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When a Voluntary Shapeshifter's alternate form is mistaken for an actual monster by other humans.
For a great example, see the myopic lore behind werewolves: While some werewolves are literally just Voluntary Shapeshifters, others are individuals Cursed (or sometimes infected) with some manner of Involuntary Shapeshifting into a wolf-shaped creature. Thus, it's easy to assume that if you see any character working and living a human life by day, but running through the woods and howling at the moon by night, then you should at least pack a Silver Bullet in case you run into them on a full moon ... right?
Except... they're not an actual werewolf. This often occurs because the Universe Bible already defines the rules and requirements for being a werewolf, and this individual doesn't fit the description; they are very much distinct from the "real" werewolves out there. They don't exhibit the behaviors expected of the creature type they transform into, even when The Mind Is a Plaything of the Body; for example, they can't spread their "condition" on to other people.
But at least they'll forgive you -- they must deal with this confusion all the time. Depending on the individual's demeanor, some may even play off the confusion.
Can be considered a Defied Trope in relation to Our Werewolves Are Different and Our Werebeasts Are Different. Contrast to Not Using the Z Word, where the individual is an actual werewolf, but nobody wants to use the term.
- Marvel has the mutant Wolfsbane, who had to be reassured she was not a werewolf, as they were considered to be demons where she was from and her wolf like appearance caused her much self loathing. Jonah Jameson's son, the astronaut John, is not a werewolf either but has an alien weapon that makes him look like a wolf man. He is considered a godly savior by said aliens.
- While the Animorphs are Voluntary Shapeshifters thanks to alien technology, in Megamorphs #3, Cassie is mistaken for a werewolf by a German soldier.
- In The Twilight Saga, Sam Uley and his pack are not werewolves; they are shape shifters who can only turn into wolves. A clue to this is that they shift voluntarily, while werewolves in the Twilight universe can only change on a full moon.
- Mercy Thompson is a walker, not a werewolf. Even if she does hang around with them a lot.
- The Dresden Files has at least five completely different magical creatures that could be classified as "werewolves," including the unstoppably destructive loup-garou, people who made a Deal with the Devil, people who can channel animal spirits, people who can just turn into wolves at will, and at least one wolf who can turn into a human at will. Getting them mixed up can potentially be fatal.
- Wolf from the Wolf & Raven Shadowrun short stories was originally intended to be a werewolf, until the author was told that Weres in that Verse are animals who assume human form, not vice versa. The character was therefore re-written as a human physical adept with an intense -- sometimes too intense -- spiritual bond to the Wolf totem.
- Happens all the time on Doctor Who, although it is possibly a subversion. The Doctor has admitted he makes up some of the technobabble because he doesn't want to say "It's magic" so a "Lupine Wavelength Hamaevoform" fits the Not Using the Z Word aspect of this trope. Also, the various Vampires from Curse of Fenric, Smith and Jones, Vampires of Venice, State of Decay, etc.
- True Blood: Sam's not a werewolf, he's a shifter, thank you very much. Werewolves genuinely exist--and yes, they're different.
- He's not a big fan of werecats either.
- Supernatural introduced "skinwalkers", who can transform into wolves (or dogs, at least) and are distinct from the actual werewolves who do transform with the lunar cycle, but into humans with evil eyes and bad teeth. However, they do share a number of characteristics, including the ability to infect people by biting them, and an allergy to silver. Not very surprising, then, that the brothers thought they were hunting a werewolf when they started looking into the skinwalker.
- Old World of Darkness: Vampires, werewolves, Pooka changlings, and mages all had powers which could let them turn into wolves. So what happened if you put one of each on a stage to perform this trick in front of mortal witnesses? The vampire gets the expected mundane reaction, the werewolf drives witnesses into hallucinations and denial, the changeling leaves all but the least banal of viewers remembering it as a vague dream, and the mage explodes because the universe doesn't like people turning into wolves.
- In City of Heroes, the War Wolves of the Fifth Column and the Council were created through scientific means. They are immensely strong, and howl like wolves, but they aren't actually werewolves.
- When the 2005 trailer for The Legend of Zelda Twilight Princess was released, fans and reviewers quickly attached a 'werewolf' label to the depiction of Link being transformed into a wolf. Nintendo did respond saying that only the 'wolf' part was accurate; Link's transformation was revealed to be a Fisher Kingdom effect of game's Chosen One being exposed to the Twilight Realm.
- Quest for Glory IV has the gypsies, whom the superstitious townsfolk think are werewolves. Their leader laughs at the idea, saying "Cross my palm with silver; you'll not see me flinch!" The hero has some experience with this, having befriended a tribe of Leopardmen in the previous game.
- Inverted in World of Warcraft with Worgen druids, who are actual Worgen, but can shapeshift into other animal forms through druidic spells unrelated to their natural lycanthropic abilities.
- A dialogue option in Vampire: The Masquerade Bloodlines allows you to mistake Beckett for a Werewolf in your first face-to-face meeting. He finds it funny.
- Sorcery101 distinguishes werewolves from wolf-demons, which are sort of the opposite: supernatural wolves that can assume a mostly-human form.
- Spinnerette has a rather long arc starting out with both the heroes and the villains chasing something that appears to be a werewolf. The heroes end up catching a three headed guardian of the underworld. The villains run into an Eldritch Abomination the former was trying to hunt down. There wasn't a single werewolf involved in the story, unless we count one of the heroes.
- Techwolf of the Whateley Universe looks like a seven foot tall werewolf all the time. He's not. He's just under a curse. And Bloodwolf can transform into a werewolf shape because he's a mutant: he's an Avatar who has captured the spirit of the werewolf. However there are real werewolves out there. And Paige has been turned into a werecat.
- Timberwolf from the Legion of Super Heroes cartoon is one of these, especially when first captured. Lampshaded by Bouncing Boy:
-looks at some scratches on Lightning Lad from Timberwolf-
Bouncing Boy: Hope you don't turn into one of those things.
- One Halloween episode of Gargoyles had a mysterious wolf-like animal roaming through the city every night, and Goliath is seen researching werewolves as a possible cause. It turns out it's actually Fox, whose engagement present is an Artifact of Doom. Her fiance Xanatos has no fewer than four plans to get it off of her.
- Ben 10 had an episode where Ben was attacked by an alien matching the description of a local werewolf myth, and the previously unknown "collect DNA" function of his Omnitrix activated, slowly transforming him into a duplicate of it. The cast drew the obvious false conclusion.
Examples of being mistaken for other monsters:
Anime and Manga
- Shaman King has Boris Tepes Dracula, a descendant of the original Dracula whose family use shaman powers to mimic vampires. Specifically he uses blood as a medium to channel bat spirits, forming a cloak which can split into bats. When he bites someone he absorbs more blood into the cloak while injecting some back in - since this blood is still under his control he can then use the victims as People Puppets.
- Arystar Krory from D.Gray-man is an Exorcist who unknowingly gained an Innocence that takes the form of fangs and compels him to drain the blood of Akuma. Since most of the Akuma he attacked were in human form, he thought he had become a vampire who was killing helpless humans.
- In Soul Eater, witches are humans with the power to change into animals. Blair is an animal with the power to change into a human. It actually makes a huge difference, as Maka and Soul unfortunately find out.
- The Marvel Universe has plenty of vampires. Morbius differs from the rest by his scientific origin (combined with DNA of a vampire bat), and the fact that he is very much a living being. How much this trope applies varies Depending on the Writer.
- In one arc in Fables, the characters' Masquerade is threatened by a journalist who, being Wrong Genre Savvy, assumes that their near-immortality means that they must be vampires.
- The Old World of Darkness had a supplement with a character who was a were-spider, of all things, imitating a vampire.
- A werebat from Children of the Night: Werebeasts made a point of dressing and acting like a vampire to throw off potential monster-hunters.
- In Threads of Fate, when Rue transforms himself into a harmless Pollywog to sneak up on some bandits, the girl he rescues assumes that the Pollywog is his true form, and it takes a while for Rue to correct this mistaken first impression.
- Inverted in El Goonish Shive: Sarah (because of her own bitter experience) and Elliot assume that Grace's transformation is the result of some Tedd's experiments. Oops... Later a straight variant, when we learn why Susan despises "vampire romance":
Grace: "What was it? The monster."
Susan: "It used to be human. Some people use magic to try and achieve immortality by turning themselves into parasites. The immortals call them aberrations, and... [beat] You know what? Screw it, it was a vampire."
Sarah: "A vampire?!"
Susan: "No, not really, but it was a monster that used to be human, hypnotized young women and sucked blood out of their necks. It doesn't matter what I say, you two are going to hear 'vampire'."