Excess, pure unadulterated carnage surrounds this creature of the night.
When it comes to the things that go bump in the night, perhaps there are none that have evoked more terror, more bloodshed, than werewolves.
The mystic roots of werewolves run back to ancient Greece, when Lycaon, king of Arcadia, was turned into a wolf after trying to trick Zeus. For the record, Zeus also killed his 50 sons, so consider that the next time you slip a whoopee cushion under Zeus’ throne.
But the most serious legends of werewolves came out of medieval Europe. In a time and place known for little more than war and disease, it’s not surprising that this particular legend appeared here.
The wolf is the primary predator in Europe, hence why when developing a “creature of the night” the wolf took the prize. (In other cultures similar beings surfaces with relation to the region’s predator, i.e. the Werepumas in South America and Werehyenas in Africa.)
Contrary to modern interpretations, werewolves in medieval times were believed to be tools of the devil; evil men who transformed into beasts to kill, kill, and kill some more. In fact, it was rare for a werewolf to be anything but a willing participant. The beasts mostly took form when their human counterparts tied on a piece of wolf fur or were anointed with a magic salve. After that, the beasts were given super-human (and super-wolf, for that matter) strength and senses.
One modern link to the older legends is that of conditional occurrence. In other words, werewolves don’t just appear at random. Depending on the legend, werewolves show their faces every nine years, every full moon, or every night. Sort of like the cable guy’s service estimates, you never quite know when they’ll show up, but when they do they will likely have a reason.
America, it would seem, took the story of the werewolf and fattened it up. As we’re so good at doing, our creative minds stuffed the werewolf with vicious abilities and excess, while stripping it of any real purpose.
Most of today’s werewolves came to be on accident; by being bitten or scratched by another werewolf. After that the beasts transform every full moon, much to the chagrin of their human consciousness and any sheep or goats in the vicinity.
After transformation the beasts operate devoid of any human thought or control. Utterly vicious, werewolves have a thirst for blood and destruction. They are aided by super-human speed, strength and ability to heal, thus making them pretty much invulnerable to wounds. The next day though, brings a hangover of guilt to the host humans.
There are two exceptions that can create some problems for werewolves:
• While a werewolf can heal from most any strike, it cannot re-grow a limb. Probably why there are far too few werewolf hand models.
• Second, any silver item causes pain and potentially death when werewolves come into contact with it. The origins of this vulnerability are unknown, but my guess is some vampire author threw it in the mix when he or she realized that her tiny-fanged protagonist had no way to kill the big bad beast.
So since then, common weaponry like silver bullets or blades are the best bets when looking for ways to ruin a werewolf’s day.
Since I just mentioned vampires, it would be wise to note that werewolves and vampires go way back. In central European areas some believed that humans who die in mortal sin came back as blood drinking wolves. And a surprising amount of people apparently believed that if a dead werewolf was not cremated, it could come back as a vampire. This, of course, leads us to question how effective a monster it could be; after all it is a copy of a copy….
While early films like “Werewolf of London” and “The Wolf Man” put these beasts in the leading light, several spin offs have forced this monster into a common adversary for some more recently trendy creatures. Werewolves have fought vampires in movies like “House of Dracula” and “Underworld.” They fought a more mechanized creature in “House of Frankenstein” and “Frankenstein meets The Wolf Man.” For good measure, our furry friends were also the subject of relentless beat downs by Van Helsing.
No doubt the “Twilight” series has brought about a profound (and semi-ludicrous) love affair with vampires. For some reason, being utterly infatuated with Edward and Bella is cool, while an interest in werewolfery (seriously, that’s what it’s called), will earn you a wedgie most days of the week. I don’t get it, but then again, there’s a lot I don’t get.
Either way, if you’re a betting man (and I am, go Broncos), I would put money down on the fact that the next major film fad will involve werewolves. Mel Brooks did away with Frankenstein, Brenden Fraiser has already tackled mummies, b movies have overdone zombies and a slew of folks have donned vampire fangs. Theoretically the werewolves are due.
Check hometownstation.com all week for the full series of Creature Features. On Tuesday, October 27 all five creatures will square off for a hypothetical battle royal. Tune in to Something to Talk About at 10:00 a.m. to hear our pitches and find out who our special guest judges believe is the most fearsome monster.
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