I have always loved the werewolves. Something about being so powerful has always struck me.
My First Screen Experience
My first dab with the beasts was seeing them on screen, and I have to say as a little kid, I was awestruck by the transformation from human to werewolf.
The first movie I saw that dealt with was the old white and black, The Wolf Man. You have to remember this was the late 70s so old black and white movies were still showing.
I didn’t find the film scary but intriguing. My grandfather told us stories about such creatures, but they are called skinwalkers according to Native legends.
I found my grandfather’s stories about skinwalkers scarier than those old movies, but in 1981 that changed.
The Revolutionized Werewolf Movie
An American Werewolf in London was released, and it blew my mind. The transformation scene was brutal, and I had never seen anything on film quite like it.
When David realizes he is changing, you can see the pain in his face as he no longer recognizes what is happening to him. It was agonizing to watch.
Many werewolves movies that followed after that didn’t quite match the thrill of An American Werewolf in London, so I started reading books about them. The more I understand, the more interesting the whole concept of the werewolf was.
But What About The Beginning?
In folklore, a werewolf, or occasionally lycanthrope, is a human who can shapeshift into a wolf. It is either purposely or after being placed under a curse or affliction. The transformations occur on the night of a “full moon,” as found on Wikipedia.
According to legend, there are several ways one can become a werewolf. An ancient belief comes from Ancient Greece. A person could go under transformation once it eats the meat of a wolf mixed with that of a human and irreversible condition.
In Scotland and Irish folklore, there are tales of the selkies. According to legend, these are creatures who spend their lives in cold waters of the ocean. The selkies can turn back to human form by shedding their pelts.
There are further stories about the werewolf dating back to Sumerian/Macedonia ancient times in the story of, Gilgamesh is the semi-mythical King of Uruk. He lived in Mesopotamia and the best work dates back to c. 2150 – 1400 BCE and is titled The Epic of Gilgamesh.
It predates by 1500 years the writings of Homer. For that alone, the piece is concidered the oldest epic work of literature. That is, according to Ancient History Encyclopedia.
A Stranger Werewolf In France?
According to Wikipedia, between the year 1764 and 1767 what seems to be a werewolf was in Europe. The man-eating animal depicted in “The Beast of Gévaudant” is quite a historical name. It terrorized a previous province of the same name. The location was the south-central France in the Margeride Mountains.
In four years, the beast took over the late rural province region in France. An approximation of a hundred people, counting males, females and offsprings perished at its hands. That’s how it got the name, “The Beast of Gévaudant.”
Many at the time did think there were werewolf hunting and killing; many modern scholars believe that the killer is not a mythical creature, but could be one of these suspects: a Eurasian wolf, an armored war dog, a striped hyena, a lion, some prehistoric predator, a werewolf, a dog-wolf hybrid, and a human.
Native Americans Won’t Say Their Name
The mixing of various cultural backgrounds created the American werewolf we know today in our folklore and legends. In the time of colonizations by Europeans in North America, people weren’t the only arrivals, but legends and folklore too. That included werewolves. Those creatures blended with Native Americans’ stories.
One of the most well-known types of stories is about skinwalkers. In the Southwest, there is the Navajo werewolf. Skinwalkers are a subject Native Americans, most likely known to the Navajo culture, that is not spoken about because of his terrorizing nature.
In the Navajo culture, skinwalkers are shapeshifters. They are capable of planting hexes as well as disrespecting tombs by stripping them. Stealing from resting places is a ritual for eating the dead as well as keeping precious belongings such as jewelry.
Other Cultures Know Them Too
In Mexico, you have the Mexican werewolf called the nahual. It doesn’t kill humans, but is known as a sleazy thief who steals cheese, chases women, and is viewed as a potential rapist.
In New Orleans, you have the Cajun werewolf, a swamp-dwelling critter with some characteristics borrowed from Canadian monsters and French beasts, plus other new features. In Cajun culture, the werewolves shares similarities with canines including foxes.
Werewolves Are Among Us
There are medical conditions that may have triggered stories about the werewolves. Those are hypertrichosis. This illness increases the production of hair to an extreme length on the body. That include the face as well.
The second condition is pophyria. The characteristics of this one is acute sensitiveness to a source of light. The patients often must adapt to a nocturnal life to avoid seizures, anxiety, among other symptoms.
The most known condition linked to werewolves is the clinical lycanthropy. This mental illness has the patient believe that he or she can change into a wolf.
The Tragedy Of The Werewolf
In the year 1589, Peter Stumpp native of Germany, under torture admitted to have in his possession a belt made of the skin of a wolf. According to him—under medieval torture—it gave him the freedom to change into said animal. His transformation into this lupine shape would have his teeth multiply in his mouth and he craved human flesh.
Stumpp or Stobbe claimed to have killed numerous people. He confessed, but under torture, chunks of his flesh ripped off with hot pinchers, his bones, crushed by massive rocks, and he finally got decapitate on Halloween in 1589.
Obviously, no evidence supported that claim. This is not the only person back in those days to think they were a werewolf. Numerous people genuinely believed they were cursed; many were probably mentally ill or delusional.
These so-called werewolves resulted in multiple people being dispatched like Stumpp/Stubbe in sadistic and gruesome ways.
The Mordern Life of a Werewolf
Today’s werewolves have elements of old folklore and current views. They are seen as victims since they are cursed. Many books focus on family and the social dynamics of the wolf hierarchy, which I find fascinating.
In today’s films and novels, we see werewolves fighting against their curse and other mythological creatures like vampires. For example, you have the Underworld and Twilight movies, plus older movies such as An American Werewolf in London and the The Wolfman with Benicio Del Toro.
TV also has an abundance of shows that feature werewolves as the main character, like Teen Wolf, Bitten, True Blood, and The Originals. Many intermingled ancient elements of this folklore with other retellings such as using silver to kill them or slow them down.
Other non-silver methods include driving a wooden stake through their heart when they are still human, burning, tearing its heart out(if you can), or wolfsbane.
What I Think About It
All these methods are hard to employ since werewolves are more muscular than humans, and they can take a lot of abuse.
Wolves are known as shapeshifters. But there are other types of shapeshifters, such as werefoxes, werebirds, weretigers, were lions, and others.
Werewolf legend is fascinating, and I enjoy writing about them. In my stories, they are superior to vampires.