Time to tackle the beast… Not to worry, I’ll be kind to everyone’s favorite dog; but in the flavor of Christmas I thought it was a good time to write about Werewolves. “Christmas? What does Christmas have to do with it?” you may be asking the screen (and, therefore, me). Well, let me tell you the story.
It happened around Christmas, some time in the early nineties and likely when my parents weren’t home. It must have been pre-1995 and was likely more close to 1992, now that I think about it, since we had at that time a blueish-green black and white TV with a 10 inch screen that my dad had bought at a garage sale for a buck and fixed with a fuse and some copper wire. That said, I again reiterate that it was impossible for my parents to have been in the house when this happened because we weren’t allowed to watch the TV during the day, nor was the TV readily accessible as it was kept in the front coat closet across from the family board games. I had somehow sneaked the TV up to my room that day, and I do remember it being extremely snowy outside. It’s possible my family was home but outside and I had just decided to opt out, much to my parents chagrin, from the family activities in the freezing cold. Anyhow, I was attempting to watch TV and as it was Saturday the midday movie was on (I think it was Fox back when they played cool stuff). I was enthralled. Being rather young, mildly rebellious, and attempting to hide the activity probably added to the overall scary-ness, but the movie that was on was freaking me out. An American Werewolf in London, released in 1981, has some extremely gruesome shock-value transformation scenes not too far into the film. Granted it was the “edited for the TV” version so a lot of the extreme content was not there, which really didn’t affect the fright factor in the long run. I got so freaked out by that movie that all I could think about for weeks was werewolves and how someone might become one on accident. I was young, impressionable, and rather easily intrigued by dark occultish topics — a product of being raised strictly Baptist. It didn’t take me long to find more stories about werewolves in our own home library. Yes, parents, if you read this I found some of the most interesting stories and articles regarding extraordinarily dark topics in my dad’s library of books (many of which he likely used as reference materials back when he was a pastor). Among the various studies on demons and the occult was a wonderfully ridiculous book with the title “Strange Stories, Amazing Facts” a Reader’s Digest release, circa 1976 (Library of Congress card catalog no. 76-2966). I was mesmerized. Somewhere beyond the articles on space exploration, daring adventures, unsolved mysteries, and ghost stories galore was a section on Legendary lands and beasts. There on page 434 was what I had been looking for: “Big Bad Werewolves”. This served as a foundation or reference for every werewolf story, movie, or video game I ever came across from that day forth. As such I choose to use it now as a starting point in my definition of the rules for werewolves.
Where do Werewolves come from?
Werewolves have origins in the folklore of many different countries and as such the rules regarding their formation varies dramatically depending on the function or morality tale they serve in the various stories. I’ve read of a multitude of variants that could create werewolves such as surviving another werewolf attack (like in An American Werewolf), coming into contact with wolfbane (the aconitum plant) or stripping naked and rolling in sand during the full moon, witchy or native American shapeshifting, as well as various references to contact with rabid wolves; but I much prefer the structure of werewolves that appears in the old computer game “Nocturne”. The werewolves in that game transformed from big wolves to upright-walking, broad-shouldered, man-wolves. They lived in the forest and kept trespassers from daring to approach a castle/fortress. I like that variant because the idea that a man can gain mass and become a giant wolf in a short and physically repeatable transformation brought on by the full moon seems too easily mendable and not nearly as dark as the ideas I like to entertain within the construct of lycanthropy. I also like the concept that a man in the first stages of lycanthropy could look human, but over time become a giant man-wolf (as in the game) never to regain his human form.
What do Werewolves look like?
My rules for lycanthropy fly in the face of many popular constructs and intentionally make the change definite. Never again can my werewolves go back to human society and live peaceably among their unsuspecting neighbors. Even in the first years of the transformation, my werewolf has definite signs of change that make holding down a retail job a bit unlikely. The earliest warning signs are fun stuff like hair on one’s palms, a ring finger that’s longer than the middle finger, pointy ears, an unusually hairy body (though not quite hypertrichosis), and a thick bushy unibrow. All these features are still relatively acceptable for a New York taxi driver, but a lot of customer relations companies might bypass that applicant. Either way, once the physical changes happen there’s no going back. The werewolf is stuck with that unibrow for life, or until the change completes its cycle and he (or she) becomes full-on giant wolf with the transformation from wolf to upright scary man-wolf being the only options.
What can werewolves do, exactly?
Some of those early warning signs are based in common mythology and none of them come from the Twilight series, bleck! In those stories the werewolves are physically over-warm to the touch, can read their clan-brother’s minds, and run around shirtless all the time. All these concepts are so Nora Roberts, it’s not even funny; however, I would like to take this opportunity to point out that several other movies have attempted to drive home this same idea that the werewolves en masse share some sort of memory link. An American Werewolf had the ghosts from past werewolve’s kills visibly interacting with the afflicted man. Underworld (2003) had werewolves sharing a blood memory that encouraged them to hate the vampire species. Another gem, “Dog Soldiers” indicates the werewolve’s ability to use an undiscovered as-of-yet unchanged human form to relay information to the awaiting, hungry wolf clan. I think that’s all crap. My werewolves degrade in mental capacity as they become more wolf-like. By the time they’ve completed their change, they’re only a tad bit smarter than your average German Sheppard. Big, scary, but relatively dumb brute animals that function as killing machines and guard dogs, no more. Werewolf versus Vampire; Vlasis Vampire wins, no challenge. Werewolf versus Zombie; Zartosht Zombie wins every time. Hrmm, Zombie Werewolf is a possible combination per my rule set, btw. So, what can they do? Werewolves can eat you, eat your friends, and basically act like ravenous mad polar bears with the side effect of passing on their affliction should you live through their vicious attack. That sounds just peachy.
Should we be worried?
Like bulls, my werewolves are attracted to bright colors; but other than waltzing about in the forest like red riding hood most of you should be set. Just make sure to check those around you at work, church, and the subway for my described signs of lycanthropy. If you see them help out humanity sooner rather than later.
How can Werewolves die?
Werewolve’s can live indefinitely should they continue to have sustenance, so it is possible for werewolves to starve. However, if you’re being chased through the forest by a pack of werewolves, or even just one, I suggest not waiting for them to starve to death. There is only one way to kill a werewolf. It’s simple and brutal, but effective. Silver is poison to werewolves. Introducing silver into the bloodstream of the werewolf will kill it. Silver contacting the hairless sections of werewolf’s skin(lips or… well use your imagination) will burn it like acid. Some hunters feel it’s necessary to bless or consecrate their silver weapons, but that’s just a superstition. Take the knife, fork, spoon, spork, bullet, ring, cross, or whatever silver you have and stick it in them. I also suggest always wearing silver jewelry of some sort to inflict post consumption mayhem, should it come to that; best always to have the last laugh. Just don’t go so far as to imbibe silver as that will lead to oddly discolored skin and might also exclude you from said customer relations jobs.
Werewolves and Christmas: the final tie-in.
In my hunting for pictures for this article I ran across a much more direct Werewolf Christmas tie-in. Apparently, though I haven’t seen it, there is a Hammer Horror film out there named “The Curse of the Werewolf” which had a unique take on how one becomes a werewolf.
In that film an un-wanted child born on Christmas Day is cursed into werewolf form and “can only be cured by love”. Meh.