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Friday, April 3, 2009

Werewolf - Legend or Real? You Decide.

While flipping through the TV guide, I happened to see that Jack Nicholsen’s movie “Wolf” is on tonight. This is what spurred the idea of posting a blog article about werewolves.

As a child, I loved being scared by Lon Chaney when he played his wolfman character in the movies. Of course, when I’d go to bed, it seemed the eerie shadows cast against my bedroom wall by the moon’s rays were the werewolf coming to bite me. Like any frightened child, I hide under the covers—afraid to shut my eyes.

I suppose there’s a penchant in all of us that like being frightened. And perhaps this is why we’ve seen a revival in the popularity of werewolves and vampires in novels and on the big screen. (Don’t we all wish we’d written “Twilight?”)

The link between the werewolf of myth as been reshaped by Hollywood, with a medical condition known as lycanthropy, in which the patient develops a taste for raw meat and shows a tendency to howl and run around naked. At the time when the moon was full, anyone being bitten by the werewolf was eternally doomed to sprout a hairy pelt, howl at the moon, and run around scaring the bejeebers out of people.

But, where did the idea of werewolves and vampires originate? Let’s go all the way back to the wolf. Of all animals the wolf is perhaps the most feared in terms of superstition, being a favorite disguise of the Devil, and linked with evil. In times gone by, the mere sight of a wolf was supposed to be enough to render a man dumb, assuming that the wolf saw the man first. Even saying the world “wolf” risked an imminent encounter with one. According to Welsh legend the wolf was created not by God buy by the Devil and the creature has retained its association with evil ever since, being blamed for attacking livestock and humans alike.

This brings us to the werewolf. In pan-European superstition a man, who in certain circumstances, would change into a wolf and then hunt down and feed on human prey. Fear of werewolves is very ancient. People likely to become werewolves are said to include those who were born out of wedlock or had birthdays on Christmas Eve, and anyone who had unusually hair hands and flat fingers or eyebrows that met over the bridge of the nose. In legend some people could control their transformation, becoming wolves by donning wolfskin coats or belts.

Like the vampire, the werewolf was invulnerable to many forms of attack and could only be killed by a silver bullet, which should ideally have been blessed by a priest. Rather more simply, the infected victim may be cursed by calling out three times the Christian name of the person who had been transformed.

So, here’s a question for you. What actually is a werewolf or lycanthropy? Is it fact based on concrete evidences? Is it myth, fabrication of feeble minds? Is it an exaggeration of the wildly superstitious? If you have no answers to these questions—neither do I. All these questions have been puzzling mankind for the last 5 centuries.

Nonetheless, the werewolf phenomenon hasn’t perished yet; recent werewolf sightings are still being reported. You know, I just had a thought—I don’t recall ever reading about women who had become werewolves—only men. Hmmm?


Terry Spear/Terry Lee Wilde said...

Great post, Loretta! Hmm, in my werewolf tales, the hero and heroines are werewolves, at least in Heart of the Wolf and Destiny of the Wolf, after that...the scenario changes. Doing research is half the fun. I read about real werewolf trials which was interesting reading and have included some of it in my latest story. :)

amber polo said...

Loved the post! Of course werewolves are real. Too many stories in too many countries. And I believe there were female weres. Called bitches.

Loretta C. Rogers said...

Terry--your novels sound interesting. I'll have to add them to my ever-growing reading list.

Amber--your comment brought a chuckle on a day when I most needed it.

Thanks to both of you. I enjoyed your comments.

Helen Hardt said...

Hi Loretta -- great post! I love werewolves. They're my favorite dark creature, though vampires are a close second. I have a werewolf story coming to The Wild Rose Press in October. I've seen lots of documentaries about the werewolf myth; there are almost as many theories as there are myths themselves ;). In my story, the weres are born, not transformed by the bite, and there are no females. They mate with humans. I love seeing how different authors give unique twists to an old tale!


Donna Hatch said...

I guess I have a thing for werewolves, too. Afterall, I was on team Jacob. ;-)

I haven't written about any werewolves or vampires, but I do have a vampire story rolling around in my brain. Maybe after I finish my Regency series, I'll write it.

Mary Ricksen said...

I thought you were gonna keep the secret. Don't let them know we're real!!!


Loretta C. Rogers said...

Donna, good luck with switching gears from Regency to Paranormal. Hey, maybe it could be a paranormal regency. That's a thought.

Mary, oops! I've let the cat out of the bag--oh, wait, make that the werewolf out of the bag. My bad. (grin)

Jen Childers said...

HI all,
in 1300 the emperor of Hungary made it illegal not to believe in werewolves.
There was a picture in Ringling museum of a hairy man (lone chaney hairy), he was a duke i think, but this condition was credited with werewolf tales.
The romantic side of wolves is they mate for life.
one old story tells of a lady turned wolf (not werewolf) she ate the nieghbors sheep and the husband was upset with her, not concerened at all she turned into a wolf, just upset she stole the sheep.
in the cold winters when food was scarce it would be nice to have a wolf help with the hunting.
as a lover of the classic horror movies, I applaud this blog.