As I put the finishing touches on my werewolves along the Silk Road workshop (coming up next week at savvyauthors.com! Spaces still available!), I figured I’d take this opportunity to tell you about a story about one particular kind of shapeshifter. I figured it was appropriate for at least part of the audience who would be checking in at the Otherworld Diner.
As I was doing my research for the workshop, of course I ran into lots of stories. One in particular interested me. First of all, let me explain the background. The workshop looks at different shapeshifter lore around the world, and while my copresenter Jacquie Rogers looks at Western lore, I look at the shifter lore in the East (actually, I look at myths starting with Africa and move east from there until I hit the Pacific Rim). Shapeshifter lore connected with foxes show up by the time we arrive in the easternmost part of the Asian continent.
In this story, a man searches far and wide for his ideal woman. One day, he finds her. What he doesn’t realize, of course, is that his ideal woman is a fox who has fallen in love with him as well. Nonetheless, they are very happy together, although mysteriously, the man’s faithful dog becomes hostile to the woman after she gives birth to a son. One day the dog attacks the woman, and the woman is so startled she turns back into her fox form and runs away. (Dogs have an instinct about disguised humans who are secretly foxes. Your dog doesn’t like someone? Maybe that person is a fox in disguise!)
The man realizes what his wife’s secret has been all along, and calls out after her, telling her that he loves her no matter what her true form is, and she can always come back. Comforted by the thought that her human husband loves her despite knowing her secret, the fox turns back into a woman every night to sleep with him and live happily ever after, bearing him many children. The children from such unions demonstrate special abilities such as magic, which they pass down to their descendants.
Now, mind you, these shapeshifter stories generally have unhappy endings, so this one, in which the husband loves his wife despite her true self, charmed me. Do you have a favorite shapeshifter story? Why do you like it?
Eilis Flynn copresents a series of workshops examining myths and legends around the world. She can be reached at eilisflynn.com or, you know, a lot of places.