Thursday, October 30, 2014

The Big Bad Werewolves

Even he who is pure of heart
And says his prayers by night
May become a wolf when the wolfbane blooms
And the moon is full and bright.
This poem is actually from the 1941 film "The Wolfman" invented by screenwriter Siodmak.

What the vampires were to Transylvania, the werewolves were to northern and western Europe. The werewolf legends may have sprung from myths of the Norse gods who were said to change into animal forms, such as the bear and wolf. But practically every nation has its were-creatures lore.

wax  reproduction of Henry Hull
as the wolfman

And, of course our wolfy friends have had their moments forever vilified in films, like Werewolf of London (1935), and The Wolfman (1941), and newer, modern versions, which became more graphic, such as The Howling (I-III) And my favorite so far has always been with Jack Nicholson and Michelle Pfeiffer in the 1994 film,Wolf  

I could spend the whole post talking about the films, but I won't. If you have interest in them, you can catch the links, or go find the DVD's. What really fascinates me--because my tastes go with the really bizarre--are the real-life cases, which usually turn out to be even more crazy than what they can put in a book or on film. Just like with the vampire lore, there are actual, real stories where the cases were quite strange, and may have helped feed the legends.

Take for instance the Beast of Gevaudan. From 1764 to 1767 and unknown monster terrorized shepherds and those who worked in the fields near the Auvergne Mountains in France. Known as the Beast of Gevaudan, the creature was said to have savagely attacked and killed at least 40 people--some were childre--and attacked many more. The locals claimed the creature was red, and covered with scales, and had a mouth the size of a lion's. Yeah... right. It could run at great speeds and evade any trap or hunter. I'd run like hell too! But, you know how a tall tail get even taller, once it's spread from mouth-to-mouth. Especially if there's a pint in the hand. Anyway, in 1767 a large wolf was killed and the attacks ceased. Go figure.

Another story of a man named Stubb, a brutish woodcutter who had been cornered in a forest ravine by a large hunting party with a pack of hounds. He was on all fours, they say, snapping and snarling like a beast, he had fought with inhuman strength until they overcame him.
There are dozens of documented cases of lycanthrope.

Petrus Gonsalvus
Wolfman of Munich
In some cases, werewolf stories may be founded on fact. Odd cases, fortunately are rare, but there have been people who believed they were animals and have killed, eaten raw flesh or blood. This condition is known as zoanthropic paranoia. Yeah, well, it just goes to show that you just don't know your neighbor all that well...

Another odd story is the "wolfman from the Canary Islands". Meet Petrus Gonsalvus(left), aka "The Wolfman from Munich" aka "the man of the woods". He was born in 1537 in Tenerife, and his life was pretty well chronicled, as he was, well, an oddity in life.

He went to Paris to refine his rough manners. As luck would have it, he married a pretty woman, but their children inherited his hairy traits. His condition is called "Hypertrichosis", or "the werewolf syndrome". At last account, the portrait of Gonsalvus is in Castle Ambras, otherwise known as the "Frankenstein Gallery", or the "Chamber of Art and Curiosities" It's filled with a few of the more grotesquely disfigured people, like the man with disabilities, or the one who had somehow lived with a lance that pierced his other eye. Ouch!

Gregor Baci who was healed after having
a lance pierce his right eye
Well, my pretties, I hope I've brought you some amount interesting visuals, as well as stories of the macabre in my post about "werewolfery".

Tomorrow, (if I have time), I'm going to wind this series up with my post about vampires... 
Hmmm, who do we all know that has been accused in many movies, books and such as a vampire?

Vlad The Impaler "Dracula"

November is for...

Ah. Yes. Some writers do the NaNoWriMo thing. I don't need that nudge, thank you. I've never needed it. And it wasn't even in ...