This week, we’ve talked about about the Titanic and the role it plays in Claudia Gray’s Fateful — but her new standalone novel also mixes historical fiction with paranormal romance, so today we want to focus a bit on werewolf lore and legend, to help set the stage before Fateful hits stores on September 13th!
Origins of the Werewolf Legend
Though stories of “werewolves” in some form date back as far as Greek mythology, most of today’s common werewolf legends can be traced to medieval European folklore:
Werewolves in European tradition were mostly evil men who terrorized people in the form of wolves on command of the Devil, though there were rare narratives of people being transformed involuntarily
Stories about werewolves vary from culture to culture, and are also prominent in Native American folklore.
The term “lycanthrope” comes from Greek — and in essence, refers to a human with the ability to shift into wolf form, or appear as a human-wolf-life creature. In some versions, the change is prompted by being bitten by another werewolf. In others, the subject has been cursed.
Many historians note that the legend of werewolves may have been perpetuated in European culture due to a widespread fear of wolf attacks — despite the fact that such attacks were rare. Researchers say it’s only natural that this fear was projected into folklore in the shape of werewolves. In some cases, historians suggest that werewolf legends may have been used to explain away serial killings.
Werewolf in Film & Literature
Werewolves are quite prominent in literature and pop culture today — ranging from the traditional horror genre to more contemporary pop culture hits such as the Twilight series, Maggie Stiefvater’s Wolves of Mercy Falls books, and MTV’s recent TV adaptation of “Teen Wolf.”
But references to werewolves can be dated back to ancient Greek mythology. For example, in Herodotus’s Histories, he describes a tribe that transforms into wolves every year before turning back to humans.
Pausanius, Apollodorus, and Ovid all tell various versions of the story of Lycaon, who is transformed into a wolf — in most cases as a punishment for a crime. Virgil even wrote about men being transformed into wolves. Werewolves are also often considered part of many early versions of the Little Red Riding Hood story.
Werewolves can also be found in film and literature over the last couple of centuries. From well-known horror movies such as The Wolf Man and An American Werewolf in London, to gothic literature such as The Wolf-Leader by Alexandre Dumas.
Werewolves are also prominent in many recent pop culture hits, even if they are not the main subject of the story. A classic example of this is the Harry Potter series — most notably in the character of Remus Lupin (and villain Fenrir Greyback). And of course, who can forget Michael Jackson’s “Thriller” music video?
For the comments: What’s your favorite werewolf story?