Werewolves… pt 2

The third type of werewolf is French in origin and brought over to the Americas by French settlers and then traveled to St. Louis with the Cajuns. It’s the Loup-Garou. The Loup-Garou was said to have the body of a man, but the head of a wolf or a dog. They were blood drinkers like vampires as well. The loup-garou was the type of tale used to encourage children to behave. In one version, the loup garou is tied to the Catholic celebration of Lent. If a person broke Lent seven years in a row, they would turn into a loup-garou. And at the same time, the loup-garou was a beast that would hunt down and kill those that didn’t follow the rules of Lent. The loup-garou is one of the tales where werewolfism is transferred by blood and it has a time limit. If a person sheds the blood of the loup-garou, the loup-garou would return to the shape of man and tell them their secret. If the one who shed the loup-garou’s blood stayed quiet about the encounter for 101 days, they would go on with their lives as normal if not a little sickly and pale for a time. However, if they spoke about it, they would turn into a beast themselves.

What made the loup-garou so scary was that they were in complete control of the beast form. They weren’t ravaging monsters. They were just as intelligent as men. They didn’t require the moon to change. They could change at any time of their own free will. They could choose who they were attacking. And that to most people is terrifying. Fortunately, they only inhabited swamps and marshes and very rarely forests. Loup-Garou were considered both victims and monsters. They were victims because they became Loup-Garou when trying to defend themselves. They were monsters because they attacked their fellow men deliberately. (Unless they broke the laws of Lent and that’s how they became a Loup-Garou and yeah, oral traditions.)

The next origin tale is heavily linked with witchcraft, magic and of course, the devil. There was a period in medieval times where werewolves weren’t considered that great of a threat. I mean, they were just lycanthropes after all, changing into wolves, acting like wolves, not really a big deal in the scheme of things. Hey, it could even be a punishment from God and the church. But when witchcraft became a big deal, and magic and dealing with the devil, then accusations of werewolfism started being hurled at the accused. These type of werewolves were accused of making a pact with the devil and in return for their souls they were given powers beyond the reach of mortal men. And if werewolves were involved, this usually meant that the devil had given them a magical item to turn them into a wolf, often a belt made of wolf pelt. In some tales, there were magical salves or potions or even magic chanted spells that turned men and women from humans into wolves.

These demonic werewolves supposedly had no control in their wolf form. They only way to tell them apart from other wolves was the fact they had no tail. Mostly these were accusations by the church in order to try and keep control of the population, but terrifying for those who were accused. There is one instance where a man insisted that these type of werewolves were not demonic at all but were in fact warriors of God who were fighting demons and witches in order to keep others safe. The church didn’t take that argument very well and he ended up flogged. But the idea was put out there of once again, a protective werewolf.

The last type of werewolf is probably the werewolf that we are all the most familiar with, the Hollywood werewolf. Universal stared their werewolf mythos in 1935 with the “Werewolf of London.” As you can see from above, there wasn’t a lot to go on or at the very least it was as most oral traditions very contradictory. This film is the origin of the idea that a werewolf will attack those they love most first. They used a more scientific mystical plant potion for their origin story. It gave it more of the feel of Frankenstein and the Invisible Man (stories that Universal also has the rights to), instead of a cryptid, a werewolf is a mishap of science. It wasn’t until 1941 with “the Wolf Man” that the Hollywood version of a werewolf was fully imagined. The writer of the Wolf Man freely admits to making everything, including the famous rhyme, up. He was basing this story upon his own experience of fleeing Nazi Germany, how this tragic main character is as out of control as he was out of control.

Before this film, the only time any sort of anti-werewolf weapon was mentioned in literary sources was in the sequel to Dracula with a “Sacred” bullet. Now a “Sacred” bullet could mean a lot of things depending on what you feel a werewolf is, but was most likely to be blessed lead from a church. Silver wasn’t mentioned explicitly until around 1935 when the stories about the Beast of Gevedaun were revised by novelists. Silver wasn’t in the earlier versions. The writer of The Wolf Man also claims he made the use of a silver bullet up for the movie. The same for the unwilling change under the full moon and the fact that the creature was completely berserk and unaware of what he was doing. The idea that a bite or a scratch would turn another person into a werewolf was also made up for this movie! The last thing the writer made up was the use of pentacles to designate who the creature would attack next. (To represent the star of david that the jews were forced to wear in Nazi Germany.)

So, unwilling change under the full moon, transformation by bite, and allergies to silver are all cinematic conceits that had nothing to do with the original werewolf tales. But here we are recycling these same ideas over and over as if they were historical truth and there were no other types of werewolves.

There is a great deal of range of what can be done with werewolves and more could be done if mixed with good wolf science. It could raise the stakes (pun intended) for both humans and werewolves if done well. What is more terrifying? A ravaging beast? Or a beast that has the intelligence of a man? Or to be a beast that has the intelligence of a man and be hunted anyways? The classic question raised in the original wolfman was “where does the man end and the beast begin?” And there is still no clear answer to that question. It is still there to be explored.

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