For your 2020 Happy Howloween reading pleasure, I’ve delved into my research notes for a little werewolf lore I discovered while writing my paranormal romance, Ilona’s Wolf.
When I was a kid, werewolves were villains of horror movies, not heroes in romance novels, so why the change? I wonder if it has something to do with restoring wolves to wild areas, like Yellowstone Park, and the resulting awareness of these beautiful, magnificent animals.
Yes, they are predators, but they have proven immensely useful in controlling the deer population and in some areas the ecosystem has benefited from the re-introduction of the wolves.
But back in the Middle Ages and earlier, people were terrified of wolves and of the idea that some humans could transform themselves into wolves and attack. Hence, the popularity of the Little Red Riding Hood fairy tale, inspiration for Ilona’s Wolf. Wolves were hunted relentlessly in Europe and to extinction in the British Isles.
Some of the ancient beliefs about werewolves are…
Lycanthropy is the term for transforming from man to wolf and it dates back to Roman times, probably no surprise since the brothers who supposedly founded Rome, Romulus and Remus, were said to have been suckled by a she-wolf, a lupa, as babes.
During the Middle Ages, people believed that witches practiced lycanthropy. Alternately, witches were charges with riding werwolves during their rituals, and thus were werewolves associated with magic, a fact I took advantage of in Ilona’s Wolf.
We’ve all heard of the witch hunts of the 16th and 17th centuries, but did you know there were also werewolf hunts in the same time period? In France, there were over 30,000 cases of supposed werewolves. Some were executed; others confined due to insanity. For more information and possible real causes of werewolf-like symptoms, see http://entertainment.howstuffworks.com/werewolf5.htm.
Werewolf means “man-wolf” though there are varying theories of the evolution of the term. In Old English, the word wer(e) meant man and not in the general, human sense. In Norse, the term varg had two meanings: a wolf or a godless man. Each country had a different term. In France, werewolves are loup-garou; in Spanish hombre lobo; and in Italy lupo mannaro. And there are many others.
In the Middle Ages, people believed that the werewolf’s hair grew inward and the skin reversed during transformation. Talk about itching under the skin! I don’t think I’d like that.
Werewolves are known to have superior strength, nocturnal vision and a preternatural sense of smell, just like real canines. In addition, thanks to the transformations undergone, they are immune from aging, and thus nearly immortal, except when in their more vulnerable human form. My hero, Sir Rolf, usually shifts into wolf form when danger threatens.
The notion that werewolves transform at the full moon is attributed to medieval chronicler Gervase of Tilbury, and is now an almost immutable fact of werewolf lore. I chose to ignore it for my book in favor of letting my hero shift at will. (Much more useful, plot-wise.)
Princess Ilona is rescued by a wolf that transforms into a handsome, naked man. Cursed by an evil wizard, Rolf was trapped in wolf form until he tasted the blood of a royal. Now he must escort the princess on a hazardous journey to the castle. Passion flares between them, but both know there is no future for a princess and a werewolf. Or is there… in a world where magic and passion combine?
If you’re looking for a hot read on for Halloween night, this story is for you!
Note: The sequel, Tova’s Dragon, is also available for 99 cents at Amazon:
Wishing you a safe, socially distanced, Covid-19-free Halloween!