There are loads of werewolf books out there, some with incredibly complex werewolf lore created by the author, others with… cliché, overdone werewolf storylines. But out of all the author views on werewolves one of my ultimate favorites has got to be Laurell K. Hamilton’s werewolves in the Anita Blake series (book one). She takes a common theme and makes it her own and the results rock all things awesome.
First off, in the Anita books vampires and shapeshifters and all other magical beasties are known and part of the world we live in. It’s sort of like the show True Blood in that way, where the supernatural is part of everyday life, the humans know it exists. Anyway, onto the weres. In the books, lycanthropes are barred from certain professions (some parents don’t want their kids being taught by a were and no hospitals wants a doctor to infect a patient) and can be killed on sight in some states (new supernatural laws are always being made).
There are many different types of shapeshifters in the books; you have werewolves, wererats, wereleopards, werelions and on and on, but we’ll just focus on the wolves. To become a were you need to be scratched by another were or exchange bodily fluids while they are in full animal form. See, shapeshifters have three forms; human, half form (half human half animal) and full animal form, but only in full animal form can they infect a human. Lycanthropy can be also be passed along by getting a bad batch of lycanthrope vaccine.
Changing between forms takes a great deal of energy; most lycanthropes must eat immediately after changing to animal form and collapse into a comatose state for several hours after returning to human form. Stronger lycanthropes do not need to feed immediately or collapse, but are super tired. The shapeshifters who spend too much time in animal form may not be able to shift back completely. As a result, some of the lycanthropes have fangs or eyes resembling their animal form, even when in human shape.
Like many packs there are alphas, the strongest of the strong. Some shapeshifters reach “alpha” or “master” status, a power level. Alpha shapeshifters may display some of the following traits:
- An ability to resist transforming.
- The ability to partially shapeshift, for example shifting hands into claws, or even “cosmetic” shapeshifting – shifting bones or flesh simply to alter appearance.
- The ability to force other shapeshifters to change form, or to prevent them from doing so.
- Some shapeshifters can share their power with others by allowing them to feed on the shapeshifter’s blood.
- The ability to heal others.
As for the social workings of a pack, dominance is a big thing in the werewolf world. The pack is structured in a clear hierarchy, and pack members move up or down by winning or losing challenges against other pack members. Some dominance facts:
- Although most dominance battles end when one participant backs down, leadership of the pack is only transferred by a battle to the death. So if you want to run the pack, you have to kill the current leader.
- A dominant pack member may issue any order to submissive member, provided that the dominant does not order the submissive to do anything illegal.
- A pack member may offer or receive “protection” to or from another member. A pack member must accept all challenges on behalf of any person to whom he or she has offered protection.
- Non-werewolves may be classified as “dominant” to certain members of the pack, but may not typically be considered “alpha” or full members of the pack.
Now, on to something I really love, the terminology, which has a lot of roots in ancient mythology. The werewolves have many private pack terms…
Ulfric: The supreme alpha male of the pack. He is the boss, the pack leader. Theoretically, female weres may become Ulfric, but female Ulfrics are rare because the strongest males normally have a significant strength advantage over even the strongest females. The term is a derivative of the Norse “ulfr,” meaning “wolf.”
Fenrir: An official challenger to the Ulfric, named after Fenrisulfr or Fenrir, the wolf that is destined to kill Odin in Norse mythology. Remember when I said to be pack leader you have to kill the current boss aka Ulfric, well this is the challenger.
Bolverk: The Bolverk, named after Bolverk of Norse mythology, is the “enforcer” of the Ulfric. The Bolverk carries out punishments or performs duties the Ulfric does not want to do himself, or if he is not available to do so. Usually the tasks assigned to the Bolverk are the bad jobs, like having to kill a rogue member. Often at times the Bolverk is used as almost as a bogeyman to make other wolves behave.
Eranthe and Eros: Eranthe, and Eros, the god of love or lust. For the werewolves, these roles are held by other werewolves who help the new werewolves learn to control themselves and their physical form during sex, usually to prevent the change from human to wolf during sexual release. Young wolves have control issues, haha.
Freki and Geri: The Ulfric’s second and third in command. Named after Odin’s wolves of Norse
Lupa: Named for Lupa, the mother of Romulus and Remus, the position is reserved for the Ulfric’s chosen mate. Almost always the most dominate of females or in some cases simply the chosen one. The term is Latin for “she-wolf” and “prostitute.”
Freyja: A lupa who declares herself independent of the Ulfric and challenges the Ulfric to reclaim her. Any male wolf may win her by having sex with her. The male wolves will do anything, including kill each other, to win her.
Lupanar: A meeting place for the pack.
Munin: The munin are the spirits or memories of the dead pack members, named after Munin, Odin’s raven of memory in Norse mythology. Live pack members can “call the munin,” drawing on memories or abilities of former members. Various packs appear to preserve the munin by different methods. For example, the werewolves of the Thronos Rokke clan preserve the munin of dead pack members by eating their bodies.
Awesome right? I love it, all the mythology and complexity of it all. But to each their own. Check out the books and decide for yourself if you like these werewolves too.