The Celluloid Cryptozoologist: Werewolves
‘Even a man who is pure of heart, and says his prayers by night, may become a wolf, when the Wolfs-bane blooms, and the Autumn moon is bright’.
An Olde Gypsy saying.
In the world of monsters, ghouls and ghosts, for me, there is only one choice for king, or queen, of the scary abandoned Gothic castle. Sure I like vampires, ghosts and gillmen as much as the next guy, but they simply can not compare to the lycanthrope, wolfman or werewolf. The wolfman beast type thing, is my favourite monster, and so I shall now write a rather long, but hopefully interesting, article on the subject. So sit back, relax, and enjoy as I bring you the first in a series of articles, The Celluloid Cryptozoologist.
The Werewolf, can come in many types and classes, but all, (well most), are awesome. Unlike Vampires (Dracula etc.), the Werewolf, hasn’t really had a classic novel or work that defines the typical werewolf, and as such, they are open to a certain degree of interpretation. The classic film, The Wolfman, is perhaps the archetype of many celluloid werewolves to come, and is a classic of the genre. In this film many of the trappings of werewolfery are set out, but some are very much absent. So friends, shall we delve into this fascinating celluloid cryptid? I think we should go on a journey, a journey into the heart of man, to reveal the beast in us all, so grab your wolfs-bane, and silver based weapon, and follow me into the forest where the beast who walk among us reside, don’t stray from the path, and off to Grandmother’s house we go…
The Wolfman is a curious breed. In this list of werewolf-type creatures, a wolfman is perhaps the closest to a human. There are many distinct types of wolfmen, but similar features are found in each. A wolfman will stand upright, and from a distance could be mistaken for an average human. However, on closer inspection, if you are stupid enough, or unlucky enough to to see one up close, they are very different to the average human. In The Werewolf of London (1935), the werewolf is less hairy than other types, the face is distorted into an animalistic snarl, and the teeth, claws and eyes are certainly terrifying. Often described as The Elvis Werewolf, due to the hair style, this poor creature was turned by the bite of another werewolf, although this is not always the case with wolfmen, as being born on Christmas Eve, having eyebrows that meet in the middle and being the result of a rape, can all account for the child being a wolfman (Curse of the Werewolf).
A hairier cousin to this creature can be found in The Wolfman (1941). Poor Larry Talbot, also bitten by a wolf, has more pronounced changes, hairy all over, a short wolf snout, and hairy clawed hands and wolf feet. A tragic character, this creature instinctively seeks to destroy those it loves, and can only be killed with silver, in this case, a silver headed cane, although this method may not in fact be very efficient as 1943’s Frankenstein Meets the Wolfman, suggests. At times a wolfman may exhibit the attributes of a wolf during his human hours, including an increased sense of smell, and hearing, as well as sexual aggressiveness and a take no shit attitude (Wolf, 1993). The Wolfman, may in fact be just a stage of evolution of the werewolf, as Jack Nicholson’s character in Wolf shows, he eventually turns in a werewolf proper i.e. a full on wolf. The Wolfman, 2010 shows a far more animalistic and vicious creature, hairier, more aggressive killing machine. It is a matter of some debate whether or not a wolfman needs the full moon to change, it seems that sometimes he does, but other times not, it must be taken on a case by case basis.
The werewolf, from the Anglo-Saxon were, meaning man and wulf, meaning wolf, literally a man-wolf. However, for the purposes of this article, here, a werewolf will be a term describing a man who turns into a four legged wolf, literally, a man turning into an animal. Again, there are numerous types of werewolves, and as mentioned above, the werewolf, may be the final stage of transformation of the wolfman, however, evidence suggests that most werewolves do not go through a wolfman stage. Classic examples of this type can be seen in The Beast Must Die and The Company of Wolves. In these cases, the man whose disease origin is unknown, turns into a real wolf, and once dispatched, will revert to human form. Werewolves are more likely to only change during a full moon and are susceptible to silver, usually in the form of a bullet.
Special cases of this type of werewolfery include An American Werewolf In London and Red Riding Hood. In these cases, the werewolf far exceeds an ordinary wolf in both size and aggressiveness. In the first case, people bitten by a the wolf will become werewolves, but those killed become undead, and haunt the human hours of the werewolf, causing guilt at what he has done. In the second case, the curse of the werewolf can be passed down through family members, but a bite is still required to cause a final transformation. A psychic link to family members may also be present, showing that at least some werewolves are not just savage beasts, but are able to make decisions and show a definite human intelligence, making them extremely dangerous. Transformations can be extremely painful, as the human body twists and shift into the form of a wolf, and sufferers will often wake up in strange places, often in a mess of blood an entrails, and sometimes even in the company of real wolves. Unlike with wolfmen, werewolves do not wear clothes, so waking up naked somewhere quite public is a real possibility. Vampires have been known to be able to change into wolves, and as such the werewolf and the vampire are closely linked. (Dracula, 1931).
Lycanthropy is a real disease, symptoms include, an aversion to sunlight, animalistic behaviour and an increase in hair growth, however, for the purposes of this article, Lycanthropes will be used to describe those werewolves who turn from man in a bipedal, wolf-headed creature. Once again, there are a few types of these creatures, and their physiology is not always common. Variations in size are recorded, however, Lycanthropes are usually described as very large, aggressive and extremely dangerous. There have been cases reported that suggest that these creatures are the most dangerous of all werewolves. In Dog Soldiers two teams of highly trained British soldiers, one of them a Spec Ops team, are literally ripped to shreds by a pack of Lycanthropes. This is one of their most fascinating traits, pack behaviour. Unlike other werewolves, who prefer a solitary existence, some types of Lycanthropes prefer to hunt in packs, and can in fact live in family/pack units. (Dog Soldiers, The Howling), it is unclear whether or not Lycanthropy is inherited or not, but it is certain that it can be transmitted through bite.
Other types of Lycanthropes have the ability to talk (Cursed) and many have a specific hatred of other members of the underworld of monsters, namely Vampires (Underworld). It has been suggested that Lycanthropes were bred as guardians for vampires, vampire guard dogs if you will. Also it is suggested that a Lycanthrope is the only creature that can destroy a master vampire (Van Helsing). Lycanthropes are common around the world, well as common as any creature of the night, but are most commonly found in Europe and North America. Native American legends talk of the Manitou or Wendigo creatures that bare a strong resemblance to the Lycanthrope (The X-Files : Shapes). Lycanthropes do not need the full moon to bring about the change, and some types, do not even require darkness for it to happen, being able to change at will. Silver is a common cause of death, but by no means a certain way of destruction, it seems fire in the form of an explosion will do the trick (Dog Soldiers).
WOLF-MAN TYPE THINGS
Our final species of werewolf, and hard to pin down. Some types of these beasts exhibit many of the traits of wolfmen, lycanthropes and werewolves, and some, not at all. Some barely seem to change from their human form, whilst others are wild and savage beasts killing all who come into contact with them. In She-wolf of London, one of our few female case studies, the subject does not change into a wolf of any description, instead, the change is a psychological one, as she convinces herself she becomes a wolf at night in order to commit murders. Other examples, and indeed, another female example can be found in A Company of Wolves. One case in this study concerns a young female creature who is neither werewolf, wolfman or lycanthrope, but a kind of wild girl with slight wolf attributes. A Professor Lupin, who used to teach at Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry, is reported to be a werewolf, however, pictorial evidence seems to suggest that the creature that he turns into, whilst sharing certain characteristics with lycanthropes, is not a true member of this species (he looks rubbish).
As mentioned above, the vampire and the werewolf are quite closely linked in some cultures. Powerful vampires are said to be able to change into wolf like creatures in order to exploit their more animal natures. A certain Count Dracula, renowned as King of all Vampires, has at times exhibited the ability to turn into both wolves, and wolf like creatures (Bram Stocker’s Dracula). There most fearsome of all wolf-like creatures however, may in fact be the werewolf/vampire hybrid. A werewolf born, then later bitten by a vampire, creating a creature of terrifying power, sharing all the strengths of both species, but few of the weaknesses, the hybrid (Underworld) is to be avoided at all costs by all but the most confident hunter.
So there we have it, all that man may know about the loups–garou, that’s a French werewolf to you, yeah look impressed. Until next we meet, stay on the path, don’t talk to strange men who’s eyebrows meet in the middle, and most of all, beware the moon, and if all that fails, make sure Liam Neeson is in close proximity.