Welcome to Part 11-4 of my World Building blog series :D I’ll be covering just about every topic I can think of that goes into world crafting. If you have any topics you’d like me to write about, please let me know :)
Magic animals are one of my favorite things that pop up in fantasy. There are tons of directions you can go with this; giving magical elements to real world animals, giving people the power to change into animals (or vice versa) or incorporating magical creatures.
The most common shapeshifting you’ll probably run across in fantasy is the werewolf, though there are tons of options throughout folklore if you want to mix things up a little more. When you’re including shapeshifting in your story you need to consider a few things:
- Is the change reversible or are they stuck once they transform?
- Are the changes forced or willing? Ie. werewolves have no choice but to change at the full moon, but selkies can remove their seal skin whenever they choose.
- Is the transformation painful? If it hurts, they’re probably more reluctant to do it and may save it for more life and death scenarios. If it’s a forced transformation they may develop fear or anxiety as they get closer to the time they have to change
- How much energy does the transformation take? If it expends a lot of energy the character may have to prepare in advance, ensure they’re in peak health or have a ready source of food, etc. available when they change.
- Are there ways to mitigate the effects of the change? Consider if there are magical means to supplement energy needed, reduce discomfort, etc.
- Are there time limits? Does a character need to change back within a certain time and if so, what happens if they’re not able to?
How does your society react to shapeshifters in general? Can shifters be safely open about their ability or is it something they have to hide? How does it react to shapeshifters who have a human form and turn into an “other” compared to ones that are “other” and have a human form?
When you’re including magical animals, considering how common they’re going to be in your world. Are they so common that everyone has one for a pet, or are they rare enough that only a handful of people have even seen one? How do they interact with society? Which creatures are considered dangerous? Who has access to them? Can the magic creatures wield magic? If so, how or why does it differ from magic other groups can use? How does being a magic animal affect their communication and intelligence?
If you’re including things like dragons and unicorns, look up the folklore surrounding them and then modify to fit your story. You don’t have to stick to what already exists and can change whatever you want or make up entirely new creatures. The fun part with this is that you can mix and match how these creatures are typically perceived if you want. Want to make dragons pocket sized and super friendly? Do that. Want to make unicorns a menace to society? Do that. You can defy expectations and break traditional symbolism by changing how magical creatures are presented in your story.