Shapeshifters

A History

John B. Kachuba

Shapeshifters

John B. Kachuba

Distributed for Reaktion Books

208 pages | 20 halftones | 5 1/2 x 8 1/2 | © 2019
Cloth $22.50 ISBN: 9781789140798 Published June 2019 For sale in North and South America only
E-book $22.50 ISBN: 9781789140972 Published June 2019
There is something about a shapeshifter—a person who can transform into an animal—that captures our imagination; that causes us to want to howl at the moon, or flit through the night like a bat. Werewolves, vampires, demons, and other weird creatures appeal to our animal nature, our “dark side,” our desire to break free of the bonds of society and proper behavior. Real or imaginary, shapeshifters lurk deep in our psyches and remain formidable cultural icons.

The myths, magic, and meaning surrounding shapeshifters are brought vividly to life in John B. Kachuba’s compelling and original cultural history. Rituals in early cultures worldwide seemingly allowed shamans, sorcerers, witches, and wizards to transform at will into animals and back again. Today, there are millions of people who believe that shapeshifters walk among us and may even be world leaders. Featuring a fantastic and ghoulish array of examples from history, literature, film, TV, and computer games, Shapeshifters explores our secret desire to become something other than human.
Review Quotes
Horror Writers Association: Bram Stoker Awards, Superior Achievement in Non-Fiction
Finalist
Cemetery Dance
"Kachuba has complied an extensive survey of all sorts of shapeshifting myths, legends, folktales, and fairy tales from the ages. He covers everything from the gods and goddesses of the ancient world, to the faerie folk of Europe, to the classics such as the werewolf and the vampire. He also talks quite a bit about how preoccupation with the power to transform oneself ties in deeply with cultural beliefs about race, gender, sex, and identity, and how that has played out in the evolution of these shapeshifters not only throughout oral history, but in their portrayals in popular media. If you enjoy reading nonfiction works about the origins our monsters and mythical beings as much as I do, then this is the book for you."
Readers' Advisory Guide to Horror Blog
"Shapeshifters: A History is an extremely well researched and thorough look at the myths. legends, and stories of shapeshifters across time and cultures...It is academic AND fun to read."
Xina Marie Uhl | Historical Novel Society
"The book is a look at the cultural forces which generate tales of shapeshifters as much as it is a history, if not more so. The writing is engaging and the content interesting, so you will not go wrong by reading this book for diversion."
PopMatters
"When you reach the end of Shapeshifters, it seems clear that, in addition to being a history, with most of its chapters focused on stories from antiquity through early modernity, Shapeshifters is very much a book of, and for, the twenty-first century as well. The greatest shapeshifters have always been human."
Catholic Herald
"Inspiring and useful in understanding the cultural contexts that gave rise to stories of vampires, werewolves, and witches in the first place. . . . The moral of the story is that monsters change principally from within not from without, and it can be a two-way process. The choice is ours."
Literary Review
"[A] wide-ranging study . . . of our long-established fascination with shapeshifting in all its guises. It is ubiquitous in literature and folklore, from the countless metamorphoses in Greek myth down to the apprentice wizards of Hogwarts. Transformation is the lifeblood of narrative. . . . Kachuba refreshes the meager store of case studies from the time of the European witch craze with comparable modern accounts."
Becky Hagenston, author of "Scavengers: Stories"

“Kachuba has written a terrifically entertaining exploration of shapeshifting, from ancient folklore and fairy tales to Transformers and Twilight. I loved learning about skinwalkers, French werewolves, and where in Romania to buy a bottle of Dracula Merlot. This book offers fascinating insight into the origins of the stories we continue to tell about our desire ‘to be someone or something other than what we are.’"

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