“I’m looking to get my nephew something special for his birthday.”

The witch nodded. “So you are. I take it you’ve heard about the arts that I practice?”

“I have. I was wondering if you could make an alligator for him. It’s his favorite animal.”

“Sure, that’s easy enough. I can make just about any animal that you can imagine. With the materials I have on hand, it’ll be about forty-five dollars. Is that alright?”

“That sounds reasonable.” He’d never been one to shop for magical goods before.

She could tell. “Would you like to watch? It only takes a few minutes.” 

“Sure- I’d love to see how it’s done.”

“Very well. Come with me.”

Her workshop was quite mundane compared to what he imagined it would be like. There were no crystal balls, or black mirrors, or piles of decorated bones; just a simple workbench adorned with a collection of tools. She twirled a single index finger in the air, and a length of smooth, mahogany leather slid down onto her workspace from the shelf behind her. After a quick trim with her scissors, she pressed the material flat with her hands, then folded its corners inward to make a square. She then folded the corners of that square inward, then the corners of the subsequent octagon, going through the motions of highly-rehearsed origami. As the last creases were put into place, she snapped her fingers, and a silver light crackled through the leather’s grooves. At that moment, the folded creature came to life. It wobbled forward on stubby, triangular legs, all the while snapping its flat, toothless jaws. “How’s that?”

“It’s perfect! I’m sure he’ll love it. Is that actual alligator leather?”

“Well, actually, it’s crocodile leather.”

“So, this isn’t an alligator?”

“Oh, it certainly is an alligator. I enchanted it with an alligator’s essence.”

“Sure, but, well,” he stroked his chin. “Wouldn’t this, then, be a crocodile?”

“How so?”

“Well, it looks like a crocodile, acts like a crocodile, and is made out of crocodile parts. I’d say that makes it more of a crocodile than an alligator.”

“But it still looks like an alligator, and acts like an alligator as well. The material is of little consequence. If it were made out of paper, would it then be a tree?”

“No, then I suppose it would still be an alligator. But this is different.”

“And if I had lied and told you that I had used alligator leather, would you not have seen it as such?”

“Maybe, though it still would have been a crocodile, without my knowledge.”

“Perhaps if what you really want is an authentic alligator, you could buy the genuine article from a taxidermist, and I could enchant that for you instead.”

“Well, what if the taxidermist stuffed a crocodile instead, then sold it to me as an alligator? Would your enchantment somehow change its species?”

“That would result in an alligator, yes- though it would be trapped in a crocodile’s body.”

“And could you distinguish between crocodiles, and alligators trapped in crocodile bodies? I tend to think that anyone reasonable would classify them all as crocodiles. Are they really so different under the skin?”

“To a witch like me, the creature’s identity as an alligator would be clear. It would be to the alligator itself, too. And I can think of others to whom this would be obvious, as well.”

“Like who?”

“Like an imaginative child who is aware that things are not always as they seem. You know, the sort that still plays with toy animals, and knows the reality of their lives better than adults.”

It is also possible to produce an imitation ghost, which complicates matters further.

Despite being artificially flavored, jellybeans are exactly what they seem.

Some taxidermists have taken the quest for authenticity a bit too far.