Posted by AshleeW
Lycanthropes is the other name for this shape-shifting half-human – the werewolf. The name itself may give us at least an idea of where this mythical creature first originated. In A.D. 1, Ovid wrote Metamorphoses, in which he told the story of King Lycaeon. The king angered the gods by eating human meat and was duly punished by being turned into a werewolf. Lycaeon, when in his wolf form, could continue his horrid behavior without causing more offense to the gods.
The myths and characteristics of the werewolf have evolved over time, though. In Ovid’s rendition, for example, the phases of the moon had no bearing on the werewolf’s changing form. In fact, many of the earliest known stories of werewolves had nothing to do with the moon at all. Werewolves were able to change shape at will. Some of those early stories spoke of a belt or girdle that, when put on, would transform the wearer’s shape into that of a wolf.
In 1500s Europe (England, France and Germany), several men were executed after being accused of being werewolves. Historical records show that these men were likely serial killers. But this was the 16th century. These were the days of Henry VIII, the days of superstitious beliefs and religious confusion. And when a man was arrested and wouldn’t confess to the crimes he was accused of – crimes his superstitious neighbor may have sworn to seeing him commit – he was many times tortured into a confession instead. It made for records and “proofs” of werewolves’ existence. And it also made the stories of werewolves grow, and people’s belief in them run wild and frenzied.
It so happens that real wolves roved in great numbers over much of Europe during this time period. This could be suggestive for any number of reasons. The wolf itself was an active part of the European people’s mindset and consciousness, for one. Real wolf attacks at this time could have had something to do with these so-called “proofs” of the existence of werewolves as well.
So, how do you become a werewolf? That, too, is something that has changed and varied over the years. In her book “Giants, Monsters and Dragons,” Carol Rose says in ancient Greece it was believed one could become a werewolf by eating the meat of a wolf mixed with that of a human. Umm … ick.
Other suggested ways to become a werewolf include being cursed, being conceived under a full moon, sleeping under a full moon, drinking water that has been touched by a wolf, and of course the most well-known method today – that of being bitten by another werewolf.
These half-human creatures are second in popularity only to vampires in today’s speculative fiction, although I can’t say they’re my personal favorite (that’s barring Professor Lupin, of course!).
So what about you? Do you have a favorite half-human?