Thursday, October 09, 2008

About a Werewolf

‘Tis the season to huddle close to the fire with a mug of hot red wine, with sugar and spices, and let our hearts sing with the lively crackle of the lugs, and quiver with the distant howling that could be the wind’s… And while we’re there we can spin a yarn or two, some fantastic tale stirred by a play of shadows under the ghostly moon, by a vague rustle of the leaves in the dead garden… We can indulge into a sweet fear that confers an eerie otherworldly quality to the cry of the owl or to that uncertain pattering on the window…

I often wish I could step, if only for a short while, into such a romantic moment. Descend into a time of permanent wonders and primitive fears, of magic and mystery. Would I do it if I didn’t know that I could return to a safe, “aseptic” world of technological comforts? Maybe… We have other fears, new ones, though sometimes surprisingly similar to the old ones… Human nature hasn’t changed…

The belief in shape-shifters, such as werewolves, goes back to the most remote times, probably even to the prehistoric hunters of Cro-Magnon. An early account is from the Greek mythology, where Lycaon, the mythical first king of Arcadia, was turned into a wolf by Zeus as punishment for having set before him a dish of human flesh (the king’s own son, or maybe Zeus’s). This is his metamorphosis as described by the Roman poet Ovid:

In vain he attempted to speak; from that very instant
His jaws were bespluttered with foam, and only he thirsted
For blood, as he raged among flocks and panted for slaughter.
His vesture was changed into hair, his limbs became crooked;
A wolf-he retains yet large trace of his ancient expression,
Hoary he is afore, his countenance rabid,
His eyes glitter savagely still, the picture of fury



The Bible recounts the story of the Babylonian king Nebuchadnezzar (605-562 BC) who imagined himself to be a werewolf for some years. And ancient Greek and Roman historians recorded many accounts of lycanthropy.

But I do not intend to repeat here what can be easily found even with a quick search on the net.



Instead, I have a true story of a werewolf. One my grandmother told me. She believed it was true, although she took it with a grain of salt, for my grandmother was a very smart woman. She told me this story when I was a child and I liked it so much I had her repeat it many times over the years.

It happened sometime at the end of the nineteenth century or the beginning of the twentieth. A woman and her husband, who lived in the same village as my grandmother, once set out to the fair in the nearby town. Because they had quite a long way to travel, they left home at night, in their carriage. The countryside was dark and quiet, the air chilly, and the road took them by a forest. Soon after they reached the forest, the man stopped the carriage, climbed down, and went among the trees to relieve himself. His wife waited for him. A few moments had passed, maybe, when a wolf came out of the forest and attacked the woman. She had no weapon to protect herself but a red wool blanket, which she had used to protect her legs against the chill of the night. With that blanket, she hit the wolf over its terrifying maw, over and over again, with a superhuman strength she could have drawn only from desperation, all the while calling to her husband to come to her rescue. He didn’t come and, as she fought for her life, she also feared that the wolf had killed him first. We don’t know by what miracle she escaped, or how long this terrible struggle lasted. Finally, the wolf gave up and ran back into the woods. A grey dawn broke. To the woman’s great surprise and immense relief, her husband appeared from the forest, unharmed. But when he opened his mouth to speak to her, she could see red strands of wool between his teeth…

19 comments:

Akasha Savage said...

Ooooh!...just my sort of tale!!
:D

strugglingwriter said...

Great story. I love that. Great post too.

I've said this elsewhere, but Neil Gaiman's newest book, The Graveyard Book, is the perfect book for reading this time of year. It's set in the graveyard, after all!

c.s. said...

this is great! i enjoyed it a lot. :)

ChrisEldin said...

Fun post! I also want to read "The Graveyard."

Sorry I haven't been here for a long time. I've decided to post on my blog on Fridays, then do guilt-free blogging on the weekends. I think it will work....

Ropi said...

As a History liker it is interesting to read that about that guy. I have learnt about him but I could never spell his name correctly.

BernardL said...

Captivating Werewolf post. :)

Ello said...

I love that story!! And I love the blue of your blog. So pretty and soothing!

Vesper said...

Great, Akasha! :-)

Paul, thanks! I know you bought the book as soon as it came out. Sounds interesting.

Thanks, C.S.!

Chris, I know you’re very busy writing. I hope it goes well. :-)

Ropi, yeah, his name could be hard to spell. Actually, there probably are several spellings. Some call him Nebuchadrezzar or, in Akkadian, Nabû-kudurri-usur… Interesting…

I’m glad you like it, Bernard! :-)

Thanks, Ello, on both counts! :-)

Jon M said...

eeek! Werewolf stories are so chilling!

Aine said...

Yay! More Halloween atmosphere! I love this time of year. Nothing beats a great story that makes chills run down your spine. I should get the book that Paul recommends and read it while sitting around a campfire.

Sarah Hina said...

Oooo...what a lovely, spine-tingling shiver, Vesper! You describe it so well. Those blood-colored strands are the perfect tip-off...

I'm with you on tapping into our primitive fears. And it's fascinating to document the evolution of humanity's love affair with the dark side of our natures. Great stuff!!

Absolute Vanilla (and Atyllah) said...

Ooh, shivery! What a wonderful story!

Vesper said...

Jon, grrrr...

Aine, yes, me too, I love this Halloween atmosphere!

I'm glad you liked this, Sarah. And that we think so much alike...

Vanilla, thanks! And you don't like horror stories... :-)
xoxoxo

SzélsőFa said...

This is an interesting story...I wonder if werevolves attack those they like as a person, when they are a person.
The character in HP3 suggests they are indifferent as to who they will attack...
Now that is a sad part of being a werewolf...

(I hope I made myself clear...)

Vesper said...

Szélsöfa, perfectly clear... :-)
We'd have to observe one first. If they existed, I think they'd be probably overcome by some animal instinct, which will make them attack indiscriminately.
:-)

Miladysa said...

I LOVED this!

What a fantastic tale. I for one believe your grandma :D

Vesper said...

I'm glad you liked this tale, Miladysa! Yes, I believe her, too. :-)

laughingwolf said...

grandma's tale sounds plausible, but still wondering how a mere blanket could save her? perhaps the color?

Vesper said...

One has to wonder...
:-)