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- This article concerns shapeshifting (also known as "transformation") as an action or state of being. For the artistic metagenre which involves shapeshifting as a plot device, see transformation fiction.
Shapeshifting is, in its most basic meaning, a change from one state to another. A shapeshifter (also known as Shapechanger and sometimes abbreviated TF after "transformation") is a term encompassing any sort of being that can change their physical shape and appearance under its own willpower. In fantasy fandoms, these beings may be known as polymorphs (i.e. a being or creature with the means to change its biological shape into another, commonly by the use of magic; This process is also commonly known as "morphing.")
Shapeshifters abound in the lore of most cultures. Contemporary examples include werewolves, which are wolves that turn into humans (or vice versa, depending on the specific mythos), and kitsune (and related shapeshifters, such as kumiho), which are typically depicted as the enlightened semi-spirit forms of foxes which can turn into people.
Hence, if the term 'furry' is taken in its loosest sense, i.e., something which exhibits a mixture of human and animal traits, then these may be the oldest known examples of furries in human culture.
Shapeshifting and furry
When used in terms of the furry fandom, it is generally in the context of changing from a human form into an animal one. Shapeshifting, or transformation, can have several meanings in the fandom. For furry lifestylers, it can reflect an interest in the fantasy of "being" your animal, and the earnest desire to one day wake up and see your human-ness gone. It can have aspects of sexual fantasy, especially in the case of unwanted involuntary transformations forced by others. It can reflect an active spiritual or oneirological state of human-animal changes, as found in therianthropy. Or it can refer to biological or cybernetic changes, either in real life or in science fiction, to make a person more animal-like.
Shapeshifting is typically a one-way route in furry fan stories and art; the goal is to become animal, often a quadruped, rather than return to humanity. The main difference is in were stories where, due to traditional genre conventions, an aspect of returning to being human for at least a short time is often included. Transformation stories may have people turn fully into bestial animals, rather than anthropomorphic ones, losing all human level or reasoning and intelligence.
A great deal of fursonas in the furry fandom are shapechangers. Some of them accomplish this task by "magical" means such as a garter belt or a curse, some using technology (i.e., nanites or extreme genetic engineering), and some furs can shapechange "just because."
Transformation art is created by a wide variety of TF fans, both for themselves and as commissioned work for non-artist TF fans. This art can either be single, 'one-shot' images, or sequences depicting a transformation in as few as three or as many as 15-20 images. There are websites available to view transformation artwork, such as Transfur, Shadowlord Inc. and Fur Affinity. TF fans communicate through chat, groups, lists and bulletin boards. Also, one of the websites, Shadowlord Inc., aside from having transformation artwork, also has clips of transformation-related media, like movies, shows, and video games among others, though it doesn't necessarily have all of them.
Most mucks also include a morph program, which facilitate these changes. The most common program was created by Triggur for FurryMUCK, although there are others (and indeed, some mucks have multiple morph programs, depending on that user's preferences).
In works of fiction
- Main article: Transformation fiction