IY: Fantasy Creatures – Werewolves – The Myth

Seems like ages ago I last spoke of werewolves. Then I was talking about how to find them when out and about. If you’re not sure, then do check out the post. I’m sure you’ll find it useful. 😉

Next up, I want to talk about the myth itself. Where do they come from? Where do the stories take their roots? Well I’ve done a little digging . . .

According to the Mythical Realm, these legends go back to Greek and Romanian sources. There is also the fact that the other word for werewolf (or any other werecreature, actually) is lycanthrope. Of course clinical lycanthropy is a real psychiatric illness in which someone believes that they can turn into a non-human animal. The illness took its name directly from legend, but I do find it interesting, just the same.

This fabulous website (best enjoyed while drunk) splits werewolves into three types; the shape-shifter, the true werewolf and the wolf-man. To my knowledge, none of these creatures (they way they’re described on that site) go as far back in legend as old Romania or Greece, but they’re still worth looking at.

The first example of a werewolf in literature I can find is from Greek Mythology in which King Lycaeon was turned into a wolf after serving human flesh to some gods (naughty, naughty!). In truth, that may even be a hint as to the source of the word ‘lycanthrope.’ After that, there are variations on the theme but most myths seem to cling to the following:

  • Silver is the only metal that can harm them
  • Their change is governed by the full moon
  • One becomes a werewolf by being bitten by another, in its wolf form
  • Once changed, werewolves are mindless killing machines with little memory of their human forms until the moon sets

Though, I’ve got to admit, I’ve read some fantastic examples of fantasy in recent years that smash some/all of those tropes right out of the water.

Want some good werewolf reads? Take a look at:

  • High Moor by Graeme Reynolds (and the other two in the trilogy, though last I checked the third hadn’t been released yet)
  • Bitten by Kelley Armstrong (and the rest of that series)
  • The Southern Vampire Mysteries by Charlaine Harris
  • Genesis (Shifter Nation, book one) by R Huffman.

All that remains is to discuss the other werewolves I mentioned at the start of this little section: those from Stephanie Myer’s Twilight series. I must be honest here, and admit that I don’t recall much about them, but I know there is a different between shape-shifters and werewolves. Strictly speaking, Jacob and friends aren’t werewolves at all, but shape-shifters, descendants of one man, Utlapa.

Since Twilight doesn’t rank highly (or at all) on my list of favs, I can’t say more than that, but fan sites are a great way to look this up. I recommend this wiki to look into the werewolves/shape-shifters of these books.

In short, the werewolf myth versus that of shape-shifters and/or lycanthropes are very mixed up. This doesn’t even begin to go into what movies have done with them and I’m talking about things like Underworld, Van Helsing, Dog Soldiers, An American Werewolf in London, Ginger Snaps, Teen Wolf and Brotherhood of the Wolf. And that’s only naming a few!

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About Ileandra Young

I'm a thirty-*mumbles* year old (purple loving, cheese worshipping) author of fantasy, juggling a pair of beautiful twin boys with my burning desire to make up stories and write them all down. When I get the chance, I play games, listen to music, and in days long past I even ran a radio show. Though I occasionally write non-fiction, my heart lives in fantasy and my debut novel, Silk Over Razor Blades is now available through Amazon along with part two of the trilogy, Walking The Razor's Edge.
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