The brief history of werewolves

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Vampires, zombies, Lucifer, or even the great werewolves, creatures of various sorts have always been a part of human consciousness throughout history. To both, people’s fascination to disbelief, these supernatural theories have survived centuries just get even more bigot. Werewolves might be the interest of the past and have been overshadowed by the fascination of vampires today, yet their iconic presence never seems to tame their avid fanatics. With several books and movies to the mysterious sightings, the whispers around werewolves remain a topic of debate for several people even today.   

When we talk about fictionalized characters, the tale of werewolves is quite unclear in contemporary literature. Werewolves are, according to some legends, people who morph into vicious, powerful wolves, simply the mutant of a human and a wolf. With little to no knowledge of the origin of werewolves, their history seems to be as baffling as that of a witch or a ghost. Yet their existential question is a half-painted canvas still exploring the depth of their realm.

The Origin of Werewolves

The earliest account of werewolves can be traced in Greek mythology in the legend of King Lycaon- the origin of the first werewolf. According to the legend, Lycaon was the son of king Pelasgus who once angered Zeus. Pelasgus was one among the first mortals to walk on the earth, while many believe that he was a son of Zeus by Niobe. The Oceanide Meliboea, the nymph Cyllene, or Deianeira, became by him the mother of Lycaon of Arcadia and Temenus. Lycaon succeeded his father and became the king of Arcadia. Lycaon soon married several wives including nymphs and became father to almost 50 children. It was believed that Lycaon was a great follower of Zeus and often cited brutal offerings in the name of worship. Once he served a meal to Zeus from the remains of a sacrificed boy and this sacrifice of the mortal boy was not acceptable to the great God. In some stories, the sacrificed child was a commoner whereas in other legends he was one of Lycaon’s own sons. Whoever he was, this incident angered Zeus and he turned Lycaon and his sons into the wolves or precisely ‘werewolves’. And from here began the very first legend of the Werewolves.

In other stories, many people believe that the incident of a werewolf was also sighted in ‘The epic of Gilgamesh’. The other western introduction to werewolves can also be traced back to the Nordic folklore in the ‘Saga of Volsungs’. It is a legendary saga of the 13th century in the Old Norse of the origin of the Volsung clan. It praises examples of the great heroic saga from the Germanic legends including that of a werewolf. It tells a story of a father-son duo that discovered wolf pelts that have the power to transform them into wolves for 10 days. They both caused a rampant in the forest with mass hunting for almost 10 days till the father attacked his own son causing a fatal wound. The son survived because of a Raven who gave his father magical herbs to treat the wound. 

werewolves

The epic of Gilgamesh is one of the oldest known texts. The epic is a collection simply ancient oral tales of the Arcadian former kings. Gilgamesh was a god-king and son of Lugalbanda, the fifth king of the first dynasty. In the epic, it is mentioned that Ishtar, the goddess of fertility, love, war, and sex was charmed by Gilgamesh and tries to flirt with him. However, Gilgamesh rejects her advances because of her several past suitors.  Especially the one who offered her bountiful offerings, but when Ishtar was bored, she transformed him into a wolf. He was later torn by his own dog. And this was the part of a werewolf story in the Gilgamesh tale.

The Early Human Sightings of Werewolves

One of the infamous werewolves ‘ sightings dates back to 1589. Peter Stubbe, a farmer in the Rhineland, lived outside of the town of Bedburg was first accused of being a werewolf.  In late 1589, the town of Bedburg was threatened with an unknown animal who slaughtered both people and livestock. The people then set out to hunt the predator and encircle with their dogs. They followed their dog to track the werewolf and ended upon Peter. It is not clear whether he was a werewolf or not or just present at the wrong place and wrong time. He then confessed to killing one man, two pregnant women, and thirteen children. He was executed on October 31, 1589, by burning his body. It is an ancient belief that to eliminate werewolf it is important to burn their bodies.

In 1598, The Werewolf of Angers became an infamous werewolf sighting.  Few villagers spotted a werewolf tearing the body of a boy. The men perused the wolves and where his bloody tracks ended was laying Roulet, bloody and half-naked. Roulet was captured and he confessed to the killing citing that a salve turned him into a wolf. Wolf or not, Roulet was executed the same way as Peter. Apart from this, several incidents such as the Werewolves of Poligny 1521, the Wolf of Ansbach 1685, or Gilles Garnier, 1573 the Werewolf of Dole, made people adamant on the existence of werewolves.

Do werewolves exist?

The question of werewolf’s existence is a fascinating topic of interest for various scholars. However, it does hold a medical explanation. Pitt-Hopkins syndrome is a rare condition that was discovered in 1978. It causes lack of speech, seizures, distinct facial features, and difficulty breathing among other intellectual challenges. Another example could be lycanthropy, a rare, psychological condition that causes people to believe that they’re changing into a wolf. 

The Romantics of Werewolves

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Thanks to the release of the 1941 flick, ‘The Wolf Man’ that the idea of wolf entered into the world of Hollywood. Werewolves quickly gained widespread recognition it wasn’t until the release of VAN HELSING in 2004 that people started seeing werewolves from a different perspective. Werewolves became the main onscreen antagonist with Stephen King’s Silver Bullet in 1985.

The Twilight New Moon released in 2009 altered our perspective about werewolves completely. Not just the Vampires, but the image of werewolves too romanticized. Played by Taylor Lautner, he has immortalized the role of the hunky and handsome werewolf as Jacob Black from Stephanie Meyer’s Twilight Series. And just like this, today, werewolves have become a symbolic icon of heartthrob girly fetish.

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