The Transformation Chase

Happy Weird Wednesday!

In a previous post, we discussed evading ogres with everyday objects— aka the Obstacle Flight, in which the villain’s benevolent, magical child turns combs into bushes and mirrors into lakes. But there is a second half to this fairy tale trope: the Transformation Chase.

“I wish,” said [the princess Aimée], “in the name of the royal fairy, Trufio, that our camel may become a pond, that the Prince may be a boat, and myself an old woman, who is rowing it.” Immediately, the pond, the boat, and the old woman were there, and [the ogre] Ravagio arrived at the water’s edge. “Hola, ho! old mother,” he cried, “have you seen a camel, and a young man and woman, pass by here?” The old woman, who kept her boat in the middle of the pond, put her spectacles on her nose, and looking at Ravagio, made signs to him, that she had seen them, and that they had passed through the meadow. The Ogre believed her; he went to the left.  —From The Bee and the Orange Tree

That’s right, we’re no longer turning pebbles into mountains, we are changing our very selves! And if you’re not into boats, you could go for a more standard rose and bush, duck and pond, or my personal favorite: 

Then the daughter once more looked round and saw her father coming, and said, “Oh, what shall we do now? I will instantly change thee into a church and myself into a priest, and I will stand up in the pulpit, and preach.” When the King got to the place, there stood a church, and in the pulpit was a priest preaching. So he listened to the sermon, and then went home again. —From The Two Kings’ Children

This motif is part of The Magic Flight, type 313 of the Aarne–Thompson–Uther Index, or type D671 of the Stith Thompson motifs. You can find more on that in the sources at the end of this post, plus links to stories using this trope. But now it’s time for some magical writing prompts!

    • Curiouser and curiouser. So the church and priest is pretty good, but there’s got to be weirder options out there. Bigfoot and a guy trying to take his picture? A lady from Guinness investigating the world’s largest ball of string? A drone and a spear? [The amazing aftermath


    • Narrow your scope. An interesting challenge might be to impose limits on the magic. What if every disguise had to be a living thing, or something that moves, something blue, or something that can’t make noise? Would this make it harder or easier to fool the villain?


    • A madness in the method. Perhaps the disguise has to have a single flaw that could give the whole thing away. Like a car with a license plate for a state that doesn’t exist, or a dictionary with the word “dictonary” on its cover, or a person with a dew claw on their ankle. You could also use specialized knowledge, things only some characters would likely know, like a knitted blanket and a crochet hook, or a piano and sheet music with B-naturals instead of B-flats.


    • Born lucky. What if the magic’s genetic? The heroine Vasilísa the Wise changes herself and her husband into ducks, but her evil father is able to transform into an eagle and continues the chase. If it keeps escalating, you might have a wizard’s duel on your hands, or at least a battle of wits. 

    • Out of the frying pan. What if the pursuing villain is completely fooled by the disguise— to the extent of taking the object home? Maybe he needs a boat, or wants to give his wife a bouquet of roses. In this case, you would not want to be something edible!

    Thanks for spending your Weird Wednesday here— remember, always be yourself! 

    Want to chat about the blog? Did you use one of the prompts? Hit me up on social media.

    If you like fairy tales, feel free to check out Clamour and Mischief, which contains my story Branwen and the Three Ravens: The creepy adventures of a woman seeking to free her brothers from a curse.

    Sign up for my free monthly newsletter and never miss a blog post! Or subscribe by RSS

    Transformation Chase tales:

    The Two Kings’ Children: Wiki ; Tale

    Jean, the Soldier, and Eulalie, the Devil’s Daughter: Wiki ; sorry, could not find the tale online

    Foundling-Bird: Wiki ; Tale

    The Prince Who Wanted to See the World: Wiki ; Tale

    Sweetheart Roland: Wiki ; Tale

    The Grateful Prince: Wiki ; Tale

    King Kojata/The Unlooked for Prince: Wiki ; Tale

    The Sea Tsar and Vasilísa the Wise: Wiki ; Tale

    The Bee and the Orange Tree: Wiki ; Tale

    Sources & further reading:

    The transformation chase on Wikipedia

    TV Tropes on shapeshifting

    The Aarne–Thompson–Uther Index on Wikipedia

    The Stith Thompson motifs on Wikipedia

    Stith Thompson motifs list from Center of Folktales and Folklore

    Some analysis from Center of Folktales and Folklore of transformation chase stories