Tall, Dark and Furry -- our love affair with WEREWOLVES

Even a man who is pure in heart
And says his prayers each night
May become a wolf when the wolf-bane blooms
And the autumn moon is bright.
From the movie, “The Wolf Man”, 1941

Halloween is the PERFECT time to discuss one of my favorite things – werewolves!

From Oz in Buffy the Vampire Slayer to Lucian in Underworld to Remus Lupin in Harry Potter, werewolves have a powerful presence in modern pop culture. And not necessarily as the bad guy. There are plenty of paranormal romance novels (mine included!) where the werewolf is the hunky hero.

The concept of werewolves (or lycanthropes) didn’t originate in modern times. In fact, you’ll find them in almost every culture in the world. Werewolves have a place in European history, Russian folklore and Norse mythology. Humans who become wolves are also chronicled in early Canadian stories and appear in Native American tales. Accounts of werewolves even appear in Greek and Roman writings – Virgil, Herodotus, Pliny the Elder and many others made mention of them.

Werewolf was a word first documented in 1008, although it originated long before that. The word wer (or were, wair, verr) means “man” in several older European languages. And wulf – well, that’s pretty self-explanatory. England, Germany, the Netherlands, Scotland, etc. all use a variation of the word werewolf.

There are plenty of other names for werewolf, however. In France, you’d beware of the loup-garou. In Spain and Mexico, it’s the hombre lobo and in Argentina, the lobizón. It’s the kurtadam in Turkey, the vlkodlak in the Czech Republic. In Greece, you’d watch out for the lycanthropos, and in Italy, the lupo mannaro. In Haiti, be very afraid of the Jé-rouge.

Wolves are not the only animals featured in shapeshifting legends however. There are stories of were-bears in northern Europe. Chinese, Korean and Japanese stories prominently feature were-foxes, as well as many other creatures such as snakes and dragons who become human. Africa’s folklore has were-hyenas, India tells of the were-tiger, and in Central and South America are legends of the were-jaguar. Irish and Welsh legends feature individuals changing into everything from horses to hares. Many Native American tribes have stories of transformations from man to animal.

Our present fascination with werewolves might be as simple as a subconscious wish to get back in touch with nature. Or, as a few have theorized, it’s a remnant of genetic memory – a leftover from a long ago time when you didn’t dare go outside your door at night for fear of running into a changeling.

Are they real? Some think it’s possible. I guest-blogged about our own American Werewolf on Cathy Stang's site* on October 9th. Known as the Bray Road Beast of Wisconsin, this animal has been sighted by residents since 1936 and described as a wolf-man creature. Don't forget, these are people who are well-acquainted with local wildlife like bears! Even some skeptics have become believers after interviewing witnesses.

Whether werewolves exist or not, our fascination with them is here to stay.

Dani Harper

Big congrats to Sarabelle! Your name was drawn from the big red mixing bowl this week. Please drop me an email at daniharperblog@romancingthewolf.com with your snail mail address so I can send out your prize.

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*http://cathystang.blogspot.com/ Don't miss Cathy's Monster Movie Trivia on October 10th!