Let me begin by first thanking Bea, Jax, and Liz for having me on your blog today. I appreciate it immensely. And thank you to your readers for stopping by and staying to talk a little of werewolves. (We love werewolves here! It's how the three of us met. ~ Bea)
Contrary to what might seem logical, many of the earliest versions of werewolves in literature were gentlemen. Only over time did prominent werewolves become more grotesque, mindless, and bestial.
Perhaps the most well known of these early tales, one you may have been forced to read in English class, is Marie de France’s 12th century lai, Bisclavret. While Marie de France mentions the existence of savage versions in the first stanza, her story focuses on a noble baron of Brittany who just so happens to be a werewolf married to a conniving wife.
The werewolf in Bisclavret must shed his clothes to become the wolf, and he resumes his man’s form by donning them again. When his wife learns of his secret, she steals his clothes so he is forced to remain a wolf and takes off with a knight who has long been in love with her.
The king later discovered Bisclavret as a wolf and is so impressed with his gentleness and nobility that he takes him home. Later, when Bisclavret sees the knight his wife ran off with, he attacks the man. Then, when Bisclavret sees his wife, he rips off her nose. After, the wife confesses, and Bisclavret is returned his clothes, lands, and normal life.
Interestingly, though I never once learned this in a literature class, amputation of the nose was a common practice for adultery. So rather than exhibiting primal brutality, Bisclavret punishes his wife in the manner common in his time.
Similar versions to Bisclavret appear throughout the period, and while there seems to be some acknowledgement of the more bestial werewolf, they rarely take center stage. Yet over time, the werewolves featured in literature became more and more evil and monstrous. I could go into much more depth on this, but it would make this post far too long. What we think of more as the traditional werewolf really developed in the early modern centuries and into the twentieth century.
Yet at the end of the twentieth century and into our current time, the werewolf took another shift. Rather than continue to allow the impulses of the moon to blind him with demonic rage, he has reacquired some of his gentlemanly manner. In truth, the werewolf of our time often straddles the divide between gentleman and beast in a compelling balance. Stories like Weathering Rock by Mae Clair or Beauty and the Werewolf by Mercedes Lackey, both of which feature a werewolf trapped in a mindless, destructive state, are the exception.
In my book, Red and the Wolf, I embraced a concept of lycanthropy where the instincts of the beast reign. However, in homage to Marie de France’s concept of the werewolf, which I also find compelling, the human can dominate the wolf and compel it to docility. . . at least to a certain extent. In fact, it is that struggle between instinct and culture, that battle between the wild and the civilized that I imbued in my shifters. To me, the conflict is one of the major reasons werewolves are so fascinating. Let them be a bit of a gentleman and a bit of the beast.
GIVEAWAY DETAILS: Commenters on today’s post, March 22, will be entered in a drawing to win an e-copy of my new release, Red and the Wolf, in either epub, mobi, or pdf, whichever they choose. I will announce the winner in the comments on this post on Saturday, March 23.
In addition, check out my March Giveaway on my blog (running March 11-31) for a variety of prizes including a lovely copy of Andersen and Grimms’ fairy tales and Little Red Riding Hood’s basket complete with an assortment of goodies to brighten anyone’s day, even a grandmother whose house has just been burgled by a werewolf. For more details and how to earn points, visit my website. To earn your first point, comment on today’s post. (Comments will count in both giveaways if made on March 22. If made after, comments will only be added for a chance to win in the March giveaway.)
Do you prefer your werewolves be more gentlemanly or beastly? Who is your favorite werewolf in literature? I like my werewolves a little bit of both but leaning slightly more toward the beastly. My favorite werewolf is Adam Hauptman from Patricia Briggs’s Mercedes Thompson series. (One of my favorite UF series! ~ Bea)
Thank you Laura! I learned some new things about werewolf history; learning new information is fun. :)
In elementary school, Laura Lee Nutt checked out every fairy tale in the library so often, if she picked something else, it was cause for curiosity. Even into adulthood, she nurtured her imagination with stories of fairies, true love, monsters, especially werewolves, and the fantastic, but she wondered what happened after “happily ever after.”
This curiosity and catching an illness one chill winter day brought her before a blank computer screen, desperately desiring to write something new. Heinrich, Blanchette, and Karl swiftly spun the tale you just read. Laura feverishly typed, barely fast enough to keep up.
Once Red and the Wolf was born, other stories coalesced in Laura’s mind, Beauty and the Beast, Sleeping Beauty, Hansel and Gretel, all asking the same questions: What might happen if the end of these tales wasn’t really the end? What were these characters’ lives really like after the harrowing events of the fairy tale? What if achieving true love and happiness required something extra? Thus came the idea for this series, Embracing Ever After, where achieving true love requires something special and happily ever after isn’t really the end.
Find Laura online:
Genre: Urban Fantasy, Romance
Length: 318 KB, 160 pages
Release Date: March 4, 2013
Buying Links: Lyrical Press Barnes and Noble iTunes Amazon
So, how do YOU like your werewolves?