Werewolves as the Good Guys


Hollywood and history has done the werewolf a great disservice by painting him as a monster, an out-of-control killing machine ruled by the cycles of the moon.

What you may not know is that it hasn’t always been this way! Before the religious leaders between the 12th and the 16th centuries decided to lump werewolves in with witches and condemn them all as evil servants of the Devil, werewolves were often seen as neutral beings, good, or even benevolent.

A group in Italy was known as the Benandanti, which means “good walkers” or “those who go well”. They practiced white magic and claimed to travel out of their bodies while they slept for the purpose of battling evil. Both male and female members of the group took part in this four times a year, and as spirits they commonly took the form of wolves, although they might assume that of other animals as well. Specifically, they used their wolfen form to fight demons and witches to protect their crops, and if they won, there would be a good harvest. If they lost, their crops would wither in the fields, and many of their children would die as well. It was also said that the Benandanti were said to be able to contact the world of the dead, and to protect the road between the living and the afterlife. 

The priest and the wolf
In the 1300s, John of Nuremberg relates that a priest was lost in the forest and came upon a campfire. There he found a wolf sitting upright like a man. The wolf spoke to him in human language and entreated him to come and deliver last rites to his dying wife, as they were both Christian. The priest was at last persuaded and the wolf led him to a house, in which lay another wolf, a female. The priest administered the rites and saw her emerge from her lupine form to that of an aged woman who died soon after. The husband, still in wolf form, was grateful for the priest’s ministrations, and led him safely through the dangerous forest all the way to his distant destination.

Bisclavret became a favorite pet of the king and
accompanied him everywhere
In the 12th century, a poem relates the story of Baron Bisclavret, a man who happened to be a werewolf. His wife learns his secret and hides the clothing he needs to return to human form. Bisclavret runs to the king, who is out hunting, and kisses his boots. The king is so impressed with the wolf’s behavior that he takes him back to the castle to live with him. Everyone at court marvels at the wolf’s gentleness and nobility, and the creature lives freely among them. Eventually, the wife comes to the castle with her new husband and she is attacked by the wolf. Rescued, she is forced to tell the king what she had done to Bisclavret, and to produce the clothing that will allow him to change. She is banished from the land and all that was Bisclavret’s is restored to him by the king.

Wulvers were gentle creatures with generous hearts
The Vilkacis of Latvian and Lithuanian lore was a benevolent creature, usually a wolf that had once been a human being. It often tried to participate in singing and dancing whenever there was a celebration and sometimes brought treasure to the party! 

Werewolves in Scotland were often of a type called Wulvers. The creatures were known for having kind hearts and only wanted to live in peace. Often sad and forlorn, they were nonetheless generous to those in need. They were known to leave fish at the door of widows and poor families. Sometimes their presence indicated that money or some other treasure was hidden nearby.

In my paranormal romance novels, I’ve created a world in which the werewolves live as humans among us, hiding in plain sight. They call themselves Changelings and they regard their innate ability to become a wolf at will as a gift. Such a unique power can also complicate their lives, however, particularly when love is involved. Are my creatures “good”? One of the Changelings’ non-lupine friends summed up humans and werewolves this way: “Honey, there are good and bad individuals in both species.”



Dani Harper
www.daniharper.com