Werewolves are just one of the many creatures that inhabit the nocturnal mythical world around us, toying with our nightmares and dreams, and surviving in our books and movies. But what is a werewolf, really?

werewolf photo: Werewolf Werewolf.png

Today, we have the common perception that werewolves are really men who transform into a half-man, half-wolf beast during the full moon. However, reality reveals a very different creature. There are two main kinds of werewolves and several… subspecies of these kinds. These main types of werewolves are the willing and unwilling werewolves, both of which remain, for the most part, shrouded in the humanity’s past. Then we deal with the fantasy wolf that is common to today’s beliefs and concepts and finally there is the condition of lycanthropy.

The original werewolf legend claims that a lord and warrior wanted to protect his people and lands and was willing to do anything to do so. He sold his soul to the devil in order to change into a wolf and therefore be able to do as he needed. The choice to become a werewolf came with a skin, some salve, and an incantation that will cause the transformation to occur. Only the power of the animal form corrupted his thoughts and he went from a once benevolent ruler to one who dominated his people and desired more land.

And so the legend of the werewolf began. More people followed a similar path to the original werewolf, either selling their souls to claim a skin, contacting a witch for the materials at another high price, or offering to be bitten by another werewolf. After the first transformation, they became more like their bestial aspects and would terrorize the areas in which they lived. These willing werewolves were able to control the change and determine when, where, and who would suffer at the hands of the creature they became. They would have no remorse for their wrongs and often retain memory of the events. Whether they were capable of fully controlling the creature they became or not are still unknown, though it is believed that they could fully control their animal aspect.

And the only way to stop the creature was to kill them or to burn the fur. The interesting fact about this is that the original legends said there were several ways to kill these creatures. The first werewolves could be killed in the same manner as any normal wolf. No silver bullets required.

Also interesting is the fact that these first werewolves were easily discerned from their natural brethren by the fact that some human aspect would remain after the transformation. This human aspect could be anything from eyes, hands, legs, genitilia, or even hair.

The unwilling werewolf generally is a person who is cursed or survives the attack from a werewolf. It is the most common form of werewolf-ism. This one has no choice at all when about when they conform to their bestial form. They also cannot control the beast or remember the events of the night while transformed. It is here that we see other limitations. There is no fur in which to change form, nor salve or incantation. The full moon is one of the things that is familiar to werewolf transformation. Another possible requirement is the herb wolf’s bane. If the wolf’s bane is blooming, then the werewolves are likely to transform every night. Night is commonly the only time the transformation takes place with unwilling werewolves. And finally, this werewolf is almost impossible to discern from the natural wolf, an aspect of the curse they are under.

However, this werewolf can be cured. Because of their unwillingness to take their bestial form, the cures are more likely to work and their souls are still attached. Not all cures will work and there are times when the cures will not work at all. This may be because they secretly enjoy what their canine form does, whether or not they remember it. Sadly, if they cannot be cured, the only course of action left is to destroy the werewolf in question.

The werewolf of today, also known as the fantasy wolf, is the creature most people associate with the werewolves. Unlike its previous brethren who changed into a complete wolf form (with some minor human aspects still visible), it has the ability to change into a half-man, half-wolf creature. It is completely controlled by the moon. The person who becomes the wolf also has no memory of the transformation, only realizing it when someone else puts the pieces together. Also a stigma of the fantasy wolf is the fact that once the pieces are put together, they typically act in self preservation.

Here we have the typical destruction by silver bullet. There is also a strong sense that this creature cannot be cured of its condition. Both man and animal forms are viewed as being evil people with cruel tastes.

The final werewolf is the psychological condition of lycanthropy. Lycanthropy has been transformed to mean werewolves in general, but was originally coined to describe a person who became a werewolf only in their mind. This type of werewolf is extremely rare. Some of the symptoms include becoming restless around the full moon, extremely vivid dreams of running in the area in which they live. This usually is accompanied by sleepwalking tendencies so they begin to believe that their dreams are really occurring.

A handful of people being dominated by this form of werewolf-ism have actually killed others in order to sate their extreme appetites. Because of this, it is recommended that if you know someone with these symptoms you help them to start seeing a psychiatrist. In extreme cases, it may be necessary to confine them to an institution where they can get the help that they need.

These are the basic types of werewolves, there are actually different kinds when you go further into the mythologies, such as werewolves where the wolf transforms to human. But there are also other kinds of were-creatures. Wolves are just one of the creatures that have taken up our imaginations and nightmares. There are also werefoxes, wereheyenas, weresnakes (typically known as nagas), werebears, wereboars, weretigers, werejaguars, werelions, weredogs, wereswans, and on down the line. These were-creatures are typically found in specific parts of the world. So if you want to learn more, you can look up the myths of various locations and learn about the specific were-creatures. However, remember that some creatures will have other names besides ‘were-‘, such as the naga mentioned above.

Go back to All Things Werewolf                                                             Check out Becoming a Werewolf

  1. Gede Prama says:

    article is quite interesting and hopefully true happiness rays began to warm the hearts of us all, when we can share it with sincerity. Greetings from Gede Prama 🙂 🙂

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