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!

The Werewolf: Past and Future (nonfiction) – NOW AVAILABLE!

Prepare to rediscover the forgotten legacy of the legendary werewolf!

Purchase here on Amazon.com!

Since before recorded history, werewolves have captivated human imagination. Simultaneously, they represent our deepest fears as well as our desire to connect with our primal ancestry. Today, werewolves are portrayed negatively, associated with violence, cruelty, cannibalism, and general malevolence.

However, in ages past, legends depicted them not as monsters, but as a range of neutral to benevolent individuals, such as traveling companions, guardians, and knights. The robust legacy of the werewolf spans from prehistory, through ancient Greece and Rome, to the Middle Ages, into the Early Modern period, and finally into present-day popular culture. Over the ages, the view of the werewolf has become distorted. Media treatment of werewolves is associated with inferior writing, lacking in thought, depth, and meaning. Werewolves as characters or creatures are now generally seen as single-minded and one-dimensional, and they want nothing more than to kill, devour, and possibly violate humans.

Hollywood depictions have resulted in the destruction of the true meanings behind werewolf legends that fascinated and terrified humans for so many ages. If these negative trends were reversed, perhaps entertainment might not only discover again some of the true meanings behind the werewolf myth, but also take the first steps toward reversing negative portrayals of wolves themselves, which humans have, for eons, wrongfully stigmatized and portrayed as evil, resulting in wolves receiving crueler treatment than virtually any other animal.

To revive the many questions posed by lycanthropy, entertainment must show respect to the rich history of so many cultures all around the world – and rediscover the legend of the werewolf.

This book represents a lifetime of work, research, and argument. It’s the centerpiece of, essentially, who I am and what I want to fight for in my life. This underwent very close scrutiny by a board of distinguished professors, and I had to defend my research and my arguments before them in order to earn my degree.

If you enjoy my werewolf facts, you’ll enjoy reading this, I can guarantee it, especially if you want to hear my side of things. It won’t be a guide to werewolves, though it’ll certainly have plenty of useful information on various legends in coherent chronological order (all with proper professional attribution, footnotes, discussion, citation, etc.). This is a great place to start to get my perspective on things while also learning about almost all the werewolf legends and info I’ve covered in various facts – and many more that I haven’t!

It means so much to me that I have finally gotten to publish this. I really hope you’ll enjoy it and find it useful, educational, and thought-provoking.

Purchase The Werewolf: Past and Future on Amazon.com!

And, from now until November 2, if you back my Patreon at $50 or higher, you will receive a signed copy of The Werewolf: Past and Future along with other goodies! (You do not have to remain a patron at this tier to receive the book; just one month, and you’ll still receive your copy. All current $50+ patrons will also receive a signed copy.) 

Werewolves: Not Zombies, Not Dogs

Here is a quick and dirty guide to how to tell if your werewolf might just be a zombie or might just be a dog.

Please note these are not complete lists. These are things that irk me on a deep and profound level, so I could go on about them for quite some time. But this is the short version.

Your Werewolf is a Zombie

Your werewolf is probably just a hairy zombie if…

  • They are only remotely powerful/intimidating in groups of 3-10+ and/or massive hordes of 10-80+, and they generally move in groups of these sizes
  • A single werewolf is not even a threat at all
  • The ONLY thing that makes them scary is they might infect you
  • They are extremely easily dispatched
  • They turn into a werewolf and never turn human again, and/or the transformation process “could kill them”
  • They are an “infestation” or a “plague”
  • There are literally entire villages and cities of nothing but werewolves (and all they want to do is kill people)
  • They are crazed, extremely stupid, and have not even the remotest vestige of human intelligence at all, they just want to essentially eat brains like a zombie
  • They were created by a virus/fungus/some other form of infection, and that is their centerpiece
  • They are ugly, mangy things that don’t even remotely resemble wolves. They have no actual wolfish features at all and are largely just mangy/hairy people with gross teeth, or else some kind of big mangy monster with large teeth and generic, gross semi-animal features
  • They are all mindless and pure evil/insane and/or becoming one makes you evil and insane
  • Being turned into a werewolf is a death sentence
  • Characters are relieved to know it’s “just a werewolf” instead of something actually bad
  • They look and behave more like zombies than werewolves in general
  • They are essentially the first random effortless lowbie encounter/group fight in a video game (or a video game trailer…), often literally

Your Werewolf is Just a Dog

Your werewolf is just a walking dog joke and should just be a “weredog” instead (it’d honestly be infinitely better) if…

  • They bark
  • They exhibit domesticated behavior (fetching things, easily distracted by things, etc.)
  • They are a walking dog joke (bark at mailmen, pee on hydrants, shedding jokes, humping jokes, and whatnot) and other people also make dog jokes about them
  • They lack intelligence and revert to simplistic animal behavior, especially silly/harmless animalistic behavior, at the drop of a hat and they might be embarrassed by it in comically endearing fashion (howling at sirens, chasing things, etc., also see above)
  • Being a werewolf is just some kind of embarrassment (”I shed and bark at things and scratch and lick my balls :(”) instead of something scary, powerful, and/or potentially a real problem or hardship
  • They are just a “good boi” and want “head pats” etc.
  • They’re basically just big friendly dog-people
  • They resemble a dog instead of a wolf (they have dog fur patterns [spots, merle, brindle…], dog ears [floppy or cut], jowls, etc.)
  • They are largely comedy and played as such
  • They aren’t even scary at all, nor are they remotely vicious, and if they tried to be everyone would see it as a joke and have to be forced to take it seriously under extreme duress (and then the viewers/readers still wouldn’t be able to because the werewolf is still just a dog joke)
  • They are, in fact, so ultimately harmless that other characters refer to them as the walking dog jokes that they are (Fido, Fluffy, etc., tell them to fetch things, the whole nine yards)
  • They are literally just someone’s dog on a chain and wear a collar and refer to themselves as someone’s dog
  • They may not even be a character at all but are literally just a humanoid dog who never turns human, and/or the human also behaves exactly like the dog-werewolf

If any of these things and especially multiple apply to the werewolf, please just let them be called a weredog instead. I could tolerate that. I’d vastly prefer it. More weredogs, if that’s the way your werewolf must be. Weredogs for everyone. Let’s do it. I’m not kidding! I just don’t want werewolves to be weredogs. Let’s keep them different, please. Wolves are not domestic dogs! They are very different, especially in that wolves are not and cannot be domesticated! There are tons of scientific articles and studies, and more releasing every day, that serve to highlight this!

And if your werewolf/werewolves meet these criteria, that is fine for you, but I’m really sorry, but they are not for me and I would much prefer to not even know they exist. No hard feelings. I don’t want to see your werewolf zombies or your werewolf dogs or your weredogs or whatever. I just don’t even care to consume that kind of “werewolf” media.

I like werewolves to be werewolves. To me:

Your Werewolf is a Werewolf

Your werewolf is probably a werewolf of some form if…

  • They are powerful and terrifying as individuals and only that much moreso in groups. Taking down one werewolf is literally the final bossfight and will take all of one’s willpower, intelligence, and abilities; taking down several at once is basically impossible
  • What I’m saying is I like them to be among the very scariest of monsters in a setting
  • They may be able to curse/infect others, but that is not the centerpiece of their entire being
  • Being part of a group/pack and identifying solely as “a werewolf” is also not their entire being (they’re still people, and people have histories and cultures and identities, too! They’re not some alien hive-mind or something!)
  • They are still human individuals; being a werewolf is not the entirety of their character or their most important aspect (related to that previous one but also in general)
  • They retain intelligence (but perhaps not necessarily the ability to speak) in werewolf form; they will not bash their brains against walls in a fit of rage or go after the mailman or howl at sirens
  • They have poise and pride instead of licking their balls or “scritching” or whatever
  • They can be vicious, they can be noble, but they are always predatory and scary
  • They are taken seriously
  • They do not bark or otherwise exhibit domesticated behavior of any kind
  • They do not have any obviously non-wolf features (spots, stripes, slit pupils [WHY are slit pupils such a thing now!?], merle, jowls, floppy ears, curly fur, etc.). Weird eye colors are fine and great. A few stranger fur patterns might be fun and interesting (like maybe just a few stripes or something), but anything that makes them too obviously look like just a dog or even a cat really throws me off. My favorite werewolves will always look like wolves above anything else, no matter how odd or stylized or supernatural of wolves they might be. Wolves have their own distinguishing, incredible features and werewolves should have those too; save the rest for other shapeshifters and creatures.
  • If they have animalistic behavior, it’s predatory and wolfish, not domesticated
  • Being a werewolf is not a convenient button one can push*
  • They don’t just walk around, talk, and interact like humans while they are werewolves; they are more animal than human, while retaining their intelligence (they are more likely to go hunt and kill in terrifyingly intelligent ways than play a game of poker, even if they might be capable of the latter)
  • They turn into a werewolf and turn human again; they are not always one or the other
  • They actually resemble a wolf in at least some fashion (they are not just a bland horror creature with big teeth and mangy hair)

*: Some werewolves in stories are less cursed than others. That’s fine. I do like my cursed werewolves; to me, that’s part of what makes a werewolf a werewolf instead of just a shapeshifter, but I know that not all werewolves in legend were that way (obviously). That’s a personal preference storytelling thing.

Again, as I am fully aware, this is just my opinion. But I was asked, so there it is. I don’t want to hurt anyone’s feelings, but hopefully this clarifies what I’m talking about.

You can, of course, consult my werewolf facts and related ask responses for more on my opinions and why I hold these opinions. And then I have lots of posts on various tropes and how I feel about those (including dog things and zombie things in relation to werewolves) in this section here.

AND! One more thing! This doesn’t necessarily condemn the werewolf product for me. It just has a 99.99% chance of doing so. Execution is everything. I love Resident Evil: Village/Resident Evil 8 because the hairy zombies are referred to as “lycans” like twice and are just hairy zombies that never resemble wolves or behave as wolves and I can just completely ignore that they’re supposed to be werewolves and overlook that. I love that game. But if there’s this emphasis on big wolfish werewolves being zombies, it honestly makes it worse for me. For instance, I cannot even look at ESO anymore (and that makes me really sad).

And as for the dog jokes… I’ve only ever enjoyed the original Teen Wolf movie insofar as that goes, and some of the things in there still make me groan. But I did enjoy the movie and story enough that I still like it a lot. But will you ever see me watching that Goosebumps movie again? No. I’d sooner hang myself up on meathooks.

I just… would very much love to see werewolves be their own thing instead of zombies or dogs, and if they are just zombies or dogs in a thing, chances are incredibly high that, no, I won’t like it, and I may even have extreme dislike for it.

So let’s let werewolves be werewolves.

P.S.: Another pet peeve is referring to werewolves as just “wolves.” Why? They’re not wolves, they’re werewolves. That’s like calling them “weres.” Don’t dilute them to being one or the other – what makes them so great and so interesting is that they are both and neither at the same time!