Robert E. Howard’s WOLFSHEAD
As I sit typing these words, it is January 22nd. The 112th birthday of Robert E. Howard. What a perfect occasion to celebrate the man’s contribution to the werewolf mythos. Howard, if you don’t recognize his name (please don’t tell me, as I’d rather not know how culturally deprived you are) is most famous as the creator of Conan the Barbarian. Other notable creations include King Kull, Bran Mak Morn, and Solomon Kane. Howard is regarded as the originator of the “Sword-and-Sorcery” genre–he, along with J.R.R. Tolkien, who invented “High Fantasy,” and perhaps Edgar Rice Burroughs, whose work straddled the line between Fantasy and Sci-Fi, created the Fantasy genre as it exists today. Howard, though, was no slouch where it came to writing other genres: Westerns, Adventure, Detective stories, and Horror. One of his most notable characters in that latter niche is De Montour, the “Wolfshead.”
Howard’s two werewolf stories, IN THE FORESTS OF VILLEFERE and WOLFSHEAD, are crackling good thrillers that in many ways prefigure all the werewolf fiction that was to come. They stand out in particular due to Howard’s concept of the werewolf as a spiritual entity that can possess both men and animals, and the setting of the latter story in Africa. Any werewolf mark owes it to himself/herself to track those stories down.