Photo by Samuele Giglio
There are werewolves across the world, each with their unique backgrounds and origins, proving to everyone that the man-wolf has always had universal appeal.
There has been a renaissance of classic monsters in media—and chief among them are the vampire and the werewolf. There are now movies, television series, stories, and even thriller books about werewolves and other classic monsters. But, despite this explosion of content, the werewolf archetype hasn’t really changed much since it graced the silver screen.
Why is that?
This is very odd since there are werewolves across the world from whom storytellers can take inspiration.
Before we see what the werewolves across the world are about, let’s first discuss the essence of the werewolf myth.
The Essence of the Werewolf
The werewolf is an analogy; it speaks to the duality of human nature. We, each and every one of us, all have a wild side, a side that is passionate, primal, and untamed. We also have a civilized side, a side that is calm and collected, civil and polite. The werewolf myth represents the conflict between these two sides.
Walking between the border of primal instinct and practiced society, the werewolf is a creature that is both human and animal. It is a symbol of our transformation from civilized beings to savage beasts—and often our reluctance to cross the other side. The werewolf myth explores the dark side of human nature, the side that we all try to suppress.
The werewolf myth is also a story about change. The werewolf is a creature constantly transforming from human to wolf and back again. This transformation represents the changes that we all go through in life. It is a reminder that we are all constantly evolving and changing.
Finally, the werewolf myth is also a cautionary tale. There are dangers to losing control of our primal instincts. The werewolf is a creature driven by its hunger and rage; it reminds us that we must always be mindful of our darkness.
Werewolves Across the World
Werewolves are one of the most popular monsters in folklore and mythology. But if you want to write a story about one, it can be difficult to stand out, especially because the modern werewolf has become, pardon my words, archetypal. Yet, there are werewolves across the world.
We’ve categorized them accordingly: Shapeshifters are creatures or people who change from one form to another; Cursed Men are those whose werewolf-ness is the result of a curse or a boon; and there are Wolfmen, who are born or created as a hybrid between wolf and man.
- The Faoladh is a werewolf from Celtic Mythology. Different from most iterations, the Faoladh is actually a benevolent creature who protected children and guarded wounded men, although this didn’t really stop them from acting out their animal instincts and spiriting away a sheep or two.
- In northern Italy, there are stories of the benandanti, the good walkers, who were said to change into a wolf-like form at night to hound witches and demons.
- In Basque folklore, there is the Gizotso, who is said to be the child of a human and a wolf. This heritage means that the Gizotso is what it is; it does not transform under the full moon. What is terrifying about the creature is that it wears chains, as if someone had been keeping it caged for most of its life.
- The Pricolici of Romanian folklore are the living dead, evil, and violent individuals transforming into wolf-like monsters after death to continue their terror against the living.
- In Guaraní mythology, there is Luisón, an entity who was born a very hideous and monstrous canine. He often acted as a psychopomp, ferrying dead souls from the living world to the afterlife. His favorite meals were rotting corpses.
- In some parts of the Baltic, werewolves were actually soldiers of God, gifted the power to transform into feral beasts in order to battle against the forces of the Devil.
- In Louisiana, grandmothers might talk about the Rougarou, people who turned into wolf-headed monsters every night. They had an appetite for Catholics, especially those who broke lent.
- Another word for werewolf is lycan, which comes from the Greek legend of Lycaon, a king who killed his son and cooked him, serving him as a meal for a visitor, who turned out to be Zeus and punished the king by transforming him into a wolf.
The werewolf myth is a powerful and enduring one; it is a story that has been told and retold in cultures worldwide. As such, it is a shame that we do not explore more of these myths.