Furry Writers' Guild Forum

Info On Werewolves

Hello all!

Recently spent my time researching werewolves in-depth for my dissertation, and I thought I’d share with you some of the most useful sources I’ve encountered that will hopefully push your thinking further than most sensationalist (and frankly simplistic) sources you mostly find. Surprisingly, despite werewolves having a long history in culture and literature, they haven’t had much of a sustained analysis in any meaningful depth. So, here’s a list of the most useful sources I’ve found. I hope you find them useful!

Baring-Gould, Sabine. Book of Werewolves: Were-Wolf History and Folklore. 1865. New York: Cosimo. 2009. Print.

  • The earliest book on werewolves that isn’t a demonology. Its a useful mix of sourcebook of harder to find texts and theory. Originally written in 1865, but still useful, and used by a lot of 19th century writers.

Du Coudray, Chantal Bourgault. The Curse of the Werewolf: Fantasy, Horror, and the Beast Within. London: I.B. Tauris. 2006. Print.

  • Academic book on werewolves that looks at them throughout time. Begins at the end to deal with werewolves in fantasy genres, as opposed to horror films and Gothic fiction. Only briefly begins to question how the werewolf could be a positive figure.

Frost, Brian. The Essential Guide to Werewolf Literature. Madison: University of Wisconsin Press. 2003. Print.

  • A book surveying very briefly a vast amount of literature. Useful to potentially construct a reading list of fiction, however, a lot of articles are listed or skimmed over in one line of analysis. Some works stand out, and are discussed in greater detail. It is not, however an analysis of the myth.

Marvin, Garry. Wolf. London: Reaktion. 2012. Print.

  • Part of a series by the publisher on other animals, ‘Wolf’ details scientific information on the real animal, and then devotes a section to the fear of the wolf - and notably, the werewolf myth.

Otten, Charlotte., ed. A Lycanthropy Reader: Werewolves in Western Culture. New York: Syracuse University Press. 1986. Print.

  • A reader of harder to find stories and essays on werewolves. This is not an analytical book, it is sources.

—. The Literary Werewolf: An Anthology. New York: Syracuse University Press. 2002. Print.

  • Another book by the previous author, it is an anthology of werewolf fiction. Some are older, some are 19th and 20th century. Consider secondary research, to see how the writing has changed.

Sconduto, Leslie. Metamorphoses of the Werewolf: A Literary Study From Antiquity through the Renaissance. London: McFarland & Company Inc. 2008. Print.

  • A very interesting academic book, focusing on four werewolf stories from the twelfth century. It’s surprising because they all treat the werewolf as a sympathetic figure. Be warned, this is an academic analysis of the texts, not a analysis of the myth.

Stypczynski, Brent. The Modern Literary Werewolf: A Critical Study of the Mutable Motif. London: McFarland & Company Inc. 2013. Print.

  • An interesting analysis of werewolves in modern texts, by authors such as Pratchett and Rowling.

Summers, Montague. The Werewolf in Lore and Legend. 1933. New York: Dover Publications. 2003. Print.

  • An old text on werewolves written in 1933. Interesting, but sometimes very hard reading, and, a bit over the top at times. Take pinches of salt.

Easley, Alexis., and Shannon Scott, eds. Terrifying Transformations: An Anthology of Victorian Werewolf Fiction. Kansas City: Valancourt Books. 2013. Print.

  • Another anthology of werewolf fiction, useful to read some lesser known works of werewolf literature.

Beresford, Matthew. The White Devil: The Werewolf in European Culture. London, Reaktion. 2013. Print.

  • A useful book about werewolves that looks at neolithic inspiration for the myth, as well as familiar and modern aspects.

I’ve actually found Montague Summers’s book a lot more helpful than Sabine Baring-Gould’s, at least for getting into the classical sources for Western European werewolf lore. For a 19th century work, Baring-Gould is almost…chatty. I also find helpful Summers’s distinction between “lycanthropy” as a psychological condition and “werewolfery” – accounts of physical transformations.

A very good list, though! And I certainly agree with you that there are very, very few truly analytic sources for such an important subject.

Do you mind my asking the title of your dissertation?

Hmm, for me it was the opposite - Summers was quite unhelpful, Baring-Gould was more so. Still, the problem for Baring-Gould is that he goes off on a tangent for chapters about cannibals who suffer absolutely no delusion of metamorphosis, and Summers rightly criticises him for this.

Baring-Gould is indeed chatty, there’s a paper by one of the staff at my uni about how Baring-Gould sensationalises what he’s talking about. Again, Summers is right to say that Baring-Gould is sometimes “too much the author” to paraphrase.

Thank you! I thought I might as well share these sources as it has been quite irritating at times trying to find decent, relevant material.

I can’t remember my title exactly, but I’m looking at how the physical werewolf body in literature allows individuals the means to transgress against human spatial orderings of the world, which then explains why some can see the supernatural creature as a potentially positive status.

It sounds like a fascinating thesis. Please continue to report on how it goes!

Have you come across any websites that have good info? I’m working on editing a werewolf story now, and I admit my knowledge is a little lacking. I’d pick up a book or two, but a bit more limited on time.

It’s turned into a little personal project of mine that I’m really enjoying. My supervisor is pretty well known in studies of Gothic literature, and he’s been very positive about my work so far. I hope to post it online on various sites for people to use, as I hope it can be useful to others.

Hmm, unfortunately Sean I haven’t, as the websites seem to be a bit dodgy in terms of credibility for academic work. That’s just citation stuff though - most should be fairly decent depending on how they look, etc, as welll as if there are lots of typos and so forth. Most of the lore is pretty well known and available, so there shouldn’t be too much of an issue. If there are specific questions you have, I can answer them, though a lot of werewolf literature modifies what came before it. What was written even in the 19th century is very different to what we write now.

I have one specific question that maybe you can answer easier than me trying to rely on websites.

What are some of the main olfactory/behavioral differences between werewolves and your average canine (or wolf, for that matter)?

I’ll do my best to answer - approaches to both categories have changed over time.

Behavioural - Generally, in earlier texts (middle ages, early modern period up into the 19th century) the wolf as considered and persecuted as an evil, man-eating creature - savage, etc. Coupled with the conception that the werewolf changed not into a hybrid, bipedal, therefore anthropomorphic beast we are familiar with today. They just turned into wolves, and proceeded to savage and eat people. At the time, they also didn’t have any studies on wolves like we do in modernity, so it’s reasonable to say that the werewolf acted in almost exactly the same way as the wolf, only it was worse because it had the cunning of a man. In modernity, this does begin to change, and it has become fashionable now for writers to incorporate wolf behaviours into the supernatural creature, though this aspect hasn’t been studied at all.

Olfactory - In earlier texts they don’t even tell the story from the wolf’s perspective, so it’s hard to know. I guess in more modern works they’ll rely heavily on a strong sense of smell, purely because we now have studies about this.

I hope this helps somewhat - I know it’s not entirely satisfactory. Much of the material out there does not compare the two, and when things do get into modernity, they haven’t been written upon.

So, more or less, it seems the differences that occur will only really be between that of a wolf and that of a domestic canine, as the werewolf will act fairly similar to a wolf in this regard.

That does help some. Thanks!

This is fiction rather than “fact”, but check out Jim Butcher’s second “Dresden Files” novel (of 16 so far) about Harry Dresden, his Chicago-based wizard private investigator; “Fool Moon” (2001). Dresden investigates a murder that seems to be by a werewolf, and finds four different kinds of werewolf gangs in the city: humans who have been bitten by a werewolf; humans who have been cursed; voluntary shapeshifters; and … I’m embarrassed to admit that I’ve forgotten the fourth kind. (It’s been over ten years since I read “Fool Moon”.) You may not be able to use Butcher’s plot about rival werewolf black magic cultists, the Streetwolf teenage werewolf biker gang, etc., but the general background – the difference between werewolves and wolfmen; the werewolves who become ravening monsters and those who remain sentient, etc. – may be helpful. It was originally a cheap paperback (there has been a hardcover reprint that should be in libraries), and a comic-book adaptation.

To highlight the point that Televassi made, some of the sources that I’ve read seem to suggest that every werewolf is a man-eater, whereas at least the more generous authors would admit that true wolves didn’t eat human flesh for every meal.

Of course, the same sources hold that werewolves are caused by the devil, so take with a grain of salt…

The internet is more fun, when it comes to werewolves.

Dunno if this helps at all, but new things have been learned about wolf packs in general that might make for some great twists in werewolf stories: http://io9.gizmodo.com/why-everything-you-know-about-wolf-packs-is-wrong-502754629

All joking aside if you really dig into what werewolves are suppose to look like, you can find just about any shape and size. One even had one that looked like zombies.