In this Sci-Fi/Fantasy Writers Series I will provide sci-fi/fantasy writers with a wealth of information concerning subjects that they may wish to use in their work.
The series will name and describe some of the magical or fantastical creatures that you may want to use in your stories.
A werewolf, in European folklore, is a man who turns into a wolf at night and devours animals, people, or corpses but returns to human form during the day. Folklore dictates that some werewolves change shape at will. For others, the condition is hereditary, or it can be acquired by having been bitten by a werewolf. In this case, the werewolf changes shape involuntarily, under the influence of a full moon. In French folklore, the werewolf is called loup-garou.
The belief that a human being is capable of assuming an animal’s form, most frequently that of a wolf, is an almost worldwide superstition. In myth, such a transformed person is mostly seen at night, and believed generally to be harmful to man.
There are many origin stories to the myth of lycanthropy, or the changing of a man into a wolf. Some attribute the belief to primitive Totemism, in which the totem is an animal revered by the members of a tribe and supposed to be hostile to their enemies. Still another explanation is that of a leader of departed souls as the original werewolf.
The werewolf superstition is found virtually all over the world, especially in Northwest Germany and Slavic lands; namely, in the lands where the wolf is most common.
The werewolf superstition is an old and primitive myth. The point in common across cultures that believe in the myth is the transformation of a living human being into an animal. For example, into a wolf in regions where the wolf was common; into a lion, hyena or leopard in Africa, where these animals are common; into a tiger or serpent in India; in other localities into other animals that are characteristic of the region.
Other examples include the myth among the Lapps and Finns that men transform into the bear, wolf, reindeer, fish or birds. Amongst many North Asiatic peoples, as also some American Indians the transformation takes the form of the bear; amongst the latter also into the fox, wolf, turkey or owl; in South America, men transform into a tiger or jaguar, also into a fish, or serpent. The most universal animal associated with the myth, however, was the transformation into wolves or dogs.
The origin of the superstition must have been the old custom of early cultures putting on a wolf’s or other animal’s skin as a dress or a robe.
As a subject for 20th-century horror films, the werewolf tradition is second only to the vampire tradition in popularity.
- Caroline Taylor Stewart, The Origin of the Werewolf Superstition, Library of Alexander 1909. In the public domain. Found at https://www.gutenberg.org/files/44134/44134-h/44134-h.htm