A Dresden look at werewolves…

June 18, 2008 at 6:00 am (General)

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?



  1. Michele Hauf said,

    I love Butcher’s books! His world is amazing. The variety of werewolves was interesting, and not overdone.
    I think we could have more of a variety in romance, though I think we do pretty at that anyway. I like the berserker legend. I’m working on one of those myself. With enhancements. 🙂

    I don’t remember the wolf who shifts to human. That’s intriguing.

  2. Liz Kreger said,

    Interesting, Lori. I read that book but it was quite awhile ago. I don’t remember all of the particulars of his “weres”. Still, given the fact that most of Butcher’s books revolve around magic, it makes sense that he’d focus on the legends that involve magic.

  3. Lori Devoti said,

    Michele the wolf that shifts to human was a female. She was kind of a mysterious presence the whole time–not really important to the plot, but there. And in the end she ran off as a wolf and Harry thought she might really be a wolf who shifted to human. It was cool.

  4. Savanna Kougar said,

    Fascinating question. I think there’s always room for the imagination to roam. I have to admit I’m rather partial to genetic causes. And given that the goddesses and gods adore creating with different genetic designs…well, the possibilities are infinite just in that arena.

  5. AlainaLee said,

    oo i like his books.. the ones ive read.. just went out and got the first two. but havent been able to read em yet unfortunately.
    i ah some of the books i read there are diffferent from the ‘standard’ werewolf.. those are usually the best i find..

  6. Becky said,

    Wow, I had no idea. That is very cool!! I have never read the books although I’ve been meaning to since The Dresden Files was on TV. So sad it was canceled, I love Paul Blackthorne!! I have to get those books!! Very interesting about the weres too, but I have no favorite. I love them all!!!! Something about a beastly guy, or manly beast or whatever. I have no idea why but I love them!

  7. Lou Gagliardi said,

    I think it’s not the wolf that needs to be changed; but the legend surrounding it. The wolf him or herself hasn’t gotten old. What has gotten old is the tragic “oh woe is me! i change into a snarling beast at the full moon!” boo-hoo! It’s the myths, not the creature that needs to be changed, plain and simple.

  8. Pink flaminco said,

    Wolf romance is too much of a fantasy destroys my suspension of disbelief are they furries? Do they like to yiff?

    All werewolves shouldn’t confuse lust with love and they should commense eating the obvious jail bait protagonist as opposed to woe is me I’m totally a struggling emowolf

    claws crunching and teeth gnashing

    the loup-garou is the true wolf and they should a) lock themselves up during a full moon and if they get out and kill people during their frenzied state wake up get some breakfast because they did the best they could and not feel guilty,

    or b) give in and totally get some human noms during all full moons

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