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Shapeshifter Longevity

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As the name implies, shapeshifters and their ilk are a varied bunch, even in how they age. Across fiction, many of them live ordinary lifespans (if not ordinary lives), aging and dying like any other muggle in the world... but others get more.

Regardless of whether they're true shapeshifters, transfigured individuals, werefolk, rubber men, these individuals just happen to live longer. Some might have the ability to resist the aging process, turning out to be a lot Older than They Look, or even continuing on with their adventures while less mutable characters are forced to retire. Others may be blessed with an unusually long lifespan, thriving for hundreds or even thousands of years. A few may even be outright immortal.

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The reasons for this vary, and sometimes aren't made apparent in the media in which they appear. Perhaps it's a trait of the species, perhaps it's some quirk of whatever magic or mutation bestowed this power on the character, or perhaps the individual is an immortal being of some kind who has learned to shapeshift. In cases where it's actually explained, this longevity might even be explicitly tied in with the ability to shapeshift - the cells regenerating every time they take on a new configuration, granting the shapeshifter an extended lifespan in the process.

Whatever the case, this character will live a very long time with their power - perhaps forever.

Compare and contrast Shapeshifting Heals Wounds for more immediate forms of shapeshifting-related survival, and Wizards Live Longer, the exclusively magical equivalent of this trope.

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Important Note: To avoid muddying the waters with examples of Combo Platter Powers, characters who qualify as this trope must be primarily shapeshifters, not characters who just happen to have shapeshifting in their repertoire. In other words, they must be shapeshifters first and immortals second, with the majority of focus given to their ability to transform over their other attributes, hence why you won't find too many vampires around here except in the broadest sense. So, if more focus is given to the character's immortality/longevity than shapeshifting, it doesn't go here.


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Examples:

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    Anime & Manga 
  • Fullmetal Alchemist: Envy is an immortal homunculus around one hundred and seventy-five years old, capable of regenerating from even fatal injuries... and they also have the unique power to shapeshift, allowing them to transform into people, animals, monsters or create weapons from their limbs.

    Audio Plays 
  • In the Big Finish Doctor Who episode "Loups-Garou," the werewolves are capable of transforming at will and apparently immortal - or at the very least, unbelievably long-lived. Among other things, Ileana de Santos was made a werewolf during Napoleon's botched invasion of Russia, her creator being none other than Pieter Stubbe - a man who was sentenced to death for witchcraft and serial-killing in the 16th century. Later still, Stubbe reveals that he is the first werewolf in history from which all others are descended from, claiming to have been "spawned from the slime after the Deluge."

    Comic Books 
  • Fall of Cthulhu:
    • As with the source material, Nyarlathotep is an eons-old Lovecraftian deity. Unlike the original works, the comics make it clear that Nyarlathotep really can shapeshift, a fact that he gleefully demonstrates through some disturbing instances of One-Winged Angel.
    • Sysyphyx is a parasitic entity that can take on human form by decapitating a target and slotting herself into their neck stump, allowing her to assume their appearance; she's also capable of shapeshifting without parasitism, allowing her to mimic the loved ones of her targets. Also, as the prequel comic issue "Nemesis" reveals, she's been alive since the days of Atlantis.
  • J'onn J'onzz the Martian Manhunter is an incredibly versatile shapeshifter and Sizeshifter thanks to his Martian physiology. However, some stories indicate that his people are either immortal or just really long-lived: Depending on the Writer, he can be anywhere from a thousand years old to over a million, and in some plots, he's ended up surviving into the 853rd century.
  • Plastic Man is a Rubber Man and shapeshifter with an incredible repertoire of possible forms, and in keeping with his elastic physique, he either doesn't age or ages extremely slowly. JLA: Obsidian Age takes this same trait all the way into outright immortality: in the aftermath, he's still alive after three thousand years and even able to continue his career as a superhero.
  • SpiderMan: Symbiotes like Venom and Carnage are shapeshifters able to mimic things like clothing, mold their bodies into weapons, and can even alter the physical appearance of their hosts. Also, various sources indicate that the symbiotes are Symbiotes also either possess very long lifespans or are literally immortal: in Spider-Man 2099, the Venom symbiote is still kicking around more than a century after it was initially introduced; back in the main Marvel continuity, symbiote Monster Progenitor All-Black was created billions of years ago and also had the power to bestow immortality upon its host.
  • Mystique of X-Men is one of the most prominent shapeshifters in the comic cast, having the power to mimic just about any humanoid character, enhance her strength, and even sculpt her body into weaponry. She's also over a hundred years old, her shapeshifting and regenerative powers having allowed her to resist the aging process.

    Fanfiction 
  • The Land of What Might-Have-Been:
    • The mage-surgeons of the Deviant Nations are not only capable of using their biomanipulation in order to create Shapeshifter Weapons and disguise themselves as other humanoids, but the same magic allows them to extend their lifespans. Unlike the Purified, they aren't actually immortal, but they can live for several decades longer than their natural span and keep themselves in fighting shape: Dr Kiln is more than hale enough to fight on the front lines and keep pace with Elphaba, even though as the alternate Boq he's revealed to be as old as the Mentor herself. He's still alive in the Distant Finale, over eighty years in the future, likely putting him well over a hundred and thirty years of age.
    • The Amorphous League practices a brand of shapeshifting so powerful that they eventually transcend all notions of a Shapeshifter Default Form and enter a Nirvana-like state of being known as "Shapelessness." It's implied that this brings with it an in-built resistance to aging or perhaps even outright immortality, as the First of the Shapeless AKA the alternate Cowardly Lion is still active with no signs of decay more than fifty years after founding the League. In the Distant Finale, he's still alive and kicking alongside Dr Kiln and the alternate Nessa.
    • Subverted when it comes to the children of League members: though it is possible for them to inherit their parent's abilities, they don't inherit any kind of longevity; indeed, almost all children who have manifested shapeshifting powers have reportedly ended up dying young. It's for this reason why the League refuses to institute hereditary membership, but also why the First of the Shapeless has decided not to start a family of his own. Instead, he becomes a surrogate father to the Empress when she is reborn as a baby shapeshifter at the very end of the story.
    • The Childlike Researchers are afflicted with a condition that frequently causes their physical age to randomly oscillate, thanks to a botched attempt to imbue themselves with eternal youth. Elderly scientists and mages at the time of the incident, they haven't aged at all in the last forty to fifty years, but unfortunately, they've spent most of that time being teenagers, children, and even infants. Worse still, the humiliating treatments inflicted upon them by their jailers is eroding their adult minds, reducing them to immortal child prodigies with no memory of anything other than their unique skills. However, Dr Kiln believes that, if given less repressive caretakers, they might eventually learn to consciously control their transformations and retain their memories.
  • In Love in Shades of Green and Gray, Beast Boy dies in his 212nd year thanks to his powers. Raven still outlives him by three centuries as a result of her half-demon ancestry.

    Film — Live Action 
  • In Lifechanger, main character Drew was born in the 1940s and began shapeshifting in early adolescence, showing no sign of true aging in any of the forms he has adopted since then; in his case, his longevity is explicitly tied in with his ability to transform, for the longer he remains in a single shape, the more his body decomposes - a process he can only keep at bay for a few months per body with heavy-duty antibiotics. Worse still, the process of assuming another human being's form reduces the target to a desiccated husk, but the alternative is so much worse that he's forced to continue onwards with his horrific brand of immortality until he can find love. The film ends with Drew failing in his romantic mission and deciding to remain in a single form until he completely decomposes... only to become a chrysalis and emerge in the form of an old man, gaining a new - if bittersweet - lease on life.
  • Subverted in The Specials: due to fluoridation of the water in Tacoma and other states in the American northwest, it's common for superheroes from this region to sport shapeshifting Rubber Man powers, as was the case with Stretchie Boy... but unfortunately, the same chemicals that give them their powers are also highly carcinogenic, so rubbery super-heroes don't live very long - to the point that Stretchie Boy himself was dead within six months of joining the team.
  • The eponymous monster of The Thing (1982) is capable of transforming into anyone or anything it's assimilated, allowing it to remain undercover while it continues to assimilate victims across the base. For good measure, it's eventually revealed that the ship it arrived on Earth aboard crashed over a hundred thousand years ago, the Thing having spent the next few millennia dormant in the ice ever since then. The Things confirms that the Thing is essentially immortal, being able to preserve everything connected to its Hive Mind from entropy; unfortunately, it finds the notion of mortality openly horrifying, along with the concept of individuality - so it sets out to cleanse the human race of both through an Assimilation Plot.
  • Underworld (2003):
    • Lycans are just as immortal as vampires, since both are the result of mutant viruses infecting members of the Corvinus clan; in fact, this longevity is probably the reason why they were chosen as Viktor's daywalking Slave Race rather than humans. For good measure, Selene notes in the intro that the war between the two species has become even more dangerous in recent years is because older lycans are no longer effected by the full moon and can now transform at will.
    • Played with in Underworld Evolution with the vampire Monster Progenitor, Marcus Corvinus; while he's both a thousand-year-old immortal and capable of transforming into a giant batlike monster, he only recently gained the ability to transform as a result of becoming a vampire-lycan hybrid, as (in this setting) vampires don't normally have any shapeshifting powers.
    • Subverted in the case of Marcus' brother and the Monster Progenitor of the lycans, William Corvinus; though he's been alive for more than a thousand years in captivity, he's never been able to revert to human form following his initial transformation, so he's just a giant feral wolf-man. And thanks to his older strain of the lycan virus, the same goes for anyone he infects as well - one of the reasons why he was locked up in the first place.
  • X-Men Film Series:
    • Throughout the franchise, Raven Darkholme AKA Mystique is the most prominent and talented example of a shapeshifter among the mutant cast... and, as X-Men: First Class reveals, her mutation dramatically slows the aging process; having grown up alongside Professor X during the 1940s, she's in her sixties by the events of the first film in the franchise, but looks and moves like she's still in her twenties. She'd presumably still be around by the events of Logan - if Jean hadn't accidentally killed her in Dark Phoenix.
    • Subverted in the case of Senator Robert Kelly in X-Men: after being exposed to Magneto's mutation-inducing device, he develops a fluid body that grants him Rubber Man powers, allowing him to escape his prison, survive falling several hundred feet into the ocean, and swim all the way back to the mainland. Unfortunately, it also comes with a case of Power Degeneration that drastically shortens Kelly's lifespan. Within a matter of days after his exposure, it kills him... allowing Mystique to assume his position in the US Senate.

    Literature 
  • In Adrian Tchaikovsky's Echoes Of The Fall series, just about every single character in the trilogy is capable of "Stepping" into the form of the animal of their native tribe. However, most of them live perfectly ordinary human lifespans, grow old, and die in animal form as per tradition... with one notable exception. At the natural ends of their lives, priests of the Snake people will tunnel into the ground in search of the Serpent's coils; should they succeed in their journey, they will be reborn as children - as is the case with Hesprec, the main character's friend and companion in The Wolf And The Tiger, who also switches genders as well. For good measure, they can do this multiple times, with some priests being old enough to remember the fall of previous civilizations.
  • The Changeling and the Chameleon of Joe Haldeman's Camouflage are both shapeshifters, and while they possess varying levels of ability, the two of them are effectively immortal thanks to their powers. For good measure, the two of them have been on Earth for millions of years, with the latter killing its way across numerous battlefields and the former spending eons as various sea creatures before finally noticing the presence of human beings and deciding to impersonate one of them. In the intro, it's actually explained that their species evolved shapeshifting as an Adaptive Ability, and once it developed enough to be consciously controlled, it soon adapted to aging as well.
  • In Children of the Red King, shapeshifters are shown to possess incredible longevity, with Yolanda Yewbeam (who was born in 1900) still alive and very much looking her age when in her true form) by the time she is first encountered by series protagonist Charlie Bone in the early 2000s; her father Yorath (who was born in 1850) is also still alive at that point.
  • Phantoms: The Ancient Enemy is a gigantic Voluntary Shapeshifter that has existed since the time of the dinosaurs, tens of millions of years ago - and the only reason why this is discovered is because said Ancient Enemy is in the habit of transforming into extinct monsters to terrorize its victims.
  • In Star Wars Legends, the Shi'ido are a powerful shapeshifting species that can live for up to five hundred years; their members aren't considered fully mature until they turn sixty, and can't mimic non-humanoid species until the age of a hundred and fifty. Senior Anthropologist Mammon Hoole - AKA Uncle Hoole of the Galaxy of Fear series - has been a scientist for decades prior to the events of the original trilogy, and is skilled enough to have taken on truly massive forms like Hutts and Whaladons.
  • In the Twilight saga, werewolves go through puberty and only start aging when they've found a life partner they can be "bonded" to.
  • In Julie E. Czerneda's Web Shifters series, Esen-alit-Quar and her fellow shapeshifters are practically immortal, their natural forms being amorphous blue blobs with no recognizable aging process and few needs. In fact, they actually refer to most other races as "ephemerals" for their brief lifespans.
  • Patternist: Anyanwu's shapeshifting is actually a uniquely powerful Biomanipulation variant. Whereas other psychics only have limited healing powers at best, Anyanwu has perfect control of her body, including reversing the effects of age. She lives for over 600 years and only dies by her own will.

    Live Action TV 
  • In Doom Patrol, Rita Farr's aging process appears to have stalled following the accident that gave her Rubber Man powers in the 1950s, and as such, she still looks the part of a glamorous Hollywood starlet. Unfortunately, Rita also suffers from a major case of Power Incontinence, so she's spent most of the last seven decades in seclusion at Doom Manor, obsessively watching her old movies, struggling to use her abilities for anything remotely productive, and occasionally melting into a Blob Monster.
  • Legends of Tomorrow: Charlie (introduced in Season 4) is a shapeshifter who can live forever as long as she changes her appearance. When she loses her shapeshifting powers and gets stuck with the appearance of Amaya Jiwe, she freaks out because she is doomed to grow old and die. In season 5, it's revealed that she is one of the Three Fates of Greek mythology, and her two sisters are also immortal and can shape-shift.
  • The Changelings of Star Trek: Deep Space Nine are well-known for their amorphous nature and impressive shapeshifting powers. It's also indicated that they are exceptionally long-lived, perhaps even immortal: in "Chimera," Laas was living among the Varalans for over two hundred years with no ill effects; Odo, who was part of the same group of Changelings sent out into the galaxy, is implied to be the same age... and in "Children Of Time," he's found to be the only original crewmember of the Defiant still alive two centuries into a possible future - all others having died and been replaced by their descendants (or in Dax's case, later hosts). Not only is Odo showing no signs of decay after all this time, but he's actually an even better shapeshifter.
  • Supernatural:
    • The Alpha Shapeshifter is effectively immortal, unlike his children, having been around since he was created by Eve and fathered all other shapeshifters on the planet. Also, as the name implies, he's a shapeshifter - and even more powerful than his children, as he's capable of transforming without shedding his skin.
    • Leviathans are immortal Humanoid Abominations that were created before angels, and are immediately distinguished by their horrifying ability to transform into just about anyone... once they've acquired a sample of the target's DNA.

    Mythology And Religion 
  • Vampires are a popular variant on this trope, being not only immortal, but also capable of transforming in a wide variety of shapes depending on the legend - the most common shapes including wolves, bats, and clouds of mist.
  • In Classical Mythology, many gods have the ability to shapeshift, and are of course immortal. However, the truest example of this trope in the Greek pantheon is Proteus, who is known almost exclusively for his shapeshifting powers, to the point that his name gave rise to the word "protean," meaning ever-changing or mutable.

    Tabletop Games 
  • Dungeons & Dragons:
    • In the 5th edition, high-level druids (who can all shapeshift into any animal they've seen) get the Timeless Body ability, at which point they age at 10% of the normal rate.
    • In homebrew content, the Shapeshifter class becomes Perpetually Protean at level 20, having gained such skill in their powers that transforming becomes as easy and a frequent as breathing; one of the benefits of this is the fact that they no longer age - making them effectively immortal. For good measure, the constant shapeshifting makes them exceptionally hard to kill.
  • Practitioners of the Life Sphere in Mage: The Ascension can develop their talents towards healing and transformation, allowing mages with enough skill to become both master shapeshifters and effectively immortal. This is especially true in the case of the Verbena, the traditional masters of the Life Sphere, who even feature an entire subculture of shapeshifters known as the Lifeweavers.
  • Werewolf: The Apocalypse:
    • Downplayed with the Garou; according to the revised edition of the game, it's quite possible for werewolves to live for up to a hundred and twenty years thanks to their enhanced health and resilience... but because the Garou live such violent lives in defence of Gaia, most of them never get that far.
    • Of all the Changing Breeds in the game, the Rokea (AKA the Weresharks) are the only true immortals to be found. On top of being able to take no less than five different forms - including that of a giant shark and an equally giant Shark Man - they are effectively unaging from the moment of their first Change. The only way they can die is violently.

    Toys 
  • Transformers: Transformers are generally depicted as having a life span in the millions if not billions of years, to the point that even a relative "youngster" like Bumblebee or Hot Rod still predate human civilization by several thousand years - though this isn't related to their ability to transform into vehicles and/or animals. However, in the Japanese G1 continuity, Convoy (AKA Optimus Prime) gains access to the Reconfiguration Matrix, a hidden power of the Matrix of Leadership he carries. This allows him to assume any of the many forms he's had over his lifetime and fully restore himself to boot; the latter fact dramatically demonstrated when he effectively rises from the dead after Megatron delivered a fatal blow to him in battle.
    • Convoy also uses the Reconfiguration Matrix to resurrect Ultra Magnus after his death in Transformers: The★Headmasters, granting him a similar ability to switch forms as necessary. However, since Magnus doesn't carry the Matrix it takes a lot more out of him.

    Video Games 
  • In Dragon Age: Origins, shapeshifting is an art that any mage in the game can learn, but it doesn't appear to confer any particular health benefits and its practitioners live no longer or shorter than any other human being. The exception to the rule is Flemeth, the legendary Witch of the Wilds, who is not only capable of feats of shapeshifting that her fellow shapeshifters can only dream of, but has been alive for centuries on end. The ultimate twist is that she's actually achieved immortality by possessing the bodies of her daughters, so her mastery of shapeshifting is simply due to having vast quantities of time on her hands.
  • In Final Fantasy VII, Vincent Valentine has the ability to transform into various monsters as part of his Limit Break, thanks to the experiments performed on him by Professor Hojo; also, despite being in his fifties or thereabouts, he looks like he's still in his twenties. The short story collection On The Way To A Smile expands on this: when Red XIII worries about outliving all his friends thanks to his long lifespan, Vincent comforts him by revealing that he's actually immortal, allowing him to remain Red's friend for all eternity.
  • Most shapeshifters in Fire Emblem series are also extremely long-lived:
    • Manaketes can live for several thousand years.
    • The laguz from Fire Emblem: Path of Radiance and Radiant Dawn are all capable of transforming into animals, and also live longer than humans: the beast tribes live for around 100 years on average, while the bird and dragon tribes are capable of reaching 1000 years of age or more.
  • The eponymous heroes of The Legend of Dragoon have the ability to transform into powerful winged forms thanks to the crystalized Dragon spirits in their possession. However, Dragoons apparently age and die like any other human being, though almost all Dragoons on record have died in battle long before reaching anything close to a ripe old age. The one exception to the rule? Rose, who has been alive since the Dragon Campaign over 11,000 years ago thanks to the magical pendant in her possession.
  • Mother Miranda of Resident Evil Village has gained the power to shapeshift into just about anyone and anything thanks to her exposure to the Mold, and frequently travels as a murder of crows. Also, given that her daughter was born in 1909, Miranda is easily more than a hundred and twenty years of age, kept alive as she is by the Mold infesting her.
  • The Secret World:
    • Cucuvea AKA the Owl is a Solitary Sorceress with a notable gift for shapeshifting in a setting where non-werewolf shapeshifters are comparatively rare: she can transform herself into an owl, and indeed prefers not to leave her Arboreal Abode except in animal form. She's also incredibly old, having teamed up with Vlad Dracula himself in order to save the world several hundred years ago, and actually recalls the events of previous Ages. For context's sake, an Age is a previous iteration of the universe.
    • Vampire lords, unsurprisingly, can transform into bats in order to escape unwinnable battles. However, in a surprising twist, vampires are not actually immortal in this setting, just exceptionally long-lived: they can live for many millennia on end, but they can die of old age... though given the predatory nature of vampire society, it's much more likely that they'll die in combat first.

    Web Original 
  • In the web serial Changelings hosted on Fur Affinity, there are two classes of immortal: "regular" immortals and shapeshifters. The former are dependent on high background mana for their immortality, so whenever The Magic Goes Away they experience a mass die-off, while shifters can survive the millennia between high-mana periods without going into deep hibernation. Genetic analysis reveals that immortals have a gene that uses magic to automatically regenerate their telomeres, while shifters can consciously lengthen their own telomere long enough to wait for the next mana wave.

    Western Animation 
  • Inque of Batman Beyond appears quite youthful in her Shapeshifter Default Form... and yet, it turns out that she has an adult daughter, so presumably the experiments that turned her into a polymorphic Blob Monster made of Ominous Obsidian Ooze have prevented Inque from aging.
  • Trollhunters: Trolls can live for hundreds of years, and the shapeshifting changelings - who are modified trolls - are no different. Each one is already mature when swapped with a human baby, and while their human form appears to grow in place of the person replaced, hundreds of changelings have gathered on Earth over the years, stretching back as far as 1894.

    Real Life 
  • Turritopsis dohrnii is a real life example: Often called the Immortal Jellyfish, adults have the ability to revert to colonial stage, converting their differentiated adult cells back to a mass of generic cells, and effectively rebooting its biological clock. A jellyfish can repeat this indefinitely, "resetting" itself whenever its adult form begins to wear out.
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