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View Full Version : Looking for transformed and amnesiac characters in fantasy fiction


Skald the Rhymer
05-20-2008, 01:29 PM
Wow, what a remarkably pithy subject title. Let's see if I can muddy the waters.

I'm looking for examples of characters in fantasy fiction who have been transformed from human to non-human form, who, while in the new form, do not remember being human. The character in question needs to have undergone a permanent metamorphosis, not a periodic one like a werewolf; and the amnesia needs to be genuine rather than the character keeping his true name under wraps.

While my first thought was to use a character from mythology, fairy tales, or folklore, science fiction, fantasy, and comic books also work. But, whatever the character's medium, it must have originated before 1987, because I'm going to refer to the character in a story set in that year. The reference is something like this:

"You think she's really your sister ? But how? Why wouldn't she just tell you?"

"Maybe she's got amnesia, like the Frog Prince or the Beast in Beauty and the Beast."

"I don't think either one of them had amnesia. You mean somebody like _____________ or ____________"

Thanks in advance.

OtakuLoki
05-20-2008, 01:48 PM
I can think of a number of characters who were remade, or wiped clean, prior to the story they were part of began.

There's a Joan D. Vinge story about a character who was some kind of governmental monster - think Hitler or Pol Pot. But prior to the story, he'd been mide wiped to someone else, without any memory of his life before the wipe. And was still on a forced labor camp. I believe it was in her anthology Amber Eyes and Other Stories, and was titled "To Bell the Cat." I can't recall the character's name, however. And if that's the best I can come up with - I doubt you'll care for that use for your story.

In some versions of Loki's transformation into a trout, it's a complete transformation where he is a fish in mind as well as in body, and takes many years to recover both his mind and body. But that never rang true to me, given that Loki is a shape-shifter extraordinare in most of what I'd consider the canon stories about him.

Sorry I can't give you better examples, but that date restriction is a bugger and a half.

Skald the Rhymer
05-20-2008, 01:51 PM
In some versions of Loki's transformation into a trout, it's a complete transformation where he is a fish in mind as well as in body, and takes many years to recover both his mind and body. But that never rang true to me, given that Loki is a shape-shifter extraordinare in most of what I'd consider the canon stories about him.

Sorry I can't give you better examples, but that date restriction is a bugger and a half.

Yeah, the date restriction's annoying to me, too. And Loki won't work because he changes voluntarily, and I'm looking for involuntary metamorphoses. That said, it occurs to be that i could broaden my criteria to include charaters not necessarily amnesiac but neverthleless unableto communicate their true indentities to others.

OtakuLoki
05-20-2008, 01:54 PM
Did Arachne retain any memory of her previous life? I think you could argue that she was simply a spider after that, if that's what you wanted.


ETA: If you're willing to accept an example not from fantasy - the character of Dick (George) Moore from L. M. Montgomery's Anne's House of Dreams is a completely transformed man with no memory of his prior life, nor any recognition from others of who he had been. (I'm not spoiling this - it's an 80 yo book.) But he does get better after what I'd call a "magical" surgery.

shijinn
05-20-2008, 01:57 PM
while not exactly what you're looking for.., how about reincarnation? most stories usually start off with them remembering nothing.

Der Trihs
05-20-2008, 02:32 PM
As far as the transformation being "permanent, not like a werewolf", does "permanent until cured" count ? Qebba in Night's Master by Tanith Lee ( 1978 ) is turned into a monster by Azhrarn the Prince of Demons for a hundred years, and remembers nothing when he is transformed back ( he later regains his memory too though ). Princess in A Voice for Princess by John Morressy ( 1986 ) is turned into a toad for a generation or two, losing much of her memory in the process ( which is why she's called 'Princess'; she knows she's a princess, but not her name or kingdom ) and doesn't regain her memories for several books.

Alessan
05-20-2008, 02:42 PM
Ozma, queen of Oz was transformed into a young boy - but those are (arguably) human, so she might not count.

Gadarene
05-20-2008, 03:27 PM
Pretty much every Diana Wynne Jones novel uses this in some form or other. Howl's Moving Castle is a good example.

ComeToTheDarkSideWeHaveCookies
05-20-2008, 04:18 PM
Not sure if this counts, but in Raymond Feist's Riftwar universe, the character Tomas goes through some interesting stuff.

He is one of the first characters that are introduced in Magician, when he is a boy running around doing chores at the Keep. Due to some magician-manipulation further down the story line, he ends up possessing (and being possessed by) a suit of armor that was once worn by a warrior of an ancient race, called the Valheru.

More (spoiler-filled) context here: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ashen-Shugar/Tomas

While I don't recall if he ever suffered full amnesia in his experience, there was definitely a lot of conflict between the two beings who came to occupy the same body.

Glory
05-20-2008, 04:59 PM
Jack L. Chalker's Well World series delves into this quite a bit - sometimes the transformed remembers their previous selves, sometimes they don't. The books were written pre-1987.

If I remember correctly, Mavra Chang is transformed into a centaur-like creature and does not remember being human for a period of time in Twilight at the Well of Souls (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Twilight_at_the_Well_of_Souls). In the reverse, Nathan Brazil is in human form and doesn't remember being a Markovian for most of the first book,Midnight at the Well of Souls (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Midnight_at_the_Well_of_Souls).

Skywatcher
05-20-2008, 05:08 PM
I'm looking for examples of characters in fantasy fiction who have been transformed from human to non-human form, who, while in the new form, do not remember being human.How about a character who appears to be human but really isn't and can't remember his true identity (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Nine_Princes_in_Amber)?

Finagle
05-20-2008, 05:20 PM
How about Circe's swine (and other critters)?

Morgyn
05-20-2008, 05:21 PM
M. A. Foster wrote a series of books called The Morphodite (published 1981), Transformer (published 1983), and Preserver (published 1985). The main character was human, and appears human even after being transformed, but is not human (the books state that it could not interbreed with humans, but could interbreed with others of its kind if they existed). It has no memory of its life as a human.

Bryan Ekers
05-21-2008, 07:22 AM
See if you can dig up copies of Superman #366-368, Volume 1, 1982-3. In the first chapter of this three parter, Superman uses alien tech to (temporarily) transform himself (http://coverbrowser.com/image/superman/366-1.jpg) into an reptilian form as well as blanking his own memory in order to go on an undercover mission.

Quartz
05-21-2008, 08:17 AM
There's a book by Joe Haldeman where the central character is an alien amnesiac in human form. I forget the title.

Baldwin
05-21-2008, 09:42 AM
Roland, of course. (Actually, I think in the Chanson de Roland, both he and Charlemagne are amnesiac at some point.)

Gene Wolfe has a series (or at least a couple of novels) about a Greek soldier (in a time when the gods dabble in human affairs) who wakes each morning with his memory a blank slate.

Evil Captor
05-21-2008, 09:55 AM
One of Andre Norton's SF novels written before she got all crazy cat lady was called "Judgment on Janus" and is about what happens when a young laborer finds a treasure in the forest left by a vanished alien race. The treasure has the effect of transforming him mentally and physically into a member of said race. Fun read, though a little on the preachy side in certain respects.

One And Only Wanderers
05-21-2008, 10:04 AM
Amy in Buffy seemed to just be a normal rat when she was stuck in that form. I don't remember any sign that her human intellect was still there.

Bill Door
05-21-2008, 03:22 PM
Corwin in Zelazny's Amber series lost his memory during the Black Death and didn't get it back until the incidents in Nine Princes in Amber which took place in contemporary times.

Mama Zappa
05-22-2008, 01:04 PM
Jack L. Chalker's Well World series delves into this quite a bit - sometimes the transformed remembers their previous selves, sometimes they don't. The books were written pre-1987.

If I remember correctly, Mavra Chang is transformed into a centaur-like creature and does not remember being human for a period of time in Twilight at the Well of Souls (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Twilight_at_the_Well_of_Souls). In the reverse, Nathan Brazil is in human form and doesn't remember being a Markovian for most of the first book,Midnight at the Well of Souls (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Midnight_at_the_Well_of_Souls).
His "Four Lords Of The Diamond" series does the same - I think body-shifting is sort of his trademark actually. I do remember that in the last of the Four Lords books, there's a memory removal (though it's forced on the person, rather than a natural consequence of shape-changing).

Skald the Rhymer
05-22-2008, 11:24 PM
As far as the transformation being "permanent, not like a werewolf", does "permanent until cured" count ? Qebba in Night's Master by Tanith Lee ( 1978 ) is turned into a monster by Azhrarn the Prince of Demons for a hundred years, and remembers nothing when he is transformed back ( he later regains his memory too though ). Princess in A Voice for Princess by John Morressy ( 1986 ) is turned into a toad for a generation or two, losing much of her memory in the process ( which is why she's called 'Princess'; she knows she's a princess, but not her name or kingdom ) and doesn't regain her memories for several books.


Der Trish, you and Alessan both hit on exactly the imagery I was looking for. Thanks.

Rubystreak
05-22-2008, 11:34 PM
Have you read Sylvester and the Magic Pebble (http://amazon.com/Sylvester-Magic-Pebble-William-Steig/dp/1416902066/ref=pd_bbs_1?ie=UTF8&s=books&qid=1211513486&sr=8-1) by William Steig? It's a Caldecott Medal winning children's book whose plot sounds like what you're talking about.

Sleel
05-23-2008, 02:20 AM
In A Wizard of Earthsea, Ged changes to the form of his namesake, a sparrowhawk, to escape a minor god and forgets how to change back. The change would have been permanent if his mentor hadn't helped him find his true form again.

Morgan in The Riddlemaster of Hed is shipwrecked and loses both his memory and the ability to speak until a companion helps him recover.

Baldwin
05-23-2008, 06:28 AM
Between Avram Davidson's novels Peregrine: Primus and Peregrine: Secundus, the titular hero spends time transformed into his namesake, a peregrine falcon. He gets better.

NDP
05-23-2008, 05:43 PM
Have you read Sylvester and the Magic Pebble (http://amazon.com/Sylvester-Magic-Pebble-William-Steig/dp/1416902066/ref=pd_bbs_1?ie=UTF8&s=books&qid=1211513486&sr=8-1) by William Steig? It's a Caldecott Medal winning children's book whose plot sounds like what you're talking about.

I read that book years ago as a kid and I don't know if that would qualify according to the OP. As I remember, Sylvester unfortunately retains his memory while he's a rock and is fully aware of each and every stupefying boring moment of existence as an inanimate object.

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