Your Weekend Creature Comforts: The Halloween Classics Part 1: Werewolves
How are my fiendish followers feeling today? If you are like me, you are probably shivering with antici-pation that October is on us and Halloween is at the end of the month. What is there not to love about Halloween? Candy, costumes, monsters and mayhem. Makes your mouth water, doesn’t it? So I decided what better way to compliment the horrors of Halloween brought to you by none other than Arthur Harkness than to dedicate this month of creature comforts to the classic creatures of Halloween. Now, there are a lot of creatures that we associate Halloween with, but there are certain monsters that just seem to embody the holiday. With 4 weekends until that hallowed evening, I chose my “Big 4” to feature each weekend, giving you something to wet your appetite while you plan out your flawless Halloween experience.
My “Big 4” includes vampires, werewolves, witches and zombies. I will leave my favorite for last, but today we start with werewolves. Strictly by definition, a werewolf is also known as a lycanthrope, which is a human that has the ability to shape shift in to a wolf or a human-wolf hybrid. The word lycanthropy has its origins in Greek and probably was used to describe different gods and goddesses when they transformed in to wolves to trick unsuspecting humans or to improve their ability to hunt, as well as in reference to humans afflicted with the lycanthropy curse as a form of punishment.
It seems that werewolf folklore as we know it developed around the 15th century, and like the witch trials that occurred simultaneously, accusations of being a lycanthrope were often used as a way of persecution by churches and governments. It seems that accusations of lycanthropy occurred all over Europe until the 18th century when werewolf persecution tapered off. Interestingly, wolves killing humans was not unheard of in Europe during this time, and scholars think that the creation of werewolves was used to explain serial killings in certain areas. At the same time, places in the world without werewolves had similar stories of werejaguars, weretigers, and werelions. I guess Quinn comes from Asia. From there werewolves became an interest in the gothic, horror, and fantasy genres and areas of study. Additionally, werewolf stories might have been people’s way of explaining rabies, wherein an infected human would bite another human and transmit the disease.
Now about the werewolves themselves, there is massive variation in their descriptions between cultures and time periods. Some societies think that people who are werewolves are hairier than usual, others say that you can spot them by hair bristles found on the underside of their tongue. And while most of us might assume that werewolves are either born or bitten, some of the original descriptions of how to become a werewolf included spells and simple measures like dressing yourself in wolfskin. Since lycanthropy was largely thought of as a medical condition, there were also numerous maladies developed during the Middle Ages, sadly most leading to the death of the afflicted individual.
So where the hell did all this silver and full moon crap come from anyways? The 20th century baby. Yup, those are all recent creations. Actually, most of the stories involving hereditary lycanthropy or transmission via a werewolf bite are more modern as well. I am not quite sure where the myths about silver started, but I am sure humans needed to write in some failsafe into their horror stories, and while vampires need to be staked, werewolves are commonly incredibly vulnerable to silver. Make sure you have your silver bullets ready this Halloween folks, it’s often the only way you can take down a slobbering man-eating wolf beast. Speaking of vampires, another common component to werewolf stories is that vampires and werewolves are mortal enemies, and werewolf bites can kill vampires. Also, many stories depict the werewolf condition being controlled by the moon, where a lycanthrope is forced to shift in to wolf form against their will. Of course, being a super-human in many ways, werewolves often retain some enhanced senses, strength, and abilities in their human forms, as well as enhanced healing at all times. If you are an admirer of beasts like me, I have to say the werewolf is a pretty cool classic. I might even say that lycanthropy is a condition I might not be upset to be afflicted by, though hopefully I would be the type that didn’t crave human flesh.
And where to start with modern depictions, there are too many to count! I can think of over a dozen off the top of my head that I love, and when I did a Google search for werewolf movies I got over 9 million hits. Werewolf novels gives you 3 million results to browse. Kind of overwhelming, but let me tell you about some my favorite depictions of that big, cuddly man-beast.
For novels, werewolves make appearances in lots of great reads. Though I already reviewed the movie as a dud, The Mortal Instruments book series is quite enjoyable, and in addition to vampires, demons, and fairies, werewolves are a key player. Luke is one of the main adult characters who used to be a demon-fighting shadow hunter until a werewolf bite changed his life. Luckily Luke is able to use his lycanthropic condition for good, and he ends up being a leader amongst the wolves helping to build a truce between the creatures of the world and the high and mighty shadow hunters. Later in the series we meet Maia and Jordan, both bitten werewolves that are on a quest to redeem themselves from past wrongs in wolf form. I do enjoy the werewolves in these stories- skip the movie, read the books.
Some other novels we all know and love with werewolves include the Harry Potter series and the Southern Vampire Mystery series where True Blood is from. I am sure you have all read Harry Potter, and if not well I am not sure if we can be friends. So most of you readers are familiar with Remus Lupin and Fenrir Greyback. Though they are classically controlled by the full moon, these wolves have quite a bite. And while you might only be familiar with the wolves of True Blood, the books are completely different as well as lots of fun, I strongly recommend you check them out. In one novel there is a battle scene amongst all our favorite characters and a group of wolf-witch hybrids with such phenomenal imagery.
Other notable series I will mention include the House of Comarre, The World of the Lupi, The Deadtown Series, and the Kitty Norville series. And while the novels comment that the shape-shifting Native American wolves in the Twilight series are not really werewolves per se, technically they are by the definition.
Let’s say you aren’t in the mood for an imagination stimulation with a read, but want the more tangible, or visual, aspects of a werewolf movie or show this Halloween. Well stock up cause you can probably find enough to keep you busy the whole month. Though a little bit old and 90’s corny (which hey, who doesn’t love a flashback movie), An American Werewolf in Paris is really enjoyable and creative. And as Harkness so rightly pointed out, sometimes teenagers just need to die. And you could always catch Michael J. Fox in another blast from the past as the original Teen Wolf. If flannel shirts and bandanas don’t do it for you, the more recent Underworld series is a kick-ass vampire vs. werewolf movie series. My personal favorite of the four movie series is Underworld: Rise of the Lycans, where we learn of the origins of werewolves and see that vampires and werewolves could get along. You could also check out the movie versions of Harry Potter and the Twilight series. While the acting might not be the best in Twilight, you will probably enjoy the CGI, and yes Jacob is pretty spectacular when he shifts on the fly. If you want to stick with the vampire and werewolf as mortal enemies theme, Van Helsing might be to your liking, and it’s also pretty hard not to admire bad ass Hugh Jackman in this film that combines Halloween wonders in a great plot.
Aside from movies, TV shows are being over run by werewolves these days. Let’s see, you could watch Sanctuary, Being Human, True Blood, Doctor Who, Buffy, Vampire Diaries, Teen Wolf, and The Originals to overdose on your favorite wolfy beast. Of all of those I would have to say my favorite wolves are on True Blood, though they are vastly different from the novels I would recommend over the show any day. Though they are all too easily addicted to vampire blood, the werewolves on True Blood can be pretty bad ass.
So now we come to the conclusion of week 1 for the Halloween “Big 4”, my personal favorite werewolf depiction. Of course, being that there are so many werewolf representations out there this could change as I take in more novels and movies in the future, but right now my favorite werewolves are from the Women of the Otherworld series by Kelly Armstrong. The first two novels of her series revolves around the only female werewolf in the world, Elena Michaels. Elena is a rock star character, and the pack of wolves she is a part of are funny, caring, cunning, and animalistic. While they face some crazy serial killer werewolves and psycho rich sadist hunters, you learn to really love them. These wolves don’t have to change by the moon, but do need to get it out of their system about once a week. The mixture of wolf and human emotions is stellar. I highly recommend reading these books before the SyFy show based on the book comes out later this year, a read this good can never be portrayed as well in film.
Well kids, start pricing those werewolf costumes for the 31st, I’ll see you next week with my next installment of the Halloween “Big 4” creature comforts.
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Posted on October 5, 2013, in Creature Comforts, Geekology and tagged creature comforts, Halloween, harry potter, lycanthropy, monsters, Underworld, Werewolf, wolf, wolves. Bookmark the permalink. 4 Comments.