Werewolf Folklore

One of the most feared creatures of the night is the Werewolf.

This fascinating creature the Werewolf is also known as (Old English: werwulf, “man-wolf”) or occasionally lycanthrope /ˈlaɪkənˌθroʊp/ (Greek: λυκάνθρωπος lukánthrōpos, “wolf-person”) is a mythological or folkloric human with the ability to shape-shift into a wolf.

The lycanthrope is a famous concept in European folklore, existing in several variables, which are related by a common development of a Christian interpretation of underlying European folklore formed in the medieval period. From the early modern period, werewolf beliefs expanded to the New World with colonialism.

Belief in werewolves developed in parallel to the belief in witches, in the course of the Late Middle Ages and the Early Modern period. Similar to the witchcraft trials as a whole, the trial of supposed werewolves emerged in what is now Switzerland (especially the towns of Valais and Vaud) in the early 15th century and spread throughout Europe in the 16th, peaking in the 17th and subsiding by the 18th century.

The persecution of werewolves and the associated folklore is an integral part of the “witch-hunt” phenomenon, albeit a marginal one, accusations of werewolfery being involved in only a small fraction of witchcraft trials. During the early period, accusations of lycanthropy (transformation into a wolf) were mixed with accusations of wolf-riding or wolf-charming.

The case of Peter Stump (1589) led to an important peak in both interest in and persecution of supposed werewolves, primarily in French-speaking and German-speaking Europe. The phenomenon persisted longest in Bavaria and Austria, with persecution of wolf-charmers recorded until well after 1650, the final cases taking place in the early 18th century in Carinthia and Styria.

After ending the witch-trials, the werewolf became of interest in folklore studies and in the emerging Gothic horror genre; werewolf fiction as a genre has pre-modern precedents in medieval romances (e.g. Bisclavret and Guillaume de Palerme) and developed in the 18th century out of the “semi-fictional” chap book tradition. The trappings of horror literature in the 20th century became part of the horror and fantasy.

According to folklore, werewolves are famous wedding crashers and will easily rush into a wedding snatch the bride and scurry into the night. The bride is never seen again. Folklore cites that Werewolves do not change under a full moon they transform through black magic. It can be executed through a curse or a magical amulet or spells.

The full moon morphing was introduced by Hollywood movie scripts.

To kill a werewolf it is best to shoot it with a silver bullet.


Sources and References:

Online Wikipedia on the topic of the Werewolf.

Werewolf in Grimm Deutches Wőrterbuch

“Online version.” Uni-trier.de.

“Werwolf” in Grimm, Deutsches Wörterbuch. “online version”. uni-trier.de.

Rose, C. (2000). Giants, Monsters & Dragons: An Encyclopedia of Folklore, Legend and Myth. New York: Norton. p. 230. ISBN 0-393-32211-4.

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