We return now with a big issue among pop culture things: what do werewolf eyes look like anyway, and what color are they?
So your first thought is probably any number of werewolf pop culture things. One of those is even very likely to be MTV’s Teen Wolf, since they made werewolf eye colors a big thing and an indicator toward the power level and/or another aspect of the werewolf themselves.
That wasn’t ever a thing in folklore, obviously, since no one back then was comparing werewolf ranks or power levels. But there is a lot of info about werewolf eyes in folklore; more than you might think.
First up, and my favorite, is Norse mythology and its shapeshifters, who have very interesting eyes.
The shapeshifters of Norway and Iceland were called eigi einhamir, or “not of one form/skin.” There are a lot of other terms associated with them, and they are, quite frankly, very awesome. But most importantly for this post, they are described as,
He [the shapeshifter] follows the instincts of the beast whose body he has made his own, but his own intelligence is neither clouded nor snuffed. The soul remains unchanged, and hence the mirror of the soul, the eye, can by no art be altered.
(Montague Summers, Werewolf, page 242. And no I’m not using proper academic citations, but it’d give you a headache trying to read them, anyway, so I’m keeping it simple this time. I am so tired of academic citations.)
Does this mean their eyes look human all the time, even in animal and/or werewolf form? Or is it just the same color? It doesn’t really specify, so that’s up for you to interpret.
Moving on to other regions and time periods, there are actually lots of instances of werewolves having all kinds of eyes. This includes red eyes, especially in the Early Modern period from writers like Henri Boguet and a few others.
And, of course, plenty of werewolves have yellow eyes. Because, well, that is wolf eyes. But they “glint” more than wolf eyes – many werewolf accounts and stories will specify “glinting” eyes – and shine with inhuman intelligence. That’s very, very common in folklore (because in folklore, werewolves were not stupid).
Other descriptors for werewolf eyes, other than the glinting, include “mournful.” Some are also described as being “light” eyes in certain Northern European cultures (which were also described as “horrid,” probably because that was very creepy to see), which is believed to be a way of saying that they had eye colors wolves are not capable of having, but humans can have (such as blue, green, and grey), and others were specified to have those colors.
Still more descriptors include “sharp” eyes, “great and large and watchful” (the better to see you with, I guess), and others.
And, of course, in the later periods, when werewolves were being turned into evil things in legend (whereas they were often good or at least relatable before), these intelligent werewolves are described as having “evil” eyes, “hellish” eyes, and eyes “blazing with hellish fury.”
If you ask the scientists from whom we now get the term for the mental illness “clinical lycanthropy,” werewolves (and by that they mean people who believe themselves to be wolves, not actual folkloric shapeshifting werewolf beliefs) have dry eyes and cannot cry, because they often have some kind of accompanying disease.
And lastly, we get an interesting one, which is eyes of fire. Some werewolves in legend are described as having “blazing” eyes (similar to that hellish fury one), “flaming” eyes, and, as mentioned, “eyes of fire.” So were their eyes made of fire? Were they actually on fire? Is that all just a metaphor for how scary and/or angry they were? Some people take it literally and give them flaming eyes, which, hey, that’s pretty badass.
Some werewolves also had wolf eyes all the time, or at least animal-colored (such as yellow) eyes, as one writer, Boguet, persistently mentions that werewolves have eyes that are “mirrors to the bestial soul,” and that “the eyes of a werewolf even in human form are unmistakably animal.”
So there are lots of different takes on whether werewolves have human eyes all the time, animal eyes all the time, or something in-between (in my setting, Wulfgard, I personally go for something in-between – you’ll be hearing a whole lot about that in the future, don’t worry).
Want a simple list version of werewolf eye colors? Here you go:
- The same eyes as their human form (does this mean their eyes looked human? Maybe, maybe not, but they definitely retained the color at least)
- Red eyes
- Yellow eyes
- Orange eyes
- Flaming eyes/eyes of fire
- Blue eyes
- Green eyes
- White/grey eyes
Whatever kind of eyes they have, they are definitely always intelligent (often eerily so), and they are definitely always very alert and keen. And in case you were wondering – yes, werewolves definitely have exceptional eyesight!