Rachel Neumeier

Fantasy and Young Adult Fantasy Author

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Spaceships and magic

Over at tor.com, a post by Judith Tarr about Andre Norton’s Moon of Three Rings

I really liked that one! Probably because it fell neatly between the period where I read nothing but animal stories and the period where I really got into fantasy. This is the one where one protagonist kinda accidentally lets his consciousness and self be transferred into the body of an animal. Of course it was the animal on the front cover that probably caught my eye.

Now, of course, I immediately am bothered by the weak topline and not-very-good croup. I think it’s out at the elbow, too. Ah, adulthood. I imagine the creature in Norton’s imagination was well-constructed and sound. I loved the way it looked as a child. I’d forgotten about this image, but now I recognize where various other doglike-but-not-dog animals in various unwritten stories have come from.

Other great stories where someone changes into a dog (a real dog, or nearly, rather than a doglike animal like the one in Norton’s book):

Dogsbody, by DWJ, obviously. Though there the person who changes into a dog was never human, but a luminary — a star.

Also, The Dog Days of Arthur Cane, by T. Ernesto Bethancourt. I loved that book and read it many times. This is a much more down-to-earth story of a normal teenager who gets turned into a shaggy-dog type of mutt. Really great story. Let me see . . . looks like it came out in 1976. Yeah, I’m sure it’s long fallen off everyone’s radar. Well, if you happen to have a kid who is into animals and dogs, see if you can find a copy. It’s pretty pricey as a secondhand book on Amazon, I notice, with a range from $12 to way over $200 (!).

I don’t know if I can think of any other person-turned-into-dog stories just this minute. Horses, yes. Dun Lady’s Jess by Doranna Durgin springs to mind, though in that case it was the horse who turned into a woman.

How about you all, anybody want to recommend a person-turns-into-animal or animal-into-person story?

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14 Comments Spaceships and magic

  1. David H.

    How about the movie, “The Emperor’s New Groove” where an Inca emperor is transformed into a llama? Haha.

    The latter part of “The Witches” by Roald Dahl has the boy turned into a mouse.

  2. mona

    Marillier has a few human-into-animal ones, at least two of which are dogs. One in the extended Sevenwaters series (Heir to Sevenwaters, I think) and one in the Blackthorn and Grim series. Not to mention the swans and the seal and the changeling. Tamora Pierce’s Copper Islander crows (Nawat, in particular) can change at will.

  3. Pete Mack

    Black Dog?
    Wild canines seem more popular, be they foxes (kitsune), werewolves, or the occasional coyote (Patricia Briggs.) Also, shout out to Elizabeth Bear’s Bone and Jewel Creatures, where one of the main characters is a child brought up by jackals in Messalines (a North African or Middle Eastern city in the Pillars of the sky universe.)

  4. Bret Grandrath

    In George RR Martin’s A Song of Ice and Fire several of the characters can “warg” into animals. One human gets stuck when his body is killed.
    The only other story that I can think of is Beastmaster by Andre Norton.
    Neither example is quite like Moon of Three Rings but they are the ones that come to mind.

  5. Robert

    Years ago, I read A Dog’s Life by Jerry Jay Carroll. It was a SFBC omnibus of Top Dog and its sequel, Dog Eat Dog. I remember enjoying it, but not much else. Goodreads has a (probably) good summary.

  6. Rachel

    I always meant to read Heir of Sevenwaters. I guess I should move that one up my Pile o’ Unread Books.

    A llama, that’s funny! I’m sure the transformation is really played for laughs and the emperor isn’t much like a real llama?

    I don’t really count any werewolf novels unless the people turn into real wolf-like wolves, not monsters. Kelly Armstrong’s werewolves do. I don’t think many others do at all.

    I was thinking of writing a book with kitsune-type fox shapechangers, and where one character gets stuck — though not because her human body is killed — but that’s kind of on the back burner now. Maybe in a year or two.

  7. Elaine T

    There’s Gillian Bradshaw’s The Wolf Hunt for non-monster werewolfery. And don’t Shinn’s canine shifters also count?

    Dave Freer’s Tom has a wizard in need of an assistant turn a stray cat into a boy. It’s from the cat/boy’s POV. At first he understands about as much as CJC’s Tristen in the early days. But with cat instincts, which he never loses. The Teen and I both enjoyed it. All the plot threads did come together, too. although there were times I wondered – especially when our character found himself in a .. call it a disco .. in a distinctly more modern world.

    Sarah Hoyt’s got a shifter series starting with Draw One in the Dark I liked what I’ve read. My husband says she doesn’t know how to plot. For the purposes of this discussion she’s got lots of varieties of human to critter shifters from bugs (human sized – ick) to dragons. And a reason there are so many in that small Colorado town. POV characters turn puma, dragon and lion and have issues with instincts. I think in a later one we get a POV from an aquatic type, but it’s been a while since I read it.

    Tor’s site seems to be down, at the moment.

  8. David H.

    Re: Emperor’s New Groove. Right, he can still talk as a llama. It’s a pretty amusing movie–probably the most WB-like of the Disney films. David Spade (emperor/llama) and John Goodman (peasant) play the two main characters (and Patrick Warburton steals the show as Kronk).

  9. Elaine T

    Peter Beagle’s Last Unicorn for unicorn ->to human.

    Emperor’s New Groove has given our family some running jokes. It’s a movie that shouldn’t work, but since the makers decided to go all in on zany it does provide a lot of fun.

  10. Hanneke

    More dragons: Patricia Briggs’ Hurog duology (Dragon blood, Dragon bones) has a search for a hidden heritage regarding dragon ancestry.
    She also has a fantasy duology (reissued last year, Masques and Aralorn?) in which someone has been turned into a wolf, which is not what is usually meant with werewolf paranormal genre but more fantasy; completely separate from her werewolves-and-coyote paranormal urban fantasy series.

    A classic is C.S. Lewis’ Voyage of the Dawn Treader, in which Edmund gets turned into a dragon and can’t turn back until the greedy bully has learned his lesson.

    A fun new MG release is Stephanie Burgis: Dragon with a chocolate heart, it’s already published in the UK and will be coming out in the USA later this year. A young dragon gets turned into a girl after drinking magic chocolate, and becomes a chocolatiers apprentice. I think you’d like it, though it’s a bit younger than what you usually read.

    Do selkies count? Anne McCaffrey’s PeTayBee series has selkies in an F&SF setting, and some other traditional shapechangers as well, if I remember correctly (it’s been a while).

    Mentally “hitching a ride” in an animal’s head: Terry Pratchett’s Granny Weatherwax is very good at that, though it’s never more than a snippet in the whole story.

  11. Rachel

    Okay, I’ll grant you The Wolf Hunt. I don’t think Shinn’s shifters are very animal like at all in animal form, actually.

    Tom does sound like a great set-up for a story.

    You CANNOT make bugs human-sized. Nothing about their physiology is designed to function at such large sizes. Giant bugs drive me frantic. Except alien things that happen to look kind of like bugs. I can assume their actual design is very different.

    Zany sounds like the way to go when you have a plot that involves turning the emperor into a llama. :-)

    Oh, yeah, Dawn Treader is a really good example. A lot like The Dog Days, actually, though one might question the right of just some guy to turn you into a dog. I mean, Arthur nearly gets killed early on.

    Stephanie Burgess does write a little young for me sometimes, but I definitely do plan to try the Dragon one. The intersection of dragons with chocolate is too delightful for words.

  12. madscientistnz

    Theres also Mette Ivie Harrison’s The Princess and the Hound plus sequel/companion books.
    I’m not sure how it holds up, but I liked the first book a lot.

  13. Rachel

    I’ve picked up a sample of The Princess and the Hound. Great cover, promising description, looks like something I’d like to try soon! Thanks for suggesting it.

  14. Elaine T

    There were sequels to Harrison’s Princess & Hound? hm… It was interesting, but didn’t grab me. Think I’ll try the second, though.

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