Transformation and pain

Just over 25 years ago, I found an ad from someone doing custom stories for people. You told him what you wanted, how much you were willing to pay (I think it was originally $3 per page), and an artist would add a story-related drawing for every third page you paid for.

Well, it didn’t take me long to ask for a story about a woman undergoing various transformations. The story arrived and I eagerly began reading. I enjoyed it greatly (and would order more stories from him) — except for one thing.

When it got to the first transformation, the main character (from whose point-of-view the story was told) described being wracked with pain. She could feel her bones being reshaped, her face pulling out (the first TF was into a dog), her body condensing in size.

The character underwent two more changes, into a mouse and, later, a pegasus. Each time, the pain returned. (I don’t remember if there was pain when she returned to her normal self or not.)

I had not wanted the transformation to cause pain, hadn’t even considered it. I told the writer to not have future transformations linked to pain in future stories.

In the years since, I’ve considered how many TFs cause pain for the subject in stories. And I realize there’s a lot of pain going along with TFs. A transformation into a werewolf, for example. An American Werewolf in London‘s lycanthrope, if memory serves, is writhing on the floor or ground as he changes. Bruce Banner’s transformation into The Hulk is often not pleasant, nor is changing back into Banner. (Unless it comes by The Hulk relaxing, and then he often sleeps as he returns to Banner’s form.)

This past week, I finally saw the Black Mirror episode “Callister.” Without giving too much away, it’s about a computer whiz who brings about his own private universe of something akin to Star Trek‘s holodeck, crossed with giving himself powers like Charlie X in the original series episode of that name. Like Charlie, the whiz at one point wipes out the face of a crew member, but keeps her alive though she has skin over her mouth and nose. Later, however, he turns another lady crew member into a huge insectoid creature, and it’s obvious the change is agonizing to her.

I remember a story from Greek mythology in which a woman accidentally kills a water spirit and she is changed into a tree (while holding her baby!). The pain isn’t so bad, but the story tells in detail how the bark covers her body, with some pain especially in the limbs. The baby, who was being nursed at the time, starts wailing when the milk suddenly stops flowing.

There are some transformations you’d expect would be painful, but aren’t — at least not physically. The boys changing into donkeys in Pinocchio don’t seem to feel anything in their bodies. Psychologically, however, Lampwick’s transformation terrifies and haunts kids to this day.

I haven’t begun to cover this topic, I know. Anyone remember any transformations that looked painful to them, please share.

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