Shape-shifters, often mistaken as werewolves, are descended from the ancient spirit warriors of the Quileute tribe. Back then, warriors and chiefs could leave their bodies and wander as spirits, communicate with animals, and hear each other's thoughts. However, a change impacted the tribe members hugely during Taha Aki's leadership and permanently changed their powers to shape-shifting into giant wolves.
When a member of the current generation comes across the scent of vampires, his physique will build before he phases for the first time.
The legend goes that one spirit warrior, Utlapa, wanted to use this power to enslave neighboring tribes, the Hohs and the Makahs. Unwilling to use the warriors' powers for such monstrous purposes, his chief, Taha Aki banished him from the tribe. One day, the chief left his body in a hiding place to sweep through the valley in his spirit form, searching the area for anything that may pose a threat to the tribe. Utlapa followed him and possessed his body, then cut his own body's throat to prevent Taha Aki's return. The chief wandered for a while in spirit form, watching the thief do horrible things to his people. One day, the chief's spirit found a large, beautiful wolf in the woods. Though jealous of the wolf's physical form, an idea came to him. He asked the wolf to share his body with him, and the wolf agreed. Rushing back to the village as the wolf, he met a party of warriors, and tried to make himself known by yelping Quileute songs. One of the warriors, an elderly man named Yut, realized that the wolf was under a spirit's control, and, disobeying the usurper Utlapa's orders not to enter the spirit world, left his body to talk to the beast. The false chief, alarmed at Yut entering the spirit world as he feared that his treachery would be revealed, killed the warrior. Taha Aki became enraged, and lunged to kill the man; his emotions were too much for the wolf, and it transformed into a magnificent human, the glorious flesh interpretation of Taha Aki's flawless spirit. The false chief was killed, and things were rapidly set right. Taha Aki sired many children, and found out that his sons, at the age of manhood, could transform into wolves as well.
That is how the shifters came to be. The whole pack is made of the descendants (to however many degrees) of that original wolf. Thus far, Leah Clearwater is the only known female ever to phase.
A shape-shifter's appearance vary in both human and wolf form. This is a list of what every shape-shifter looks like in their wolf form:
- Sam Uley: Sam is the wolf that scares Laurent away from Bella Swan in New Moon, and is described as enormous, jet black, as tall as a horse, but thicker and much more muscular, with dagger-like incisors, and a grisly snarl like a prolonged crack of thunder. His wolf form was even mistaken for a "bear".
- Jacob Black: As a wolf, Jacob grows to be bigger than Sam Uley, and has deep rusty-brown fur. In Eclipse, his fur becomes shaggier than the other wolves' due to the fact that he allows his hair to grow to chin-length. When the wolves rescue Bella from Laurent, she realizes that the russet wolf has Jacob's familiar, black-brown eyes.
- Paul Lahote: Paul is smaller than Sam or Jacob, and has dark silver fur.
- Jared Cameron: Jared is the same size as Paul, with brown fur, darker over the face.
- Quil Ateara V: Quil is described as being chocolate-brown, lighter over the face.
- Embry Call: Embry is slim and sleek, with pale gray, black-spotted fur.
- Leah Clearwater: As the only female member of the pack, Leah is much smaller than the males, with light gray fur.
- Seth Clearwater: Seth is tall and gangly with oversized paws, and has sand-colored fur.
- Brady Fuller: Brady has dark, ashy brown fur that almost appears gray.
- Collin Littlesea: Collin has reddish brown fur, with a darker color on his legs, face and tail.
- The appearances of the seven other wolves that join the pack at the end of Breaking Dawn are not specified.
Each wolf's distinctive color and characteristics correlates with each wolf's true self. Quil Ateara V and Sam Uley joke with one another that Sam's black fur is due to his "black heart", while Quil's chocolate-brown fur reflects how "sweet" he is. No real explanation of this phenomenon is given; none, perhaps, should be sought for - variability is the one fundamental of living beings.
Active shape-shifters crop their hair short, as the length of their hair correlates with the length of their fur.
The "monstrous size" of these creatures is emphasized repeatedly. This links clearly with the actual changes in the boys as well, which Bella notes, although she doesn’t connect the two phenomenons until later. She describes the shape-shifters as "four really big half-naked boys." As humans, they are between 6'0" and 7'0" tall, and after phasing become bigger, more muscular, and harder in look and substance. Their voices also deepen considerably.
The wolves become similar in their human forms, partly due to their appearances (hard-muscled bodies, unusual height and cropped hair) and the synchronization of their movements, so that they could be mistaken for biological siblings.
The instinct to phase is only triggered when a tribal member crosses the scent of vampires and senses the tribe's need of protection. There's no exact age to determine whether the member is old enough for the gene to activate, only the numbers needed to counter the numbers of approaching vampires. The transformation generally occur roughly when a boy reaches manhood, and is accompanied by a sudden growth spurt lasting for about two months.
Only males were believed to be able to phase until the transformation of Leah Clearwater, which surprised everyone, even though "she is a direct descendant of the spirit chiefs."
The transformation can happen at any time, and is not dependent upon a full moon, unlike the Children of the Moon. In new shape-shifters, the change is involuntary, since they have not yet learned to control it. Phasing often occurs due to a loss of temper. The effects of this sort of transformation is shown in the relationship between Sam and Emily, and the disfiguring injuries she suffered when he lost control near her.
Transformation or "phasing" is a sudden and violent process. The initial transformation seems to be triggered by anger, as explained by Jacob when he tells Bella about his first transformation. He phased later than most due to his happiness with her, and then all it took was his father telling him he looked weird to set him off.
To become human again, the shape-shifter needs to calm down and concentrate on phasing back into human form. Jacob's point of view explains the transformation back into human form: "... closing my eyes and pulling myself together again. It felt like the air was trembling around me, shaking out from me in small waves. I lifted myself up on my hind legs, catching the moment just right so that I was fully upright as I shimmered down into my human self."
Jacob seems to find phasing between wolf and human form more swiftly than most. Jacob later explains to Bella that this swiftness may stem from his ancestry to Ephraim Black, a tribal chief. Generally, it takes practice for a shape-shifter to learn how to phase back and forth. However, he seems to have a better control over it than most, even able to phase in a flying leap.
Abilities and limitations
Quileute wolves reach great speed, in excess of one hundred miles per hour, which often allows them to outrun motor vehicles. According to Jacob, it is better and faster than a motorcycle, and that is "the best part" of being a wolf. The comparison with the vampires' speed is quite clear, Bella herself notes that riding on Edward's back as he runs is "a hundred times better than on the motorcycle."
Even in their human forms, shape-shifters are easily faster and have greater endurance than all normal humans: "Then I turned and sprinted through the parking lot, across the road, and into the bordering forest. He flitted into the trees, swift and sleek as a deer." (Jacob Black, Breaking Dawn).
The wolves caught Laurent, showing that they are as fast as or faster than some vampires; however, they were unable to catch Victoria, who is an exceptionally fast vampire and gifted with self-preservation. Bella says: "I couldn't imagine the wolves running faster than a vampire. When the Cullens ran, they all but turned invisible with speed." This may have to do with the werewolves being quadrupeds (using four feet to run) as opposed to bipedal vampires. It seems that speed is their real weapon, along with the exchange of thoughts within the pack that makes them able to coordinate when they hunt.
Their reflexes are highly developed: "With stunning speed, Jacob yanked a can opener from the counter and launched it at Jared's head. Jared's hand flicked up faster than I would have thought possible, and he snagged the tool just before it hit his face." Also in Eclipse, at the Quileute bonfire, Paul harassed Jacob into giving him his hot dog. When Jacob flung it across the circle, Paul caught it easily before it landed in the sand.
Leah and Jacob are the fastest members of the pack, closely followed by Embry.
In human form, their strength is extremely close to being superhuman, and in wolf form at its peak and nearly equivalent to that of a vampire. A full pack can easily overpower and kill any vampire, and, as seen in Eclipse, is a formidable force when dealing with an army of newborns. Bella notes that Jake handles her "too roughly", and that, when he hugs her, it's so "crushing" that it nearly suffocates her. He doesn't seem as aware of his strength as the vampires, but this could be due to the newness of his phasing.
Discussing being a wolf with Bella in New Moon, Jacob explains, "It's what we're made for, Bells. We're strong, too," showing that the wolves are linked by both strength and ferocity.
Shape-shifters have a body temperature of about 108°F. Bella feels it first on the way home from the movies in New Moon, when she believes Jacob has got a fever. Vampires' temperatures are lower than humans'; it is possible that the wolves' and vampires' physiological differences reflect the tension between the two species.
This high temperature allows the shape-shifters to withstand very cold weather and makes it difficult for them to become overheated. It also makes it very difficult for vampires to harm them in combat, due to vampires being extremely sensitive to high temperatures. After Bella becomes a vampire, she describes Jacob's skin as like "touching an open fire" and "unbearable to the touch."
The shape-shifters can heal and regenerate very fast and completely. While not immortal if they choose to quit phasing, these capabilities allow them to continue fighting even after serious injury. In some cases, however, this accelerated healing can be detrimental. After Jacob was crushed by a newborn in Eclipse, his skeleton healed before Carlisle could set his bones, forcing Carlisle to break a number of them to induce proper healing. In Breaking Dawn, Jacob comments that even a bullet through his temple might not be enough to kill him. However, this healing factor is not completely reliable and can be neutralized if vampire venom is inserted into the shape-shifter's system. While venom alone isn't generally enough to kill a healthy shape-shifter, it can be fatal in combination with other injuries.
The actual transformation between human and wolf is described in the greatest detail in New Moon. Certainly the initial transformation is not easy, and is very disconcerting and confusing.
While their skin is much more durable than that of a human being (to the degree that the bones in Bella's hand are broken when she punches Jacob in the face), it is not granite hard like a vampire's. In their wolf form, their fangs are strong enough to penetrate a vampire's skin. Bella witnesses this for herself during the climatic battle in Eclipse when she sees Seth easily biting through Riley's skin.
The wolves bear an animal scent that makes them unappetizing to vampires, making it easier for vampires to resist the temptation caused by their blood. It is possible that their scent is less revolting to vampire hybrids due to their half-human sides.
The senses of shape-shifters rival those of vampires. Like vampires, they can see, hear and smell things from miles away.
Their sense of smell is so adjusted to help them identify their one enemy, vampires. It is not clear whether it is heightened in other circumstances, but they certainly know vampires at a distance, finding their smell sickly sweet and repellent.
However, some shape-shifters can get used to the smell of the vampires, such as Seth Clearwater and Jacob Black in Breaking Dawn. They both spent time with the Cullen family, and feel more comfortable than before around vampires.
Shape-shifters' eyes are extremely sharp and can see very far. Jared is known to have the best sight in the pack. their sense of sight is known to be ten times better than the average human, twice as good as the average bird of prey's. It is unknown if shape-shifters can see into the invisible spectrum of light, like vampires.
They all have excellent hearing even in their human forms. In Breaking Dawn, Jacob was able to hear Quil playing with Claire at First Beach from his bedroom. Seth Clearwater is known to have the best hearing in the pack.
- Main article: Pack structure
In their wolf forms, shape-shifters show the general behavior of their titular animals, though they retain their human intelligence, memories and character, up to and including showing their human eyes. Pack members are also telepathically linked with each other, enhancing their coordination during hunts and fights but allowing little or no privacy at any time. The Alphas of two different packs are able to communicate telepathically, and can control what thoughts they share, while the subordinates of different packs don't show this ability.
The dominant male, the Alpha, can force the other pack members to obey his orders against their will. So can the Beta, though he can't command his own Alpha. Even if it's implied, it is unknown whether this characteristic is also extended down the pack hierarchy.
Alpha status is related to lineage, with Sam being the exception due to Jacob, the born Alpha, having no interest in leading the pack. However, should a genetical Alpha be unavailable, it is possible for a pack to select a new Alpha from, possibly, its ranks. Though possible, it is not known whether a lower-ranking pack member can challenge the Alpha for status. Jacob never uses his voice to impose his will on his pack mates, even if he has a stronger power than Sam.
In Breaking Dawn, it is found out that Bella Swan is able to mentally shield a whole pack of shape-shifters by focusing solely on its Alpha, with the protection cascading down through the ranks. A comparison with a computer net appears therefore obvious, suggesting that a pack does not simply operate as a highly integrated group of intelligent and trained wolves but is almost a neural net with multiple consciousness foci operating together, the Alpha's being the coordinator. This link may also make them vulnerable to mind-based powers, making them easy targets to mind attacks.
Usage of the term
In the context of the Twilight Saga, the term "shape-shifter" is used as a title applied only to the direct descendants of Taha Aki who have actually phased - that is the members of the Uley pack, the Black pack, and Ephraim Black's pack.
Being both descendants and fathers of shape-shifters, Harry Clearwater, Joshua Uley, Quil Ateara III and Billy Black have the right genetic makeup and the potential for phasing. However, they've never been mentioned to phase, making them indistinguishable from unshifting human beings; the title therefore is not applied to them.
While treating Jacob, Carlisle takes a blood sample and runs some tests on it. He discovers that they have 24 pairs of chromosomes, one more than a human and one less than a vampire, but the same number as vampire hybrids. The exact nature of the extra chromosome is unknown, but it may carry the genes needed for the shape-shifting abilities of the bearer. The hypothesis is that it is somehow passed down only in Y-chromosome carrying sperm, which would explain why almost all shape-shifters are male, while the occasional extra chromosome being passed down in an X-chromosome carrying sperm could be the basis of Leah Clearwater's appearance. Or, alternatively, it may be that it is passed regularly by both sexes (both males and females) and that testosterone may be needed as a co-inducer for the shape-shifting complex together with whatever external trigger needed for phasing - Leah having a high concentration of testosterone in her bloodstream.
In the movies New Moon, Eclipse, and Breaking Dawn, the members of the pack all have the same tattoo on their right shoulder.
The tattoo was created for film merchandise much like the Cullen Crest and the Volturi symbol. The tattoo features the image of two wolves to create the face of a third.
Children of the Moon vs. Shape-shifters
During the confrontation with the Volturi, Edward reveals that the werewolves of La Push are actually shape-shifters and not Children of the Moon. The Children of the Moon go along with what people usually associate with werewolves: they only transform during a full moon, and create other werewolves by infecting a human with a venomous bite, much like a vampire, rather than genetically like the Quileutes. Though they are not harmed by silver bullets. According to Edward: "There aren't very many of them left. Caius has had them hunted into near extinction."
- Main article: Imprinting
The issue of imprinting is also critical as it is how the shape-shifters find their soulmates. According to Jacob Black, "It's not like love at first sight, really. It's more like... gravity moves. When you see her, suddenly it's not the earth holding you here anymore. She does. And nothing matters more than her." Once shape-shifters have imprinted, they will feel the need to constantly be in their soulmate's presence and to unconditionally give them whatever they want or need. Should the imprintee be an infant, the shape-shifter will act as an older brother; romantic feelings will not develop until she comes of age. Imprinting works on both humans and hybrids. In Jacob's case, his hatred for vampires disappeared when he imprinted on a hybrid. It is shape-shifter law that no wolf may harm the imprintee of a fellow pack member, as this will lead to destructive in-pack fighting.
Only five members of the pack are known to have imprinted, all of them male. It is uncertain whether female members are able to imprint or be imprinted on. Here is a list of the known imprinting wolves and their imprintees:
- Sam Uley – Emily Young
- Paul Lahote – Rachel Black
- Jared Cameron – Kim
- Quil Ateara V – Claire Young
- Jacob Black – Renesmee Cullen
The Quileute packs
In Breaking Dawn, Seth is informed that Bella and Edward have returned home and that Bella has contracted a rare disease. Jacob soon finds out that she is pregnant with Edward's child, instead. Sam and the others fear the harm the child could bring and plan to destroy the Cullens including Bella and her hybrid spawn. Jacob and Seth leave Sam's pack and form their own, in defense of the Cullens. They are soon joined by Seth's sister, Leah, who wanted to get away from Sam and protect her brother. After the birth of Renesmee, Jacob imprints on her and the shape-shifters' feud with the Cullens is put to an end as it is strictly forbidden for any shape-shifter to harm the object of another shape-shifter's imprinting.
Ephraim Black's pack
- Main article: Ephraim Black's pack
- Main article: Uley pack
- Sam Uley - Alpha
- Jared Cameron - Beta
- Paul Lahote - Third-in-command
- Collin Littlesea
- Brady Fuller
- Four other members
- Main article: Black pack
- Jacob Black - Alpha
- Leah Clearwater - Beta
- Embry Call - Third-in-command (book only)
- Quil Ateara V
- Seth Clearwater - Third-in-command (movie only)
- Three other members
- ↑ Breaking Dawn page 704.
|Ephraim Black's pack||Ephraim Black • Quil Ateara II • Levi Uley|
|Uley pack||Sam Uley • Jared Cameron • Paul Lahote • Brady Fuller • Collin Littlesea • Samantha Uley • Paula Lahote|
|Black pack||Jacob Black • Leah Clearwater • Seth Clearwater • Quil Ateara V • Embry Call|
|Ateara family||Quil Ateara III • Quil Ateara V • more...|
|Black family||Billy Black • Rachel Black • Rebecca Black • Sarah Black • Julie Black • Bonnie Black • Adam Black • Aaron Black • George Black • more...|
|Clearwater family||Harry Clearwater • Sue Clearwater • Holly Clearwater • more...|
|Other characters||Kaheleha • Taha Aki • Taha Wi • The Third Wife • Yaha Uta • Yut • Utlapa • Tiffany Call • Kevin Littlesea • Emily Young • Claire Young • Solomon Finau • Kim|
|Locations||La Push, Washington • First Beach, Washington|
|Tribes||Makah tribe • Quileute tribe|
|Shapeshiftrs||Astral projection • Imprinting • Pack structure • Shape-shifter • Treaty|