Updated: Jul 3
The literary werewolf took a very long time to crawl from the lower brain on the printed page. Strange survival, it had been born ages ago in the haze of ancient mythology, where every civilization had protean gods and shapeshifters that change in the district's most honored and feared animals. Now, the Russians still have were-bears, the Chinese were-tigers and were-foxes, the Africans and Quechuan Indians of Peru both have were-jaguars. The were-dog has a substantial body of literature, exemplified in a recent anthology, Michel Parry's The Hounds of Hell (1974), but this is outside the primary kingdom of lupine myth. The wolf is the Western world's ultimate symbol of pure evil; ruthless, cunning, swift, and ferocious. Really, it was a wolf-bitch who nursed Romulus and Remus, the founders of Rome, the huge empire which wolfed down the known world. In simplest terms, the werewolf in literature is a female or male character who presumes wolf form, either literally, psychically or symbolically. All are ideally suited to remorselessly ravaging the countryside with lust for gore. In more poetic terms, its food is chilly, night, and passing.
The amount of written works about werewolves is monumental. In text, the werewolf first appeared in the Roman age, as early as Ovid's Metamorphoses and Petronius's Satyricon (circa 60 A.D.). The frequent theme of someone into a wolf makes it's tough to say where mythology ends and fiction begins. Peter Haining anthologized a 12th century Irish account, The Man-Wolf by Giraldus Cambrensis, which reads like an acceptable but classic short story. Beyond the early legends, in fact, there are thousands of documented, factual instances of were-wolfism up to the present moment. The mass of signs Is so overpowering that H.R. Wakefield pointed out in "The Death of a Poacher" (1935), that there's more eVIdence to the existence of werewolves compared to the presence of Buddha, Christ, and Shakespeare combined. Repressed by a Christian civilization that condemned him as a diabolical monster, the modem analysis of werewolves didn't start till Sabine Baring-Gould's The Book of Werewolves [UK], 1856). Now, anthropologists, literary critics, and linguists continue to dissect the werewolf to show the qualities of the hidden part of the human mind. As complicated as the vampire, the werewolf has exceptional psychological, morale, and literary aspects.
Despite Its universality in legends, the werewolf made few appearances in Western fiction before the 20th Century. The werewolf's competitions in popular culture - the Frankenstein monster and the vampire - each has their seminal works - Frankenstein and Dracula - but a survey of this amazing literature reveals no equal for the werewolf. The only key work that approximates the werewolf theme is The Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde. It's the familiar story of a Victorian medical man chemically transformed to a"wolf," but only in the vernacular sense of the term: a lustful, hairy, but still human, monster. For all its literary obscurity, the ancient werewolf tales span a broad assortment of psychological and supernatural phenomena.
The three chief ways to be a werewolf are: 1) through the Black Arts, including the dependable, Satanic pact method, 2) by a werewolf bite, or 3) by inheritance from tainted ancestors who probably obtained it from among the former two approaches. The principal rule is that the human turns into a wolf, almost never the other way round. In his wolf form, his muteness utterly alienates him from everybody, and in human form, he seldom has a connection that may bear the entire understanding of his dark desires. His transformation is never seen or explained, even if others are present, along with the identity of the werewolf can't be confirmed until his passing. Werewolves can be tentatively identified by cruel eyes, hairy hands, odd palms, and the hostile reaction of different animals. Many werewolves can be killed by conventional means, although a vocal minority reproduces the Gypsies' silver-bullet theory.
Highly praised by Summers and Bieller, Dumas' book is largely forgotten now. It's only looked in the past 100 years were as a Weird Tales serial (8 components, start- ing in August, 1931), and as a Prime Press reprint (1950), edited by L. Sprague De Camp.
Not to be outdone by his European counterparts, American writer Menses "Hugues: the Wehr-Wolf" is notable because of its psychological study of the werewolf's internal conflicts. In his abject misanthropy, he finds himself in love with one of the city's maidens, Branda, the butcher's daughter. Extorting raw meat out of her dad to quell his sanguinary tastes, he finds that Branda returns his love, and this gives him the power to continue his lifetime. Branda loves him despite the lupine desires that threaten to overwhelm his individual soul. Apparently, a wolf-man could be saved if he's no longer alone with his dreadful secret. The very first werewolf tale that went past folklore was a story in a story, the often-anthologized chapter of Capt. Frederick Marryat's The Phantom Ship (1839), usually titled"A White Wolf of the Hartz Mountains' or some variant thereof. On a long cruise of the Far East, the narrator meets a young guy named Krantz who tells a tale of his father's marriage to an icy spirit of the Hartz Mountains, Christina that the werewolf. In her hidden transformation to wolf form, she kills Krantz's sister and brother and afterwards exhumes their mangled corpses for leftovers. When the love-blind dad final- ly understands what his wife is doing, he kills her and flows to the Low Countries where the avenging spirits ruin him leaving Krantz on his own. To escape the vengeance of the mountain spirits, Krantz goes to sea, but he's a dreadful precognition of his passing he relates to the Incredulous narrator. The character Christina with her cruel eyes, cold heart white coat, becomes the godmother of werewolves in print even maybe some vampires.
Not to be outdone by Dumas and Marryat, GWM Reynolds thriller, Wagner: The Wehr-Wolf (serial 1846-7, publication 1857), set the speed for werewolf lore for the remainder of the century. Analogous to Varney the Vampire, it is a sensational adventure narrative, serialized in a popular magazine with lurid examples. A werewolf Sion of the Faust legend--a motif Reynolds recycled in three other functions --the protagonist becomes a werewolf by making a pact with a strange man who promises riches and prolonged youth. Heavily influenced by Gothic tales, notably the episodic story in a story novel, Charles Maturin's Melmoth the Wanderer, the story follows the werewolf via an uncaring world seeking the person who will save him by taking his place, like Melmoth ahead of him. In the end, the werewolf is alone with the terror inside him where he goes.
The Black Forest, Spain, and Scandinavia were the varied backdrops of three of the strongest were- Werewolf stories of the 19th Century. These three novellas assault the Victorian tradition of frail womanhood, one being composed by Robert Louis Stevenson, the following by the French-writing group, Erckmann-Chatrian, and the third with a lesser-known young Englishwoman, Clemence Housman. The Erckmann-Chatrian narrative uses the background of a fictitious noble family to set up firm credibility with minimal usage of the supernatural. Stevenson's "Olalla" (1885) is a tightly constructed, realistic narrative. The ambiguity still leaves no room for doubt that wicked of the werewolf exists, even If you reject his supernatural component, In Housman's The Werewolf, the supernatural is a given, a puzzle concealed only by the density of flesh and worldly fire.
The oldest of the three, Erckmann-Chatrian "The Man-Wolf" (1864) is a realistic story of hereditary were-wolfism. As family chronicles record it, the nobleman Hugues-le-Loup's excitement for a female werewolf compels him to murder his wife, marry the werewolf, and father a race of werewolves. This becomes the House of Nideck, who for generations benignly satisfy their bloodlust by always hunting on their property. The werewolf mother bequeathed her claws. The true transformation from man to wolf just happens at Christmas and lasts fourteen days at the most. This shapeshifting is only slightly apparent once the doctor narrator spies the present master of Nideck from the nude, crouching on all fours and howling at the moon. He believes it is a strange medical issue. In the end, the werewolf curse ends with the past Nideck daughter who uncannily resembles the portrait of the murdered first wife of Hugues-le-Loup.
An ancestral taint and a mysterious portrait also play crucial parts in Stevenson's realistic story of a similar inherited curse. "Olalla" starts simply enough with an unnamed narrator, a soldier "wounded in a good cause," seeking recovery in the house of an unnamed, noble Spanish family. Forewarned of the reclusive nature, he meets only the son, Felipe, who shows little of his only two relatives, his sister and mother. As an Englishman, the convalescent narrator passively basks in the bright, Spanish climate, enjoying the quaint of the old villa, and he falls in love with a portrait of a long dead ancestor. Left on his own, she becomes "the heroine of his daydreams" with the comforting idea that she's "safe In the grave, her wand of beauty broken, her philter split."
All the while, Stevenson builds a picture of the once noble family in moral and psychological decay. Felipe's ignorance, the mother's lassitude and emptiness, and the daughter's complete absence suggest unspeakable keys combined with the awful animal cries in the night which takes the narrator to new depths of terror. Pictures of degeneration and mental disease eventually shatter when the narrator meets the incarnation of the individual in the portrait, Olalla. During their initial brief experiences, neither of them talk, but they're as helplessly mute as werewolves. Irresistibly attracted to him, Olalla breaks the silence to beg him to leave her home of corruption and evil. They admit their love for one another. He vows to Remain against all her persuasive speeches which frighten him against the poison in her blood:
Shall I bind another soul, reluctant as own, into this bewitched and tempest-broken tenement that I suffer in? Shall I hand this down cursed vessel of humankind, charge it with new life much like new poison, and dash it, like a fire, at the faces of posterity?
A minor episode reverses his vow to stay. He cuts himself and believing the mother will bind his wound, he offers her his hand, only to get her to sink her teeth into it. Like injury in real life, it appears unreal to him at the moment, dream-like, and in this manner, Stevenson avoids the transfor- mation issue. Blood-letting brings out the werewolf character without resorting to some awkward explanations. His love for Olalla survives but beneath a shroud, and he frequently has little resistance when Felipe finally carts him off to the village. He stays to discover more about the family, whose history is a story within the story, and he matches Olalla that admonishes him to leave another profoundly emotional speech. In the long run, he leaves her to her lonely doom and him.
From this sweltering Spanish play, we proceed to Clemence Housman's morality play. The Werewolf, which includes a woman of this suspended waste whose chilly kiss means death. Sitting at home through a blustery Norse day, Sweyn and his family await Sweyn's brother Christian to return. Ultimately, a woman appears at their door, briefly described as "living, beautiful, young" and having a "fair face." Known by a primitive name in her home territory, the natives appointed her "White Fell" for the white furs she wore. White Fell is a strong, independent woman, a prototype of the barbaric heroines of many epics to follow along with a form Hyperborea.
Hated by the resident wolfhound but adored by the intuitive humans, she strives to become a part of their family. Sweyn drops In love with her and thus blinded can't see what his brother Christian alone sees clearly; she's a werewolf. Two household members mysteriously die the same day following the White Fell kisses, which is sufficient to confirm Christian's suspicions. After White Fell provides Sweyn this deadly kiss, Christian doggedly hunts her down in a grueling chase round the frozen hills.
Housman shuns all the werewolf customs so fully replicated in several tales writ- ten before and afterwards. There are no silver bullets, no yelling, no slaughtered farm animals, no red-glowing eyes, no wounds received as wolves appear on the human kind, no feral breath, no returning to human form upon departure. Another strange twist is that of the half-blind Grandmother, Old Trella, who believes White Fell sounds and looks like her deceased daughter, Thora. White Fell is a revenant from Valhalla or perhaps only a fantastic girl gone lupine.
Standing besides this bunch of novellas, the final of the 19th century werewolf novels is a significant production. The historical romancer Samuel R. Crockett's The Black Douglas (1899) features a real monster of the French chronicles, Gilles de Retz. He was a genuine 15th centuryMarshall of France, who had been burnt at the stake for offender necromancy. He became associated with werewolfism because of his alleged cannibalism of young children and is frequently cited in occult fiction such as Alfred Bill's book described below. The narrative begins in Scotland in the dark season 1439. De Retz, a werewolf by virtue of a Satanic pact, visits the Douglas clan on a diplomatic mission and child - naps their two brothers. He takes them to his French estate where he rules a bunch of werewolves with his female companion, Astarte, who prefers to lounge about in her wolf form. Undaunted, the Douglas clan rush to France to rescue their own and slaughter that the Satanic wolf pack beneath a black, lightning veined skies, greatly decreasing the sorcerer inhabitants of France. Astarte is stabbed to death in her wolf form and converts to die a person with the horrible stigmata on her torso. This leaves de Retz alone, as all unrepentant werewolves end, the final of the Satanic breed began by Reynolds with his drifting Wagner. More modem views of the werewolf have started loping about.
Strangely enough, one of the better werewolf tales was written by Bram Stoker, known to the world as the author of Dracula. "Dracula's Guest" is the lost first chapter of the famous novel that was published separately as the title piece of his 1914-story collection. It's Jonathan Harker naively drifting through the misty, unhallowed Transylvanian forests on Walpurgis Night. Of course he's savagely attacked by creatures which are wolves and not wolves. They have the standard white, gleaming fangs, the gaping red mouth, the hot breath of a wild creature, but again there's no observed transformation. In weird fiction, the proposal is superior to vision. Dracula itself is filled with references to wolves, including the Count's famous reference to them as the children of the night.
Stoker's modern Count Eric' Stenbock wrote a dream fugue of were-wolfism in "The Other Side: A Breton Legend" (1893). An adolescent named Gabriel crosses a Stygian brook, tempted to pick a mysterious blue flower in the witch- haunted woods, called "the other side" The good French Catholic environment is wasted on him as the Biblical seeds scattered among the thorns.
Contrary to the Christian viewpoint, the werewolf is not always evil. In Scottish occultist Algernon Blackwood's "The Camp of the Dog" (1908), primitive blood, and unrequited love create a psychic werewolf. Like the classical werewolf, it only manifests itself at night. A group of five campers on a deserted island in the Baltic off the Swedish coast is nightly visited by a large dog or wolf. Its tracks have a range limited to the camp and an intense search of the tiny Island reveals nothing. As in many Blackwood tales. Dr. John Silence, occult detective, is summoned to sort things out. It seems that Peter, a Canadian with a good measure of "red Indian" blood has an amorous, but primitive soul that takes the form of a wolf at night to approach his loved one, a fellow camper who shuns him by day. Dr. Silence demonstrates that his soul or etheric fluid leaves his body at night in a wolf form only visible to the psychically sensitive. While his lupinoid soul is on the prowl, his sleeping body is left behind as a shrunken husk in his tent. Motivated by love and not blood lust, he does not harm anyone beyond causing a bit of a fright. When his beloved finally surrenders to the call of his savage soul, the wolf appears no more.
Also dwelling on the etheric, Oliver Onion's jumpy tale, "The Master of the House '' (1929) has a British family gradually discover that their reclusive landlord's servant has acquired some bad habits in India. He "went native" with his membership in a revolting Kali cult where he learned ancient secrets, among them the power to trans- form himself into a large clay-coloured Alsatian dog. The transformation is purely a psychic projection and like Blackwood and his predecessors, he avoids the description of the man to wolf conversion, a mere matter of metaphysics. An English cousin of Stenbock's naive young Gabriel, Saki's"Gabriel-Ernest'' (1910) is an intriguing portrait of an adolescent werewolf. Gabriel-Emest lives an idyllic life basking in the woodland sunshine and swimming in the lake by day, hunting wild prey at night. His transformation into a wolf is instantaneous. The boy disappears in 1 spot and the wolf appears in another. Contrary to the moralistic horror stories of the 19th Century, the reader is attracted to young Gabriel-Emest and feels no sorrow when he escapes those who try to end his natural way of life. He complains that his isolated lifestyle gives him little chance to eat his favorite dish, young kids, but he contents himself on wild game. The freedom of living outside culture is worth the sacrifice.
The 1920s and'30s saw a surge of werewolf books that widened the scope of the theme. Werewolfery appeared in Leonard Cline's The Dark Chamber (1927), a publication much admired by H.P. Lovecraft. Even poet Robert Service obtained at a werewolf yarn. The House of Fear (1927), followed closely by Charles Lee Swem's The Werewolf (1928) and mystery writer John Dickson Cart's It Walks by Night (Harper, 1930). The most notable was Jesse Kerrulsh's The Undying Monster (1922). The title character is an unseen monster that has tormented and murdered various members of the Hammond family for centuries. With two exceptions in the 16th Century, all who see the creature get killed by it or go insane and commit suicide. Prominent psychic experts are enlisted to fight the monster but with no success. The last ones called in were Madame Blavatsky and Professor Crookes in 1890. Now Oliver and his sister Swanhild would be the sole remaining Hammonds to confront the monster. As the story opens, she rescues him from the monster and decides to call in more psychic assistance.
Passing over the titles of Arthur Conan Doyle and Oliver Lodge, she decides on Luna Bartendale, an unorthodox occult detective, to help them save the day. The narrative unfolds Into a narrative of therlomorphy, racial memory, and Nordic gods
In a more traditional vein, Alfred H. Bill's experience The Wolf in the Garden Longmans, 1931; Centaur 1972) occurs in early American. Weeks later, his ferocious dog arrives. The dog is named De Retz, whom Saint Loup maintains Is named after Cardinal De Retz, not the infamous blood-drinking sorcerer, Gilles de Retz, who was the antagonist in The Black Douglas. Bill establishes a few intriguing conventions: Saint Loup Is never seen with his doppelganger dog/wolf; and an injured werewolf instantly returns to his human form. Saint Loup is a delightfully wicked werewolf, filled with lust and spite for humanity. He steals the hero's girlfriend, Felicity, and torments both of them together with his planned marriage of convenience that will save Felicity's uncle out of financial ruin. Another eccentric character is Vashti the Voodoo conjure-woman, who will help to save the hero from the dreaded werewolf bite. He briefly experiences "the perverted hunger and foul thirst" for the tendons and blood of a freshly killed game. The writer also notes that to take a bit of a dedicated host is defense against werewolves, but his clergyman character, Sackville, the neighborhood occultist and werewolf specialist, is so staunchly Protestant he won't allow these hosts to leave the church building, even to offer protection against the forces of evil.
Guy Endore's popular novel The Werewolf Of Paris (Farrar and Rinehard, 1933; Avon 19S0 [abridged/expurgated]) is still another example of a story in a story, for the narrator transcribes the case of Bertrand Caillet, a French werewolf active throughout the Franco-Prussian war. Based on Rumanian lore, extensively studied by Harry Senn at The Werewolf and Vampire in Romania (1982), a child conceived or born on Christmas or Easter is wicked. Great wives shun their husbands's beds through times that might lead to such a wicked birthday. Bertrand also matches the werewolf stereotype with his hairy hands, strange fingers, and yelling rather than crying as a baby. Bertrand dreams he's a four-footed monster that kills little game and kids and runs out of heavily-armed pursuers. He wakes with a strange appetite. When Bertrand goes to Paris to take the medical school examination, his friends drag him into a brothel where he commits his first key atrocity. A contributor to this Oedipus theory. He seduces and kills his half-willing mother In a grisly scene of creature depravity. To escape prosecution, he flees to the countryside for Paris In the middle of a war, where his actions are less conspicuous.
They've lurid romantic scenes where Bertrand wounds various elements of her anatomy with a knife, which satisfies his crazy cravings for some time. Like Hugues Wulfric In Menzies early narrative, the werewolf could be redeemed by the love of an understanding girl. Though she enjoys their sanguine encounters, Sophia abandons Bertrand and he returns to his nocturnal outings. His atrocities appear minor, however, in comparison to the honors of the Paris Commune and man's savage survival instincts In warfare. He spends the remainder of his days cutting off from the rest of the world. Aymar visited him on those days I carefully drugged him so he can't speak. Without the love of a woman, a werewolf is finally alone, and the wolf interior leaves him hushed.
As a last and more contemporary note, Geoffrey Household's "Taboo" (1940) is a gritty tale with numerous werewolf components that Its ambiguity and lack of supernatural phenomena are insignificant. In still another story within the story, a wolf is taken with a silver bullet which turns up in one of the villager's gut. The werewolf Is a living, breathing concrete creature, and the dilemma of the genuine man-to-wolf transformation is insignificant. The werewolf is actual.
He is the dark heart of culture. Alone, not able to breathe freely in human society, his desires are unsatisfied, and he revolts In orgiastic bloodletting or perishes without having lived. His literary picture is so diffuse it can be argued to include Lovecraft's "The Outsider" or half of the works of Jack "Wolf" London from the werewolf canon. He's an enemy of man, since he's an outsider with the call of the wild as his secret sin. His animal bloodlust is well documented, and known, but his love life is another issue. Erckmann and Cbatrian don't record whether Hugues-le-Loup eventually got his werewolf bride In line, nor Is it known what would have happened if Christian hadn't interfered between his brother and White Fell. Manyat's Christina is another thing, married but fully unrepentant.
After 1940, the werewolf went beyond literature to combine the vampire as an icon of damnation in popular culture. By the start of World War II, this monster touched a wound that soon turned all too real. It Is no little irony that Hitler dubbed his strategy for the continuation of hostilities following the war Operation Werewolf. Up from the primal mass of man's lower instincts, the werewolf resides on.