Just like vampires, it seems specious to explain werewolves to an audience of fantasy readers. If you don’t know what a werewolf is by now, you’re not really a fantasy reader.
But in order to keep this series of posts complete, I’m doing a post on werewolves, just as I did one on vampires.
Unlike vampires, though, I am anything but an expert. I am not a fan of werewolves in fiction. Any fiction, really, including movies and TV. I think I was burned at an early age when I saw An American Werewolf in London. It was a fun movie–laugh-out-loud funny in places. But it was essentially a horror movie at its heart, and deeply noir: the main characters perished through no fault of their own. Not even Hubris was used as an excuse.
I’ve veered away from werewolf fiction since then, because I prefer my fiction to be upbeat and positive–at the end, at least, even if the author drags the characters through hell to get there.
This is not the platform for me to get into an argument over the pros and cons of werewolves as primary characters. I’m merely pointing out that I don’t write about them in that capacity. In fact, I have yet to incorporate werewolves in any capacity in my books, so all I know about the furry ones is from television and the rare book I’ve read that features them.
That’s okay. These “job” posts have only ever been designed to reduce paranormal species down to their core common denominators.
Wikipedia, interestingly enough, says that werewolves pre-date vampires in human mythology. The name derives from Old English, which is an offshoot of Norse, Saxon and a few other tongues rolled together: In other words, the Vikings were worried about shapeshifters, way back when. While vampires are a relatively modern concern, showing up in literature and mythology a few hundred years later at the earliest.
It is the Vikings who could be the reason that werewolves and shapeshifters can be found in Native American mythology, too.
Werewolves being vulnerable to silver, and responding to the phases of the moon are more modern inventions of fiction. Not all werewolves “change” either. Some versions merely take on the snarly personality of a wolf, and abuse those nearest and dearest to them before their community are forced to “deal” with them — often fatally. But the most consistent “facts” about werewolves are their superhuman strength and agility, and their loss of concern for laws, community and their loves ones — they become creatures without conscience.
I circle back to this great dilemma every now and again: if werewolves are so lacking a conscience, how does one write a story about it? One of these days I might tackle the dilemma and write my answer as a story of my own.
Have you read any urban fantasy that deals with werewolves in a different or interesting way? Tell me in Comments. I’m always looking for my next great read.