Werewolf Fact #67 – The Lai of the Werewolf, “Bisclavret”

The time has come to discuss in depth my very favorite werewolf story! Yes, my favorite werewolf story doesn’t come from modern pop culture. Instead, it comes from medieval literature.

So let’s dive right into “Bisclavret,” one of the best werewolf stories ever told.

Please note that this post will contain the entirety of “Bisclavret,” in direct quotes, with my discussions interspersed throughout. So if you’ve never read the story, you can find the whole thing here!

For this in-depth look at “Bisclavret,” I will be using A Lycanthropy Reader: Werewolves in Western Culture by Charlotte F. Otten, one of my very favorite werewolf sourcebooks. It’s a wonderful collection of primary historical sources – and some stories that aren’t folklore but were always considered fictional – and some very good introductions to and discussions of said works by Otten herself.

In fact, in her introduction to the section that includes “Bisclavret,” Otten imparts some very wise words on werewolf legends as a whole…

On the moral level, the werewolf myth is a realistic assessment of the range of choices available to human beings. Humans who become werewolves in the myths and legends, or who cause others to become werewolves, are involved in moral metamorphosis: a process that recognizes the exhilaration that comes with engaging in degrading lycanthropic acts but also reveals the degradation that comes to those who deliberately choose to exhibit bestiality [bestial nature]. The werewolf myth, then, is a profound insight into human life. … Regarded as a moral myth, the presence in the human spirit of werewolves can direct the culture, the society, the individual human being to sources of healing. If it does so, it is a myth not of despair but of hope. (Otten 223)

I would personally add, also in relation to “Bisclavret,” thatit isn’t only those who become werewolves and behave as beasts or those who turn others into werewolves – it’s also extremely important in many werewolf myths how the werewolves themselves are treated by the human characters. How one treats a werewolf, with that person still being human but in the guise of a beast, is an important moral plot point in multiple werewolf legends, such as the werewolves of Ossory and – of course – Bisclavret. One is amoral if they assume a werewolf is evil solely because of their appearance, without judging their character first and appearance second. It’s not necessarily always a test of the werewolf character, it’s also a test of everyone around them. If the werewolf is virtuous and behaving like a human, isn’t it just as important to treat the werewolf like you would anyone else – even if it is a werewolf?

Now let’s get to Bisclavret

Written in the 12th century, “Bisclavret” is a bit of an enigma. Scholars kind of agree that it was likely written by Marie de France, or else a story she adapted from a much older tale, given there are different versions of this story – all very similar – floating around from similar time periods and cultures.

Marie de France herself says she translated this lai out of the Breton language, after having heard it elsewhere. I’m glad she did, as she preserved a fantastic werewolf story.

“Bisclavret” opens with some words from Marie de France…

Amongst the tales I will tell you once again, I would not forget the Lay of the Were-Wolf. Such beasts as he are known in every land. Bisclavaret he is named in Brittany, whilst the Norman calls him Garwal. (256)

I find her discussion of werewolf terminology interesting. She goes on to introduce the concept of werewolves themselves, which is, as she discusses it, a very commonly-known concept and found “in every land,” which she is absolutely right about (even if, of course, these legends weren’t always the same in nature, but werewolves certainly were everywhere).

It is a certain thing, and within the knowledge of all, that many a christened man has suffered this change, and ran wild in woods, as a Were-Wolf. The Were-Wolf is a fearsome beast. He lurks within the thick forest, mad and horrible to see. All the evil that he may, he does. He goeth to and fro, about the solitary place, seeking man, in order to devour him. Hearken, now, to the adventure of the Were-Wolf, that I have to tell. (256)

This doesn’t sound at all like Bisclavret, as you will discover. Marie de France seems to be describing a certain interpretation of the werewolf myth that didn’t even all that often apply but was steadily becoming a more accepted concept, especially in certain regions of Europe: that werewolves are “evil.” Or, at least – and most importantly – she states that werewolves are perceived as evil.

But are they really? Let’s read Bisclavret and find out. Because this opening displays the way the werewolf myth exists in the minds of many, but not necessarily the way werewolves really are, and I think that’s an important element of the story: Marie de France doesn’t open with “werewolves are all nice and cuddly,” because you need to read the story and determine the truth for yourself. But now you see the general perception, at least as this story presents it.

I love werewolves so much, you guys. I love this story, too. That’s something I have trouble conveying sometimes to my good readers: I love the concept of werewolves and I could talk about them until the sun dies. I love even the simplest presentations of “a werewolf is a man who suffers a change and runs wild in the darkest wood, horrible to behold, and devours men.” I just love it beyond words or reason. This is what I want. This is all I ask for. This but with more behind it than the simplicity of “evil,” just like Bisclavret presents.

Anyway!

So now we are introduced to our protagonist…

In Brittany there dwelt a baron who was marvellously esteemed of all his fellows. He was a stout knight, and a comely, and a man of office and repute. Right private was he to the mind of his lord, and dear to the counsel of his neighbours. This baron was wedded to a very worthy dame, right fair to see, and sweet of semblance. All his love was set on her, and all her love was given again to him. One only grief had this lady. For three whole days in every week her lord was absent from her side. She knew not where he went, nor on what errand. Neither did any of his house know the business which called him forth.

On a day when this lord was come again to his house, altogether joyous and content, the lady took him to task, right sweetly, in this fashion,

“Husband,” said she, “and fair, sweet friend, I have a certain thing to pray of you. Right willingly would I receive this gift, but I fear to anger you in the asking. It is better for me to have an empty hand, than to gain hard words.”

When the lord heard this matter, he took the lady in his arms, very tenderly, and kissed her.

“Wife,” he answered, “ask what you will. What would you have, for it is yours already?”

“By my faith,” said the lady, “soon shall I be whole. Husband, right long and wearisome are the days that you spend away from your home. I rise from my bed in the morning, sick at heart, I know not why. So fearful am I, lest you do aught to your loss, that I may not find any comfort. Very quickly shall I die for reason of my dread. Tell me now, where you go, and on what business! How may the knowledge of one who loves so closely, bring you to harm?”

This old tale is… very good at conveying someone manipulative and self-serving and even goes so far as to show her turn to other victims to use: this isn’t just a werewolf story, it’s a tale about manipulation*. Poor Bisclavret gets burned just for trusting the person who claims to love him so. It’s sad and relatable to see. A tale as old as time, and now the nice one that is “Beauty and the Beast.”

But being a werewolf is still a very bad thing, as established by the story’s opening! Naturally, he doesn’t want to tell.

“Wife,” made answer the lord, “nothing but evil can come if I tell you this secret. For the mercy of God do not require it of me. If you but knew, you would withdraw yourself from my love, and I should be lost indeed.”

When the lady heard this, she was persuaded that her baron sought to put her by with jesting words. Therefore she prayed and required him the more urgently, with tender looks and speech, till he was overborne, and told her all the story, hiding naught.

Now we’re back to that manipulation… anyway.

“Wife, I become Bisclaravet. I enter the forest, and live on prey and roots, within the thickest of the wood.”

This marks a difference with the opening already. The baron here claims he doesn’t eat human flesh! The opening clearly stated werewolves do evil and seek to devour men. Hmm, interesting.

After she had learned his secret, she prayed and entreated the more as to whether he ran in his raiment, or went spoiled of vesture.

“Wife,” said he, “I go naked as a beast.”

“Tell me, for hope of grace, what do you do with your clothing?”

“Fair wife, that I will never. If I should lose my raiment, or even be marked as I quit my vesture, then a Were-Wolf I must go for all the days of my life. Never again should I become man, save in that hour my clothing were given back to me. For this reason never will I show my lair.”

“Husband,” replied the lady to him, “I love you better than all the world. The less cause have you for doubting my faith, or hiding any tittle from me. What savour is here of friendship? How have I made forfeit of your love, for what sin do you mistrust my honor? Open now your heart, and tell what is good to be known.”

So at the end, outwearied and overborne by her importunity, he could no longer refrain, but told her all.

“Wife,” said he, “within this wood, a little from the path, there is a hidden way, and at the end thereof an ancient chapel, where often-times I have bewailed my lot. Near by is a great hollow stone, concealed by a bush, and there is the secret place where I hide my raiment, till I would return to my own home.”

The baron says he “often-times … bewail[s] his lot,” so he clearly doesn’t like being a werewolf. Just a small detail to point out. Truly the original classic werewolf hero.

On hearing this marvel the lady became sanguine of visage, because of her exceeding fear. She dared no longer to lie at his side, and turned over in her mind, this way and that, how best she could get her from him. Now there was a certain knight of those parts, who, for a great while, had sought and required this lady of her love. This knight had spend long years in her service, but little enough had he got thereby, not even fair words, or a promise. To him the dame wrote a letter, and meeting, made her purpose plain.

So not only did learning that the baron, her own husband, is a werewolf make this manipulative selfish woman turn on him instantly, but she also turned to a knight who is utterly failing his chivalric code and wanting love from this woman instead of courtly, chaste love from afar. And he’s probably too love-struck to realize she’s just going to use him until he is no longer beneficial to her in her own eyes, like she just did with the baron. We have a very bad combination.

“Fair friend,” said she, “be happy. That which you have coveted so long a time, I will grant without delay. Never again will I deny your suit. My heart, and all I have to give, are yours, so take me now as love and dame.”

Right sweetly the knight thanked her for her grace, and pledged her faith and fealty. When she had confirmed him by an oath, then she told him of his business of her lord–why he went, and what he became, and of his ravening within the wood. So she showed him of the chapel, and of the hollow stone, and of how to spoil the Were-Wolf of his vesture. Thus, by the kiss of his wife, was Bisclavaret betrayed. Often enough had he ravished his prey in desolate places, but from this journey he never returned. His kinsfolk and acquaintance came together to ask of his tidings, when this absence was noised abroad. Many a man, on many a day, searched the woodland, but none might find him, nor learn where Bisclavaret was gone.

The lady was wedded to the knight who had cherished her for so long a space. More than a year had passed since Bisclavaret disappeared. Then it chanced that the King would hunt in the self-same wood where the Were-Wolf lurked. When the hounds were unleashed they ran this way and that, and swiftly came upon his scent. At the view the huntsman winded on his horn, and the whole pack were at his heels. They followed him from morn to eve, till he was torn and bleeding, and was all adread lest they should pull him down. Now the King was very close to the quarry, and when Bisclavaret looked upon his master, he ran to him for pity and for grace. He took the stirrup within his paws, and fawned upon the prince’s foot. The King was very fearful at this sight, but presently he called his courtiers to his aid.

This scene very clearly points out, yet again, that the baron Bisclavret takes the shape of a wolf when he assumes his werewolf form. This is not uncommon in werewolf legends.

“Lords,” cried he, “hasten hither, and see this marvellous thing. Here is a beast who has the sense of a man. He abases himself before his foe, and cries for mercy, although he cannot speak. Beat off the hounds, and let no man do him harm. We will hunt no more to-day, but return to our own place, with the wonderful quarry we have taken.”

The King turned him about, and rode to his hall, Bisclavaret following at his side. Very near to his master the Were-Wolf went, like any dog, and had no care to seek again the wood. When the King had brought him safely to his own castle, he rejoiced greatly, for the beast was fair and strong, no mightier had any man seen.

Another pause here to point out that, once again, a werewolf that turns into a wolf is never conveyed as being an ordinary wolf – they are always bigger, stronger, “mightier.” Indeed, they are always the most impressive thing people have witnessed.

Much pride had the King in his marvellous beast. He held him so dear, that he bade all those who wished for his live, to cross the Wolf in naught, neither to strike him with a rod, but ever to see that he was richly fed and kennelled warm. This commandment the Court observed willingly. So all day the wolf sported with the lords, and at night he lay within the chamber of the King. There was not a man who did not make much of the beast, so frank was he and debonair. None had reason to do him wrong, for ever was he about his master, and for his part did evil to none. Every day were these two companions together, and all perceived that the King loved him as his friend.

What a great section. Already friends before, now the baron and his King are friends again, even if he has taken the form of a beast and cannot speak. Even in werewolf form, he acts as a loyal knight and bodyguard, with the king giving him full trust of his life despite him being a beast. I love the emphasis on Bisclavret’s courtly mannerisms and his culture, and even the emphasis that he does not do “evil,” also in direct contradiction to the assumptions the story’s opening would lead you to believe. But things are about to change…

Hearken now to that which chanced.

The King held a high Court, and bade his great vassals and barons, and all the lords of his venery to the feast. Never was there a goodlier feast, nor one set for with sweeter show and pomp. Amongst those who were bidden, came that same knight who had the wife of Bisclavaret for dame. He came to the castle, richly gowned, with a fair company, but little he deemed whom he would find so near. Bisclavaret marked his foe the moment he stood within the hall. He ran towards him, and seized him with his fangs, in the King’s very presence, and to the view of all. Doubtless he would have done him much mischief, had not the King called and chidden him, and threatened him with a rod. Once, and twice, again, the Wolf set upon the knight in the very light of day. All men marvelled at his malice, for sweet and serviceable was the beast, and to that hour had shown hatred of none. With one consent the household deemed that this deed was done with full reason, and that the Wolf had suffered at the knight’s hand some bitter wrong. Right wary of his foe was the knight until the feast had ended, and all the barons had taken farewell of their lord, and departed, each to his own house. Wit hthese, amongst the very first, wen that lord whom Bisclavaret so fiercely had assailed. Small was the wonder he was glad to go.

Bisclavret at last shows a werewolf’s rage – but only in a righteous way. He only attacks the one who wronged him. So what does the King make of his new beast of a friend behaving in such a way? Does he have him killed? Does he decide he’s a monster?

Not long while after this adventure it came to pass that the courteous King would hunt in that forest where Bisclavaret was found. With the prince came his wolf, and a fair company. Now at nightfall the King abode within a certain lodge of that country, and this was known of that dame who before was the wife of Bisclavaret. In the morning the lady clothed her in her most dainty apparel, and hastened to the lodge, since she desired to speak with the King, and to offer him a rich present.

Also typical manipulative behavior. You may think of medieval tales as simple, but they had a lot to say and to teach.

When the lady entered in the chamber, neither man no leash might restrain the fury of the Wolf. He became as a mad dog in his hatred and malice. Breaking from his bonds he sprang at the lady’s face, and bit the nose from her visage.

Please note that this is a medieval trope, as it were: the removal of the nose. It’s quite a lot to break down. But let’s maintain focus on the werewolf…

From every side men ran to the succour of the dame. They beat off the wolf from his prey, and for a little would have cut him to pieces with their swords. But a certain wise consellor said to the King,

“Sire, hearken now to me. This beast is always with you, and there is not one of us all who has not known him for long. He goes in and out amongst us, nor has molested any man, neither done wrong or felony to any, save only to this dame, one only time as we have seen. He has done evil to this lady, and to that knight, who is now the husband of the dame. Sire, she was once the wife of that lord who was so close and private to your heart, but who went, and none might find where he had gone. Now, therefore, put the dame in a sure place, and question her straitly, so that she may tell–if perchance she knows thereof– for what reason this Beast holds her in such mortal hate. For many a strange deed has chanced, as well we know, in this marvellous land of Brittany.”

Smart man! This paragraph also serves to highlight that the King and the knight/baron Bisclavret were already friends before and – I’m sure – trusted companions, as kings and their knights generally tend to be, especially in stories. After all, there are tales very similar to Bisclavret as told in King Arthur stories about one of his knights of the Round Table, his most trusted brothers-in-arms. It is no different here, as Bisclavret was once a brother to this king, if also subservient to his lord in rank – which, in this time period and in such tales, generally served to make the bond of brotherhood and honorable oaths still stronger.

The counsellor also points out about “many a strange deed” and is apparently talking about werewolves. This is the first time someone suggests that the Wolf may actually be a man.

The King listened to these words, and deemed the counsel good. He laid hands upon the knight, and put the dame in surety in another place. He caused them to be questioned right straitly, so that their torment was very grevious. At the end, partly because of her distress, and partly by reason of her exceeding fear, the lady’s lips were loosed, and she told her tale. She showed them of the betrayal of her lord, and how his raiment was stolen from the hollow stone. Since then she knew not where he went, nor what had befallen him, for he had never come again to his own land. Only, in her heart, well she deemed and was persuaded, that Bisclavaret was he.

Straightaway the King demanded the vesture of his baron, whether this were to the wish of the lady, or whether it were against her wish. When the raiment was brought to him, he caused it to be spread before Bisclavaret, but the Wolf made as though he had not seen. Then that cunning and crafty counsellor took the King apart, that he might give him a fresh rede.

Well, obviously, Bisclavret isn’t too keen on turning back into a human right in front of everyone. I appreciate this aspect. Returning to the shape of a man is no small and simple feat, and it’s a shameful and degrading process both to do it and to have the truth of his nature known – not to mention it might be difficult, especially after being in the form of a beast for so long. This is then highlighted by the counsellor…

“Sire,” said he [the counsellor], “you do not wisely, nor well, to set this raiment before Bisclavaret, in the sight of all. In shame and much tribulation must he lay aside the beast, and again become man. Carry our wolf within your most secret chamber, and put his vestment therein. Then close the door upon him, and leave him alone for a space. So we shall see presently whether the ravening beast may indeed return to human shape.”

The King carried the Wolf to his chamber, and shut the doors upon him fast. He delayed for a brief while, and taking two lords of his fellowship with him, came again to the room.

I guess the king was a little worried about what he might find! Can’t really blame him.

Entering therein, all three, softly together, they found the knight sleeping in the King’s bed, like a little child. The King ran swiftly to the bed and taking his friend in his arms, embraced and kissed him fondly, above a hundred times.

The king is clearly a big fan of la bise, and since he hasn’t seen the knight for so long, he has to make up for all those lost greetings. It’d be a great scene for a cartoon, honestly. Kissing meant a wider variety of things in this time period than it often does today: a kiss could be greeting, respect, forgiveness, or even a sign of peace, rather than some simple blanket gesture of romantic love, as it is thought of today. The king does a lot of talking when he greets the knight in such a way, telling him that he is welcomed back and that he’s happy to see him and all is forgiven. So… no punishment for being a werewolf!

When man’s speech returned once more [to the knight/Bisclavret], he told him [the King] of his adventure. Then the King restored his friend the fief that was stolen from him, and gave such rich gifts, moreover, as I cannot tell. As for the wife who had betrayed Bisclavaret, he bade her avoid his country, and chased her from the realm. So she went forth, she and her second lord together, to seek a more abiding city, and were no more seen.

The adventure that you have heard is no vain fable. Verily and indeed it chanced as I have said. The Lay of the Were-Wolf, truly, was written that it should ever be borne in mind.

No “the evil werewolf must die,” no mention of his curse or passing it on to others – the werewolf is a hero and is accepted as one in spite of his bestial transformation. Truly an interesting specimen among werewolf tales.

*: Yes, this aspect of the story is indeed often interpreted as negative against women, but that isn’t something I will get into with this post. I will instead be viewing it as a werewolf legend and not criticizing other aspects. It’s true that women were often viewed and treated unfairly in this time period and generally made out to be evil manipulative creatures in many medieval tales (though not all, and not all the female characters always were), as that was often the mindset of this time period, but that’s an issue for another time and another blog, as this blog is about werewolves. I did, however, want to acknowledge that issue, because I’m quite aware of it (especially as a woman in medieval studies), instead of ignoring it altogether. I personally do not think it lessens the story or makes the moral any less powerful, especially if we recognize the biases of the time period – and that a woman chose, herself, to retell this story in the first place, as I too am a woman choosing to retell it now.

I do so deeply enjoy “Bisclavret” and the truly classical tale of deepest fealty and trust to one’s King, the humanity displayed by the “wolf” (werewolf), and even how the King is thankful to have the faithful baron returned to human form – with no question or horror to learn that he was a werewolf to begin with.

The relationship between lord and knight is something not often conveyed in modern culture, as it’s not really something we have anymore, so it’s always fun to read about in such a fantastical sense. And many medieval stories are about courtly love, but not so with this one. Don’t get me wrong, I love courtly love, but it’s fun to see a platonic story as well.

So there we have it, the tale of “Bisclavret”! It’s one of my favorite werewolf stories. It’s classic, it’s simple, and it’s about a good and chivalrous, courtly knight werewolf. As we all know… I do love the idea of a werewolf knight.

Until next time!

(If you like my werewolf blog, be sure to follow me here and check out my other stuff! Please consider supporting me on Patreon or donating on Ko-fi if you’d like to see me continue my works. Every little bit helps so much.

PatreonKo-fiWulfgardWerewolf Fact MasterlistTwitterVampire Fact Masterlist )

Vampire Fact #10 – Vampire Hunters

This month we look at something that’s quite the popular topic in pop culture (or at least it used to be) – vampire hunting!

Does the concept of “vampire hunting” have any folkloric precedent, unlike “werewolf hunting”? Stick around and find out!

(gif originally made and posted by tumblr user duchessofhastings)

So, really, vampire hunting wasn’t really much of a thing… except in Greece.

In fact, at one point, hunting vampires was considered a career so important and high in society in Greece that it was about equal to healers and scribes. Supposedly, people born on a Saturday could see things like spirits and have “influence” over vampires and thus often hunted them. In his book From Demons to Dracula, Matthew Beresford cites a bunch of ways the Greeks especially on the island of Mykonos would ward off vampires.

And there are still more examples scattered around. According to Montague Summers, in his book The Vampire in Lore and Legend, on page 217…

In no country has the Vampire tradition more strongly prevailed and more persistently maintained its hold upon the people than in modern Greece. To the confirmation and perpetuation of this and cognate beliefs, a large number of factors have lent their varying influences, and not the least remarkable of these has been the quote furnished by the popular superstition of antiquity, legends and practices which were even in Pagan days more or less covertly accepted and employed …

Bear in mind that Summers’ “modern” Greece is in the 1950s, as this book was originally published in 1961. Also bear in mind that Summers is not the nicest or least biased man in the world. At all. Still, he collected great scholarship and went on many travels to different regions to study, even if he wasn’t the best at organizing and sifting through everything.

At any rate, this leads us to the Greek term for “vampire,” which has always been a subject of very hot debate. But that’s not the topic of this post, so instead of going into detail about all that, I will say this instead…

Something to bear in mind: a lot of this is retrospective scholarship. In other words, were they really what we think of as “vampires” today? Probably not, even if they may have had a few similarities (though never things like fangs). I know I always mention this in my posts, but it’s always important to note for all readers that folklore is very hard to pin down – it isn’t possible, really – by modern standards and that when scholars refer to something as a “vampire” or a “werewolf” or even a “dragon” or almost any other creature, chances are it’s a myth that’s been translated to fit into one of those categories. There were certainly situations in which creatures may have been referred to as their name we think of them as today (though they basically never fit all of our new pop culture standards), but that’s especially complicated with the term “vampire” in particular.

Because the creatures in Greece were not referred to as “vampires,” which isn’t surprising at all, and their origins, history, and etymology are very complicated. Again, though, this post is about vampire hunters, so that isn’t something I’ll be going into right now. I did, however, go into it a fair amount in this post, if you’re interested! It’s all very regional and seems to mean a werewolf or a vampire in different regions, or sometimes a werewolf who has become a vampire, or sometimes just a vampire, or… Yeah, it’s all very complicated.

Either way, scholars of today now group some of these Greek concepts with vampire legends thanks to various influences and similarities, so now we have the Greek concept of a vampire hunter. In particular, we have some writings from the seventeenth century that detail some vampires and how to slay them.

Summers then mentions a Professor N. P. Polites of Athens University, who wrote about how Santorini was where people “sent” vampires, and “that the inhabitants of this island enjoy so vast a reputation as experts in effectively dealing with vampires and putting an end to them” (Summers 228).

Summers then goes on to give such a lengthy and detailed set of examples of vampire hunts and slayings (almost all of them cremations, at least at some point after other actions are taken) that to replicate them here would lead to me writing a chapter of my own. And since I try to keep folklore facts at least relatively concise unless I’m doing a particularly large one, maybe I’ll retell those stories in a vampire folklore book of my own someday instead.

It wasn’t, however, always within the law to be a vampire hunter or to cremate people for being a vampire, unlike another case…

Here’s another fun one: until only as recently as 1823 when the law was finally repealed, it was totally legal in England to drive a wooden steak through the heart of someone you suspected of being undead. Yes, any undead, not necessarily “vampires,” which is actually an important note. The law came into being during the Anglo-Saxon period, and people must have been doing that a fair amount for there to be an entire law about it – and one that went overlooked for so long. So, during the Victorian era, we still could’ve had people staking someone under the claim that they were undead, and they could legally get away with it if they could back up their claims somehow.

Did that make anyone an actual “vampire hunter” instead of just people staking their neighbors under claims of them being undead? Not really. So, so far all we really have still is Greece and its vampire hunting profession.

There may have been more “vampire hunters” in the modern sense than we really think about, with events in Eastern Europe related to vampire slaying (not necessarily “hunting” or in a professional sense) even as recently as 2007.

So there you have it! Vampire hunting was, at a few points anyway, actually considered a real profession. This is a very unusual case in folklore and makes vampires quite the unique creature for being so prolific in certain regions – namely Greece – as to have their own dedicated hunters.

Monsters aren’t really what we think of them as being in something like D&D, where there are these categorized creatures arguably overpopulating the entire countryside and you can make an entire profession doing nothing but hunting “monsters,” how ever one may define that. Still, there is surprisingly a little bit of precedent for that with vampires, which one can’t really say with most creatures in folklore, like werewolves. Vampires are one of the only creatures in folklore, even if it was pretty much only in Greece, to have their own dedicated, professional hunters.

Until next time!

( If you like my blog, be sure to follow me here and elsewhere for more folklore and fiction, including books, especially on werewolves! And please consider donating and/or supporting me on Patreon – not only will you help me keep this blog running, but patrons get access to cool stuff and rewards in return!

PatreonKo-fiWulfgardWerewolf Fact Masterlist TwitterVampire Fact Masterlist )

A quick update – Left AO3 (for now), next werewolf fact

Hi, all. Hope you’re doing well!

I just wanted to post a quick little update about a few things…

First of all, I have deleted my AO3 account. I know several people followed me there and read my work. I apologize profusely for having to delete it, but I did so for personal reasons. The site brought back a lot of very bad memories whenever I looked at it, so I won’t be using it any more. If I do use it again, I’ll do so under an alt that certain people won’t know about and thus won’t bother me there, and it’ll mostly be used to host “weird”/alternative things of my own writing, like Wulfgard and Nova Refuge. We’ll see if I decide to do that in the future. I thank you if you followed me there and enjoyed my work, whatever it was you may have enjoyed! Keep an eye on my social media for updates and news on an alt, if I decide to make one. I wouldn’t mind having a place to host some of my weirder stories other than on my Patreon, where I post them early, before I publish them publicly.

That said, either way, I’m still going to be rehosting some of the stories that were on my AO3 on my personal website, and I’m going to continue writing that sort of thing, as well. Expect an update about that soon. I will not be rehosting all of them, however, as some included someone else’s characters. I’m going to continue writing the sorts of things I posted on AO3, though (even though I am very slow ever posting any of that, because I’m always so busy working on my books instead).

And now, turning to werewolf facts

I need your help. I want to write a werewolf fact for this month, but to be perfectly frank, werewolf facts were always meant to be fairly short and sweet and address commonly-asked questions about werewolves and elements of them. I’ve all but run out of topics like that.

I am, as I previously announced, planning to compile, expand, cite, and publish all the existing werewolf facts as a book. But I’d like to continue posting new werewolf facts, too.

Patrons can go here and vote in a poll about what the future of werewolf facts should look like, but I’m open to thoughts from all followers!

And if there’s a specific werewolf fact you’d like to see me cover that I haven’t yet, or an existing one you’d like to see me expand upon, chime in in the replies or send me an ask (whether you’re a patron or not)! I’d love to address anything you want to see. More details in the patron-only poll, but please don’t hesitate to shoot me a reply or message here on Tumblr, too.

In other news, I’ve been absolutely writing up a STORM lately. I’m an unstoppable monster of words. I haven’t written like this in years. I’m feeling optimistic about my capability to see several books published this year. More on that in the coming weeks.

That’s all for now. Until next time!

UPCOMING BOOK – Werewolf Facts: A Guidebook to Folklore vs Pop Culture

You’ve seen the blog series, now it’s time for the book!

That’s right, Werewolf Facts is getting published!

It’s been years since I started my Werewolf Facts series, which has essentially become my branding, and it’s become so popular beyond my wildest dreams that it’s high time I announced my plans to publish a cohesive guidebook to all the facts you need on werewolves.

This book will be essentially what werewolf facts are now: a cohesive section-by-section look at elements of werewolves, comparing historical folklore and mythology from all around the world to those elements in popular culture, how werewolves have changed, and what is and isn’t folkloric about the werewolves we see in things today. I touched upon this some in my thesis book that I published last year, because it’s a very big life mission for me and always has been, but I created Werewolf Facts as a more accessible means of talking about similar topics and issues with a more casual and less academic air and more easily-accessible and categorized information, as opposed to a lot of argument.

The working title of the book is Werewolf Facts: A Guidebook to Folklore vs Popular Culture.

It will be a long time (one or more years) before this book is compiled and completed, but I wanted to announce this because I’m very excited to see it become a reality. I hope you’ll join me for the journey as I compile, expand, and provide the professional citations for all of my existing werewolf facts – plus a whole lot more info – and turn them into a real book you can crack open in your friends’ faces when they doubt the power of your werewolf knowledge.

As of yet, I do not have an approximate release date, but I know very well it will be over a year before this is finalized and published. 2022 is a year of fiction for me (I will be publishing several fiction books, so keep an eye out for those as well), but after that, I’m going to go back to non-fiction and really get to work on putting my werewolf facts out there.

Give me a follow and stay tuned for more updates!

Ask Response – Werewolves in Medieval Germany

This was an ask response on my Tumblr where I do most of my folklore blogging, but it was popular enough there that I figured I should post it here, too!

okeketochi1 asked:

Usually  when referring to werewolves people tackle them in a pretty broad  scope. Referring to Le Lobizon, the loup-garou, King lycaon, etc…but  what is the mythology surrounding the werwulf or werewolf specifically?  Like the German middle age definition of a werewolf?

That’s a very complicated question – but it’s also not. If that makes any sense at all. Let me elaborate…

What  we call “werewolves” has almost become retroactive. We can’t really say  that “werewolf” is a uniquely German term, despite being Germanic in  nature, because our first recorded use of a variant of “werewolf” wasn’t  even recorded in Germany. “Werewolf” never appeared very much in  medieval writings, despite originating during the medieval period (more  on that in a minute). Yes, you can find people using the term  “werewolf” (and its assorted variations), but sadly, it often becomes a  matter of asking: is this a real source, or is this something someone is  falsifying?

This  is a woodcut from 1722 in Germany of a werewolf. It’s one of the few  instances we do have that is directly referred to as a “werewolf,” so we  can be sure their werewolf legends in the 1700s, at least, weren’t too  far off the mark from the kind of thing we have today.

You can  find lots of “werewolf legends” in Germany from the 1800s and around  that general time period that supposedly throw around the term  “werewolf” (again, and its variations), but having read many of  these myself and researched their sources and origins, I can tell you  that the overwhelming majority of these things are just… nonsense.  They weren’t legends. They were basically short stories, fake local  tales, and generally untrue “folklore,” for whatever reason people had  to be producing it. (What’s one way you can spot these? Several of them mention silver) There is a glut of utterly fake “German werewolf folklore” out there from the 1800s especially.

At any rate, as for the Middle Ages in Germany and what they considered to be werewolves,  we have to look at Germanic folklore and mythology for that. In the  pre-Middle Ages, early Middle Ages, and even into the mid Middle Ages,  much of the Germanic regions of Europe were dominated by the old  Germanic concepts – namely berserkers (which, again, were not bear warriors) and related legends.

It  wasn’t really until after the Middle Ages that the word “werewolf”  became used often across multiple regions. Much of what we call  “werewolves” today is a retroactive label or translation.

What may have been the first use of the word “werewolf” appeared in the early 1000s. To quote my book,  The Werewolf: Past and Future

Much  like what happened with the Vikings, as the medieval world  converted  to Christianity, werewolves were cast in a steadily more  negative  light. The king of England from 1016-1035, King Cnut, issued  the Ecclesiastical Ordinances XXVI,  in which he specifically  mentions the werewolf in relation to the  Devil, saying, “[be watchful,  that] the madly audacious were-wolf do  not too widely devastate, nor  bite too many of the spiritual flock.”[1]  This passage marks one of the  earliest instances in which the term  “werewolf” is virtually equated to  the Devil or demons in general in  Christianity, which becomes common in  later medieval writings – and it  also marks the first recorded use of  the word “werewolf.” Instead of  the wolf being a brother and wolf  transformations being desirable, or  at least not worthy of condemnation,  Christianity altered the view of  werewolves, turning them into demonic  creatures associated with evil  and witchcraft, who romp across the  countryside leaving death and  destruction in their wake. As stated by  Beresford, “[T]he use of the  werewolf as a religious scapegoat by the  Church throughout the Middle  Ages is intrinsic to the development of the  myth of the modern beast.  What was once … a highly revered and  worshipped beast, emerges in the  medieval period as a savage creature,  poisonous, destructive and wholly  evil; a beast to be feared and not  imitated.”[2]

[1]Beresford 80, quoting Ecclesiastical Ordinances XXVI by King Cnut of England [2]Beresford   88. However, in this passage, he does not seem to wholly take into   account just how many medieval werewolf legends existed, and how some of   them were not necessarily demonic – these were, however, more often   than not, unrelated to the Church (except for a few cases, which   Beresford himself also cites in his book), so his point largely still   stands.

Another direct use of the word “werewolf” appears in assorted medieval lays about werewolf knights, such as Marie de France’s Bisclavret,   Sir Thomas Malory’s Le Morte d’Arthur, written in 1470, etc. So, in  many ways, you could even say the proper medieval concept of a werewolf  was a noble knight, as they were actually directly called “werewolves!”

It’s  all but impossible, in folklore and myth, to nail down certain legends  about certain creatures. This is because folklore and myth are very  indirect, as compared to the kind of things people create today in pop  culture. A true “werewolf legend” spans tons of legends – and  simultaneously almost none at all. Scholars have often dictated what is  and isn’t a werewolf legend, and their decisions about it frequently  don’t even make any sense (especially if you ask me). This applies to so  many creatures, including both werewolves and vampires, and that’s why  when someone asks me “what were dragons like in folklore?” I can’t give a  direct answer. I have to almost write a book on it, because all  monsters and creatures in folklore have very complicated backgrounds,  many different names, often didn’t go by the names we put on them today  at all, etc.

I hope this helped! Sorry I couldn’t give a more direct answer. Some other useful werewolf facts for this topic:

Werewolf Review – Dire (Fortnite)

It’s a new series – it’s werewolf reviews!

I’m going to start reviewing various werewolves across many forms of media. Movies, TV shows, video games… and I’m always looking for werewolves in video games, namely ones that don’t suck.

I never really found time to do this or motivation to write these kinds of posts/reviews, given I am – on average – not a fan of most people’s werewolves, and I try not to be some kind of horrible negative energy here on this blog, but… it seemed a popular choice and many of my followers and patrons wanted to see me write something like this.

So let’s talk about the werewolf I actually cannot believe I missed: Dire, from Fortnite.

I absolutely love this guy and his questline, and I really want to talk about all the reasons why.

So I started playing Fortnite off and on a few months ago, when they announced a skin pack that includes Chris Redfield from Resident Evil (RE5, specifically, too!). I immediately downloaded the game, bought the pack, and started to play it. I had a blast for a while and I still pick it up now and then sometimes, but it’s not really my kind of game.

I don’t really do battle royales (I play Apex now and then in the past, but they aren’t my thing; I’m a deathmatch person, I guess I’m old or something), especially because my internet connection sucks and cannot handle them whatsoever. So I’ve been playing the co-op world mode, Save the World, because I prefer co-oping with my brother anyway. I’m having a whole lot of fun, and Chris looks so incredible. You really have to see him in-game to appreciate the ridiculous attention to detail and just how truly great he is.

I found out, though, that when I first started playing, there was a werewolf questline going on in Save the World mode! Now, at first, this filled me with dread. Why? Because I basically detest 90% of werewolf media, and Fortnite being a very silly game, I figured the werewolf would be handled horribly and just be a big goofy walking dog joke that sounds like Scooby Doo and is never taken remotely seriously at all.

I was so pleasantly wrong!

“Wolfy Business” Questline

Now, don’t get me wrong, the questline is obviously silly. It’s a silly game, after all, and that is absolutely fine. I, however, expected the story to be a travesty toward werewolves like every other comical werewolf thing wherein the werewolves are bork bork boof floofy fluffbeast goodboi doggo waffs uwu scooby snacc, pissing on fire hydrants, chasing mailmen, etc. I’ve seen… so much of that…

And sure, there were a few dog jokes about walkies and whatever, mostly from one character who is incredibly obnoxious anyway, but overall the story was the most fun one I’ve played in the game so far. I absolutely loved Dire. He never actually talked, which was to his benefit, he just growled and made wolfish noises (wolfish noises, not barking! I was so pleasantly surprised). The “business wolf” was an obvious jab at Wolf of Wall Street and was fairly amusing at times. Vastly preferable to the same old tired dog-oriented jokes, for sure! My only question is… why can’t I get his business wolf skin? He was pretty awesome.

So while overall silly as I fully expected, the little questline was really fun, and I enjoyed it. It didn’t piss me off even once, really. Everything in it was either tolerable or straight-up fun. I enjoyed the werewolves being characters and something people feared, instead of either total jokes or throwaway dumb-as-rocks villains.

Dire – Character

Dire is great. Not only does he not talk, as mentioned, but he doesn’t ever seem to bark, either. He does howl. HE ACTUALLY HOWLS. Werewolves in video games basically never howl anymore, for some absurd reason. But Dire howls whenever night falls in Save the World mode, and there’s an emote you can buy (for a separate fee, of course) that is a howl animation with a sound, which is specifically built for him. It fills me with joy that he actually, legitimately howls, and it isn’t played for laughs.

What makes him even more fun is that everyone in Homebase – the main characters of Fortnite – are clearly scared of him. He isn’t allowed in the base because he would eat everyone. I just love that. The werewolves are never really portrayed as jokes – they are dangerous and can and will eat everyone. Dire included. Dire, though, isn’t a bad guy. He’s nice and he helps the heroes!… He just still wants to eat everyone. He doesn’t really mean it in a bad way, though. Whoops.

I seriously adore this guy.

Dire – Appearance

So many werewolves, especially in video games, fall into two distinct traps: they either almost never transform, and if they do it’s only for like 10 seconds – or they never actually turn into a human at all and are just wolf-people. I’d much rather have the former than the latter, overall, but that’s personal preference. Some games manage to avoid these issues at least to some degree, and they aren’t always the best solutions. It seems so difficult for games to really embrace what werewolves are all about, the way Elder Scrolls III: Morrowind – Bloodmoon did (best werewolves in video games, by the way).

When it comes to Dire, you could argue he is more of a wolf-person variant, since he doesn’t ever turn in-game – and they could fix that so easily by giving him one of these new “transformable” skins… I really wish they would. I’d shell out for that, and I don’t even really play the game basically ever right now. But – still.

Anyway, I was very happy to learn he does have a human form, and we get to see it, and we can even play as it if we want:

It’s always nice to know werewolves aren’t just designated eternally-transformed wolf-people, since the transformation is the core of what makes them werewolves.

But what’s even better to me – yes, truly fantastic – is that he also has an in-between skin. He has a wolf-man skin, too! And it’s GREAT. I adore it. Seriously. This miiight be my favorite skin in the whole game (except Chris, obviously, because of massive personal biases).

Look at this guy! He’s great! How often do we get to see, much less play as, in-between stages of transformation? Awesome.

And then, to make things even better, we get multiple variants of his fully transformed, wolfish form, to top things off…

Don’t mind the banner telling me I need to grind like mad in order to evolve him enough to unlock his transformed werewolf skins. You know how modern gaming is.

BONUS: his upper and lower canines are in the correct position! People often get that wrong. I don’t know why it’s so hard to look up predator – specifically wolf – skulls… looking at you yet again, Blizzard. Actually I’m not, because I will probably never play World of Warcraft again, you jerks, but that’s a discussion for a different time and place. Right now, we’re enjoying Dire.

His ears are, of course, kind of long/flat, instead of pointing up like wolf ears. But you know what? I don’t care. He still looks great. Despite common belief, I am not that freaking picky about werewolf designs, as long as they look cool, are reasonably wolfish, and are executed well in the story/setting. Dire certainly hits those marks. I love his claws. I love his abs, too. Too bad his wolf-man form doesn’t have visible abs… Anyway.

Again, so many props for his design. Wolfish while still being cool and unique. I love the way his fur looks and that he actually has fur, and I love his general look and build. I especially love his teeth and his awesome spiky mohawk-style hair. Seriously, his entire design is right up my alley, even specifically up the alley of my favorite character design in so many other details (like his gloves, his vest– everything!).

All he needs is a tail… really missing that tail. It works without a tail, I get what they were doing, but I still think the design would look better with a tail, since it has such a wolfish head and the wolf legs (both of which are great).

Dire – Abilities

One of the best things about Dire is his abilities – one in particular. He’s a Ninja class, so he moves fast and can double-jump, which is already fun (and makes him what I believe is the most fun class in the game), and he gives lots of speed boosts in general. But he has this fantastic passive…

When night falls, he gets a big speed boost and – this is the best part – he howls. He actually howls. I know I mentioned that before, but can you believe it? A werewolf that actually howls like a wolf? I know, I had a hard time believing it, too. It’s so refreshing. It’s so inspiring. I love it. And I love that it comes with such a big speed boost and is tied to nightfall and that he will howl regardless of what you’re doing in-game. This isn’t something you activate. Plus, your whole team can hear it.

Gah, I just love that so much.

Conclusion

The takeaway from all this? Dire is actually a great werewolf. Being perfectly blunt, he’s one of the best werewolves I’ve seen in video games for a long time or possibly ever. He’s unapologetically fun and wolfish and he actually howls, while also getting several fun skin variants, an entertaining quest, and very cool passive abilities. He isn’t a horror werewolf, but it isn’t a horror game, and even so, they still made him treated as being very scary in the context of the universe, and I generally just love the way he was handled over Halloween. This proves you do not have to have some super gruesome horror story to have a cool, fun, and scary werewolf that is treated as interesting and unique: it’s all about how other characters react to them.

It’s a solid 10/10 for Dire, even if his fully transformed state could really use a tail. Great work to Fortnite for accomplishing what shouldn’t be so difficult but is apparently really hard for most people: making an awesome werewolf!

BIG NEWS – Future of my werewolf/folklore blog

Hello, everyone! There’s a new year not far around the corner! It’s the busiest time of year for me – and probably everyone else – and I have finally decided how to arrange the future of my werewolf/folklore blog, in particular what I run on Tumblr (and crosspost here and elsewhere).

image

I have been trying to work on my art skills, so you might see things like this howling werewolf Tom [one of my characters] pop up on the blog now and then

I’ve been quiet for a while, quieter than I would like to be, but this is out of necessity.

One thing I must clarify: Before you read any further, know that I am not putting my folklore/werewolf posts behind a paywall! I would never do that. You can interact with me and my posts and vote on the next ones through my Patreon, but I will never hide my posts themselves behind some kind of + paywall or subscription or whatever.

With that out of the way, I have several announcements to make…

1. Folklore posts may be once a month

It is with a heavy heart that I announce some sad news: I will not be returning to a regular schedule of folklore posts. If I do, they will be once a month, at most. I will, however, still be posting folklore posts as specials and every now and then, when I have the time! I’m not shutting the blog down, but things will be a bit different. There will still be a few posts, especially on Wednesdays, for werewolves. Things just aren’t going to be as frequent or quite as scheduled around here.

I started posting on a regular schedule when my life was at a point where I could easily do so – now, it is not. I simply do not have the time anymore to make as many regular, lengthy posts as I was doing before. I hope you’ll stick with me for the posts I can make now and then and to follow my fiction and nonfiction as I continue to publish books. Here is a longer version, as well:

As much as I hate to say it, because I have gotten so much positive reception here and I do not want to let the negative side of it drag me down for all of you who truly do enjoy my posts – I have been getting far too much hate-mail and flaming across the board that it’s reached the point of starting to affect my books and how they are reviewed. I do not want my blog to be affecting my books and the reception thereof, especially since that’s so immensely silly. My books are extremely important to me, moreso than anything else, and I want people to take them at face value as books instead of dragging my writing down on official channels just because they disagree with some opinion they read on my blog or because I didn’t specifically mention their favorite movie/game/whatever somewhere. I have essentially been told my entire life it is unwise to have opinions openly, especially if you’re a woman, and that does seem to be true, if you want to find success. I like to challenge that, but I do not want my challenging about something as unimportant as which werewolf movies I like to start killing the potential success of my books before they even get started. It’s just not important enough to me; my characters and stories and research are more important.

I WILL be continuing Vampire Facts next year (and I will be posting werewolf content and other folklore things), but they won’t be every other week. We’ll see how a schedule works out, if I can figure one; at most, it might be once a month, but we’ll see.

2. I will continue other, irregular post series

Before I started getting so much negative reception again, I was planning a new series called Werewolf Reviews; I may still do those occasionally, along with other posts, but if nothing else, I’ll be doing less opinionated pieces. So I’ll still be doing various posts on werewolves and things related to them, since they have been and forever shall be my “thing,” but they may not be very frequent. I’ll also do posts on other folklore, as mentioned, and occasionally post on writing and worldbuilding advice, as I have been doing for a while, with a focus on werewolves and occasionally other folklore/mythology creatures.

3. Werewolf Facts: The Book is on the way!

I do have some good news – I am planning to publish all of my Werewolf Facts in book form, expanded and with citations included! I don’t know exactly when this will happen, but keep an eye out for it in the coming year or two.

This will be the perfect book to reference for some quick info on werewolves in general as opposed to including full and specific legends (I will be publishing my own anthology of werewolf legends in the later future, as well). It will be useful for reference for academic work as well as worldbuilding and simply general info. It will be divided into sections detailing various aspects of werewolves, as do the werewolf facts here on the blog, but it will be much more organized and in-depth (again, with citations, as well, as I never had time to organize those on the werewolf fact posts themselves – I have all this info permanently branded into my head! But the book will definitely have the citations, the same way my current book, The Werewolf: Past and Future, does).

The book’s working title is Werewolf Facts: A Guidebook to Folklore versus Popular Culture. Stay tuned for updates!

4. I will publish at least 1 book a year

I’ve had this goal for the past two years (and even managed to meet it so far!), but I’ve never really formally announced it: I plan to publish at least one book every year from now on, barring extreme circumstances. I have a schedule plotted out that includes a mixture of fiction and nonfiction (the latter is pretty much entirely focused on werewolf legends for the time being), and I cannot wait to get these books out there.

5. Sharing focus with my fiction

This goes hand in hand with those aforementioned books – I write both fiction and nonfiction, but fiction is still my focus and always will be. I have only rarely let my fiction leak over onto this blog, mostly for fear of boring or running off my many followers who are clearly uninterested, but… you’re gonna have to hear about it now! Sorry. I promise it won’t be but now and then, and seriously, I think you’ll love it if you ended up on this blog in the first place.

So you an expect to see more about my fiction here in the future, as well, especially my fantasy universe of Wulfgard (very werewolf-centric) and the sci-fi universe of Nova Refuge (which also has wolfish creatures).

I am eternally driven by my fiction, my characters and stories (especially characters), and I always have been. It’ll be great to be more open about sharing that passion here, as well as my passion for werewolves – which is, of course, directly related to my fiction. I cannot emphasize how important it is to me to tell my stories and share these characters with you. I hope you’ll come along with me for the ride and say hi to my casts, like Tom Drake, Caiden Voros, Gwen Vergil, Kye Vakurseth, John Atlas, Henry Darrow, and more.

6. If you want to help me keep the blog running and regular, please support me on Patreon!

As I said, I will never put this blog itself behind a paywall, but that doesn’t mean you can’t support me if you want to help keep the blog running!

Part of the reason I am unable to dedicate as much time to this blog is, obviously, that I do all of this out of passion and in my free time. Free time is getting less available and more costly, unfortunately. Every single little bit on my Patreon helps me make more time to work on this blog!

Click here to check out my Patreon – you get lots of goodies, and you’ll help me keep the blog and all my writing (and hopes and dreams) going!

If you prefer one-off payments, I also have a Ko-fi! I’m grateful, from the bottom of my heart, for all donations. If you send me something on ko-fi and want a shoutout or to send me a question or anything, please shoot me a message here on tumblr! I’ll try to do something nice for you to show my appreciation!

I deeply appreciate any and all contributions, and I always try to keep my Patreon active and fun.

That’s all for now! I hope you’ll continue to stick with me for what lies ahead. I want to extend and extra special thank you for all my most loyal followers on tumblr. I know who you are and I love you so much. Your support has always meant the world and it always will.

See you soon – and stay tuned for more special posts and updates over the holidays (including, of course, folklore – and werewolves)!

On Werewolf Antagonists/Evil Werewolves

It’s that time of year when the things I love the most get noticed and celebrated at least a little by everybody else (even though corporations still hate creating typical Halloween products that actually include werewolves; seriously go check your local department store, it’s been this way since I was a tiny tiny child)…

Happy Howl-o-ween! Time for a special Halloween post!

First off – welcome (again), new followers! I had a big ol’ followers flux, in part because my werewolf masterlist made the rounds and in part because of Overly Sarcastic Productions’ new video on werewolves! I communicated a lot with Red about research for it; be sure to check it out. You’ll recognize pretty much everything in there, if you’ve spent a lot of time on this blog (and if you’ve read my latest book, too)!

For a while now, I’ve been getting lots of messages and asks about werewolf stories and character concepts (and I always enjoy those!), but a lot of them have a something in common… an antagonistic or generally evil werewolf/werewolves or discussions thereof – or asking how to make a werewolf who isn’t an antagonist.

While villain werewolves are great and can be totally awesome, they are generally terrible, and on average, we do not like those or support or encourage them here on this blog. My goal with werewolf (and wolf) education is to encourage the creation of sympathetic and not evil werewolves and wolf-related characters. This doesn’t mean they have to be “cuddly” by any means (I’m not a fan of that, either), but it would be great to see werewolf characters that aren’t one-note villains.

Using them as villains is great, but I would so much rather see werewolf and wolf villains be done sparingly instead of the overwhelmingly “almost always” that you see today and have always seen throughout the history of entertainment.

Historically, werewolves (and wolves in general) are always cast in a bad light and as villains, often being pure evil and menaces that must be stopped (read: killed), and that needs to stop for so many reasons. If you want to hear more about that, though, you should read my book on how werewolves in folklore are not what they are in pop culture, how werewolves are nothing but misconceptions today, and why that isn’t a good thing.

All that being said, let’s move on to the meat of this post…

How do you make werewolves not evil?

There are many characters in stories. Not all of them have to be protagonists or antagonists. They do not have to be good or evil. Werewolves fit perfectly into shades of grey, whether they are directly cast as heroes or villains or not.

I want to emphasize something here: Werewolves are characters first and werewolves second. Essentially, werewolves are people, too.

It’s like any other character creation. If you create a character specifically to be “a female character” or “the love interest” or whatever, they are inherently going to suffer from that. If you make “the werewolf character” instead of making a character and then making that character happen to be a werewolf (or whatever other template you are applying), your character will never be as good as that character who was created as a character first and then the other element second. Do not let “being a werewolf” (or whatever other element is at play) dictate the character.

Almost all werewolf characters in media are werewolves first and characters second. They suffer for that. They aren’t really people – they’re just plot elements.

Werewolves are so much deeper than throwaway villains. At their core, werewolves are sill human, and they have problems and motivations and hopes and dreams like everyone else. Their lycanthropy affects that, not destroys it.

If you do not want the werewolf to be a primary hero or working with the primary hero, they do not necessarily have to be the villain, either. Werewolf characters can come and go like any other characters. Their motivations can be a mystery – they themselves can be part of that mystery. They do not necessarily have to be good or evil, but characters with their own motivations.

Being a werewolf does not have to impact them being good or evil at all. They could help the hero(es) directly or indirectly or only now and then, or they can be a looming threat the heroes hope they never have to face. They can be something that only helps the hero in their greatest moment of need due to the potential risks of doing so.

Werewolves can be a mysterious hermit, the wandering loner, the person who never lets anyone get close. They can drift in and out of a story and help the protagonists in only minor ways. They can be the Gandalf.

They can be literally anything in any story, if only horizons would be expanded. Werewolves are not a villain or antagonist, throwaway or not, by nature. They are characters, like everyone else. They just happen to also be werewolves, which only adds yet another very interesting layer to their characters – a layer that offers endless possibility and exploration, with so much character growth and development.

Werewolves are generally assumed to be villains. The natural line of thought is to make them such. That is exactly what I want to change.

The uncontrollable werewolves do not necessarily have to be the type to come charging out of nowhere, wanting to kill the protagonist and their friends for no reason at all. Give their animal side more depth, too. Why would it behave in such a way? What motivates it? Do you really want your readers to se your protagonist thinking that anything animalistic is an evil plague that must be destroyed, instead of just a part of nature that is trying to keep to itself? Or what if that werewolf was a hero, whether a hero or an anti-hero, instead of a villain – like all those other werewolves?

There are so many things one can do with werewolves. They can be enigmatic heroes, they can be the shades of grey. They could be a force of nature, they can be guardians, healers, sages, seers, shamans – they can be the thing that goes bump in the night, the thing you never see but know is there. They can be knights in shining armor with a dark side (my favorite and also my primary werewolf protagonist), they can be the absolute perfect anti-heroes – the possibilities are endless!

Werewolves do not inherently represent a force of evil or something to oppose the protagonists. They can take up any role in a story. Turn to folklore for ideas and inspiration! Read about them as great warriors, as heroes, healers, as simple wandering travelers – and as that friend you never expected could turn into a wolf and bring you a deer to eat when you got too hungry on the road.

Werewolves are not something that always has to be “fought” in a story. They can simply be a part of the world and part of the environment, a character someone sees in passing. They don’t have to be at the forefront as heroes and villains. They don’t have to be “faced” and “dealt with” in some way every time they are encountered. The fact that so many people write stories in which the werewolf must be immediately dealt with and is “evil” only highlights further the fact that werewolves have been put in this evil light because humanity feels it must destroy and restrain the forces of nature instead of letting the wild be free.

And if you want to have a werewolf who isn’t a hero (not all stories need werewolf heroes, either, after all), a great role for a werewolf is a red herring, since everyone does naturally assume a werewolf will be evil – but maybe that werewolf just wants to be left alone instead.

Werewolves are often at their best when they are only under suspicion – when the characters are wondering and worrying about it. Wonder if that thing behind them is the werewolf. Is the werewolf evil? Is it going to kill me? Are they even a werewolf? Like any horrific creature, werewolves are at their strongest when they are not front and center and tearing up everything, but when they are mysterious and a source of fear – when they are more characterized and less a monster encounter action scene that comes and goes in a hurry. When they are too powerful to be fought directly and are best just avoided.

This is why werewolves make for such great horror and mystery – and that can also help characterize them.

Maybe the protagonists cannot be sure if the person is a werewolf or not – and if that person is on their side or not. Maybe the werewolf doesn’t specifically help or fight them. And maybe ,at some crucial moment, the werewolf will appear and offer aid. Werewolves make for great enigmatic characters, especially when they are trying to hide their nature.

Most folklore werewolves are not necessarily heroes or villains (though they often came in a more heroic variety before the Renaissance, of course). Werewolves can take so many different roles, depending on what story you want to tell.

My favorite werewolves will always be those that have a dark side, not those that are sweet and cuddly. To me, if a werewolf is not in some way dark, it isn’t actually a werewolf (especially if they are just dog-people, which isn’t werewolves at all, but you’ve all heard me rant about that before). But that absolutely does not make them inherently villains – it makes them extremely interesting characters with endless depths to explore. Giving a character lycanthropy only gives them that much more substance. It should never take substance away – which is what tends to happen with a lot of werewolves in media, especially those one-note villain ones or the simplistic ones that are just a plot point in a mystery (and then are generally killed anyway).

So do not fall into that trap of making werewolves the villain(s) in your story/setting/etc. Think of them as you would both individuals and a force of nature – the most dangerous wild animal of them all… but not in any way inherently “evil.”

I hope this provides food for thought about making a character first and putting the werewolf element second – having that character you created react to being a werewolf the way a real person would, instead of existing solely as a plot element and/or a villain.

Expect more in-depth writing advice posts on this topic in the future!

And in conclusion… Happy Halloween!

LAST FOUR DAYS – Patreon deal to get signed copy of The Werewolf: Past and Future!

It’s the last four days of my months-long deal on Patreon!

If you back me at the Nightlord tier or higher on my Patreon, you will receive a signed copy of The Werewolf: Past and Future – Lycanthropy’s Lost History and Modern Devolution!

For more info on the book, please click here.

This deal ends November 2, so grab it while it’s still available!

(note: you do not have to remain a patron at that tier for longer than 1 month to receive the autographed book. You only have to subscribe to the tier once and your book will be shipped immediately, as the Patreon will have you pay the first month upon subscribing)

Click here and check the Patreon Tiers for more info!

Join the new official Wulfgard RPing server in Neverwinter Nights!

I’m finally doing something I’ve always wanted to do – I now have my own fully in-character roleplaying server in the video game Neverwinter Nights: Enhanced Edition!

What does that mean? It means there’s now a big privately hosted public server you can hop into and start roleplaying immediately! Go check out NWN EE on Steam or GoG to learn more about the game.

This is a game where you can be anything or anyone you want to be – the sky’s the limit! And you’ll not only mingle with fellow players, you’ll also find DMs ready to tell exciting stories.

Features so far:

  • Working inn system (individualized rooms)
  • A town with some secrets (starting town is PvP disabled)
  • Various shops
  • Some wilderness zones (some are PvP enabled)
  • Emote system
  • Support for player housing
  • Scripted Vampire subrace
  • And more!

And it’s going to keep expanding! We’re starting small, but it’ll definitely grow.

To join the Wulfgard discord and discuss the server/learn more, click here!

So – are you tired of big impersonal MMORPGs? Tired of trying to find RP guilds and groups? Tired of D&D always in some super awkward little browser program or something?

Come and join us!

Just start up NWN EE (available on Steam and GoG), install these mods (simple installation), go to Multiplayer, Join Internet Game, and find Wulfgard – Roleplaying in the server list!

Please be sure to read the server rules, and remember, this server is in-character. It’s a RP server, not something else.

Come and join us and have some fun!