So my friend Lori writes shape-shifter stories about hell-hounds (an animal she invented so that's even more fun). She posted an article about shape-shifting the other day--she mentioned one of my stories which is why I was particularly interested. Ever since I read that entry and that blog--a whole blog devoted to shape-shifters?-- I've been walking around with creatures in my mind. Not plots, not characters. Creatures. I've been trying to distill what part of each animal might fit a story and what makes it a possible hero/heroine type. What animal characteristics would travel along with the being when it takes its human form?
I think that it's the interaction and conflict of the human and animal parts of the shape-shifter that I enjoy. Who needs tons of internal conflict in a story if you've got a wolf constantly trying to get out?
I can't figure out any other appeal, and I enjoy those stories. Emphasis on the word stories. Encountering a real lion or wolf (or whatever carnivore you want...ever notice there aren't a lot of prey in the list of shape-shifters?) with anything other than the urge to run as fast as possible or with any sort of interest in sexuality. . . no, thanks. Yeah, I suppose the idea of encapsulating the wild part of the animal, minus the stench, is intriguing..
All sorts of critters have been anthropomorphized and turned into heroes and heroines. I read a story years ago about a hero rooster (and there's Chicken Run, of course). Brian Jacques has dozens of books about field mice warriors. And there's Watership Down, Wind in the Willows...I can think of dozens of titles (almost all for kids. Hmm)
All those stories have humans parading in animal bodies. I like it when the animals get dressed in human bodies every now and then.
It's the effect of the animal on the human form--and the other way around--that I like. Can't get that unless you have some shifting going on.