Tuesday, December 15, 2009

Werewolf? There Wolf. The Question of WHY WEREWOLVES ROCK: Part I

A great gal and pal on Twitter, Carla asked me to consider doing a post about werewolves and why they rock.

I'll be honest, when I thought (years ago) about the books I'd write that would define me as an author the term "werewolf" was never part of my figuring. I had tales of dystopian societies, of teens being raised by governments that used them up and spit them out--stuff full of social commentary. Stuff totally devoid of werewolves and vampires and ghosts. I always figured one of those would define me as an author. And perhaps eventually one will.

But for now, I am an author of werewolf novels. And I've found the experience thus far to be much more enriching than writers who disparage werewolves and vamps could possibly imagine.

I love my werewolves.

Here's just the first bit of why...

Werewolves are richly symbolic. This is the nerd in me popping out. I like things that are more than they seem (at least tucked into a pretty bookcover ;-). So we’ll start simply with the concept of transformation.

In life we grow and change. It’s normal. It’s natural. Sometimes it’s empowering and at others it’s painful. Mostly change is terrifying.

It’s ironic, really. Humanity is one of a few species (gotta give props to cockroaches, certain microbes and rats—we keep such great company ;-) that is best suited to adaptation and surviving difficult environments and circumstances. But we dread change to the point people in abusive situations sometimes stay with the abuser because they at least know what to expect—the world without the bruises and beatings seems even more frightening. It’s the idea of accepting the evil you know rather than facing the “fear of the unknown” brought by change.

So take that fear of the unknown, the fear of change. Couple it with the fear we have of wild animals—especially the primitive fear of wolves—and blend it together. Now take a sip of that symbolic smoothie and you are the werewolf. Someone battling against inevitable change from within. Someone scared of what has to happen because the natural course of life has betrayed him or her. Someone seemingly poisoned by nature and forced to embrace their fear.

Who can’t relate with that sort of stress?

So, first on my list of why werewolves rock? Forced transformation. We go through it in our teen years in a very human way. And man, is transformation richly symbolic if you think about it.

Tomorrow we’ll handle another reason related to why I think werewolves rock. Today at the TextnovelDivas.com ? I’ll play Devil’s advocate and explain why this particular nerd thinks vampires will stay strong considering our current culture.

What do you think about werewolves? What makes them rock your world?

Continually curious,


LovesSam said...

YAY Shannon, thanks!!! This is a fab post ;-)

I love werewolves; I seriously love them more than I would like to admit. Even though they are firmly cemented into dominant figures in horror films and books, there is just something about them which fascinates me. Maybe it’s from the old folklore or their mythological status. The fact that they almost always have super-human powers and strength, that they can shape-shift. That’s my favourite part, the transformation from man to wolf, how they embrace that side of them, at one with nature.

Did you know that there is a tale that wolves are the Hounds of God, warriers who went into hell to battle with the demons, and when they died, their souls were welcomed into heaven? See, there’s just so much intrigue with wolves.

It’s a statistical fact that most people will never see a wolf in the wild. They are depicted as intelligent, cunning, supernatural and most of all graceful. I’m glad that literature has moved on from the foolish wolves they depicted in Little Red Riding Hood and The 3 Little Pigs. They are very symbolic by nature, they are fierce and loyal and have a strong sense of family; what persoon would not want these traits.

You can relate to them in the loosest sense of the word, like you have said, their transformation is just another representation of human maturation. Your body changing, just like the transformation from man-wolf. All of us have that wild instinctive side in us, programmed in us since the early days. I just love them; honestly, they are my favourite fictional beings.

Shannon Delany said...

:D I've always had a fascination with plain old wolves and the fact they've been saddled with such an unsavory reputation. I have to wonder sometimes if part of our primitive fear of wolves themselves is the fact that we relate so closely to them (they mirror us in intriguing ways)...

...They struggle in a hierarchical system, fighting for popularity, rank and power and so do we. They roam great distances to meet their needs (and we were once much more migratory ourselves). They seem to value family structure in very basic ways as well.

And a cub once chewed on my sneaker. That was it for me--smitten.

And it is interesting to me to see how some cultures vilified wolves while others revered them. The tale of the Hounds of God is one of my favorite tidbits from werewolf-related history, btw.

I'm not surprised most people will never see a wolf in the wild. Did you know that now there are places that hold howling parties (I think one I read about was in a Canadian park where people gather to hear the wolves and howl back--intriguing)?

Your mention of Little Red Riding Hood makes me think you'll get a kick out of a particular scene in book 2... And, btw, Little Red Riding Hood comes up in a later post on this topic (I had to divide this post up dramatically!). Great minds thinking alike. ;-)

Given the theme of transformation, I think werewolves are especially potent characters for YA literature. Teens understand change far more acutely than we do at our *cough* advanced age. ;-)

I'm so glad you came by and added your thoughts. You definitely rock. :D

Sheila Deeth said...

Cool. I like your comment on "forced transformation." Interesting insight.

Eva O'Dell said...

I love werewolves and anything supernatural. That's the reason I write fiction. I love how you talk about the transformation. It's so tragic but necessary. Without transformation we would never grow as people. Werewolves represent that is a more tangible way.

Eva O'Dell said...

I was looking at your werewolves in literature list and wondering if you ever read Shiver. Interesting take on werewolves in my opinion.

Shannon Delany said...

Hi Sheila! Thanks for stopping in. :-) Yep, I think "forced" is key (at least initially).

Eva, I did read SHIVER between writing my first and second novel. I liked the way Maggie dealt with the shifting POV (which works so well in traditional romances and hasn't been employed often in YA). I had toyed with split POV myself for the 13 TO LIFE series, but decided against it for very specific character reasons.

In my NaNo WiP (CREATIVE LICENSE) I use split POV but in a very different way.;-)

SarwatC said...

I think it was Company of Wolves that got me keen on the whole raw, baroque beauty of the werewolf legends and, as you say, the incredible rich mythology. Plus, in their mots basic form, they are monsters, plain and simple. Wild, inhuman, not bound by morals, civilization or even thought.
How much more freedom could anyone want, or take?