The werewolf is a mythological creature, dating back to the Late Antiquity period. Traditionally, it is a man who has gained the ability to change forms between a man and a wolf, but it can also be used to refer to a man (or woman) who becomes a wolf, temporarily or permanently, through any supernatural means. Most commonly, though, it refers to a person who changes between the two regularly, either by necessity or by choice. This werewolf can be described as one of two categories: the Early Modern werewolf, or the New Modern werewolf.
Early Modern WerewolfEdit
Popularized during the werewolf hunts of the late Renaissance period, the Early Modern or Renaissance werewolf is a person who becomes a wolf, voluntarily and repeatedly, via direct witchcraft, a bargain with the devil, or use of an enchanted object. Either a criminal, a joyrider or just someone looking to survive, they generally use their wolf form to commit all manner of atrocities, which may then be blamed on wild animals. While powerful and difficult to kill in their wolf form, Early Modern werewolves are far from immortal, and can be killed rather easily using traditional means.
The best way to identify an Early Modern werewolf is to search their belongings; many use a wolf pelt or magical belt to transform, keeping these objects with their personal effects when not in use. Another way to tell is by unusual scars; any injuries sustained as a wolf will carry over to the human body. If you are unable to examine them this closely, keep a general watch on their behavior and social circles; if someone they know, love or dislike is killed and they cannot account for their actions at the time, it is likely that they became a wolf and killed the person. The same can be applied to the New Modern werewolf.
New Modern WerewolfEdit
By contrast, the New Modern or Hollywood werewolf is a man or woman who has gained the predilection to transform through no fault of their own. They may transform either fully or partially, by choice, on a set schedule or both. The set schedule is far more common, with the werewolf transforming every night from one to five days surrounding the full moon. Unlike the Early Modern werewolf, who seems to retain his or her human mind when transformed, the New Modern tends to go insane, ranging from extreme violent urges to a complete loss of humanity. Only rarely (Teen Wolf) do they maintain a reasonable level of sanity.
New Modern werewolves tend not to retain scars; identifying marks are restricted to a simple bite scar from the werewolf that turned them, or a bleeding pentagram somewhere on the body. The best way to identify a New Modern werewolf is to observe behavior of the people around you; if someone becomes agitated or anxious around the full moon, decides suddenly to leave town, or disappears in the night hours around that time, they are likely candidates. It is important as well to note their recent whereabouts and experiences; wolves will generally not attack people unprovoked, and any who do are likely to be werewolves who will transmit to the condition to any survivors.
New Modern werewolves are also frequently immortal, and nearly indestructible, requiring death by a silver bullet, fire, or decapitation. Occasionally they can be cured, or at least treated to repress their condition, but it often becomes necessary to dispose of them before their violent tendencies get out of hand. Note that it may be possible for a young woman to break a werewolf curse by offering her unconditional love to the sufferer, but this is risky and likely to end in her death.
- Werewolves transform when they come into contact with moonlight: If this worked, then werewolves should transform any time there's a moon out (unless the light provided was simply insufficient), and only have a brief period of time as a wolf before it set. Also, since the moon works by reflecting sunlight onto the Earth, they should also transform in sunlight.
- The moon has direct control over werewolfism: This idea came about as part of a large set of myths concerning the moon. The moon controlled a woman's menstrual cycle, violence and illness increased dramatically when the moon was full. The idea was further compounded when human blood was discovered to contain large quantities of salt -- scientists speculated that this allowed the moon to influence it the way it did ocean tides.
Scientists now know that this is bunk; the Moon does not control salt any more than it does any other mineral. (It does control tides, but this is based on the position of the moon, which causes a gravitational tug on the side of the Earth to which it is closest.) It may be possible for the moon to have other influence, however; studies show that the menstrual cycle is, in fact, influenced by the amount of moonlight at night, although when taken away from a regular source of moonlight irregularities begin to appear.
- Werewolves are a common/exclusively Native American legend: Although Native Americans are seen as a mystical, nature-tuned culture, they do not make a habit of transforming into animals in fact or legend. The closest they come is the Navajo myth of Skinwalkers, witches who transform into various animals using the skins thereof. Like the nahual of the south or the Early Modern werewolf, these are considered evil people, certainly nothing like the werewolves of Stephanie Meyer's Twilight.
Etymology and HistoryEdit
The word "werewolf" comes from the Old English "wer", meaning man, and the word "wolf", meaning... you get the picture. Moving on.
Werewolves of one form or another have been prowling about the human consciousness for millenia. Even before the "werewolf" as we know it today had become popular, stories circulated of unfortunate folk run afoul of witches or gods and ended up spending the rest of their days as wolves. Perhaps the earliest recorded incident is mentioned in The Epic of Gilgamesh (B.C. 2000), in which the goddess Ishtar is said to have transformed one of her ex-lovers into a wolf.
There were several recorded instances of werewolves after this point, in one form or another. The Odyssey (850 B.C.) is said to contain werewolf beliefs, and the Scythian people (500 B.C.) of what is now Ukraine and nearby Russia recorded their belief that the neighboring Neuri people transformed into wolves and back again once a year. Additionally, the Greek boxer Damarchus (400 B.C.) is said to have spent nine years as a wolf following his transformation at a [Lykaia festival].
Although tales of willing and frequent transformations are likely to have circulated by this point, none were put to record until 37 B.C., when the Latin poet Virgil described a man named Moeris who used a particular herb to "change to a wolf's form, and hide him in the woods".
The concept was not elaborated on, though, and wasn't brought up again until around A.D. 55, when Gaius Petronus included in his Satyricon a story of what would become the typical werewolf. According to the character relating the story, he had embarked on a nighttime journey, and pressed a soldier he'd met to accompany him partway. They came upon a graveyard, where they paused for a while, perhaps to pay respect to the dead. Rather than offer a prayer, however, his companion removed his clothes, urinated in a circle around them, then transformed into a wolf and took off. Examining the clothes, the storyteller discovered that they had been turned to stone, presumably to prevent anything from happening to them while the werewolf went about his business. Shaken, the traveller left them there and continued to his destination, where he learned that the werewolf had arrived ahead of him, attempted to attack a sheep, and been run through the neck by a spear.
Little more seems to have happened for several centuries. There was a tale of a man during the third century who transformed (perhaps willingly) into a wolf after being disinherited; he allegedly spent several years ravaging farms and families before turning back when he lost one paw to a woodsman. But it wasn't until the 11th century that things really began to pick up again -- coinciding or perhaps connected with the emergence of the Catholic Church.
Werewolves Around the WorldEdit
Before we get into that, though, let's take a look at the development of werewolves around the world. Although werewolves were just beginning to catch on in western European records, around the world there were tales of men who could turn into animals. Wolves were a frequent candidate.
In Mexico, for example, some natives told of the nahual, a shape-shifting warlock whose form of choice was a black or dark coyote. These were decidedly evil creatures, who posed a serious threat to the natives when in their animal form. (Other tribes have similar beliefs, with a few cursory differences, but the basics are the same.)
In Africa, where there are no wolves, it is believed that there are men who can transform into hyenas or crocodiles. Though certainly less majestic than their Western cousins, they are equally as deadly. (In Japan, where they also have no wolves, the animal of choice is a fox.)
Northward in Portugal, the myth of choice is the lobis-homem -- a fairly traditional werewolf, though unlike many of its cousins at the time it harmed neither people nor livestock. Placed under a spell, the lobis-homem turned into a wolf by groveling in the dirt at a crossroad. (Why he did this is a mystery; presumably it was part of the spell.) He(/she?) would then run into the countryside, howling piteously. This appears to be one of the earlier instances of the angst-filled modern werewolf.
Going northward to Scandanavia, the Ulfdar warriors had rather a different take on the matter. They believed that they were werewolves, and went to great lengths to prove it -- howling, scratching, chewing on their shields, and wearing wolf skins into battle. This was most effective on nights with a full moon, when the poor lighting accentuated their repulsive traits to give the opposition a good case of heebie-jeebies. Really, they did.
Now that we've covered that, let's head back to Europe.
Werewolves in the Middle AgesEdit
The werewolf began to pick up speed again in the eleventh century. Prince Vseslav of Poland was probably responsible in an indirect fashion; local legend had it that he was a werewolf, and he was portrayed as such in the twelfth-century piece The Tale Of Igor's Campaign. The word werewolf also found its birth in the twelfth century, and it wasn't long before stories of werewolves began to appear. 1182 and 1194-97 featured a sighting and a poem, respectively, and in 1198 the French produced Bisclavret, the tale of a werewolf trapped in wolf form by his treacherous wife. (This seems to be the earliest occurrence of the New Modern werewolf, as Bisclavret was under a lycanthropic curse and always transformed on the full moon.) The story was retold in 1250 in Lais de Melion , and between 1275 and 1300, the Germans brought us Volsungsaga, which featured two separate incidences of werewolves.
At this point, things began to slack off again; the fad had passed for the time being. Nevertheless, stories continued to circulate of strange liaisons between men and wolves; between the fourteenth and eighteenth centuries, several independent reports appeared of a child from Hesse, Germany who had been taken by wolves as a toddler and raised by them until he was seven or eight. (As there are many conflicting reports on the subject, it cannot be determined whether the story is true.)
Emergence of the Modern WerewolfEdit
Werewolf tales began to pick up again during the Early Modern period -- specifically, from the 15th century onward. They seem to have come about as part of the growing religious awareness at the time; this same awareness was also the cause of the witch paranoia movement, in which several innocent people were condemned and burned for violating certain petty superstitions.
It was at this time that the modern werewolf began to take shape, crafted by more imaginative members of the era's ruling church. Simply put, it was frequently the wont of these people to explain anything that they feared or could not understand by blaming Satan, pagans or both, and this was no exception. When a rash of inexplicable attacks began occurring - possibly by hungry wolves or unknown means - it was a natural step to assume that some evil person had discovered the means to become a wolf, and was using that power to ravage children or livestock. Ironically, the very traits that many people find attractive or interesting today were crafted from the frightened minds of superstitious individuals.
The problems seem to have started around 1407, when werewolves were mentioned during a witchcraft trial at Basel. Wolves were immediately associated with witches -- anyone who resembled a wolf, kept wolf pelts in their house, or was seen riding a wolf was rounded up and tried. From there, it wasn't long before witches no longer needed to be involved; in 1521, three men, known as the Werewolves of Poligny, were burnt at the stake for crimes such as eating children, consorting with wild lady wolves, and transforming into wolves using a magical salve.
Following the Werewolves of Poligny was a rash of werewolf arrests that spanned from the sixteenth to early seventeenth centuries. Notable ones include Gilles Garnier, who confessed to werewolfism after being put to the rack (note the use of excessive torture to extract information), the Werewolf of Auvergne, who was discovered when her severed paw became a woman's hand, and Peter Stubb, who admitted that he could transform using a magical belt given to him by the Devil. Once again, torture was used to encourage confession.
In the same century, though a bit earlier, a Paduan farmer confessed to being a werewolf, explaining that the only difference between him and a real werewolf was that his hair grew on the inside rather than the outside (we presume he was being metaphorical). In order to test this claim, magistrates had his arms, legs and head cut off. The man died, but whether or not they found hair is not noted.
1598 was a busy year, featuring no less than three separate werewolf cases within the country of France. The first concerned the "Werewolf of Châlons" or "Demon Tailor", who had reportedly lured children into his Parisian tailor shop. There he tortured the children, murdered them and ate the remains. When lurable children were scarce, he would search for children in the woods -- it was at this time when he was said to have turned into a wolf.
The second focused on the family of one Pernette Gandillon, a woman of questionable sanity who was under the impression that she was a wolf (with wolf mania taking Europe by storm, this is not too surprising). She had attacked two children, one of which survived and reported her to the authorities. She was immediately seized and killed. Now alerted to the threat, the constabulary captured and interrogated her brother and his two children. Under torture, father and son confessed to possessing an ointment that allowed them to become wolves -- a claim of questionable veracity, but seemingly confirmed by their wolf-like behavior during their imprisonment. It is said that they "they moved around on all fours and howled." The daughter was also found to be a witch, and by the time it was said and done all of them had been hanged and burned.
The last case was less spectacular; it concerned a beggar named Jacques Roulet who admitted under duress that he and two male relatives had turned into wolves, then killed and eaten many women and children. In an ironic and anticlimactic turn, Roulet was committed to an insane asylum due to his questionable mental faculties.
The rest of the period continued in this vein, with criminals being apprehended, forced to confess and subsequently executed. On the literary front, werewolves were equally popular -- in A.D. 1555, Olaus Magnus brought us tales of people in the North who transform en masse once a year and slay everything in their path, and in 1560 and '63 we were treated to Magie naturalis and De praestiigus daemonum, the latter of which controversially suggested that werewolfism was caused by a devil exacerbating a preexisting mental illness. (It seems to have had little effect, as A.D. 1575 saw the beginning of a six-year werewolf trial.)
Finally, after a series of incidents in 1623 in which thirty-one people were tried (eighteen men and thirteen women), things began to calm down. The next notable werewolf did not pop up until 1692, when 80-year-old Theiss of Livonia confessed to werewolfism. He put a heroic spin on the idea, however, "relating a fantastical tale of werewolves descending into hell to fight witches and recover grain from failed local crops." He was given ten lashes for his trouble.
While not a werewolf per se, another peculiarity did occur, which may be the origin of the myth that silver bullets can kill a werewolf. From 1764 to 1767, the French province Gévaudan was terrorized by a mysterious creature that resembled a wolf. It slaughtered between 88 and 123 people and wounded several others before it was finally killed by a silver bullet that a priest had blessed. The animal, called the Beast of Gévaudan, was said to be the size of a cow, with a tufted tail, prominent fangs and red fur.
Although the werewolf hunting was over, the effect it had on the public consciousness was irreversible. People all over Europe had become terrified of wolves and began hunting them down, leading to the mass destruction of local wolf populations. And the image of a werewolf as a magical creature, switching between human and lupine, sane and berserk, was firmly cemented in the people's minds.
Why the Wolf?Edit
It is fairly easy to see how the members of the ruling church came to the idea of werewolves. It raises the question, though: why werewolves? Why not wereowls or werebears? There are three possible answers to that, any of which could coincide with the others. 1: Stories of men transforming into wolves had been circulating for some time, so it was fairly easy to adapt them. 2: Wolves were common in those areas, and served as the man competition with man for food and space. 3: Wolves are described/portrayed in the Bible as evil creatures come to destroy the flock of Christ, as part of the sheep/shepherd analogy. What some have failed to realize is that real wolves are no more evil than real sheep are sacred.
Torture as a Means to Extract ConfessionEdit
In several of these accounts, you may note that the subjects of the trials only confessed to werewolfism after intense torture. This was fairly common for the time; the less-than-exemplary constabulary wanted someone guilty, and once they had chosen a party they would do everything in their power to prove that they had committed the crime in question. (As a scholar of the time pointed out, people will confess to all manner of audacious, horrendous and downright impossible things when tortured.) While many of those executed may have been real criminals, it is likely that the werewolf aspect and possibly more was invented by their accusors, either to lend more flavor to the whole thing or to explain how someone could commit such an atrocious act.
Werewolves in the Modern EraEdit
After the fiasco of the trials, werewolves began a slow and incomplete slide into obscurity. That is, they were no longer exceptionally popular, but every once in a while someone would pop up with Another Werewolf Book. Perhaps the best of these was The Book Of Were-Wolves (1865) by Sabine Baring-Gould, which brought together several preceding myths in a comparative study. (Ironically, Baring-Gould is best known for writing Onward Christian Soldiers.)
A couple of other books came out in the early 20th century, neither very interesting to the werewolf enthusiast; with the invention of the motion picture, the myth was moving to bigger media. Its first appearance in film was in 1913, with the short film The Werewolf. Remaining faithful to early legends, the movie depicts an "Indian" woman (most likely a native American) whose husband is killed by white men. Aggravated, she becomes a witch, and passes on both her skills and aggravation to her daughter, who uses her wolfskills to kill white men until "she encounters a friar and his cross," when she is killed. 100 years later she is reincarnated, and sets out to kill "the reincarnation of the man who shot her lover" (further details are not offered). Unfortunately, the film was destroyed by a fire in 1924. It was followed by The White Wolf in 1914, a silent movie about a Navajo medicine man who transforms himself into a timber wolf.
Perhaps the best-known werewolf movie of the 20th century is the 1941 film The Wolf Man, but given its early debut it had a surprising number of predecessors. Wolf Blood (1925) is a tale of a man who receives a blood transfusion from a she-wolf and experiences lycanthropy (of the mental kind), and foreign producers introduced two separate titles called Le Loup Garou. (The first, a French film, was released in 1923 and is known as The Werewolf; the second is German, was released in 1932 and is known simply as Werewolf.)
Still, full lists and descriptions of every werewolf movie ever made are available elsewhere, so this article has been limited to the more notable ones, starting with Werewolf of London (1935).
This is the earliest traditional werewolf movie, although it seems to play second fiddle to The Wolf Man. It's about a botanist, who is attacked by a werewolf while wandering about Tibet and begins to transform upon his return to England. In what would become a staple for werewolf movies, he then launches on the "angst/search for the cure" routine. And, in what would also become a staple for werewolf movies, he dies. Yep, lycanthropy bites. In fact, this movie began most of the concepts that would become werewolf movie staples: lycanthropy transmitted through bite, violent urges while transformed, and the prospect of a remedy for the afflicted. The plot, makeup and special effects techniques used in the movie would be repeated for years to come.
In The Wolf Man (1941), basically the same thing happens, but with one less botanist, fewer gypsies, and Lon Chaney, Jr. Starring as Lon's father is Claude Raines, also known for his role as The Phantom of the Opera, a position earlier filled by Lon Chaney, Sr. This movie, which carried over many traits from Werewolf of London, was largely responsible for the popularization of those concepts, as well as the previously-obscure notion that a werewolf could only be killed by silver and that the pentagram symbol was involved. The movie also cemented the Wolfman's position as a monster, leaving him open to exploitation by many a low-budget filmmaker, whose favorite hobbies include pairing him with Frankenstein and/or Dracula.
Another notable factoid about The Wolf Man is that it features Bela Lugosi as the other werewolf, possibly one of the earliest cameo appearances in film history.
Following the success of The Wolf Man, several low-budget films were made to cash in on its popularity, but most of them failed to stand out. The next popular werewolf film didn't happen until 1957, with the peculiar and rather controversial "I Was A Teenage Werewolf".
Though poorly made, I Was A Teenage Werewolf was one of the first movies to deviate from the standard Werewolf-of-London or Wolf-Man-Meets-Somebody-Else formula (though not by too large a margin). It was also one of the first movies marketed to the growing teenage theater audience, following the widespread introduction of televisions into the home. That is, with the television making it easier to watch things at home, fewer people were going to see movies, and those that did were mainly teens. This movie was marketed to them.
1959 brought an equally peculiar piece -- the Mexican movie El Hombre y el monstruo (The Man and the Monster). It, too, deviates from the standard werewolf formula, focusing instead on a musician who sells his soul "in order to become the greatest pianist in the world." The trade-off - besides his soul - is that he becomes a werewolf every time he plays. And apparently, it helps.
Next up in the list of memorable movies is Curse of the Werewolf (1962), the only feature-length werewolf movie to be produced by Hammer Studios. Its main character is the bastard son of a mute servant girl, who died in childbirth on Christmas Day -- an origin loaded with several different ways to be born a werewolf, so the child is doomed from the start. His adoptive parents learn this early on, and manage to control the boy's tendencies, but when he is grown-up, on his own and beginning to discover love, it's high time for the curse to rear its ugly head.
This could have been a fun little Aesop about True Love Conquering All, or at least an inspiring love story. Instead, in grand werewolf fashion, the main character dies. Again.
Of course, no genre of horror movies should appropriately exclude Vincent Price, and in 1970 Cry of the Banshee was made. Much like an ancient legend, this movie focuses on a self-centered and abusive Lord, who is cursed by a coven of witches he slighted. The result of this is that his family is then picked off one by one by a mysterious werewolf. The movie is said to be pretty cheesy, though.
Werewolf movies - with the exception of a few gimmicky cameos - vacated America for awhile, leaving room for an enormous host of obscure foreign productions and one documentary. Then, in 1971, they released Werewolves on Wheels. "A gang of tough bikers encounter satanic monks and an ancient curse in this exploitative cult movie." Enough said.
After another long slew of foreign movies, we come to The Werewolf of Washington (1973), a satire somewhat of werewolf movies but mainly of politics. The main character, a reporter who left the country to get away from the President's daughter, is traveling in Hungary when he is attacked by a werewolf. He successfully fends it off with a silver-headed cane, but the gypsies warn him that he is now a werewolf. Undaunted, he returns to Washington, D.C., which is where the plot begins to break away from The Wolf Man. Dean Stockwell stars as the title werewolf, a fascinating twist in itself. Unfortunately, the awesomeness of Dean Stockwell playing a werewolf is mainly negated by narm.
Werewolves suffered another long dark tea-time at this point, broken only by such low-grade films as Wolfman (1979). While the werewolf legend has been blamed on hypertrichosis for some time, this movie takes it to the logistical extreme, the "werewolf" being an actor with an exceptional amount of fur attached to his face.
Finally, in 1981, things picked back up. The 80's were a decade that produced more campy teen-oriented films than should ever have been allowed. To kick things off, they decided to revive the campy teen werewolf genre with Full Moon High, a silly and rather unremarkable film about a boy who becomes an ageless werewolf and later decides to return to school.
Perhaps fortunately for werewolves, 1981 also brought us The Howling and An American Werewolf In London.
The Howling departs from the personal angst/drama story to deliver a horror/psychological thriller, a genre that hadn't been explored during the peak of the werewolf movie craze. Based somewhat loosely on the earlier novel of the same name, the story follows a TV news anchor who suffers a traumatic (and audience-disturbing) experience and is sent to "rehab" in a place called "The Colony". Which turns out to be loaded with werewolves. It all goes downhill from there (though it has a slam-bang of a twist ending). Perhaps the highlight of the movie, besides the introduction of the werewolf design that would later be imitated in Van Helsing, is the expensive-looking transformation sequence that alternates between narm and genuine horror.
Then there is An American Werewolf In London, a much more traditional (in the cinematic sense) story of two young men who go hiking in the England wilds. Despite the film's title, it has nothing to do with Werewolf of London, though it does follow the formula. The two guys are attacked by a werewolf, and as in The Wolf Man of long ago, only one survives. In a creepy twist, though, the non-living victim of the attack returns as a ghost, bringing tidings of doom and transformation to the surviving character. Overall, it's pretty formulaic --the main character doubts for awhile, gets legends stuffed down his throat, angsts, transforms, kills some people, turns back, angsts some more, transforms again and dies. Bet you saw that coming. It was popular, though, probably because for the first time in many years it had enough budget to make a decent-looking werewolf, and an engrossing body-horror transformation sequence. Between this film and The Howling, the werewolf genre was successfully rebooted, which unfortunately spawned more flops than gems. Many years from the 80's onward would see between two and eight werewolf movies, one (2004) reaching as many as fourteen.
Next in the list of popular werewolf media is Thriller (1983), a 13-minute music video by Michael Jackson, for which he hired professional makeup artists to make him look properly werewolfy. Unfortunately, it didn't help; the end result looked more like a large plastic cat-rat. While not especially significant to the werewolf mythos, the video was certainly popular and inexplicably featured the voice of Vincent Price.
1985 was a heady year for werewolf features; no less than eight films were released. Adventures of a Two-Minute Werewolf, She, Howling II... nine total, if you count Ladyhawke, although as far as werewolf movies go it's one of the most far-flung. Featuring a soldier cursed by a bishop over a matter of Michelle Pfeiffer, it hearkens back to old myths more than anything werewolves have seen in the past several decades.
But perhaps the most notable werewolf product of 1985 is Teen Wolf, an utterly ridiculous movie about a teenager who, in the midst of growing up, discovers that he's inherited a lycanthropic "curse" from his parents. The plot is silly, the acting is silly, the prosthetics are silly... the main saving grace of this movie is that it actually lampshades and subverts the werewolf clichés that have been lurking around since the days of Lon Chaney, Jr. In a world where those rules have reigned supreme, it's kind of refreshing, and excessively humorous.
The werewolf legend also hit TV in the 80's, with a rather popular TV show succinctly titled Werewolf (hint: search "Werewolf TV Show" or "Werewolf 1987"). The werewolf prosthetics were not especially well-crafted, but the show managed to conceal this for some time using reduced lighting and unrevealing camera angles, and the show managed to entertain successfully.
In 1988, the werewolf mythos suffered a forceful collision with the Scooby-Doo mythos, producing Scooby-Doo and the Reluctant Werewolf. This really accomplished nothing for either Scooby-Doo or werewolves, but set the pace for many, many werewolf cartoons to follow.
And in 1989, we have "Howling Mad", a clever and entertaining book by author Peter David about a wolf who is bitten by a werewolf and turns into a man on the full moon. It also has a vampire in it, but unlike so many other Vampire + Werewolf stories, he is a fairly minor character; it is the werewolves who take center stage.
Meanwhile, on the roleplaying front, the success of Vampire: The Masquerade had the big guys at White Wolf quite pleased, and they began looking for a way to capitalize on the success. The result: Werewolf: The Apocalypse (1992). Unlike Masquerade, where players mainly feuded with vampires from other clans and attempted to diablarize Cain, Apocalypse gave them a job to do: protect the spirit and well-being of Mother Earth from the evils of the Wyrm -- not a race of dragons, but an evil force woven into the cloth of the world that mainly expresses itself through a large corporation. Like the vampires of Masquerade, the werewolves of Apocalypse are sorted into thirteen tribes, each with particular traits; unlike Masquerade, though, they tend to cooperate with each other rather than feuding.
Full Eclipse (1993) is an action movie about a crack squadron of werewolf police. Aside from the influence of the moon on werewolves, it seems to discard most of the Chaney mythos outright, operating strictly on the Rule of Cool. The prosthetics, while a little strange, were fairly impressive; they seemed to have improved on the werewolves of The Howling. With the large, wolflike heads and inhumanly broad shoulders, they greatly resemble the Van Helsing werewolf to come.
In 1996, Bad Moon introduces yet another respectable work in werewolf prosthetics, indicating that perhaps filmmakers were beginning to take the genre seriously. It also introduces a werewolf who is stopped by, of all things, the family dog. Refreshingly, no silver bullets are used.
As proof that not everone was taking things seriously 1997 saw the release of The Creeps, a B-movie in which a mad scientist manages to create a living wolfman (amongst a slew of other classic Universal monsters) who is four feet tall and highly perverted. Given the large number of "Dracula and also a Wolfman" movies put out by Universal, it seems that the Wolfman - along with Frankenstein's monster and the Mummy - has been very firmly established as a companion monster for Dracula (certainly not a new idea, as we'll see later).
1998: another busy year, with seven movies involving werewolves. The crown of the group is perhaps Sieben Monde, a German film about a man investigating a slew of brutal werewolf-style murders. Not so impressive in itself, but as the character continues to investigate, he comes to realize that all the clues indicate himself as the culprit. Which leaves us with one question: Why haven't the "irony detective" and werewolf genres crossed sooner?
In 1999, there came The Rage of the Werewolf, another creative take on the story (apparently werewolves were officially popular again). This one kicks off with a brilliant load of not-science loosely inspired by The Werewolf of London, when an asteroid collides with the Moon and causes its orbit to shift closer to Earth. Since Hollywood has attributed werewolfism directly to the Moon itself (rather than the dramatically-timed curses of earlier films), this causes a sudden surge of lycanthropy in the populace. And also earthquakes, tidal shifts, and the risk of further orbital decay, but those weren't especially important to the plot and were conveniently omitted in favor of the X-Men-style story.
It seems increasingly that the more popular a werewolf movie, the stranger it is going to be. In Ginger Snaps (2000), werewolves are just like other teenagers, except they develop fangs and hair and murderous tendencies. Also, they resemble B'Elanna Torres during some phases of their transformation.
Then, in 2003, came "Underworld". Possibly the first vampire movie without Dracula to involve werewolves as major characters, Underworld portrays them as an entire race, called "Lycans". And rather than taking advice from the earlier legends (well, aside from the turning-into-wolves-on-full-moons and death-by-silver bits, which you Just Don't Change), they have made the Lycans into a family of brutal, bitter people who, much like some Americans, are still nursing some ancient racial-offense wounds. Their origin, like that of the vampires, has been reworked; the first werewolf was a genetically unstable human who was bitten by a wolf and mutated. Later on they learn to control their transformation, and somehow it becomes associated with the moon.
Every so often, a year comes about where a lot of werewolf movies are released. 2004 was one of those, with no fewer than thirteen (fourteen if you count the short video The Werewolf Solution). And two of these were Ginger Snaps installments. Other notables include the long-awaited Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban, featuring a scrawny, hairless Ginger Snaps-esque werewolf played by David Thewlis, and Van Helsing, a corny-but-entertaining Universal throwback featuring Dracula, an impressive, beefy CGI Wolfman, and Frankenstein's monster. And also Mr. Hyde, who is often considered an honorary werewolf by the dedicated community. It both elevated the Wolfman to a titan of sorts, by making him the only creature that could kill Dracula, and embarrassed him greatly by giving Dracula complete control over most incarnations.
Low-budget werewolf movies tend to be the kind of campy, inaccessible and generally lame things that the public eye tends to pass over. Despite all this, a fairly decent one managed to hit the shelves in 2006: Lycan Colony, a somewhat Howling-esque indie about a family who has just moved into a town occupied entirely by werewolves. The film goes into some of the social aspects of such an arrangement - when that many werewolves are that densely packed, it's hard to find fresh human to nosh - and apparently offers some decently-assembled werewolf prosthetics.
Which pretty much covers it for the werewolves of this period. Much of what occurred has been a rehashment of the same plot and regulations established in Werewolf of London. A few manage to rise above the plot, or add to it; some just launched into all-out horror movies and left it at that.
Explanation for the Werewolf MythEdit
Many scholars have attempted to explain the werewolf myth by attributing it to various diseases of the body and mind. The condition hypertrichosis is frequently cited, as it can cause excessive hair growth on the face on body. Other explanations include mental illness (quite possible in some cases), ergot poisoning, rabies, and porphyria, which has also been mentioned as a potential cause for vampire myths.
Some have suggested that the "werewolf sightings" came about as a result of mass hysteria, possibly due to the audacity of a rash of serial killings. The perpetrators of these crimes would mutilate, kill and finally eat their victims -- what would be considered wolflike behavior. Transforming physically into a wolf was simply the next step.
Others suggest that some attacks, said to be the result of abnormally large and powerful wolves, were actually made by wolf/dog hybrids. Wolves are fairly timid and will not attack a human without provocation, but wolf/dogs who have been raised to treat human territory as their own have no such restraints.
Most or all of these ideas have merit, though it is unlikely that any one of them is the single source of the myth. More likely, the stories are a result of some or all of these phenomena, in addition to other factors (such as the behavior of the Ulfdar) and old-fashioned human imagination.
Ways to Become a Werewolf and to Cure WerewolfismEdit
Note: these methods are untested, not recommended, and provided only for entertainment and educational purposes for the use of writers in fiction. Many of the methods listed range from foolhardy to outright deadly. The Writerium cannot be held responsible for anything that should happen to you should you attempt any of these.
To become a werewolf:
- Perform a transformation ritual.
- Become a witch or warlock and master shapeshifting.
- Trade your soul for lycanthropy.
- Alternatively, trade your soul for something else and take lycanthropy as a side effect.
- Wear the skin of a werewolf, wolf, or hanged man.
- Wear an enchanted belt or other strap.
Europe and Mediterranian:
- Apply the correct magical salve or herb to your body.
- Eat the flesh of a werewolf.
- Eat or wear a Lycanthropus flower on the full moon.
- Voluntarily or involuntarily: eat wolfsbane.
- Voluntarily or involuntarily: eat nightshade. (Note: actual nightshade is deadly.)
- Sustain injuries in a werewolf attack and survive.
- Violate the warnings of gypsies, locals and others in-the-know.
- Inherit werewolfism from one or both parents.
Europe and Mediterranian:
- Drink water from the footprint of a werewolf, or from a stream that a werewolf has drunk from.
- Bilk a gypsy: irritate a witch, warlock, god or other powerful being.
- Be the seventh son born in a row.
- Come in contact with a werewolf's saliva.
- Be born on Christmas Eve or Christmas Day. (Also applies in Russia.)
- Be an unwanted child or the product of rape.
- Recieve a blood transplant or replacement organ from a werewolf.
- Recieve an injection of a lycanthropy-inducing serum.
To Cure a WerewolfEdit
- Addressing an Early Modern werewolf by its Christian name is said to return it to human form.
- If an Early Modern voluntary has a wolf skin, destroy this to prevent further transformation.
- Sprinkle a werewolf with a compound of "1/2 ounce of sulphur, 4 drachms of asafoetida, 1/4 ounce of castoreum; or of 3/4 ounce of hypericum in 3 ounces of vinegar; or with a solution of carbolic acid further diluted with a pint of clear spring water" while speaking his or her Christian name.
- Consuming wolfsbane is said to cure lycanthropy, if it doesn't cause it.
- The werewolf must kneel in one place for 100 years.
- Perform the sign of the cross in front of the werewolf (note: success levels may vary).
- Strike the werewolf three times on the head with a knife.
- Killing the werewolf that bit the individual is said to cure the condition. (note: success levels unknown.)
- If the werewolf cannot be cured, it may be possible to control symptoms by administering a particular herb.
- If all else fails, a silver bullet to the heart will generally eradicate problems.
Werewolves and VampiresEdit
For some time, humans have made a connection between werewolves and vampires. As far back as the nineteenth century, it was common for a vampire tale of popularity to be followed by a werewolf tale - James Malcolm Rymer's penny dreadful series Varney the Vampire (1845) was followed by a series called Wagner the Wehr-Wolf, which was penned by hack writer G. W. M. Reynolds.
Why, though, are the two so closely entwined? While it seems quite natural today, it is a little perplexing as to how it began. One writer speculates that parallel evolution was involved -- both vampires and werewolves are creatures of the night, hunting man and beast alike under cover of darkness, transmitting their horrible curse through death or bite. The similarities alone would be enough for men such as Reynolds to assume that fans of one would appreciate the other. The more solid, Underworld-esque connection was probably not established until later, when Universal Pictures created such movies as House of Frankenstein, House of Dracula and Abbot and Costello Meet Frankenstein. These were followed by other vampires-plus-werewolves films, and at some point it occurred to someone that the title character of Bram Stoker's Dracula was said to be able to control wolves.
With all those connections, coincidences and moonlight romance dramas floating about - as well as a permeating air of "bite-me" girlfriend angst - it occurred to someone that vampires and werewolves weren't so different after all. Or perhaps it just occurred to someone that it would be cool to put them together. Regardless, in 1993, Anita Blake: Vampire Hunter debuted, featuring an attractive female lead, vampire villains, and a large additional cast of werewolves, werejaguars, werehyenas, wererats, wereswans, and other were-creatures. The popularity of the series, along with other written works and the tendencies of White Wolf roleplayers to hybridize their Vampire: The Masquerade and Werewolf: The Apocalypse is likely to have led to somewhat of a cult following of the "Vampire Vs. Werewolf" phenomenon. With the Internet running strong, various groups could meet and compound their beliefs. The movie Underworld probably served to popularize this idea more than to spawn it.
Given the fertility of the human imagination, it was perhaps inevitable that the concept of a "were" - meaning, in this case, a human who turns into an animal - would be applied to other species. These may subscribe to some or all of the commonly accepted myths, or they may simply be humans who transform into a single animal; this is largely dependent on the material. Animals used are limited only to the imagination; creatures such as other canines, large cats, and even dolphins, swans, and cows have appeared.
Additionally, there have been several characters which resemble or transform into wolves, but as they do not fit the commonly accepted werewolf mold are not labeled as such. These include:
- The aforementioned character in Ladyhawke.
- The Hallmark miniseries The 10th Kingdom had a character who was half-wolf. He had a permanant tail, and tended to become violent around the full moon; however, he never actually transformed.
- The Legend of Zelda: Twilight Princess, a game for the GameCube and Wii, gives the main character the ability to turn into a wolf and back.