Wednesday, January 16, 2013

Werewolves and Shapeshifters

The concept of shapeshifters exists in every culture around the world. They take many forms and obey a diverse set of rules depending upon the specific culture. Since my forthcoming book, "Collector's Item," involves shapeshifters, specifically werejaguars, I thought I'd share a little of my discoveries and ruminations upon the dual-natured in a series of posts.

This first post will deal with my perception of the concepts of  "were" and "shapeshifter."

There is the much discussion about difference between shapeshifters and weres of whatever animal (werewolves, werejaguars, werefoxes). To my mind, shapeshifter is a generic, major classification-type term. It describes the shared trait among the dual-natured - the ability to change their shapes. That said, the weres, selkies, kitsune, etc. are all forms of shapeshifters.

Another thing to note is that shapeshifters have two classes--those who are humans shifting to animal form or animals who shift to human form. Animals who shift into human form more often than not do so for malicious reasons, to prey upon humans in some manner. In the majority of myths involving humans changing into animals, the change has a very negative origin--curses, punishment, flight from an angry god, take your pick. In myths or stories where the change is not one-way/permanent, the "descent" into animal form is nearly always viewed as a "bad" thing.

Werewolves are the ultimate of the bad transitions, and what makes werewolves unique among the shapeshifters is their infamous connection to the moon. Of all the shapeshifters I have encountered in my research, only the werewolves are under the curse of the full moon.

It seems the rest of the shapeshifters are in control of their change, deciding  when and where they shift. Sometimes even choosing "what" they change into when they shift. Not surprising, even shapeshifters who can control their changes are not viewed with anything less than a jaundiced eye. Some are considered truly evil, such as the Native American skinwalkers and the Korean kumiho to name a few, using their abilities to prey upon others.

My werejaguars in "Collector's Item" are not your standard weres. Their transformations are not controlled by the moon and, even more unusual, the jaguar side of my weres have their own personalties and thoughts. The human side is in control, but the animal form is self-aware. Sounds a bit schizophrenic, but in my world, shapeshifters carefully nurture their young, helping them to accept their animal sides in a symbiotic lifestyle. However, the human side is ALWAYS the side in control. It's not an easy thing to accept and some do not gain control of their animal sides. Those who fail are called Unadapted and in "today's" world, they are treated with a drug that suppresses their animal selves completely, enabling the Unadapted to live normal human lives.

Next month, I will share tidbits about some of the Asian shapeshifters. Until then, be careful when you're outside on a full moon. That howl you hear may not be the neighbor's dog.

NEWS FLASH! I'm thrilled to announce that "Collector's Item" will be released by The Wild Rose Press on May 17th!

Denise Golinowski is a reader and writer of fantasy and romance. Her first enovella, The Festival of the Flowers: The Courtesan and the Scholar is available now through the Wild Rose Press. Her second enovella, Collector's Item will also be released by The Wild Rose Press May 17, 2013. You can visit her blog at Golinowski's Gambol.


  1. Okay...what is a kitsune???? I love learning this stuff!

    1. Hey, Leah! I'm so embarrassed to just be getting to this. For now, let's just say, Kitsune is the Japanese word for fox. Stay tuned.

  2. Sound great! I look forward to it!

  3. You must be a master at research and I'm impressed by all the folklore you know. What interesting stuff Denise

    1. Thank you for stopping by, Elvy! This is such a diverse world we live in and then as writers, we add even more on top of, underneath, and then through it. Talk about a great way to live! Thank you for the compliment. I'm not all that great shakes at research, but I try to do my best. *wink*