G L Drummond quite likes her online nick of Scath, which is Irish Gaelic for ‘shade or shadow’. She’s been fascinated by vampires since reading Bram Stoker’s novel, and by shapeshifters/were creatures since watching Nastassja Kinski in Cat People.
One of the two most popular preternatural figures in fiction, werewolves have evolved from their blood thirsty origins much the same as vampires have, though I’ve yet to read about a werewolf that sparkles in the sunlight.
Let’s give thanks for that, shall we?
Legends of werewolves stretch far into the past. ‘Werewolf’ has been used as label for those suffering from mental illness and hypertrichosis (excessive hair growth), and even for serial killers, cannibalistic or otherwise.
A possible beginning for them is the myth of King Lycaon of Arcadia.
He was determined to disprove Zeus’ divinity, so served up a tasty dish of his own son to the god, who then transformed him into a wolf.
I guess Lycaon then went around biting people in frustration at being thwarted, or in realizing that Zeus was indeed a real god, thus spreading the joys of lycanthropy.
It’s become increasingly rare for werewolves to be portrayed in fiction as victims of circumstance who happen to turn into rampaging, savage beasts at the rise of the full moon, or as sly, cunning creatures who delight in hunting humans as their prey.
Some might believe that means werewolves are no longer true horror characters, but I disagree.
No matter how much any writer attempts to civilize werewolves, we know that with just the right nudges, a werewolf will lose it and go on a gory rampage.
Why is that?
It’s because the melding of human instincts to that of a beast is a perversion of Nature and disrupts the natural order of things.
Plus, the addition of humans to anything usually screws that thing all up.
Real wolves don’t tend to run around biting humans or just killing everything that moves for the fun of it. Animals basically live in the moment, though many are hardwired so that it appears they plan ahead (hoarding food for winter, eating in preparation for hibernation).
People plan ahead, and as far as I know, they’re the only species that kills for reasons other than survival (revenge, punishment, thrills).
Bloody beginnings, myths and legends aside, I think werewolves will always be figures of horror no matter how much taming of them is attempted by writers.