Anyone read Jim Butcher’s Harry Dresden series? In the second in the series, Fool Moon, the main plot line centers on werewolves. What’s interesting to me is the different kinds of werewolves Butcher comes up with, and works into one book.
In the book there are four distinct types of werewolves–none of which interestingly enough are the “bitten” or “genetic” werewolves we see in romance. But at least one is based on a myth as old (or older) than the “bitten” one we think of. And one is based on fact. Since we do seem to stick with the “bitten” or “genetic” weres in romance, I thought it would be fun to see how an author in another genre has played with the legend.
The main (most visible) weres in the books are “transformed”–the victim of a spell–although often the spell is of their own making. With these transformed or “classic” werewolves their physical body changes, but their minds stay human. They have no “super” strengths, just those of a normal wolf, and they can change back to human at will. This is different from the weres you tend to see in romance where they take on personality traits of a wolf (dominance, territorialism, etc.) and are forced by the moon to shift.
Another type of were is the “Hexenwolf”. This is the type I mentioned earlier based on an old myth. With a “Hexenwolf” the human is give the power to shift by wearing a magical wolf-pelt belt. You yank off the belt and the wolf goes back to human form. As you could probably guess, getting the belt off isn’t all that easy. Another talisman might be used, but the belt is most popular and what I’ve read about from myth. Just like Gollum and his ring the wearer becomes addicted to the power and needs to wear it more and more. Eventually they are lost to the magic, becoming the beast (mentally) that they have been shifting into.
Third is the Lycanthrope. This were isn’t a shifter–at least not physically. This were shifts mentally–becoming a raging beast who can’t be controlled. He/she also gains great strength and becomes resistant to pain–like someone under the influence of some mind altering drug. What I like about this idea is that it’s based on the old practice of warriors dressing in the pelts of animals when they went into battle. Berserkers wore wolf pelts and worked themselves into an animal state of mind–numbing themselves to pain and pushing themselves to new limits. Butcher’s Lycanthropes just take all of this a bit further.
Finally, there is the Loup-garou. This version goes back to stories of gods cursing those who betrayed them, making the betrayers into various animals. This was a huge trend with gods and goddesses, but again not something we tend to see in romance. In Butcher’s world the Loup-garou could have been cursed by a Faerie Queen, sorcerer, or demon lord and the curse shows itself during a full moon. (So actually a combination of the gods cursing legend and the more familiar moon powered shift.) During this time they are wolves, body and soul, but crazed wolves. They are killing machines dangerous to all around them.
Those are the four werewolves shown in Fool Moon–but there is one more, or a twist on one of these–a wolf who shifts into a human. Another interesting way to look at the legend with new eyes.
So, what do you think? Do we need a bit more variety in romance? What other ways could we play with the legend?