10 Famous Folklore Skin-walkers (Shape-Shifting Monsters)
Metamorphism or Shapeshifting (also known as Skin walking) is a common theme in mythology and folklore as well as in science fiction and fantasy. In its broadest sense, it is when a being has the ability to alter its physical appearance. The transformation may be purposeful or not depending on whether it has been the subject of a curse or spell. It enables the creature to trick, deceive, hunt, and kill humans. In some folklore, once the shapeshifter has become transformed, it becomes progressively more difficult for it to return to its original form.
The kumiho is a creature that appears in the oral tales and legends of Korea. According to those tales, a fox that lives a thousand years turns into a kumiho. It can freely transform, among other things, into a beautiful girl often set out to seduce men. The legends tell that while the kumiho is capable of changing its appearance, there is still something persistently fox-like about it; its countenance changes, but its nature does not. A kumiho is known to transform into an identical likeness of a bride at a wedding. Not even the bride’s mother can tell the difference. The kumiho is only discovered when her clothes are removed. Although it is typically depicted as a woman when it transforms into a human being, it can also turn into a young man that attempts to trick the women in marrying him to continue its generation. Although they are considered as having the ability to morph into other forms, the true identity of a Kumiho was said to be zealously guarded by the Kumihos themselves. There are also legends in which these transformations are said to be involuntary. (Source)
Hindu folklore tells of nāga , snakes that can sometimes assume human form. One nāga took on a man’s shape in order to be ordained a monk; the Buddha refused it, but gave it directions on how to ensure it could be reborn as a man after death, in which form it could be ordained. The nāgas also carry the elixir of life and immortality. They are objects of great reverence in some parts of southern India where it is believed that they bring fertility and prosperity to their venerators. (Source)
Tengu are a class of supernatural creatures found in Japanese folklore, art, theater, and literature. Although they take their name from a dog-like Chinese demon (Tiangou), the tengu were originally thought to take the forms of birds of prey, and they are traditionally depicted with both human and avian characteristics. Myth tells that when they take human form, they have the ability to grow or shrink other human’s nose and when bird they are attributed the power to stir up great winds, they are known to be cannine monsters and most often it is fierce and anthropophagous. It makes a noise like thunder and brings war wherever it falls. (Source)
The Lesovik or Leshy is a male woodland spirit in Slavic mythology. He is said to have the ability to shapeshift into any form, animal or plant. When he is in human form, he looks like a common peasant, except that his eyes glow and his shoes are on backwards. In some tales, he appears to visitors as a large talking mushroom. He can also vary in size, shrinking himself to the height of a blade of grass when moving through open fields, or growing to the size of the tallest trees when in the forest. A leshy usually appears as a tall man, but he is able to change his size from that of a blade of grass to a very tall tree. He has hair and a beard made from living grass and vines, and is sometimes depicted with a tail, hooves, and horns. He has pale white skin that contrasts with his bright green eyes. A leshy has a close bond with the gray wolves, and is often seen in the company of bears as well. He is the Forest Lord and carries a club to express that he is the master of the wood. (Source)
Vampires are mythological or folkloric beings who subsist by feeding on the life essence (generally in the form of blood) of living creatures, regardless of whether they are undead or a living person. It is hard to define a vampire because of different legends associated with them. Generally they are regarded as bloodsucking demons bloated in appearance, and ruddy, purplish, or dark in colour; these characteristics were often attributed to the recent drinking of blood. Indeed, blood was often seen seeping from the mouth and nose when one was seen in its shroud or coffin and its left eye was often open. It would be clad in the linen shroud it was buried in, and its teeth, hair, and nails may have grown somewhat, though in general fangs were not a feature. Vampires are shape shifters, they can transform into bats when endangered for escape. (Source)
Jorōgumo , a creature of Japanese folklore. According to stories, a Jorōgumo is a spider that can change its appearance into that of a seductive woman. In the stories, a beautiful woman enticed a man into a quiet shack and began to play a Biwa. While the man was distracted by the sound of the instrument, she bound him in silk spider threads and ate him. According to legend, when a spider turns 400 years old, she gains magical powers. Jorōgumo appears near waterfalls, changes its appearance into a beautiful woman and asks men to marry her, or takes the form of a young woman carrying a baby which may be an eggsack, and then she binds the legs of her prey with spider threads and pulls him from the ground and draws into the water. (Source)
An ala is a mythological creature recorded in the folklore of Bulgarians, Macedonians, and Serbs. An ala may look like a black wind, a gigantic creature of indistinct form, a huge-mouthed, humanlike, or snakelike monster, a female dragon, a raven, etc. Ale can in fact assume various human or animal shapes, and can even possess a person’s body. Ale are considered demons of bad weather whose main purpose is to lead hail-producing thunderclouds in the direction of fields, vineyards, or orchards to destroy the crops, or loot and take them away. Extremely voracious, ale particularly like to eat children, though their gluttony is not limited to Earth. It is believed they can try to devour the Sun or the Moon causing eclipses; her success would mean the end of the world. (Source)
Ailuranthrope (generally called as werecats ) are creatures of folklore, fantasy fiction, horror fiction, and occultism that are generally described as shapeshifters similar to werewolves that, instead of a wolf, turn into a creature that is based on some species of feline. The species involved can be a domestic cat, a tiger, a lion, a leopard, a lynx, or any other type, including some that are purely fantastical felines. Typically, an individual ailuranthrope can only transform to one unique feline, not to a number of different species, and each individual type of werecat may be known by a more species-specific term such as “weretiger”. The word “werecat” was not coined until the late 19th century, so it was not directly used in legends from earlier eras, only by later folklorists’ commentary. Werecat folklore is found on all continents except Antarctica and Oceania and is generally based on wild felines native to the area. (Source)
2. Aswang and Manananggals
An Aswang is a mythical creature in Philippine folklore. “Aswangs” are often described as a combination of vampire and witch and are almost always female. They are sometimes used as a generic term applied to may types of monsters. In general, they are shape shifting who are human at day and at night turn into a dog, a pig, a bat, cat, snake etc. However, the famous type is manananggal , which is a particular creature portrayed as a monster with wings which flap loudly when she’s far away and quietly when she’s nearer. The most popular original definition however, is that it is a bal-bal. After consumption, the bal-bal replaces the cadaver with banana trunks. Many Aswangs have a taste for human fetuses, and were believed to explain miscarriages and other maladies before science and medicine. (Source)
A werewolf also known as a lycanthrope , is a mythological or folkloric human with the ability to shapeshift into a wolf or an anthropomorphic wolf-like creature, either purposely, by being bitten or scratched by another werewolf, or after being placed under a curse. This transformation is often associated with the appearance of the full moon. Werewolves are often attributed super-human strength and senses, far beyond those of both wolves or men. The werewolf is generally held as a European character, although its lore spread through the world in later times. Shape-shifters, similar to werewolves, are common in tales from all over the world, most notably amongst the Native Americans, though most of them involve animal forms other than wolves. (Source)
Did You Know?
Clinical lycanthropy is a rare psychiatric syndrome that involves a delusion that the affected person can or has transformed into an animal or that he or she is an animal. Its name is connected to the mythical condition of lycanthropy, a supernatural affliction in which people are said to physically shapeshift into wolves. The terms zoanthropy and therianthropy are also sometimes used for the delusion that one has turned into an animal in general and not specifically a wolf. A patient reports in a moment of lucidity or looking back that he sometimes feels as an animal or has felt like one and behaves in a manner that resembles animal behavior, for example crying, grumbling, or creeping.