Tuesday, October 17, 2006

Creature Feature: The Werewolf

It's hard to see in this thing!

Well, things have been coming up a lot recently, but it's time to blow some steam off by taking a look at everyone's fun buddy, the Loup Garou! AKA the Werewolf, the Lycanthrope or Fuzzy-Wuzzy.

Well, just kidding about the last one.

Hollywood's treatment of the werewolf typically sees him as an impotent man who suddenly gets accidentally bitten by a wolf and soon becomes an alpha male, sort of a 'from zero to hero' kind of thing.

With the unfortunate side effect of becoming a man-killing freak in the process, and one who has to use the lunar calendar, of all things.

And it's interesting that over the years, people used to be really conflicted, nay, tormented over this sort of thing, blood of the innocent and all that.

But lately it seems like werewolf victims treat it all as just a really big inconvenience or vent on people using the Texan 'He Had It Coming' principle.

Oh sure, they're officially looking for a cure, but whether it's An American Werewolf in London, Wolf, Werewolf the TV series or any number of other recent werewolf films too wretched to utter their names, (I'm looking at you, Wes Craven) it seems the 'heroes' really dawdle at finding the cure.

It takes half the episode/film to figure out they're even a werewolf, and then there's the ranting around like they'd never heard of the things.

It makes you just want to throw your hands up in the air like you don't care.

For me, I always saw the roots of our primal fear of the werewolf grounded in the idea of a person who is out of control, who returns to a bestial, savage state, becoming feral and murderous.

And perhaps, in an odd paradox, they're not completely 'wild' and 'carefree' beings of pure chaos. After all, their existence is now guided by the regularity of the lunar cycles.

It's savage, but largely predictable.

The werewolf strikes me as a being we dread for fear of reversions. Well, yes, and the big pointy teeth.

And what strikes me more is the more forgotten lore that werewolves used to be people who MADE THE CHOICE to be so. Beings whose monstrous natures were not bestowed by accident, but design. Which I find an intriguingly more horrific idea.

What are you looking at?


butterflybutterfly said...

I had heard stories all my life of the dire wolves of the ancient "Black Forest(s)" of Europe, and how they were my height at the shoulder (about 5 ') and could leap over the 10-25 foot high pointy-topped tree-log timber barricades of European villages with ease, as they loped out of the dark depths of said forests to come hunting in huge packs. They were said to pull down travellers racing through the woods at night, if they couldn't get out of the woods before dark.

**The following is LONG, and rather full of links and such. . . .


This brought to mind the dire wolf, since I like most had fallen prey to the ideas of giant wolves jumping impossibly high walls to consume viciously entire village populations in the dead of European Black Forest winters. Huge, looming grey to blackest black, snarling fangs dripping beneath terrifying glowing eyes. . . .

Nope. They were actually a little larger than the grey wolf, and stockier - but heavier in the ways that meant they couldn't course after fleet-footed prey as well as other wolves, and had to rely on catching huge, slower Ice Age animals and scavenging. The massive heads described were accurate, since they tended to need the bone structure and musculature to crush the bones of their food (also tending to scatter the bones, I imagine much to the dismay of paleontologists).



Notable for the first few paragraphs, since the rest simply re-iterates what the other links said:


An interesting page, once you get past the Domestic Dog section (it includes an alphabetical list of 519 breeds), including the "maned dog" which looks like a stilty-legged sharper-nosed fox; also has very nice picture imagining what a dire wolf looked like:


Dogs used to defend humans (in battle and otherwise), and their flocks and castles (I believe the mastiff was a dog bred for the nobility, suchlike the imagery found describing a Medieval noble's great dining hall, whereby they would toss the bones and other tasty tidbits to the dogs lying amongst the rushes (hay) on the floor - and said dogs were larger than small children):


A little over a decade ago I lived with my sister in SE, and about a block and a half away, in a rather small house, lived a wolfhound and his humans. He almost came up to my chin - and I was wearing mid-height heels for work the day I got to meet and pet him. Sweet dog - just alarmingly, alarmingly huge. (Sidenote: they moved not too long after, I hope to a large place with at least 80+ acres - only fair for the dog.)

Any wonder people now have misconceptions that the likely-extinct dire wolves of the ice ages were even larger, to explain the gigantic size of the wolf-hunting Irish Wolfhounds?! I mean, imagine a wolf large enough to warrant a pack of these dogs hunting it, and what does your mind picture: Absolutely gigantic wolves, that's what!


Wikipedia, though, has an excellent description of the history of the Irish wolfhound, albeit a nasty comment about Americans not having them at the end is a rude irritant:


All in all, though, it makes me wonder if competition 4, 9, or even 20+ thousand years ago between humans and the dire wolves, _was_ what started the nasty reputation of the dire wolves. If they tended to eat what we did humans would view them as a threat and start bad-mouthing them (look at today's political and entertainment arenas). Then Ice Age humans probably tried to kill them off (as Medieval ones did in Ireland, with the Irish Wolfhound).

So through the thousands of years all that would combine, especially since the super-sized dogs like the Irish Wolfhound and Mastiff were developed, into folklore and rationalizations for breeding dogs so large just for killing wolves. The wolves in question, especially since they are now extinct and cannot (in popular imagery) be a living defense of themselves by showing they weren't giant or nasty, would "have" to be such that the humans would need to go to such drastic measures. Since a normal wolf would not warrant all the giant dogs or the folkloric fuss, so too the folktales, and the wolves in them, get larger and larger.

Is it any wonder, then, that the tales would stretch even further, throughout the centuries, into yet-another human+non-human morph, entailing even more terrifying psychological rationalizations - hence the folk-tales of the werewolf.


; D


butterflybutterfly said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
butterflybutterfly said...

(Sorry, had to delete last post since I couldn't edit out a typo.)

What about the choice made in 1 of the 3 endings for BIOZOMBIE?

Kind of a psychological terror choice there, too.


Anonymous said...

Your post made me think of that old series Lucan, the Wolf Boy and of course those famed feral children. They might be the closest we have to the real thing, unless someone's been crazy enough to do genetic experiements.