Have you ever wished you were an animal? Or that you had the skills of an animal? I've often wished that I could fly, have the night vision of a cat, move as gracefully as a squirrel and run as fast as a pronghorn.
Clearly, I’m not the only one who has ever thought about how cool it would be to be an animal. Myths and legends about shapeshifting are old, rooted in many different cultures and at the moment, very popular.
Shapeshifting traditions vary across cultures, literature and belief systems. In some stories, being transformed to an animal form is a punishment. For example, Athena turned Arachne into the first spider as a punishment for her pride. Others believe that shapeshifting between animal and human form is magical and a means to utilize animal skills. For example, Norse literature includes stories of "beserkers" (warriors) who had the ability to transform into wolves or bears to fight more ferociously. Some Native American tribes believe that humans descended from animals and the two are intrinsically linked, able to change forms and recieve special powers from animal forebearers.
There are tons of books and movies that feature shapeshifters today. Think of these stories: Beauty and the Beast, Brother Bear, Harry Potter (the Animangus: Peter Pettigrew, Sirius Black, etc.), Ranma 1/2, Fruits Basket, The Spiderwick Chronicles, The Hobbit (Beorn), Pokemon (Ditto & Mew), Fullmetal Alchemist, and the list goes on...
Here are some cool books with shapshifters for you to check out: