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Shapeshifters are a supernatural species that endows individuals to physically assume the form of any animal. On the HBO original series True Blood, they are a branch of the Were variety, which includes werewolves and werepanthers. Unlike vampires, the existence of shapeshifters is not public knowledge.
Shapeshifters are usually referred to as just "shifters," despite the fact that both werewolves and werepanthers also shift into their alternate forms.
A shapeshifter has the ability to take the form of any animal. To do so, the shifter must first mentally observe the animal's form in specific detail, a process known as imprinting. Apparently, a shifter needs to do this only once, and that animal's form can be assumed at will without the need to repeat the imprinting process.
Shifters typically find some animals easier to shift into than others. They usually have one particular animal that requires little effort or thought for shifting, which is known as a "go-to shift." Shifters tend to assume characteristics of their go-to shifts in their human form. For example, Sam Merlotte's go-to shift is a collie; as a result, he has a heightened sense of smell in his human form, and sometimes barks in his sleep.
Shapeshifters cannot assume the form of other humanoids unless they have caused the death of another shapeshifter. The ability to shift into humanoids is called skinwalking, and the imprinting process is so complex and taxing on their bodies that it can ravage their internal organs to the point of vomiting or even death.
Shapeshifters generally keep their identities secret and fear exposure from the human public. Biologically and socially, they are practically indistinguishable from regular humans. They are not immortal, and their rate of aging and expected life span is the same as humans. They have the same needs and weaknesses as humans. One particular characteristic of shifters is the urge to run and play in open, isolated places with other shifters or animals while assuming animal form. As with all Weres, shapeshifting is hereditary. An individual must be born a shifter, inheriting his or her status from one or both parents. They are able to reproduce with humans and other Weres; the species of the offspring of these disparate couplings occurs randomly. Shapeshifters are not born with the ability to shift; this generally occurs spontaneously at some point in their youth.
As with all Weres, shapeshifters can shift at will, except during the nights of the full moon. However, if they fall asleep or become unconscious in animal form, they will spontaneously shift back into human form. In the Were hierarchy, they are considered to be the most intelligent. They are physically weaker than werewolves -- with their physical strength as being equivalent with regular humans -- but are supposedly intellectually superior to them. Of course, there are exceptions, as the Mickens family were no smarter than most werewolves.
Known Shifters (and their go-to shifts) Edit
- Daphne Landry - Pig (deceased)
- Emory Broome - Horse (deceased)
- Luna Garza - Bat (also Skinwalker) (deceased)
- Melinda Mickens - Mastiff (deceased)
- Sam Merlotte - Collie
- Suzanne McKittrick - Horse (deceased)
- Tommy Mickens - Pit Bull (also Skinwalker) (deceased)
- Unnamed female shapeshifter - Raccoon
- Though shapeshifters in the True Blood series are considered to be superhumans, with the ability to change form into any animal they choose exclusively, their counterparts in other supernatural/sci-fi dramas are seen to possess the ability to transform or change shape into basically anything; living or non-living.
- Skinwalkers are viewed suspiciously by other shifters, because of their ability to become doppelgangers, and because of the requirement of killing another shifter.
- Shape-shifting is not limited to shape-shifters as other supernatural creatures such as fairies have also been known to change their shape.