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Forced Transformation

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"You wish for me to cow your enemies?
I can do better than that..."

"Polywhat? It's a Frog spell, boy. The fact that you're a frog now should tip you off."
Matoya, 8-Bit Theater

Characters get hit with a spell, Curse, or Transformation Ray, causing an instantaneous and involuntary transformation until they can revert to their usual form by some means. These transformations are often harmful, but beneficial or neutral transformations can also occur. This is commonly some sort of animal creature (whether real or fantastic), though it can also be a plant or a lifeless object. They may or may not lose their voice, or even their mental faculties (in which case someone else will have to seek the cure for them). Such unlucky often start Stumbling in the New Form after the transformation, once they get over noticing their Hands Looking Wrong.

Frogs, newts, and toads are so common that they have their own subtrope, Bewitched Amphibians. Other common choices include mice, chickens, pigs, and sheep.

In role-playing or video games, harmful transformations are frequently a Status Effect that will disable or greatly weaken most attacks and magic, but will rarely affect the victim's Hit Points or armor. People may get turned into toads, but — hot damn — those toads will be Made of Iron! A notable exception is when insects are involved, in which case the victim is not long for this world.

If the transformation is harmful, it could be a way for a spellcaster to defeat foes with magic without simply killing them, or as a form of punishment (e.g. underlings who failed their boss one time too many). It's also generally less permanent and more palatable than actual death. Often requires a hero to find the magic "cure" to turn his friend back into a person. This can be also be used to show a specific aspect of the character's personality, such as gluttons turned into pigs, or cowards into chickens. Occasionally, this may function as a Transferred Transformation; in such cases, one character stuck in an undesirable form can only break the curse by shunting it onto someone else.

Occasionally, a character may manage to save the day while still under this effect, sometimes through use of the animal form's abilities. This will lead to the Aesop that it's brains, not strength, that's important. Or that courage is more important than size. Or that you can lay an egg and still feel like a man.

If the transformation is presented to disturb and frighten the viewer, it becomes Transformation Horror. It will then probably be a Painful Transformation.

Whether or not an involuntary transformation is effective against a Voluntary Shapeshifter varies, depending on whether or not it also imposes a Shapeshifter Mode Lock — otherwise the shapeshifter can just transform themselves back to normal, or at least something else.

Depending on the method, clothing may be transformed as well, or it may not, resulting in Shapeshifting Excludes Clothing if the characters or audience are aware of this fact, or Empty Piles of Clothing if they are not. (In either case, naturally, when they get turned back they're going to need those clothes back...)

Transformation into a nonliving form is much less likely to be played for laughs and much more likely to be permanent.

Can be used as a Karmic Transformation. Characters transformed this way may also exhibit Morphic Resonance. See also Emergency Transformation, Shapeshifter Mashup and Beauty to Beast. Compare Taken for Granite (turning into a statue), Unwilling Roboticisation (turning from flesh into something mechanical). Contrast with Hybrid-Overkill Avoidance, where the subject is immune to further polymorphing because they're already supernatural. Compare Involuntary Shapeshifting.

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  • Gypsy Tales: Near the end of "The Gypsy Woman and the Devil", the devil turns Vunida into a cherry tree so "[her] children will eat of [her] flesh and drink of [her] blood." It's described as agonizing to her.
  • Happy Heroes: In Season 8 episode 22, Huo Haha feeds Happy S. a magic candy cracker that turns him into a candy cracker. Not only does this strip him of his superpowers, but it also makes him susceptible to melting when in the rain or near a fire, on top of making him edible.
  • In Kung Fu Wa a Kung Fu Master from the past is transported to the present day, losing his physical body and turning into a sock. When Tee Yang puts him on her foot, she obtains his Kung Fu abilities and mystical powers. At the same time as Kung Fu Master Sock arrives, his former student Manipulens tranforms into a pair of Cool Shades.
  • Pleasant Goat and Big Big Wolf: In Mighty Little Defenders, Wolffy is accidentally transformed into a dog, making it difficult for him to catch the goats like he would normally do.
  • In Pleasant Goat Fun Class: Sports are Fun episode 12, Wolffy is magically turned into a billiards board for using his hand to knock one of the billiards balls into a hole.
  • Satellite Girl and Milk Cow: In the world of the movie, anyone who has their heart broken turns into an animal. The Witch Of the North theorizes Kyung-chun was turned into a cow because of his "cow"ardice to admit his feelings to the girl he had a crush on.

  • Circe Invidiosa: Scylla's transformation is unwilling since all the girl did was have Glaucus fall in love with her. She gets turned into a Sea Monster by Circe for it.

    Audio Play 
  • Jan Tenner:
    • In Classic, the Void transforms anyone caught by its monsters into more monsters. In Der Neue Superheld (engl. "The new superhero"), it instead transforms its victims into black armored soldiers.
    • Dr. Brain transforms people into humanoid animals, most without their consent. As a result, their loyalty towards him varies.

    Card Games 
  • Magic: The Gathering has a lot of these:
    • Ovinomancer later got a reprint and shout-outs in the Time Spiral block in the form of Ovinize (Transforms target into a sheep) and Pongify (Transforms target into a giant ape). Shadowmoor has Snakeform (Transforms target into a snake). Unglued has Fowl Play(Transforms target into a chicken). Mechanically similar "restraining" cards can instead represent a new state of mind or magical bindings. There are a few cards that turn the target into something nonliving. Some polymorphs can be undone (enchantments that can be destroyed), others are permanent (because they remove the original creature from the game and replace it with something else).
    • Then there's Mass Polymorph which (at least in terms of flavor) transforms all your creatures into other creatures basically at random.
    • In terms of the game's story, the fairytale-inspired Throne of Eldraine set featured this as a primary plot point. The planeswalker Oko, one of The Fair Folk, transforms the king of The Realm into an elk, and the storyline of the set centers on the efforts of his heirs to turn him back. Fittingly, one of Oko's representational cards in the set, Oko, Thief of Crowns, has the ability to turn enemy creatures into elks—and said card ended up being oppressive to the point where the card was banned in most formats and "3/3 green elk" has become an in-joke in its own right.
    • Later, when the Wilds of Eldraine set returned to the plane and the concept of "roles"note  were introduced, one role (and the only detrimental role) was the "Cursed" role which sets the creature's stats to 1/1, with the flavor presented on most cards and the role itself being that the affected creature gets turned into a frog.

  • German comedian Otto once told the story of Susi Sorglos, whose hairdryer claimed to be a transformed prince. This turned out to be a lie, it was actually a transformed razor.

    Comic Strips 
  • Calvin and Hobbes:
    • When Calvin and Hobbes use the Transmogrifier, like most of their cardboard box technology, it never turns out well.
    • Calvin is once turned into an owl by the Transmogrifier Gun, but accepts it when he realizes that he won't have to go to school. He is actually disappointed when the transmogrification wears off.
    • Calvin once uses it to turn himself into a tiger; he ends up looking like a shorter Hobbes.
    • Faced with a number of mutinous duplicates, Calvin turns them into worms. They are pleased by this development, suggesting Calvin put them on his dad's dinner plate.
  • In some of the Witch Hazel stories in Little Lulu, Hazel often transforms Lulu (or a nameless girl who is drawn as Lulu) into various things, such as a cat, a parrot, a monkey, a mermaid, a mouse (twice), and even a water pipe!
  • SnarfQuest, Prince Raffendorf had been transformed into a rat man by Suthaze's magic, and only Suthaze possesses the ability to reverse the curse.
  • The Wacky Adventures of Pedro often has Pedro the Mailburro forced to take on a new form, such as an amoeba or a grotesque alien.

    Fairy Tales 

  • The first of the Endless Quest pick-a-path books, Dungeon of Dread, is a surprisingly-grim adventure in a dungeon where all the monsters were created by an evil wizard casting this spell on enemies or innocent bystanders. There's nothing you can do to restore the victims, but the villain gets Hoist by His Own Petard, succumbing to this trope in turn, in the best ending.

  • Barry Louis Polisar's "One Day My Best Friend Barbara Turned into a Frog", a character is inexplicably transformed into frog and proceeds to live as one. It's never explained how this came about, and Barbara herself doesn't seem to mind her new form.

    Music Videos 
  • Radiohead's music video for "There There" ends with Thom Yorke becoming a tree, as his apparent punishment for stealing some enchanted clothing he found in the woods.

    Myths & Religion 
  • Nearly every mythological tradition has examples of the gods turning some unfortunate, or sometimes favored, human into an animal, demon, angel, plant, or mineral; either permanently or temporarily. Sometimes, even the gods themselves are affected, usually as a punishment inflicted by a more powerful or Trickster God. This is particularly common in Greco-Roman mythology.
  • The Ars Goetia has a particularly scary practitioner known as Ose. A conjurer can have Ose transform someone into most anything else. The scariest part: the victim begins thinking that they've always been what they've just been turned into. Another practitioner is Andrealphus for turning people into birds.
  • Occurred with considerable frequency in Celtic Mythology, to the point that it's actually difficult to find stories that don't feature at least one instance of it. The Children of Lir were turned into swans, a Welsh king got turned into a boar, Gwydion and Gilfaethwy were stuck spending three years as a breeding pair of animals that changed every year, Oisin's mother was changed into a doe, and so on.
  • Greek Mythology:
    • Older Than Feudalism: Circe in The Odyssey takes revenge on Odysseus's men by turning them all into pigs.
    • One version of the myth of Atalanta ends with Atalanta and her lover transformed into lions as punishment for having sex in a temple (less of an Unishment as it may seem: the Greeks thought lions and lionesses didn't reproduce with each other but with leopards).
    • While the cause for the ability varies between versions, the story of King Midas has his touch act like this, turning anything touched into a gold statue. Very unfortunate when his daughter goes to hug him. Fortunately for him, not only is this power removed, but the victims are restored. In some versions, though, the power is never removed and he ends up starving to death because any food he touches turns into gold. At this point, "the Midas Touch" has become synonymous with "Be Careful What You Wish For."

  • Old Harry's Game: A recurring joke is Satan turning Thomas into stuff as punishment, or stress relief, or just because he's bored. At one point, God Himself gets in on the action, turning Thomas into a pile of sewage for railing against him. Satan also turns the Professor into a bluebottle for two episodes, but unlike Thomas the Professor finds it fascinating.


    Tabletop Games 
  • Dungeons & Dragons:
    • The 4th-level baleful polymorph spell, which turns involuntary targets into small, weak animals and can make them lose their minds. Turning them into something that would kill them (a non-lunged fish on land, or a non-flying animal in a situation where only a flying creature has a reasonable chance of survival) makes the spell easier to resist, as though the target instinctively knows what he's being turned into and that the situation is even worse. Though the duration is permanent, the subject gets a second save to retain their mental faculties and their special powers.
    • In 5th Edition D&D, polymorph is significantly less powerful as it only lasts one hour and then the target reverts. Also whilst the target's mental abilities become that of what it turned into, it does still keep its personality so it's not unheard of for players to use it on themselves especially if they are low on the ability to cast for the day (spell slots) and they are in a situation where being a giant ape for an hour may be more beneficial than being a Squishy Wizard. The higher-level spell true polymorph can permanently turn someone into an animal (or object), but the caster has to concentrate on this for full hour, which means they cannot fail any concentration saving throws it they get hit by an attack mid-combat, so this is tricky to pull off mid-battle.
    • The Book of Vile Darkness has a magic item that gets around this, as it allows single aspects to be changed (also applying a rule that if a creature becomes unfeasible it instantly dies); thus, a lethal change can be made through several otherwise harmless additions, such as giving a flying creature several dozen additional wings.
    • There is also polymorph any object, which does Exactly What It Says on the Tin: you can turn pretty much anything into pretty much anything. Unlike the above it's usually temporary, though.
    • This can affect more than player characters. After an insurrection called the Reckoning that rocked the politics of the Nine Hells of Baator, Baalzebul, Lord of the Seventh, was transformed by Asmodeus from a humanoid with a fly's compound eyes into a enormous, disgusting, slug-like form that constantly generated filth and garbage, which quickly turned the layer of Maladomini from Hell's bureaucratic heart into a reeking ruin covered in sewage. As of current background material, this transformation was the retroactive effect of a curse Asmodeus placed on Baalzebul, which will change his form into a slug for a year if he lies to any devil. The Lord of the Flies has since worked off his old "debt," and is now scrupulously honest with his fellow Baatezu for fear of reverting to his hideous slug form.
    • Ravenloft: Yagno Petrovna, the Darklord of G'henna and High Priest of Zhakata, can turn victims into mongrelmen, which he usually does to punish his subjects for heresy or blasphemy. This was one benefit he got from becoming a Darklord; it doesn't work on anyone who does not believe in Zhakata, so Player Characters are usually immune, seeing as nobody except Yagno's own subjects believe in him. (Zhakata isn't real, having been dreamed up in Yagno's insanity.)
    • One very specific example is if a Beholder is knocked out and dumped in the brine pool of an Elder Brain of the Illithids (Mindflayers). The elder brain then turns the beholder into a creature called a Mindwitness that acts as a guard and mental relay for the community. While it retains its intelligence and wisdom, it's extremely servile and if separated from the mindflayers it'll join and bond with whatever telepathic creature it finds, such as the flumphs.
  • Exalted has Pattern Spider Touch, from the Charcoal March of Spiders Style. It allows a Sidereal to fundamentally alter their opponent in some interesting way. Typically, it's used to punch people in the face and turn them into ducks.
  • This is a new spell available to spellbinders of the Svaldon disciplines in Kaisers Gate. Actually uses the same name, requires not only the casters Spellbinding skill roll, but it must beat the targets Spirit roll, and doesn't last too long. Cannot be used against those who teach it, and is also useful for turning polymorphed beings back to their original state, as well as returning those who have been turned to stone to their normal state (though they are not guaranteed to survive that.)
  • The "Transformation" trick in Kitsune: Of Foxes and Fools, appears to show the Scumbag Lawyer turned into a toad.
  • Mage: The Awakening has several spells like this, including one that not only turns the target into an animal but forces them to claw the way out of the excess mass. Also one that targets your entire future lineage, making the polymorph hereditary.
  • Pathfinder, being based on D&D also has baleful polymorph (though it's harder to cast, requiring a higher level) and polymorph any object. Pathfinder also has mythic baleful polymorph, which lets the caster transform almost every creature within a 1-mile radius into harmless animals.
    • There's a Pathfinder blanket term for anyone permanently and unwittingly transformed, fleshwarp. Fleshwarps can be done by whatever means whether magic, technology, alchemy or weird radiations. One example are the Drow turning captured elves into the grotesque Irnakurse and keep these abominations as pets and trophies.
  • Ponyfinder: In addition to the base spell, chaos hunters can permanently transform chaotic creatures into ponies of a random tribe if they can pin them down with a grapple, causing them to lose all memories of their previous lives in the process.
  • Super Dungeon Explore has an expansion set Von Drakk Manor including happy looking witches with the ability to turn heroes engaged in combat into Miserable Toads. Far from Miserable, they acquire several defensive abilities and a knack for stealing potions and healing from their foes. They are even reverted with a kiss from a friendly model.
  • Warhammer, Warhammer: Age of Sigmar and Warhammer 40,000:
    • A particularly nightmarish variant of this is a staple of the daemons and sorcerers of Tzeentch. The demon gods grant gifts, usually in the form of mutations. Once you gain enough, there are two options. The first is a good one: badass daemon prince. The second is insanity, many eyes, and general fun and games. You live off grubs and act as cannon fodder. Fun. A common psychic power for Chaos Sorcerers in 40k, the ironically titled "Gift of Chaos", lets them immediately transform anyone, friend or foe, into a Chaos Spawn. Various editions of fantasy have also included various Chaos Magic spells that transform the victim into Chaos Spawn — some Tzeentchian spells instead allow the warlock to turn their victim into a Horror of Tzeentch.
    • Of course, the Orks aren't always that much better, given that their stronger Shamans or Weirdboyz have a nasty habit of turning people into Squigs (little bouncy things that are mostly Fungus and Teeth)
    • In the Warhammer expansion, Storm of Magic, miscasting while standing atop an Arcane Fulcrum can result in a multitude of destructive and/or amusing effects, one of which turns all wizards on the table into frogs. There's also a Bretonian Cataclysm spell that can do the same thing.
    • The Skaven have a spell known as "the Dreaded Thirteenth Spell", castable only by their strongest units (Grey Seers of 4th-level wizardry and Vermin Lords). If it hits, an entire unit of the enemy is turned into Skaven.
  • Witch Girls Adventures allows characters to do this with the Alteration-class spells of Animalize Human or Monsterize Human.

  • In John Milton's Comus, the Attendent Spirit speaks of how Circe did this, and Comus after her.
    (For most do taste through fond intemperate thirst),
    Soon as the potion works, their human count'nance,
    The express resemblance of the gods, is changed
    Into some brutish form of wolf or bear,
    Or ounce or tiger, hog, or bearded goat,
    All other parts remaining as they were.
    And they, so perfect is their misery,
    Not once perceive their foul disfigurement,
    But boast themselves more comely than before,
    And all their friends and native home forget,
    To roll with pleasure in a sensual sty.
  • In Richard Wagner's opera Lohengrin, this is what actually happened to Elsa of Brabant's little brother, Duke-Child Gottfried, who was cursed by their Evil Aunt Ortrud. She and her husband Count Telramund framed poor Elsa and accused her of murdering him, which prompted the titular Lohengrin to step in her defense. It turns out that the swan that drove Lohengrin to the bank was the cursed Gottfried; Lohengrin prays to God and manages to undo the magic, then elects the newly-humanized boy as the official Duke before taking off.
  • Swan Lake (Also adapted as The Swan Princess) is about a princess who becomes a swan during the day due to the spell of a sorcerer.

    Theme Parks 

  • Mixels has "murps", a mix gone horribly wrong in some way. Murps still have abilities of the two Mixels that are part of it, but with the catch that the Murp has his own personality with neither of them controlling it and no control of his own powers. Most of the time, they just giggle and let their powers affect them. Some are worthless (like the Flain/Slumbo Murp, which is just a log that does nothing), while others can be very dangerous and only make things worse (like the Scorpi/Glurt one, which encases everything in slime and can cut down trees with its tail).

    Web Animation 
  • Bad Days: At the end of Thanos's episode, Deadpool steals the Infinity Gauntlet and uses it to turn the Mad Titan into a chicken.
  • In one episode of Puffin Forest, Asiago defeats a kraken by turning it into a cat (Ben is very surprised to discover that Krakens don't have any of the typical kinds of Contractual Boss Immunity to this), and then they form an alliance with it.
  • Reversal of the Heart:
    • The Mother Dragon turns The Princess into a dragon, as retribution for The Prince killing her baby and giving the gem in its chest to her as a gift.
    • Possibly the fate of The Prince, depending on how you interpret the ending.
  • 50 Ways to Die in Minecraft: Played for Laughs as a common way to die in this series, usually note  by drinking a potion or putting on a piece of over-enchanted armor that turns players into an animal and then killed or eaten, or in some cases into an inanimate block.
    • Death 4 in the first part happens when a witch accidentally turns into a sheep, getting them mauled by a hungry wolf.
    • Death 37 in part 6 happens when a wizard wearing an Aqua Affinity 255 helm turns into a fish and gets fed to a cat.
    • Death 6 in part 9 happens when the victim drinks a Turtle Master 187 potion, turns into a baby turtle, and gets eaten by Drowned.
    • Death 11 in part 10 happens when the victim puts on Thorns 255 armor, turning into a cactus as a result.
    • Death 31 in part 10 occurs when someone puts on a chestplate with Blast Protection 145 and turns into obsidian as a result.

    Web Original 
  • In Buster Girls this is usually how Blackhearts turn humans into Heartless and those Heartless turn other humans into their minions.
  • In the Castle of the Night has this Played for Drama. All of Von Krolock's victims have their souls implanted in Pricolici wolves, which are ravenous beasts that kill innocents who try to leave his castle's premises.
  • In Link and Mage Witches are formed by Spirits forcibly making a contract with a human and taking over their body, which results in a transformation to suit that Spirit's. Witches can also use their powers to turn others into their Familiars.
  • In Moonflowers, Ned Song is turned into a white wolf by the Hunter, The Fair Folk leader of The Wild Hunt, then gets unwittingly adopted by his own daughter Alima. The curse means he can't communicate with anyone living or the Irish gods trying to help him out, and it also makes humans mistake him for a wolf-dog instead of a full-blooded wolf. Ned can't do much as Alima's pet, but by the twentieth chapter he makes a Blood Oath with a spirit to kill the Hunter.
  • In Thalia's Musings, Hera is very fond of visiting this fate on Zeus's paramours. Io in particular was turned into a cow and then given to Thalia as a pet.

  • Thanks to DovSherman at DeviantArt, Sue transformations now work like this too. In the comic, a generic-looking guy undergoes a transformation into a Mary Sue, much to his discomfort.
  • SCP Foundation:
    • SCP-731 ("Rathole Cover") is a manhole cover which causes anyone who steps on it while not being observed to fall through it and turn into a sewer rat.
    • SCP-748 ("Industrial Dissolution"). One of the products created by SCP-748 is cigarettes. When they're lit, anyone inhaling their vapor is turned into a basking shark over a period of 30 minutes.
    • SCP-1537 ("Akul'hil"). Anyone hearing a specific phrase in the SCP-1537 language Akul'hil is 99% likely to die and be transformed into SCP-1537-A (a Shapeshifting Blob Monster) after a two week period.
    • SCP-2950 ("Just A Chair"). It's just a chair. Nothing world-ending about it at all. Trust us. It is actually an anomaly that takes the form of whatever the majority of people think it is. A book describing it as an extremely dangerous monster used to mean that it was a monster, but after figuring out the true nature of the object, the Foundation wrote a fake document claiming it was an extremely comfortable metal chair and spread information of it among their members in order to turn the monster into said chair.
    • SCP-3660 (The Zoo Zipper). A rusty metal zipper which if attached to the skin of a human will slowly unzip, and once it is unzipped, an animal with the same conscience as the human will emerge, and the skin on the normal human will appear more rubbery, effectively transforming the victim into a random animal.
  • This is the backstory for animation blogger, Neil Sharpton's persona the Unshaved Mouse, who used to be human, but as a child was turned into an animated mouse by the immortal warlock, Walt Disney (just go with it) for the crime of... not thinking Disney's Beauty and the Beast was as great as everyone else. Though unlike most examples, Mouse has largely accepted this and moved on. (Being happily married to Mrs. Mouse probably helps.)

    Web Videos 
  • In The Adventures of the League of S.T.E.A.M., episode "Prehistoric Peril!", the bad guy turns an henchman who's failed him into a white mouse, which scrambles out of the pile of clothes.
  • In Critical Role this quickly became the Mighty Nein's M.O. for dealing with difficult or potentially lethal encounters, including turning a blue dragon into a weasel, a fire giant into a giant tortioise, a frost worm into a turtle, and turning a turtle dragon into a sea slug... and a sea turtle.
  • In the 2014 campaign of D20 Live, Tomb of Horrors, Roo's wizard character ends what should've been a terrible encounter prematurely by turning the 10th-level, four-armed Gargoyle into a kitten. Said kitten is then tamed by the party, christened Fussy Britches.
  • Rats SMP:
    • On Day 39, Will and El are accidentally turned into cats after Oli throws one of the Eldest Daughter's potions on them out of ignorance, and have only until midnight that day to undo the effects before they become cats permanently. Played for Drama in that both of them are terrified about the possibility of the transformation being permanent, and The Mind Is a Plaything of the Body causes even their dietary preferences and temperament to shift to be more feline-like.
    • On Day 47, Scott attempts to invoke this by attempting to brew potions that can turn the cats into rats, so he can kill them in revenge for killing him a few days prior. Unfortunately for him and the other rats, the plan does not go as expected and ends up causing two more canon life losses in the resultant potions mishap.

Alternative Title(s): Baleful Polymorph


Rolf is a Wiener

When the Eds distract Rolf at work, he ends up getting transformed into a wiener by falling into his own meat grinder. Unlike most examples of this trope, the change is not permanent and is set up purely for a gag.

How well does it match the trope?

5 (6 votes)

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Main / ForcedTransformation

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