Werewolves in Literature

The idea of the mythological, or mystical has always been a source of inspiration for literature. The reader is automatically drawn to something outside of their individual reality – we are attracted to the strange the obscene, the horrifying and the unknown. Throughout history legends have fed off of our fears – the subjects of which send children under their covers and weave themselves through folk culture.

One of the most well known and culturally pervasive of these legends is the werewolf. The idea of a half wolf half man creature is seen as early as classical Grecian literature, and continues up through today with authors like Stephanie Meyer. Although the characters range from horrifying beasts to friendly companions there is a general continuity among the creatures – they are all strong, powerful, and anamorphous. Traditionally they are also associated with a lunar cycle and only change during a full moon. Also most werewolf legends agree upon the idea that the condition is passed through the bite.

However, there are outliers that insist that it is contracted through drinking water out of the footprint of an animal, wearing a wolf skin belt, or drinking specially prepared beer. Because this is a mighty beast, dangerous to both friend and foe, it of course also has an element of weakness, most notably wolfsbane, but also silver (which burns the creature from the inside out). They are not, like vampires, effected by religions icons such as crucifixes or holy water.

Regardless of the historical traditions or cultural similarities, there is undoubtedly an interest in these creatures that spans centuries, if not thousands of years. It is something that is continually reinvented, and seems to if not directly, as least encourage sympathy from the reader. The werewolf does not seem to be as brutal as the vampire, it does not sleep in coffins and drink blood, it is more a misunderstood outcast. Someone who did not want to become what they are, and are now suffering for their condition. They do not necessarily prey on the weak and beautiful, but are instead cursed by the moon and forced into an unwilling state.

This idea is especially encouraged by modern fiction, especially teenage focused novels such as Harry Potter, and the Twilight series. Where these mythical monsters are also friends and mentors. The werewolf draws the attention of the reader. It provides a humanitarian aspect that we sympathize with, but at the same time repels us with its destructive tendencies. We are sucked in and spit back out, and really.. What else could you want out of a legend?

Leave a Reply

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.