Sunday, 15 March 2015


Following the disastrous worldwide conflict of the Splinter War in the 48th and 49th century, shapeshifting was outlawed by any country that considered itself civilized. It was agreed that shapeshifting changed one's heart; how should one be unaffected by turning into beasts or monsters?
About three centuries ago, however, evidence was unearthed that indeed the mind remains untouched by the change. Of course, even if news travel fast, not everyone today knows or accepts this. It might take shapeshifters centuries to regain acceptance.
"Naturally, the shapeshifters fulfilled a role in society that, when left empty, created a hole that we only now slowly begin to understand."
— Vatarna, mage, in a lecture
Shapeshifters are spell users, whisperers, or were born with the ability. Whisperers can only change slightly. Spells are powerful, but don't last very long. Born shifters, depending on skill, can change their appearance or physiology indefinitely, and turn into creatures or even things. These are still feared today even by openminded experts.
Although it's hereditary, few shapeshifters are born. It's more likely to have shifter children when the parents shifted much, but most shapeshifting is done with spells. Much spellcasting in turn means the children are likely to be speakers, and speakers are never shapeshifters.
"The elves were the first to jump at the chance of changing their outsides. I suppose it was to be expected - if regular twins want to be different, how must it be to look like everyone in town?"
— Blinai Namtoneh, historian

Artists' notes
I had created a huge war with shapeshifters early on. The logical conclusion was that shapeshifters would fall victim to genocide; prejudice and paranoia would bring anyone to the gallows who was suspected to have the gift. I then found that I robbed myself of a charming magical feature of fantasy worlds and thought hard how to get it back. I finally decided that the relentless effort and insatiable curiosity of the mages could rediscover the truth, and here we are.


  1. It's kind of sad if you think about it. If shape-shifters exist, and their skills enable them to impersonate others, then everyone else will naturally end up being paranoid. It's hard to be certain that you're really talking to the person you think you're talking to, and not an impostor. If you have an off day and act a little unlike your normal self, it would be easy for someone to conclude that you've been replaced with a doppelganger.

    Genocide is never a morally acceptable solution, but with the kind of paranoia shape-shifters cause, I guess I can understand why folks would get desparate enough to try it.

    It must be hard to live as a shape-shifter. Not only does nobody trust you, but they blame you for their feeling like they can't trust each other. Even if not for the genocide, you'd still be an outcast.

    1. Exactly the problem of shapshifters today. While the Powers That Be are starting to see reason not to harm folks anymore, it will take longer until everyone else is on board with that. Of course I don't agree with genocide in any way, it just seemed "logical".
      The biggest point made by shapshifter researchers is that in a community of seven species, of which only three and a half can intermarry, but love does as love does, the social structures will be deformed.
      Speakers have not re-discovered all spells, and a lot of natural shifters are ignorant for lack of teachers - the animal lords Giva and Chiboyé came forward to address that (article in the works).

      Earth lore has a rich history of shapeshifters, Odin and Loki, the animal spirits of North America, the Persian magicians, and so forth. One of my favourite fairytales has a shapeshifting duel, one turning into the hook that catches the fish and so on, it's great.

    2. Hmm... I thought I posted another comment here, but I guess it got lost.

      I always thought that if I could pick one super-power, it would have to be shape-shifting. It's basically a way of cheating the question: If I needed any other ability, I could turn into something that has it. Of course, that makes shape-shifters even more powerful, and therefore more frightening to everyone else.

      It would be interesting to see what a society would look like after figuring out a way to live in harmony with shape-shifters. How could they be integrated into society without letting their abilities give them too much power over everyone else? I guess that's one of the questions your researchers are working on.

      By the way, that fairy tale doesn't sound familiar to me. Do you remember what it's called?

    3. Unfortunately, Blogger seems to be quite glitchy with comments. It only works for me with Firefox, but not Opera.

      And sadly, I don't remember the name of the fairytale. I had a compendium as a child in which it appeared; a young man studies magic to marry, because his love's father demands "ladjeb" as dowry, which turns out to be a shapeshifter duel. Many elements are known from other fairytales, like the boy turning into a mule and asking his father to sell him on the market, but keep the reigns as to return him to his original form.

      As for kitaian shapeshifters, it will indeed be very interesting to see how people will react to them. One could take it as a ray of hope that speakers are normal folks too, and they can turn into raging lunatics toward the opposite tradition at any moment; and spirit collectors are walking death traps (pun intended ;)) but still revered. I'm sure the mixed-species couples now able to have their own children are grateful for shapeshifting spells.