Time for Werewolf Fact #72! Wow, that’s a lot. And that’s not counting all the books and articles and ask responses and other things I’ve done over the years. It’s been a fun ride.
But for now, let’s turn our attention to something a patron pointed out I’ve never actually discussed… what makes a werewolf return to human form?
I’ll be honest: popular culture has taken much more of an interest in laying out the details about returning to the human form than did folklore, overall. In folklore, the act of changing to and from was certainly the centerpiece of the horror, but popular culture and its emphasis on werewolf characters led into a deeper evaluation of such an experience. Folklore also generally discussed the transformation into a monster much more than out of it, at least in more laborious and horrific detail (see Lykaon, Niceros, etc).
We see painful transformations to the werewolf form in folklore quite a bit, as I’ve discussed before. In fact, the prime example is one of the earliest surviving recorded werewolf legends. And yet even turning into the bestial form was occasionally painless in folklore, involving donning a magic skin or performing a simple ritual to suddenly become a wolf. As for the werewolf returning to the human form, as far as folklore is concerned, that often seems almost or entirely effortless.
Obviously, in popular culture, it’s much more common to have the dramatic to or from in either form. I’m personally a big fan of this, as you’d know if you’ve read any of my fiction (be sure to check that out at my website!), but if you really want to get down and dirty with werewolves being true to folklore, frankly it is overall common for neither transformation to be painful. And certainly it is even less common for the return to human form to be a particularly traumatic or jarring event. That doesn’t make for a super dramatic story, though, so we see – especially in past werewolf stories, ones that emphasized horror more – the traumatic tos and froms.
With that out of the way, here are some methods of returning to the human form in folklore…
I am not including those funky ones you see all across the internet that weirdos bandy about in their clickbait list articles, like “tossing iron over the werewolf’s head” or whatever, because I need a lot more cross-referenced actual examples of those to include them in a list such as this, as opposed to unfounded Google results that D&D players then like to grab and turn into le silleh memes.
Note that this list, as always, doesn’t cover every single possibility seen in folklore. I’m not even going to pretend I’m trying to do that here. That will be in the future Werewolf Facts book that I’m publishing in a few years (yes, I am working on that).
And that just about covers the general overview! Hope you enjoyed the article.