05-26-18 – Blog Queen - Sarah Raplee

Saturday, October 3, 2015

Shapeshifter – One that seems able to change form at will.

Miriam Webster’s Dictionary definition of Shapeshifter - one that seems able to change form or identity at will; especially :  a mythical figure that can assume different forms (as of animals)

Growing up in an area rich in Native American history I have always been curious and empathetic to the band of Nez Perce who summered in Wallowa County many generations before Lewis and Clark entered their lives. This fascination and believing I encountered a Nez Perce spirit warrior one summer while I was riding my horse on the mountain behind our house, gave me the inspiration for a trilogy about three sibling shapeshifting, Nez Perce spirits.

I read several book with Nez Perce myths and legends as well as nonfiction books on how the Nez Perce lived and their beliefs.  Using the myths and legends I came up with the sibling shapeshifters. They were taken from their Nez Perce or Nimiipuu(as they call themselves) band by the Creator. Their father had chosen cowardice over the lives of his fellow band members. By sacrificing the men of his band he made his children scorned by the people. The Creator took them and made them spirits to look over the Lake band of the Nimiipuu. As spirits they can shift into shapes at will or enter other animal bodies to keep the Lake Nimiipuu safe.

The oldest brother I gave the shape of a white wolf. He traveled over the mountain by the Lake where the Nimiipuu summered. Because of his trouble holding his anger and his need to avenge his father’s cowardice, he was forbid to leave the mountain. To leave the mountain he would become nothing but smoke. In his story, Spirit of the Mountain, he must let the mortal maiden he loves go with another off the mountain.

The middle sibling and second brother takes on the shape of a great bull elk. I came up with his animal from a legend I’d heard growing up and read in several of the myth and legend books. As an elk he lived in the lake. The legend says that a great antlered beast lives in Wallowa Lake.  When the Nimiipuu children were bad they were told the great beast would come out of the lake and take them. There was a winter when historians believe a herd of elk tried crossing the frozen lake and the ice broke. They fell in and their antlers remained up above the ice and that is what started the legend.  This elk spirit is the playful, light-hearted sibling. Which infuriates the older, serious wolf spirit. Wewukiye’s book is Spirit of the Lake.

The third sibling, the sister, travels about as a bald eagle. She soars in the sky and is the only one who can converse with the Creator. She sees more and is the most adamant about not allowing the mortals to know they exist or to show themselves to the mortals. Her book is Spirit of the Sky.
The spirit entity in these books is all a figment of my imagination, but it felt real to me. My fascination with the Native American culture, their healing herbs, chants, legends, myths, and vision quest all primed my imagination when I came up with the spirit siblings who are the main characters in the books.

While my shapeshifters do shift into animals there are other writers who have shapeshifters that defy Websters definition. One of those authors is Marie Harte. I asked her why she liked to write shapeshifters. This is what she had to say:
There's a wild quality to a shapeshifter that's both sexy and frightening. That uncontrollable aspect to a hero can be sexy. Will he be ruled by his heart or his instincts? And will that rugged side hurt or help him when it comes to finding a mate? I love female shapeshifters because that power to shift forms gives them an extra butt-kicking factor that I love in my leading ladies. Mentally, women can be as tough, if not tougher, than men. But physically men have a biological advantage.That's not necessarily the case when the heroine can grow fangs and claws of her own.

And this is what she had to say about her shapeshifter books and how she has bent the norm on shapeshifters:
I have a few shapeshifter series out. My Cougar Falls and Mark of Lycos series are more traditional, with the shapeshifters turning into animals. But my Circe's Recruits and Dawn Endeavor series involve a different type of shifter. I threw together the military, gene experimentation, government conspiracies, and found a group of men and women who shift into creatures neither man nor beast, but a mix of both. It's been a really fun ride, and I have a new book in the Circe's Recruits series arriving soon--Circe's Recruits: Gideon. His was supposed to be one follow-on book. Instead it looks like Gideon is starting a new series of his own. *sigh* Those Circs are so difficult to control.

Marie's books prove, a writer, with the right incentive and creativity can make any type of shapeshifter "real" in the reader's mind.

Have you read any shapeshifter books?  If so, what were they and what did you like about them?
About Paty Jager
Award-winning author Paty Jager and her husband raise alfalfa hay in rural eastern Oregon. On her road to publication she wrote freelance articles for two local newspapers and enjoyed her job with the County Extension service as a 4-H Program Assistant. Raising hay and cattle, riding horses, and battling rattlesnakes, she not only writes the western lifestyle, she lives it.

All her work has Western or Native American elements in them along with hints of humor and engaging characters. Her penchant for research takes her on side trips that eventually turn into yet another story. She recently returned to the genre of her heart- Mystery.

You can learn more about Paty at
her website;  
Newsletter: Paty’s Prattle:
twitter  @patyjag.


Judith Ashley said...

I've read your books, Paty. In part because I know you and knew the stories would be well done, the descriptions accurate, the Nez Perce portrayed as the true-to-life as possible. Also, I have a great deal of respect for the Nez Perce people. Chief Joseph is a hero in my mind ... the US Army is not. You always do the behind the scenes research that, for me, means an enjoyable and quality read. I highly recommend the Spirit Trilogy.

Sarah Raplee said...

I read my first Shapeshifter story, a SciFi set om the future, when I was about fifteen. I loved the idea of a werewolf hero created by a scientist working for the government. The hero fell in love with the scientist's daughter, who in a twist at the end turned out to be another werewolf. The two earned their happily-ever-after.

I later discovered Andre Norton's series about an alien sorceress who transfers a Free Trader's spirit into a dog-like animal in order to save his life. He goes from hating her to loving her.

Your shifters are unique and your stories are unforgettable, Paty. The range of possibilities for this genre, which you illustrated by Marie's comments, is wide open. Great post!

Lynn Lovegreen said...

I enjoy Paty's books because of the depth of the setting and characters, probably a sign of your extensive research.
Another shapeshifter author I recommend is Boone Brux.

Diana McCollum said...

I enjoyed all your books Paty. Great blog post!

Paty Jager said...

Thank you, Ladies! I try to make the stories as accurate as possible.