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Shapeshifting Lover

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How'd he wind up with a fox like her?
It's... complicated.

A folklore trope which appears throughout the world a lot. The story typically goes something like this:

"A man spies a group of magical shapeshifters bathing. Seeing that they must shed their creature skin when they transform from a creature into a beautiful woman, he steals one of the skins. Unable to transform and join her sisters, one poor creature is left behind. The man makes the abandoned one his wife. One day, many years later (sometimes after bearing children), she finds the skin and may finally return to her kin. Dilemma on whether or not she will may or may not ensue."

It's a motif, sometimes known as "The Animal Bride" tale, that crops up all over the world. Though the details of the story are different, the core story is more or less the same.

A popular variation has a creature fall in love with a human and willingly take on human form to marry him. But when he finds out about it, often by breaking a promise, she must leave him. A lesser but still plentiful one is where he gives back the skin, and she is grateful — which is good, because there is invariably a villain (often her father) whose tasks for him are impossible without her advice.

Occasionally, this is used as an introduction to another Fairy Tale type, The Quest For the Lost Wife. It is common enough to be its own subtype, The Swan Maiden.

A Gender Flip version of this Fairy Tale has the heroine wooed by an animal; once she consents to marry him, he turns into a man at night. But when she violates a prohibition — frequently burning his animal skin or actually seeing him in human form — he must leave her. This results in the Fairy Tale type known as the Search for the Lost Husband. Unlike the female version, the male's Involuntary Shapeshifting is usually the result of a Curse.

The Wonder Child may be animal in form, but the wedding usually inaugurates a period where he can switch back and forth, or completely breaks the form.

See Also: Interspecies Romance, Our Mermaids Are Different, Selkies and Wereseals, Therianthrope, and Humanity Ensues. Compare Beast and Beauty, Forced Transformation, Boy Meets Ghoul, "The Frog Prince". Unrelated to Power Perversion Potential and Shapeshifting Squick. Not to be confused with Shapeshifting Seducer.


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    Anime & Manga 
  • Ceres, Celestial Legend: The plot concerns the spirit of a Tennyo that awakens in some of her female descendants to wreak havoc on the rest of her family when the descendant reaches 16.
  • Haré+Guu: Crane Wife is parodied, where Guu offers Hare shaved ice in the middle of a snowstorm, he gets pissed off. She goes into the back room, telling Hare that he mustn't look at what she's going to make. He sees a silhouette of a crane through the window on the door, bursts in and sees... Guu making more shaved ice.
  • Inuyasha: This generally applies to all relationships between humans and Youkai. Powerful youkai can take on a human form, and some of them engage with humans and have children with them.
  • The eponymous fairy tale in Liz and the Blue Bird is a platonic variant of the traditional story; a lonely girl named Liz meets a blue bird, who decides to become a human girl in order to be Liz's friend. They start living together and grow close over many days, but eventually the bird has to leave, as she can't be a human forever. It's actually Liz who makes the decision to let the bird go, against the bird's wishes. She realizes that keeping the bird as a human will only confine her and stop her from flying free like she was meant to. The story forms the crux of the main plot of the film, as the characters apply its themes to their own feelings toward each other.
  • Miss Kobayashi's Dragon Maid: There's quite a bit of this, given that half of the cast are Weredragons. That said, while there's plenty of interspecies Ship Tease, there aren't any actual couples.
  • Negima! Magister Negi Magi: Setsuna is, in fact, a Half-Human Hybrid of the Tengu variety; after revealing her tengu traits she tries to skip out (per 'law of her people' and probably personal insecurities) on the crew. Negi convinces her to stick around.
  • Pokémon: The Series:
    • An episode has the ghost of a beautiful woman seducing James and Brock. This gets awkward when the ghost turns out to be a Gastly. Not as awkward as you'd think — it turns out in the end that the Gastly's in it to propagate the real ghost's legend, and to make a little money on the side (it even materializes a cash register as it's talking to said real ghost; how does it make money, you ask? It disguises itself as a crazy old lady and sells fake wards and charms). The Gastly in question is male.
    • In the episode, "Just Waiting on a Friend", a Ninetales takes the form of a woman to lure Brock to her mansion because of mistaken identify. She had thought that Brock was her long-lost master. Given that the Ninetales are Kitsunes, it's surprising how long it took them to reference this trope.
  • Princess Tutu: Considering that the series is influenced quite a bit by the ballet version of Swan Lake, it's probably no surprise that the anime indirectly references this legend, as well. Tutu sometimes appears as a swan to people, and was in love with the Prince from her fairytale — but she's the one who has to hide something, instead of the Prince.
  • Rosario + Vampire: Every member of Tsukune's Unwanted Harem is merely disguised in human form, the exception being Yukari, whose species looks human by default, and Moka who simply looks like an impossibly beautiful human with fangs. Their true forms are all cute monster girls.
  • Tears to Tiara: This uses a variation on the selkies, Llyr is a 'sea elf' who uses a seal pelt to transform into a seal. When Awarn accidentally burns it, she announces she is his wife (sea elves give their husbands their pelt, or must marry anyone who steals it).
  • Wolf Children: Hana's boyfriend reveals himself to be a wolf-man after they'd been going out for some time. They have two children, but then his role is tragically cut short when he drowns in a storm drain while hunting. Later, the same relationship is implied between their half-wolf daughter and one of her classmates.

    Comic Books 
  • The Good Neighbors has two swan maidens - well, one maiden and her brother - among the many, many fae in the college town at the center of the book. The whole folk tale is rather deconstructed, as when their skins are taken by a mortal, the girl is effectively forced into sexual slavery, and it's up to her brother to kill her and end her torment, as he can't act against her captor either.
  • An issue of Ninja High School features this almost exactly; Jeremy, visiting his grandfather in Japan, aids an injured crane, and a girl shows up to reside with them. Of course, she pays them back by working as a software programmer. In crane form.
  • The Sandman (1989): In the novella Dream Hunters, a fox falls in love with a monk. Their love is doomed, though not for the usual reasons this sort of affair doesn't work out.

    Fairy Tales 
  • A fairly common Russian folk story is that of "The Frog Tsarevna (Princess)". The story usually goes as follows: a tsar commands his three sons to shoot an arrow each, and where the arrows fall, there they shall find wives for themselves. The youngest son finds a frog holding his arrow, and so must marry her. When he does, she becomes a woman. She proves to be an excellent wife, not only beautiful but also smart and cunning... but then he finds and burns her frog skin, and so she leaves him. This tale pops up in various parts of the world with the princess being a different animal such as a cat, mouse, fish, bird, or monkey and slightly different outcomes. The animated series Hungarian Folk Tales adapted a version where she's a cat that can be watched here.
  • "The Swan Maiden" story is common to mainland Europe, and Russia. The women (occasionally men too) in question are normally swans, but they leave their feathered cloaks behind when they bathe as humans. This has influenced many stories, modern and old including the ballet Swan Lake, Swanmays in Three Hearts and Three Lions and Dungeons & Dragons, Anita Blake's Swan Men, etc.
  • In "The Nine Peahens and the Golden Apples", the main character's lover (later wife) can transform into a peahen.
  • The hero of "East of the Sun and West of the Moon" is a bear and once he wins the heroine, he can only take on his human form at night. Similarly with "The Black Bull of Norroway", "The Brown Bear of Norway", "The Enchanted Pig", the dog in "The Daughter of the Skies", and "The White Wolf". When the heroine violates a prohibition, he must leave her. However, when she finds him after a long search, she is able to recover him.
    • "Hans the Hedgehog" is yet another variant where the princess' husband changes from hedgehog to human. It is probably best known for being dramatized in an episode of the cult favorite Jim Henson series, The Storyteller.
  • In "The Myrtle", a woman wishes for a child, even a sprig of myrtle, and gives birth to one. A prince is so enthralled by it that he buys it from her, and the myrtle changes to a Fairy in his rooms at night.
  • In "The She-Wolf", the bride was a wolf, with a wolfskin, before the miller's son nailed it down so it would not fly back to her; then, later, her son tells her where to find it.

    Fan Works 
  • Hakkōna and Kaitō Kokoro: Feliciano ends up with Kiku. Kiku, a nekomataneko Obake who can shapeshift into just about anything.
  • In the Brave/How to Train Your Dragon crossover The Lady of the Loch, Elinor is a selkie that was saved from the dragon Mor'du by Fergus, with whom she then stayed out of love and gratitude. Neither Fergus or her children are aware of this, which causes problems when the witch asks Merida to give her her mother's seal skin...

    Films — Animation 
  • In Ponyo on the Cliff by the Sea, Ponyo, who is implied to have a Puppy Love crush on Sosuke with her telling him she loves him and hugging him, transforms from a fish into a human to find him and often transforms into her amphibian Partial Transformation when she works her magic.
  • Song of the Sea features this as part of its backstory, Ben and Saorise's mother Bronagh is a selkie as is Saorise, their father being a lighthouse keeper who fell in love with the very willing Bronagh. However Bronagh returned to the sea on the night of her daughter's birth. The story focuses instead on Ben and Saorise's journey to save both the lives of the fae folk of Ireland and Saorise after their father throws her selkie coat into the sea which makes her ill.

    Films — Live-Action 
  • "Lover's Vow", one of the stories in Tales from the Darkside: The Movie, referenced this folklore trope. A gargoyle came to life and rescued a man from muggers, exacting a promise never to tell anyone what had happened. Later, the gargoyle appeared to him as a beautiful woman, whom he married, and they had two children. When he broke the promise to her (he didn't know who she was), she and both the children transformed back into gargoyles in a very horrific process and killed him.
    • Although there is no shapeshifting involved, this is probably taken from the tale of the yuki-onna, where she first makes the man promise that he will never tell anyone of their meeting, and later marries him without his recognising her. The gruesome ending doesn't occur, though.
  • The 1964 Japanese ghost story anthology Kwaidan tells the yuki-onna story.
  • Green Snake, based on a Chinese folk tale, involves a serpent-spirit who seduces a young man by posing as a beautiful maiden.

  • Animorphs:
    • Tobias was born this way. His father was an Andalite, who took on a human form, and his mother was a human.
    • In The Hork-Bajir Chronicles, Aldrea went native among the Hork-Bajir and permanently became one to be with Dak. In both cases, the shapeshifting parent underwent a Mode Lock.
    • The romances between the Animorphs (all of whom can morph), especially between Tobias, mode locked as a red-tailed hawk, and Rachel, a human, can also be a form of this. In one book, it's implied Rachel tried to trap Tobias back in human form so they could have a normal relationship.
  • The Arabian Nights features the story of Janshah's pursuit of Shamsah. She was a Djinn who also turned into a swan by using a feathered cloak. She managed to ferret out that her swan-cloak was buried under her (new) palace the minute her fiance buried it.
  • The Belgariad: All sorcerers can shapeshift into animals, although each one tends to find a form that suits their personality best and stick with it. Belgarath favours the form of the wolf and, while travelling in wolf form, runs into a very 'playful' she-wolf. He doesn't take advantage of her, but she stays by his side even though he spends most of his life as a human living in a tower. One day, he realises the she-wolf has been hanging around him for a thousand years, just watching him. When she discovers how his shapeshifting works, she begins practising and favours the form of a snowy owl. When she finally accepts he's never going to take an interest in her the way she wants, no matter which animal form she takes, she secretly learns how to take human form. Giving herself the identity Poledra, she sets up home on the edge of the valley he lives in. Belgarath only learns who Poledra is after he's fallen in love with her. Garion only learns how to shapeshift when Belgarath decides to show him why his relationship with Poledra is not an Interspecies Romance. By learning how to turn into a wolf, Garion learns that shapeshifting is absolute: he isn't a human who has turned into a wolf, he is a wolf. Poledra's human form was just as absolute and her twin daughters, Polgara and Garion's ancestor Beldaran, are entirely human. Polgara's love of shapeshifting into a snowy owl comes from Poledra while Garion's love of the wolf form comes from Belgarath, not Poledra.
  • The Italian Fairy Tale The Canary Prince tells of a romance between a prince and a Girl in the Tower. Since she does not have long hair, a friendly witch offers them an alternate solution: an enchanted book. By turning the pages forward, he changes into a canary, and when she turns the pages backward, he turns back into himself.
  • In the dark fantasy novel, The Folk Keeper, the heroine has an unusual affinity for the mysterious creatures of the title. Turns out she's a half-Selkie. She tries to escape in her seal-form by wearing her magical skin, but it had been too damaged by the villain, making it impossible to ever remove it. Not wanting to give up her human form permanently, she rips off the skin before it's too late and loses it in a storm. She may be separated from her family, but can still have a connection to the sea without the skin, and at least this way she can stay with the nice human guy who loves her.
  • In Island of the Aunts by Eva Ibbotson, one of the titular aunts is friends with a seal. Eventually, events conspire to make it so that someone stabs him with a knife. Turns out, he's a selkie, and this was the requirement for him turning into a human male. They continue their somewhat romantic (it's a children's book, after all, so nothing explicit) friendship and he insists on teaching her how to swim. She has to let him go when he decides that he wants to return to seal form and accompany a god-like kraken on a travel around the earth. She just wants him to be happy, and thus cries the seven tears that are necessary for him to return to seal form. It's all very sweet.
  • In The Mortal Instruments, warlocks are born in this way. One of the parents is a demon, and the other is a human. However, it is not love. The demons that cannot change their form simply rape humans. And those who can, usually take the form of someone whom human finds attractive.
  • This is quite common in Percy Jackson and the Olympians. That is how all demigods are born. The gods take on a human form, seducing ordinary humans.
  • In Summer And Bird, a man falls in love with the Bird Queen, who can shapeshift between a woman and a swan.
  • The book The Sterkarm Handshake features no actual swan-mays, but the Shapeshifting Lover legend does feature heavily in the story. The main female character, Andrea, is part of a group of time travellers from 20 Minutes into the Future who travel to medieval times. When in the past, the time travellers say that they are elves. Andrea falls in love with a man from the past, but he is wary of entering into a relationship with her because swan-mays, as he thinks Andrea is, always leave their human lovers eventually. (Guess what happens at the end.)
  • Megan Whalen Turner referenced the Selkie legend in one of the short stories in her book "Instead Of Three Wishes". In the story, a Selkie who has been searching for her coat for many years enlists a young girl to help her find it, after the man who tried to force her to marry him hid her coat in a painting.
  • Selkie Girl by Laurie Brooks is a retelling of this story. The main character Elin Jean has had webbed fingers her whole life. She finds out that her mom is a selkie. Elin then becomes a selkie as well.
  • The novel The Woman Who Loved Reindeer is a rare gender-flipped version of the story. It is pretty much Exactly What It Says on the Tin. The woman of the title falls for a legendary being known as a "Trangle", essentially a reindeer that occasionally looks like a man and transforms by removing his deer skin. There is an interesting complication in the relationship in that the Trangle is extremely aloof and uncomfortable around humans, and it is implied near the end that he will show his lover how to transform into a reindeer herself so that their relationship can actually get anywhere.
  • Elizabeth Marshall Thomas' palaeolithic romance The Animal Wife is a story about an incident the like of which might have given rise to the widespread "animal wife" folk-tale motif. Not that anyone in the story thinks the "wife" is a shape-changer, but you can see where the story would go once it was retold a few times.
  • Peter S. Beagle has a short story called "The Tale Of Junko And Sayuri", where a hunter wounds an otter and takes it home with him to nurse it back to health. Once the otter is healed, it transforms into a woman and becomes his wife, who uses her power to help him move up in life, all the time not knowing what exactly she is. It turns out she's an ushi-oni.
  • In the Old Norse Saga of Hrolf Kraki, the prince Bjorn is cursed by his Wicked Stepmother to transform into a bear. However, each night he turns back into a man and returns to his lover Bera.
  • In The House of Night, Rephaim, a Raven-Mocker, is given the gift of humanity by Nyx. However, he can only be a human at night and is forced to turn back into a Raven-Mocker during the day. This causes problems in his relationship with Stevie Rae.
  • In Patricia A. McKillip's Solstice Wood, Owen recounts the story he had been told of a man who shot a deer without killing it and went to track it down, and found instead a woman with a bullet wound in her shoulder. She lived with him for a year and half and had a son before she vanished. Then he explains that he finally realized it was his parents.
  • The short story Jackalope Wives by Ursula Vernon. Human boy sees animals-turned-human-women dancing, decides he wants one for himself, and sets about stealing her pelt. It does not go well at all. His grandmother was a Jackalope once too. When her husband died and she found her pelt again, she chose to burn it so she wouldn't have to leave her children behind — and besides, her second husband was nice.
  • A Bouquet of Czech Folktales prefers shapeshifting with plants:
    • The ballad "Willow" is about a woman who shares her life with a willow. She's a woman during days, but she's lying as if she were dead at nights. When her husband finds out that she actually lives as a willow, he decides to cut the tree down because he wants to have her fully. It ends badly because she dies the instant he cuts the willow and he and his little son lose her forever. Only, he's advised to make a cradle for the baby out of the wood.
    • "Lily" starts with a young virgin who dies and is buried in the wood. After some time, a lily grows on the grave and the lady lives as a woman at nights, but she's a lily during days. A prince meets her, falls in love and decides to marry her.
  • There's a short story where a man seeking a swan maiden for a bride learns the hard way that transformation into human form absolutely does not make a swan less naturally aggressive or less able to break a man's arm.
  • In InCryptid, several Interspecies Romances are between couples where one or both can shapeshift:
    • Ryan the tanuki and Istas the waheela can both shapeshift between human and animalistic forms (Ryan can also appear as a normal raccoon dog).
    • The human Antimony's boyfriend is Sam the fūri, who can shapeshift between a human form and a simian form with a Prehensile Tail and Handy Feet. He loves her because she's the first girl to love him in his natural form.

    Live-Action TV 
  • Buffy the Vampire Slayer: There are demons that can take on a human form. And some of them come together with humans. In the comics, this variant applies to a friend of Dawn. But there are also relationships between humans and demons when the demons cannot change their form.
  • My Girlfriend Is a Nine-Tailed Fox: Miho is a gumiho who believes that she can become human if she spends 100 days with Daewoong.

  • The Heather Dale song The Maiden And The Selkie is about a human woman whose selkie lover announces that he has come to the land to marry her — a situation complicated because she can't live in the water but the selkie can't live on land, though he insists he'll stay by her side on land even if it kills him. Luckily, when they visit the maiden's grandmother to seek advice, she announces that the maiden's great-grandmother had a seal coat of her own, and the maiden and the selkie depart to live in the sea.
  • The Crane Wife is referenced in The Decemberists' album of the same name, which has a song explaining the story.
    • They seem to like this trope. In their album The Hazards of Love, the main singer is able to change into a fawn, and takes advantage of this power to, er, "initiate" his relationship with the innocent Margaret. Being a human adopted by the Queen of the Forest has its perks.
  • The Mercedes Lackey song "Snow Magic" tells of a young man named Alexi who falls in love with a mysterious woman in the forest, who in turn loves him back though she would neither tell him where she came from nor leave the forest herself. One day she begs him to leave early but he laughs it off and stays late, only to be ambushed by his enemies. Before they can kill him, a pack of wolves, led by a fearsome alpha female, fall on the ambushers and tear them to pieces. The alpha female reveals herself and sorrowfully explains that she was truly a wolf, who had used snow magic to turn into a woman and be with him, but with one caveat—killing a man ends the spell and prevents her from becoming human again. She disappears into the woods forever in grief, and Alexi spends the rest of his days praying for a miracle in the woods so that she can return to him.

    Myths & Religion 
  • The Pink Dolphin of the Amazon is thought to take human form at night, whereupon it seduces young, impressionable girls with its charm and impregnates them, returning to the river by the morning. Typically, when a girl in that region turns up pregnant and the father is unknown, fatherhood is attributed to the dolphin. A striking feature is that its blowhole remains even when the dolphin is in human form, which demands that it use a hat to conceal it when on land. Another identifying feature is that the dolphin people wear white while on land, and the dolphin-fathered children tend to have dolphin-colored skin. According to P.J. O'Rourke, Amazonian Indians hold it is bad luck to kill a dolphin. And worse luck to date them.
  • There is an Inuit legend about a petrel who is in love with a beautiful maiden, and transforms himself into a man so that he may marry her; however, his eyes are still those of a petrel and so he wears snow goggles to hide them. When the maiden takes them off, she sees his eyes and the spell is broken.
  • Selkies - Celtic and Nordic legendary seal people. If a man captures a female Selkie's skin, she is in his power and must be his wife, but she will return to the sea as soon as she finds her seal skin. In some versions of the story, the children follow their mother and transform into seals, or alternatively, drown. In others, most famously the film The Secret of Roan Inish, the children cannot change as they are (mostly) normal humans and are left behind (and confused unless their father explains what happened). The male Selkies are seducers of women. There is a similar American Indian story of a seal boy. This again crops up often in modern fiction and other works, and has also inspired a Dungeons and Dragons race.
  • Melusine - There are many versions of this romantic French tale. In one version, Melusine fell in love with a human and appeared to him as a beautiful woman. When they were married, she made her husband promise that she would have some time to herself each week. Wouldn't you know it, one day he breaks his promise and sees that she is actually a dragon (depending on the variant, she may be half-snake). Melusine is forced to go back to her family, but her children stay with the humans, and a group of French nobility claimed to be her descendants for many years.
  • In the variants of the Chivalric Romance The Swan Children, the bride is more or less clearly a swan-maiden; she gives birth to children who are first exposed and then transformed into swans by removing the chains they wear about their necks. When this is discovered, the children are changed back by restoring —except that one chain was melted down, trapping that child in swan form.
  • Tennyo (Heavenly Maidens) - Japanese imports of Indian and Chinese Buddhist figures. The males are called Tennin. They don't change from animals but they do need a feathered garment (a hagoromo) to fly back to the heavens. The Noh play Hagoromo features the core story where the garment in question is stolen.
  • Kitsune (fox-spirits) and Tanuki (raccoon dog spirits) - Japanese trickster animal spirits. They don't leave skins behind, but they sometimes transform into beautiful women and marry men. They must leave if the man discovers their identity. Sometimes they are malicious and sometimes they are kindly. They are also sometimes female as humans, but male in their true animal forms. Among the best-known traits of the Tanuki are its ridiculously large testicles. On occasion it's implied that both sexes have the testicles, which, as far as fantastical creatures go, makes a certain amount of sense (dwarf beards, anyone?), but considering the tanuki is also a real animal is just plain weird. The strong vulpine predisposition to womanhood is also by no means binding; they are known often to have impersonated men, although a lower percentage of these are for romantic purposes.
  • One particularly famous positively-depicted Fox Wife is Kuzunoha, mother of the Japanese Merlin. (A guy with the bonus cred of actually having existed. Though the real Abe no Seimei was probably fully human rather than half-kitsune.)
  • Gumiho are the Korean version of the nine-tailed fox. They occasionally seduce men, though normally they're trying to win his heart (or liver) in a more literal sense.
  • Toyotama-hime (also known as Oto-hime) - Her story is remarkably similar to that of Melusine's. Once again, she was a dragoness, specifically, the daughter of Ryujin, the Dragon King of Japan, and fell in love with the fisherman Urashima Taro. And as always, it didn't end well for them. Note that she has had at least one (slightly more) successful relationship, albeit with the god Hoori.
  • The Crane Wife. A poor man finds an injured crane, and nurses it back to health. It flies away, and soon a beautiful woman shows up and marries him. She helps make him wealthy with her weaving, with the condition that he never watch her weave. He gets greedy and breaks this rule, and sees her in Crane form weaving her feathers into the silk. She then leaves once her identity is discovered.
  • A Japanese story featuring a yuki-onna followed Melusine's path in a way. A man got lost in a blizzard and this snow woman showed him the way out: she made him promise never to speak of the encounter to anyone or she would kill him. Later this man meets a beautiful woman and marries her. Many years, and a son, follow and one night, after a bit of sake, the man tells his wife of the yuki-onna. The wife stands up and reveals herself to be the yuki-onna, immensely annoyed, and leaves but does not kill him. It varies on whether her reason for sparing his life was that she had given him a son and hence had some sort of emotional attachment or that since he hadn't technically told anyone else.
  • Second husband of Inuit sea godness, Sedna turned out to be a petrel-spirit in disguise. In some myths it’s the reason she left him later. Other Inuit legends claim that in the The Time of Myths it was normal for spirits to cross border between human and animal world and vice versa. Many of them are love stories.
  • In the Indian tale of Urvashi and Pururavas, Urvashi, unusually, had voluntarily chosen to marry him, and his violation of a taboo, tricked by her fellow nymphs who wanted her back, not the recovery of an item, made her leave him. However, when he is searching for her, she and the others take the form of swans.
  • In "Völundarkviða" of the Poetic Edda, Völundr and his two brothers encounter three valkyries spinning flax in the wild and take away their swan-shirts which the valkyries need to transform into birds. After living with the brothers for nine years, the valkyries retrieve their magic shirts and fly away.

    Tabletop Games 
  • Changeling: The Dreaming: Selkies are also one of the kiths. Their sealskin coat can take the form of any garment from a peacoat to a belt, and they wither and die (well, they forget all about fae existence until the next incarnation) if they spend too long away from the coast.
  • Dungeons & Dragons
    • Selkies are aquatic fey and often travel among surface races for a time, sometimes dallying with the surfacers, but almost all eventually return to the sea.
    • Silver Dragons, being one of the few dragons to both have the shapeshift ability and enjoy cohabitation with humanoid races, are sometimes known to do this multiple times across their very long lifespan. Though the "lover" part is optional, this is the official explanation for the half-dragon template. At least when it comes to good-aligned dragons.

    Video Games 
  • Da Capo: Subverted with Yoriko. She's a girl with cat ears, and is indeed a cat that transformed into a girl. However, she transformed into the form of her owner, and her owner was piloting the body. At the end when the tree dies, the girl's real body wakes up and transfers into his school, at which point they enter a real relationship.
  • Heroine's Quest has one, Hervor the swan maiden. It's up to the player whether she gets her wings back.
  • Pokémon Diamond and Pearl: History books reveal that the people in the world of Pokémon have these myths about Pokémon. Squicky - but hey, if Skitty and Wailord can get it on, why not people, too?
  • Samurai Shodown Tenka: The basis of Iroha's Back Story. During one of her super moves, during which she disrobes and attacks the opponent behind a screen, her silhouette briefly flickers into that of a crane's.
  • Warcraft: Dragons are able to transform into humanoids for both convenience and subterfuge. Sometimes they even fall victim to this trope. Most prominently, Kalecgos of the Blue Dragonflight had once fallen in love with Anveena, a human who later turned out to be the physical manifestation of the Sunwell. After getting over her loss, he began a relationship with Jaina Proudmoore. His former consort, Tyrygosa took the form of an elf, and eventually fell in love with the human Jorad Mace. All parties involved know of the true form.

  • The selkie legend appears in Hanna Is Not a Boy's Name, with a little bit of deconstruction: Mrs. Hatch is a selkie, and since Mr. Hatch stole her skin, she's been stuck as his human wife for nearly two decades. She hates her husband and her son, and looking for the skin got another character killed.
  • In Wooden Rose, Aidan Thorne is continually having to hide from Nessa that he's started to turn into a tree while he's wooing her.
  • Three selkies feature prominently in a chapter of Bad Machinery. One came ashore as a young pup/girl and had her seal-skin stolen/hidden, so she's lived as a human ever since. Years later, in the present day of the story, another selkie girl ends up losing her skin accidentally, and then an adult male selkie (her dad) comes looking for her. In the end, both girls have their skins given back so they can go home to the sea, but the one who'd been human for years had outgrown her pup-sized skin so she ends up stuck human (and driven just a bit crazy from the whole experience and being repeatedly rejected by the boy who had taken her skin in the first place).
  • In El Goonish Shive, Grace is a part-human part-alien part-squirrel shapeshifter who, early on in the strip's history, falls in love with Tedd, a teenage mad scientist. This ends up being one of the least complicated relationships in the story.
  • In The Green Knight one of the families the heroes stay with is a fisherman and his wife, who is revealed to be a selkie whose skin was stolen. A whole lot of chaos ensues when the skin is found and the characters have to contend with the fisherman, the skin itself (which is more than happy to attach itself to anyone it touches), and the selkie's family who finally have a chance at revenge.
  • Little Foolery's Crane Wife. After the Yamagata family patriarch's death, a mysterious young woman identifying herself as Lady Mitsuru arrives at the family's mansion. When pressed by the main character, Mitsuru reveals herself to be a crane that the deceased patriarch helped during a blizzard. The man and the crane promised each other that they would do each other a favour, to help both of them to have a better life from there on. The crane gave the master a life that he dearly wished for, and in return the crane received folded paper cranes, having now come for the first one, which was all-white. It turns out that the "life" the master asked for, and the white paper crane Lady Mitsuru wanted, are the same thing — the eldest son, Yamagata Izuru, who the crane gave birth to. Lord Yamagata's wife, however, completely misjudged the situation and assumed that Izuru was the "price" the crane had come to collect in return for helping the family over the years, now that her husband had died. The crane considered Izuru a mutual gift, and the actual price she was promised was the wife's life. The wife's attempt to threaten the crane into leaving ends badly, and Izuru becomes the new master of the Yamagata family.
  • This happens with several characters in Dan and Mab's Furry Adventures since there are a lot of shapeshifting characters. The best example is Alexsi's boyfriend Pyroduck, who is revealed to be a dragon, but spends most of his time in the form of a furry of unclear species.
  • Crow Time: Several instances in Crowmance.
    • Duma is engaged to Edwin, a crow that shifted into a human.
    • Downplayed with Edwin's father. He is a Sizeshifter and can turn himself from normal crow-size into bigger than a mountain. He is also happily married to Olga, who is a normal crow.

    Western Animation 
  • The Adventures of Prince Achmed: Peri Banu, a fairy woman who uses a feathered gown to fly around as a bird, falls in love with Prince Achmed.
  • Disenchantment: King Zøg meets a "forest selkie" named Ursula who's normally a bear except when she takes off her skin to become a woman. They fall in love, and Zøg becomes so desperate to keep Ursula with him that he steals her bearskin and hides it in the castle. After realizing how upset Ursula becomes due to being forced to stay human, he returns the skin to her so she can resume living as a bear in the forest. She returns in Season 4, with a bear cub who looks like Zøg.
  • Gargoyles: In "Mark of the Panther", Eliza's mother tells the story of Anansi and a panther. Anansi turned the panther into a human woman and threatened to leave her trapped in that form forever unless she built him a city and provided him food. The panther turned woman marries a wealthy man and together they build a city and raise a family. Anansi undoes his curse, but sets up the panther to be hunted and killed by her human son since he's unhappy about losing her offerings. At the last second the son recognizes his mother and he turns into a panther to be with her. Since this is Gargoyles, the story has a lot more truth than Eliza's mother realizes.
  • The Wild Thornberrys: The Pink Dolphin legend shows up, but with a girl who Eliza believes to be a shape-shifting River Dolphin who wants to transform Debbie into a River Dolphin because she wants a friend and is lonely. Debbie doesn't transform but it is never confirmed whether the girl in question was a Dolphin or not. Knowing about the above mythology gives the episode a distinctive lesbian subtext.


Video Example(s):


OSP - Animal Bride

Red from Overly Sarcastic Productions, explains what this trope is, and then proceeds to retell a few examples, including the Swedish Swan Bride tale.

How well does it match the trope?

5 (11 votes)

Example of:

Main / ShapeshiftingLover

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