Friday, February 20, 2009

The Werewolf as Changeling: Willing and Unwilling

Okay, so I tend to think of a changeling in the traditional "fae" or "fairy" type reference (being a sickly fairy quietly traded for a healthy human baby). I was actually a little surprised to see "The Faces of the Changeling" as a title which then related to werewolves and shapeshifters in the book (which I recommend) "Slavic Myth and Mankind: Forests of the Vampire."

For the Slavs (people of Eastern Europe) many "oboroten," or people changed into beasts against their will, were simply tragic victims of another's malevolence. Supposedly one of the best known examples of the oboroten was the "volkodlak" or werewolf.

There is an important differentiation made between the willing and unwilling werewolf in Slavic (and other) myth. The one that willingly takes on such a destructive form "...was a terrible manbeast, ravening destroyer of anything in its path" (p. 120 Slavic Myth and Mankind, 1999). But, according to this same resource (with its beautiful photos and illustrations), the ones cursed into becoming a werewolf (by an evil witch or wizard--differentiated from sorceress and sorcerer) would cling to their human behaviors, "haunting their old abodes" and exhibiting protective behavior. They only killed livestock "from distant parishes" and only when absolutely desperate with hunger.

Let's recall, however, the exception to the Eastern European idea of willing versus unwilling werewolves--Theiss of Livonia (willing and good).

This difference between the willing and unwilling werewolf is important--at least in my humble opinion.

In Western Europe, willing werewolves were those who entered a pact with "the Devil." They did this to increase their personal power or wealth or to better seek revenge on others whom they believed had wronged them. Generally they acted selfishly and looked for power to then enable them to act more cruelly. These were the werewolves that gave all weres a bad name. However, even in Western Europe, there were some (rare) examples of good werewolves, like the French character of Bisclavret. In his case (quite possibly bewitched--we don't get to know in the traditional French poem by the name "Bisclavret") , he tried to live a regular life including keeping a wife he loved and protected while still suffering a transformation that took him from her several days and nights every week.

In my story "13 to Life: A Werewolf's Tale" the werewolves are not of the truly willing variety. They did not choose their destiny but are trying to learn to work within Destiny's parameters. They are like anyone else who has ever come up against a devestating physical issue and had to learn to thrive in spite of it instead of letting it rule their life and their outlook. And, through struggle, they learn more about their strengths, too--potentially changing them from unwilling to willing werewolves as they evolve emotionally.


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