Guardian manifests to Davros as a military officer.
  • In All Night Laundry the TV monster apparently. We're not sure what it is exactly, but Bina seems to be the only one who sees it as a TV.
  • Something does this by accident in Beyond Reality. It's trying to not appear as something the human is comfortable with, but doesn't know much about humans, and thus has to make an educated guess.
    Interdimensional Being: You... don't find it frightening?
    Orion: Um... well, why a fish? It's not even a particularly freaky fish.
    Interdimensional Being: Fish are scary!
    Orion: You're scared of fish?
    Interdimensional Being: No! It's just... dammit, I'm an interdimensional being. Do you know how tough it is to tailor your intimidation to billions of different cultures? 98% of sentient beings in the multiverse find fish terrifying. How was I to know you came from the other 2%?
  • Played for laughs when Blade Bunny expresses disgust for being stared at by a big gooey dragon's eyeball that is bigger than she is. The dragon then voluntarily shrinks down small enough... for Bunny to punch out.
  • The Sovereign of Sorrow in Captain SNES: The Game Masta's appearance depends on "how [someone's] mind understands [her]", though she typically appears as female video game royalty. For example, Magus from Chrono Trigger sees her as Queen Zeal and Roy Koopa sees her as Princess Peach.
  • Lampshaded in Dubious Company. Phred visits Sal and Leeroy as a pair of sweatpants.
  • In El Goonish Shive, Chaos seems to be trying to invert this trope by appearing as a little girl. What she says and does is more creepy that way. Also played straight later as she takes the form of Fox, Nanase's summon, to wake her up and get Nanase to listen to her so Nanase will do what Chaos asks with out freaking out too much. Nanase eventually catches on that she's not Fox but by that time she doesn't care and is willing to do what Chaos asked anyway.
  • In Erfworld, the mysterious Charlie assumes a variety of different forms whenever he psychically communicates with someone. To the reader, they come off as fourth-wall-shattering references, but given that almost everything in Erfworld is a warped version of Earth pop culture to begin with....
  • Sam from Freefall is a Starfish Alien who wears a humanoid spacesuit, otherwise humans would be squicked out seeing him.
  • The Great Old One Nyarlathotep has cameos in Friendly Hostility, where he takes a form reminiscent of Neil Gaiman with eyes of infinite space.
  • Inverted in The Gods of Arr-Kelaan. The mortals-turned-gods can look like anything they want, but they default to what they looked like as mortals because it makes them more comfortable.
  • Trickster God Coyote of Gunnerkrigg Court appears as a somewhat stylized coyote — usually — but his true form can be seen by the spiritually aware. Carefully, as it's like picking out details on the sun.
  • For King, from Housepets!, the Universes & Unrealities game is an overglorified Dungeons & Dragons game... played by two celestial beings who happen to take the respective forms of a giant eastern-style dragon and a griffon.
  • The insectoid Princess Voluptua in The Inexplicable Adventures of Bob! usually interacts with Earthlings by disguising herself as a beautiful woman. One of her subordinates criticizes her that "'Tis undignified for the heir apparent to dress like a monkey!"
  • In Narbonic, a demon coming to claim a fleeing demon's soul does this, picking an image from Dave's head. That image just so happens to be Helen, dressed like a nerdy fanboy's wetdream.
  • In Olympic Dames, this trope is Pan's excuse for appearing as a tall blond human to the leads. He really just wants to get laid without hearing women scream.
  • In the case of the god Thor in The Order of the Stick, this simply means shrinking himself so that his voice doesn't hurt mortal ears and they don't mistake him for a landscape.
  • Played with, parodied, and inverted in one of the PvP Halloween storylines, in which Brent was abducted by aliens. They first appeared as tentacled slime-blobs, wearing plastic superhero masks in order to blend in. Once they'd kidnapped Brent and were trying to speak with him, they revealed that this form was an attempt to appear pleasing to Earthlings. It didn't work, so they tried option #2: ALF. (This just made Brent scream louder.) Finally, they dropped the disguises and appeared in their true, horrifying visages: cuddly hamster-creatures similar to Hamtaro.
    Alien commander: Have everyone in research killed.
  • Questionable Content has a variant: The sufficiently advanced A.I. "Spookybot" designs a Brain/Computer Interface that lets a human view and edit the components of an A.I. mind... which are represented in cartoonishly simple terms.
    Spookybot: Use the comically oversized key.
    Faye: A little on the nose, isn't it?
    Spookybot: When you create an immersive virtual environment and an incomprehensibly powerful decryption algorithm, you can make them look however you want.
  • Schlock Mercenary: The nigh-omnipotent AI Petey appears as something like a cross between a koala and a hobbit, which is the same as the species that originally created him. Of course, he could choose to change that if he wished.
    General Bala-Amin: The persona he presents is strikingly "human," and although I know that's an illusion to facilitate communication, I trust the unseen hyper-mind behind the furry face.
    Petey: What if I'm actually like this?
    General Bala-Amin: Don't tell me that. Your fuzzy avatar is every last kind of insufferable.
  • Hilariously subverted in strip #977 of Starslip. The Moliff's may be shapechangers, but Dahk's attempt to shift into a human form suggests they are unable to change their material appearance, as translucent blobs of jelly with visible organs floating within them.
  • When Sissy in Umlaut House 2 ends up in the far future she meets Volair and first recognizes him as Dr. Lee's husband and then guesses that he's some post-Singularity spook who took on a form that would be neither too familiar nor too strange for her to talk to. He tells her that she was right the first time, and the second really.
  • In Wayrift, the Arweinydd Zemi Dreigiau appears to people in person form or dragon form — depending on his mood. The Arweinydd Zazo also takes on a wolf form to communicate with people, and eventually takes the form of a woman to gain attention from the man she's in love with.

  • The Crew of the Copper-Colored Cupids:
    • When Philatel sees the home of Lord Thymon's sister in the Void in A Copper-Colored Christmas Carol, he is surprised at the mundanity of the house he's looking at until his guide explains to him that all information relating to Thymon's family has been filtered into terms that he can understand without going mad.
    • Although they appear as three identical men in elaborate golden robes, it's suggested that the Three in Marksmanship-526 and the Secret Society Stratagem may actually look quite different.
      It's a man, or at least it looks like one at the moment. It's leaning on a golden staff, wearing golden finery, and encased in an absolutely shocking pair of golden shoulder-pads. Is there something reptilian in his eyes? Is there a hint of wings in those curving shoulders?
  • On DeviantArt, there is this prose piece titled "God Drinks Black Coffee". The main character meets God on the sidewalk in the form of a woman.

    Web Videos 
  • On the final episode of Cracked TV, Clippy (after going insane and trying to take over the show) appears before Michael — played by the exact same actor with a sombrero, a fake moustache and a bad Mexican accent.
    Michael: Clippy. You're taller than I expected.
    Clippy: I have chosen the form that is most pleasing to you.
    Michael: [beat] Is that a gay joke?
    Clippy: Eh. More a narcissism joke. Plus, this is the easiest way to shoot the finale.
  • At the end of the Netflix comedy special Seth Rogen's Hilarity for Charity, the all-powerful Netflix Algorithm makes an onstage appearance in the form of Jeff Goldblum (whom Rogen mistakes for the actual Goldblum until it points out that he's sitting in the audience).

    Western Animation 
  • American Dad!:
    • Steve and God in "Stan of Arabia".
      Steve: Wow! Angelina Jolie! I have so many questions to ask you. Is that whole thing about you sleeping with knives in the bed true?
      God: I'm not Angelina Jolie, Steve. I'm God. I simply chose the form most pleasing to you.
      Steve: Oh, you're God. ...So is that thing about Angelina Jolie sleeping with knives in the bed true?
      God: Yeah. It's messed up, isn't it?
    • Oddly, He later appears again as a typical Grandpa God in Heaven. Well, that's how he appeared to Stan, who's something of a Christian fundamentalist, so Grandpa God is probably the only form Stan is willing to accept.
  • In the Grand Finale of Amphibia, when Anne ends up risking her life to save Amphibia and her soul ends up in a celestial plane, she encounters the guardian of the three gems who takes on the form of her cat Domino so it could interact with her better.
  • In both Avatar: The Last Airbender and its Sequel Series The Legend of Korra, the Avatar Spirit (basically the setting's God) inhabits a human body to learn more about the humans it has chosen to protect. Most of the spirits either play this straight or invert this, as their usual form tends to be something like pandas, giant wolves, or owls, but they're capable of looking like an Eldritch Abomination when angered. It's unknown which they prefer.
  • When the Vok talk with Optimus Primal in Beast Wars, they take the form of the head of Unicron, having scanned his mind and determining it to be a "figure of authority" that Optimus would listen to, though it was more likely "A Form You'd Know Not To Screw With." Pulling such a stunt is entirely in character for the Vok. They do show their true form to Tarantulas, when he tries to mess with their Tigerhawk puppet. He freaks out and tries to kill them with a big laser, only to get himself killed. Here is their true form. The Transformers in general have this trope as their M.O.; thus the catchphrase, "Robots in Disguise." But in Beast Wars it works both ways. Not only do the Maximal and Predacon Beast Modes provide a way to blend in with their environment, but the forms also provide a "skin" that protects them from dangerous raw energon radiation, thus also making it a form they're comfortable with. At least through the first season, if they stayed in their robot forms for too long, their systems start overloading.
  • In Ben 10: Omniverse, the Contumelia are an alien race from the fifth dimension that cannot be perceived by third-dimensional beings, who instead see what holds the most emotional sway over them. Ben saw the Mr. Smoothy mascot, Rook saw his father, and Maltruant saw himself.
  • Daria: Daria met many holidays at the "Depth takes a holiday" episode. Christmas, Halloween and Guy Fawkes day wanted to start a band, but Cupid and Saint Patrick day wanted them to return home. They are supposed to say that home is "in your hearth", but it was actually in another dimension they could access through a dimensional wormhole at the back of the Chinese food restaurant. The holidays seem and act like common teenagers, and in their dimension they are all at a place that seems like Lawndale High, but which is worse (a quote that Daria and Jane will be repeating in their adult life).
  • I Am Weasel gets Weasel and Baboon stranded on a different dimention, and then some creatures appear as hams, saying that they wouldn't be able to undertand their true forms. Doesn't stop Baboon from trying to eat one of them, who had to hit him to stop, and explain their tongues couldn't understand their true taste.
  • Invader Zim gives a humorous example with the Meekrob:
    Dib: Who—what are you, and why did you transform into giant shoes?!
    Meekrob: We are beings of pure energy. This is merely a form your human brain can understand.
    Dib: But—you just looked like aliens before you turned into shoes.
    Meekrob: Hmm... yes. But you couldn't comprehend that.
    Dib: Yes I could.
    (the lead Meekrob slaps him with a shoelace)
  • Legend Quest: Alebrije is a mythological creature that appears as a different animal to normal people, but Leo and the Ghost can see him in his true form, which is a dinosaur-like mix-and-match creature.
  • Love, Death & Robots: In "Beyond the Aquila Rift", Greta knows that humans don't react well to the environment they've been landed in, the situation itself or her own monstrous appearance, and so tries to very slowly make those unfortunate enough to crash at her station aware of their situation. However, it seems her act or psychic power need work as she has "gone through this a thousand times" and dealt with many "lost souls" who all demanded to see the truth and proceed to break from the experience, and in Thom's case upon seeing her true form.
  • Milo Murphy's Law has Time Ape, Dr. Zone's partner and brother. His presumed original form would have made any person's head explode, so he took the form of an "ape with a clock for a head." Although, we do learn why he changed form thanks to Melissa.
  • My Little Pony: Friendship Is Magic: In the final two seasons, the Tree of Harmony is revealed to be indeed sentient; it projects a sparkly hologram of Twilight Sparkle to communicate with the Young Six and commend them for facing their fears. Said hologram is used again at the beginning of the final season to alert the Young Six that the Tree has been destroyed and they must find a way to preserve it.
  • The Owl House: In the last episode, Luz actually meets the Titan in the flesh, sort of, but he appears in a more humble and fatherly form, resembling a bigger, older version of King with wings, and wearing a bathrobe and pyjamas. When he transfers his life energy to Luz, he briefly reverts to a far more gargantuan and monstrous skeletal form, and even then it's still a toned down version of his true landmass-sized body.
  • Parodied in the "Morty's Mindblowers" episode in Rick and Morty. In order to escape an alien prison, Rick tricks a pair of human scientists into building a teleportation device, then claims to be an advanced alien having taken "forms you can comprehend" before stealing their teleporter.
  • She-Ra and the Princesses of Power: Light Hope initially appears to Adora in the form of a woman, albeit one who doesn't look human, and has odd proportions, even putting aside Light Hope's distinctly off behaviour. When Adora notes it's creepy, Light Hope tries to fix this, and turns into a Creepy Child instead. Then she tries to fix that, which we don't get to see, but Adora finds unsettling enough she just tells Light Hope to go back to her first form.
  • Parodied twice on The Simpsons:
    • In "The Last Temptation of Homer", Homer's guardian angel appears to him in the form of Isaac Newton, "a man you would respect and admire." When he realizes Homer has no idea who Newton is, he instead takes the form of Colonel Klink — which he really didn't want to do.
    • In "Hungry, Hungry Homer", when Homer loses faith in his hunger strike, he is visited by the ghost of Cesar Chavez — who appears in the form of Cesar Romero, since Homer doesn't know what Cesar Chavez looks like.
  • South Park:
    • Lampshaded and Double Subverted in "Cancelled". An alien initially takes the form of Stan's father and the kids first think that this trope is lame, so the alien changes into its true form, which is a gigantic, hideous monster. The boys scream and quickly ask it to go back to a "comfortable" form. They then spend quite a while going through possible forms (including Santa Claus, Saddam Hussein, and Missy Elliot) until Cartman suggests "a taco that craps ice cream", which the boys decide is acceptable.
    • The form of Moses in "Super Best Friends" — a giant spinning orange energy prism! Yeah. Not just any spinning energy prism, but a carbon copy of the Master Control Program.
    • Parodied in "Something Wall-Mart This Way Comes", when the Wall-Mart (who looks suspiciously like The Architect) tells Stan and Kyle he can take many forms. He then proceeds to put on a hat and ask: "Does this form please you?" and takes on several other "forms" such as wearing a jacket. About a minute later, when the Wall-Mart store is falling in on itself, he says "Now you shall see my true form!" then rips off his (apparently) fake moustache while maniacally dancing about. This description does not do it justice.
  • Star Trek: The Animated Series episode "The Magicks of Megas-Tu." The inhabitants of Megas-Tu do this for their own bodies and their planet's surface so the crew of the Enterprise can comprehend them. Lucien turns the planetary surface to a forest glade, and the other Megans change it to a recreation of Salem, Massachusetts during the Witch Trials.
  • Star Wars Rebels: In "Family Reunion — and Farewell", Emperor Palpatine's hologram appears as his younger, unscarred self from before his battle with Mace in Revenge of the Sith, and his personality matches. It's implied here and in Thrawn that this is the hologram he uses for official appearances, but when people don't cooperate, the hologram switches to his true form and he drops the friendly act.
  • Steven Universe: Deconstructed in "Reformed", where Amethyst is self-conscious of what Garnet thinks of her and constantly "poofs" back into her gem and comes back in different forms to counter Garnet's criticisms of her. At the end, Amethyst learns to think for herself and takes the time to come back in a new form, which Garnet is comfortable with because she is comfortable with it.
  • The Venture Bros.:
    • Lampshaded and subverted. Dr. Jonas Venture Sr. appears through a portal, saves the day, then turns to leave. All bystanders are understandably surprised, as the man is apparently Back from the Dead after decades. Dr. Thaddeus Venture begs his father to stay: he has so many unanswered questions, not to mention so many lingering Daddy Issues. The visitor sheepishly admits he's not Thaddeus' returned father, but an alien tasked with saving the Earth, and he merely took the form of the elder Dr. Venture because it would be familiar. As the alien explains he didn't want to upset anyone, Dr. Venture (now very upset) makes it clear that this is A Form He Is Not Comfortable With.
      Alien: I took the form of your dad because I figured it would be easier to accept. I didn't want to stress you out. [shrugs] End of the world, life on other planets, blah blah blah.
      Dr. Venture: Why... you... SON OF A BITCH! Do you know what you just put me through?! What the fuck were you thinking?! What kind of fucked up planet are you from that you think showing up as my dead fucking father is supposed to make me feel any better?!
      Alien: Okay, take it easy-
      Dr. Venture: You prick!
      Alien: Look, I just saved your entire planet!
      Dr. Venture: PRICK!
    • The alien is so irritated by Dr. Venture's ingratitude that he testily agrees to reveal his true form just to prove a point. The audience doesn't see what the alien looks like, but the other characters do. Sure enough, they are utterly horrified.
      Alien: All right, fine! You wanna see? Here! [pulls away disguise]
      [off-screen light and sound]
      Alien: There! [sarcastically] THAT would have been better? If I showed up like THAT out of nowhere?! Look at you! You practically crapped your pants! Except for him — he crapped his pants!
      Ned: [sadly] Boom-boom.
    • Possibly parodied/subverted/inverted with The Master, Dr. Orpheus's teacher. We've never seen his true form, so we have no idea if he's human. But instead of taking on forms to comfort people, he seems to choose ones to screw with their heads (or at least to engage in Power Perversion Potential) though he always claims there's a valuable lesson in them.
  • Young Justice (2010): Miss Martian is a White Martian. Since White Martians are pretty hideous by human standards she uses her shapeshifting powers to look like an attractive young green-skinned humanoid. She based her humanoid form along with her entire personality on broadcasts of an old television show, Hello Megan!, since she hated her lonely life on Mars. As far as she is concerned, her "disguise" is her true self, so this is actually more a case of a form she is comfortable with. While the Team is momentarily creeped out by her Nightmare Fuel true form, they get over it quickly.
    Kaldur'ahm: Did you really think we would be so shallow?


The Vok

The Vok take the form of Unicron's disembodied head, having scanned Optimus Primal's data tracks for an authority figure he'll take seriously.

How well does it match the trope?

5 (5 votes)

Example of:

Main / AFormYouAreComfortableWith

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