Now we’ve already covered the first fictional werewolf tale, but what about the first real werewolf story? For this story we’ll have to go to the beautiful country of Ireland. Yes, one of the very first real werewolves comes from the picturesque Ireland.
Once, long ago Ireland was known as “Wolfland” for all the countless wolves that overran the small island causing all sorts of hassles and well, deaths even. With this in mind it makes sense that the first recorded werewolf tales came from Ireland.
This supposedly true story, according to Giraldus Cambrensis, was said to have occurred only a few years before the arrival of Prince John in Ireland. An unnamed priest was traveling from Ulster to Meath on an important mission with his assistant, a young boy. The two stopped for the night near woods at the edge of the See of Ossory. As they lay down to sleep, the priest hears a human voice calling from the nearby forest. He gets up and looking out into the darkness and sees a giant wolf coming near. The priest and boy draw back in terror, but the wolf speaks in a human voice and tells them not to be afraid. The wolf said that he wasn’t really a wild animal, but a man that was part of a clan from the district that had been cursed by a grumpy saint named St. Natalis.
What happened was every seven years two of their clan had to assume the shape of a wolves and go to live in the forest. After seven years pass, they come back to the clan and resume human form, and then two others take on wolf form. The last couple that had taken wolf form was a man and woman, a husband and wife that had taken wolf form when they were very old and the forest life didn’t work out too well for them. The wolf speaking to the priest was the husband; his wife was very sick and dying. The wolf had come to look for a priest to give her the last rites. The wolf asked the priest to come with him and administer the Holy Sacrament The priest reluctantly agreed , left the boy behind and followed the wolf, where they eventually they came to a den at the foot of a massive tree. Seeing the dying wolf woman, the priest asked for proof that she was indeed a woman and not a feral beast; the wolf man told the priest to cut a piece of her flesh off (eww). The cleric cuts off part of the she-wolf’s skin and is shocked to see the face of an elderly woman looking up at him. Without waiting another moment the priest quickly administered the blessings and the old woman died peacefully.
Afterward, the wolf walks the man back and makes several prophecies about the English in Ireland, then runs back into the woods. Even though the priest promised to see the wolf again, he never finds him a second time.
This story was believed to be true, seriously. Two years after this event, Giraldus was in the same area, where he was approached by two priests sent by the bishop to ask him his view on this “serious matter.” Giraldus met with the bishop of the town and gave his views in writing. These writings were then sent to the Bishop of Ossory then to Pope Urban III. Showing you just how serious they took this werewolf tale, one of the first ever recorded.