Friday, January 9, 2009

A Quick Note on Good Werewolves

You know, it occurred to me recently that there aren't many stories with redeeming aspects of werewolves. Some writers still stick to the idea that werewolves are more susceptible to giving in to their baser instincts than monsters like vampires and write them as more "hot-blooded" and more out of control and violent.

I guess I still think werewolves are more relatable if we break it back down to comparing wolves and humans in a social context. More on my comparisons and conclusions later (the fact I worked in a zoo with wolves --among a wide variety of other fascinating beasts--comes into this).

So--back on task... Redeeming tales of werewolves.

Marie of France wrote a bunch of "lays" or "leis" or "lais" (depending on what translation you view) in the 12th century. They were essentially poems (like ballads) and dealt with love, betrayal and, sometimes, the supernatural. Her poem "Bisclavret" shows a werewolf who is very much in control of his actions even though he can't return to his human form without the aid of his special clothing. He's a very well behaved canine until he sees his ex-wife's new husband, and later, his ex-wife (cheating traitor! ;-). He even exhibits shame at his "condition," not wanting to transform in front of the king and his court when his clothing's returned to him. But perhaps it's because he was a knight and baron himself--a blueblood werewolf-- that he's so well-behaved.

Even perhaps a bit more interesting is the case of Theiss, a man of Livonia (near the Baltic Sea--hey, close to Russia, right? ;-) was accused of being a werewolf in 1692. He was an older guy at the time (I saw someone place him as being 80) and instead of repenting or denying, it seems Theiss said essentially, "Yep, I'm a werewolf and you all should be happy because we werewolves battle Satan's minions to keep the earth's riches from all being drawn into Hell." Theiss even said werewolves were the "Hounds of God" and they descended into Hell several times a year to battle demons and return what Satan's minions had stolen (seeds for staple crops, etc.). The jury decided Theiss was still speaking blasphemy (at the time nearly everyone could have been accused similarly) but they let him off with ten lashes (still unpleasant at best).

Hmm...My first Russian language prof was Dr. Theiss... I hadn't thought about that before. Rock on!

So Pietr's family--my dear sweet (and somewhat confused and troubled) Russian werewolves are not far removed from the idea of even monsters being worthy of redemption...

...And of course, all this links right back into one of my story's themes--What makes a monster and what makes a man?

Take care,

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