The age-old question that people like to ask but seems so easy to answer in most movies, because they always die – how do you actually kill a werewolf, anyway?
I wrote a post on silver once, if you recall. But here’s a much more robust version of what can and cannot actually hurt a werewolf.
As you probably already know by now, werewolves are often essentially invincible. Often, but not always. In some stories, killing a werewolf was just as easy as killing any other person or any other wolf. Burning at the stake was common, as you might imagine.
Or more often than not, the werewolf simply cannot be killed, and you have to find a way to fix/revert/cure them instead. For more details on all this and more, you can also see one of my previous posts on werewolf abilities.
Want to get Mav all fired up? Tell me about werewolves with ridiculously stupid contrived weaknesses. Send me an ask if you want a rant. Honestly, I got very angry just writing this post, thinking about the stupid crap people do. But for now, I’ll just stick to info as well as I can.
Did NOT appear in folklore:
- Silver – The big one. The fake one. The one completely made up by Curt Siodmak in 1941 when he wrote his movie The Wolf Man. The one I’ve said many times and had some people point at me and just say “So… Yeah. Wrong.” Well, right back at you, O friendly one. You’ll hear people now and then try to tell you that this whole silver thing for werewolves started around the Beast of Gevaudan; it did not, that was a fictional retelling and embellishment someone wrote years later. Some people will try to tell you there are other stories that mention silver for werewolves in a folkloric fashion. The trouble is, I’ve never seen any properly documented and accountable sources to back up these claims, so honestly I can’t bring myself to believe they exist, especially since Curt Siodmak and people who worked with him said themselves that he made up the silver thing completely from his imagination. So anyone scouring legends to find silver, picking up trails of contrivances and mistellings and misinterpretations over the years, trying to hard to make this a real thing – they’re all wasting their time. Folkloric werewolves are not sensitive to silver and never have been. Does silver appear in other folklore? Sometimes, yes. Is it alchemically associated with the moon and that’s probably why Siodmak picked it (because he chose to associate his werewolves with the moon)? Probably, yeah. Does it make for a good story? Well, yeah, it can! But, I’m sorry, it simply is not from any folklore anywhere that specifically werewolves are sensitive to, or can only be slain by, silver.
- Holy ground/holy artifacts – This is also not a thing. Werewolves aren’t unholy. They aren’t like vampires or other unholy monsters like evil spirits and demons; in fact, they have absolutely nothing to do with any of those things. And even when some Satanic sorcerer court cases got mislabeled as being werewolves, the wolf sorcerers still weren’t repelled by holy symbols or unable to step on holy ground.
- Vampire bites – As I’ll be detailing in a future post, the whole “werewolves vs vampires” thing is a very modern idea made by modern storytellers. Vampires have no special natural “weapons” against werewolves and vice versa. Vampire bites certainly don’t “poison” werewolves.
- Fire – No, fur is not made of pure oil that will catch on fire and burn like pitch the second it comes into the tiniest contact with a single freaking match. It doesn’t catch on fire instantly and it won’t stay burning forever like some eternal flame. Also, in berserker lore, they are specified to be immune to both iron and fire. And in fact I’ve been led to understand that really the only thing that causes your hair or fur to burn is the body oils that coat it. Listing this as some kind of unique and special weakness for werewolves, like everyone likes to do, is ridiculously silly, please stop doing this. And listing it because fire scares animals is also silly because werewolves aren’t animals; they’re werewolves. Anyway, no, this wasn’t a thing in folklore, either.
- Running water – This is another undead/evil spirits/vampires thing, never once associated with werewolves, particularly as werewolves are not unholy.
- Loud noises/bright lights/whatnot – As you might imagine, no one in the days of actual werewolf beliefs was running around with flashbangs, so no, this never really happened either.
- Wolfsbane and belladonna – This is a really popular one and another one that originated from The Wolf Man (1941) when Curt Siodmak decided to associate his werewolf with the wolfsbane flower. Basically, Siodmak dictated to the world what his werewolves are like and then everyone decided to copy him and now it’s all but universal canon that werewolves are like his werewolves. It’s pretty wild, really. Wouldn’t it be amazing if that happened to you, if you suddenly just up and told the entire world what this monster is like for essentially the rest of its existence in all storytelling everywhere?
- Electricity – This seems to be an increasingly common thing. I mean, yeah, most everything is “sensitive” to electricity, right? This is another new thing, though, so it’s like whatever.
- Literally everything else in all those TV shows – Yes, all those shows you watch that have werewolves in them. Supernatural, True Blood, Vampire Diaries, Being Human, Teen Wolf, you name it. They all made up a gracious plenty of things, some ranging from completely ridiculous (sulfate gas, what? What does that even…?) to arguably more reasonable. Of course if you ask me most are ridiculous. Blood loss? Really? What do you think the regeneration is even there for?
Of course, making up weaknesses for your werewolves isn’t a bad thing. I mean, I’m not saying it’s innately bad; not at all (well alright except some of them and especially the unholy thing… can we not?). Especially since I hold to the idea that they should be essentially invincible otherwise. But none of these have actual folkloric sources – that is my point.
Appeared in folklore:
- ABSOLUTELY NOTHING – You heard it right. Zip. Zero. Zilch. Nada. Big goose egg. Nothing. Naught. Nichts. Ekkert. Nec entem. Ingenting. And now you also know how to say “nothing” in various ways and languages, too.
Want a few of the weirder instances of how werewolves were actually defeated? All of these only happened once on an individual level. In one case, we get the idea that speaking a werewolf’s Christian name will turn them back to their human form. In another case, if you throw a piece of iron over their head, they’ll turn back.
Do any of these actually hurt, kill, or “cure” them, though? Nope, sorry.
No weaknesses. Good luck with that. You know Wolverine, right, from Marvel? He’s much more of a proper werewolf than like 95% of werewolves in pop culture.
So next time you’re making up werewolves for your world or something, if you want them to have no weaknesses – hey, that can still be on point. Or you can just use silver, because honestly everyone takes that for granted now. And I’m not denying it’s fun (I use it in my own setting, though I have a gratuitous backstory to go with the why and the how, instead of it “just being a thing,” and no one knows why/the creator[s] don’t really know why or care to know either).
But for goodness sake, if you use silver, don’t do that obnoxious thing where people act like you can somehow feed a werewolf silver and it’ll kill them (like they’ll just swallow silver for some reason lololol so funneh and trickseh). Even if they did swallow it, you realize vomiting is a thing, right, especially if it’s something actively burning your insides? Or people who act like you can actually shove it down their throat in the middle of combat. That is the stupidest thing ever in the history of everything. It wouldn’t work and you would die and the werewolf wouldn’t be anything except really mad and busy tearing your stupid head off. Get out.
*ahem* So there you have it! Enjoy.