Women who runs with the Wolf Lecture
October 28, 2009 4:34 PM   Subscribe

What have you heard about werewolves?

I need to know everything there is to know about the mythology of werewolves, from media, from folklore and especially from batshit cryptozoology circles, for a surprise (as in, surprise to ME) lecture I'll be delivering next week. I'll be doing academic research on the topic on my own, but I thought this would be a good place to get a broad pop-cultural base of different facets of this concept in a hurry.

Some sample ponderings I'm beginning with:

- What are the "rules" of werewolves? Are they strictly involuntary shape-shifters?
- What other kinds of were-animals have there been in myth? (Cat People comes to mind.)
- What are some weird werewolf anomalies from werewolf stories you know of?
- Werewolves: sexy? hungry? what's their motivation?
- Are there werewolf myths from foreign lands?
- What's the moon significance? Is that a jacked-the-hell-up gender thing or what?

I've seen: Teen Wolf and its sequel, Wolf, An American Werewolf in London, and am familiar with Remus Lupin in book and film. I think that's about the entirety of my werewolf exposure. Any movies I MUST see ASAP? The class will be screening Ginger Snaps.

Since the class I'm lecturing for thematically treats issues of wildness vs. domesticity, any anecdotes or examples of werewolves interacting with wolf-wolves or with pet dogs would be good to come up with.

Obviously lots of kinds of info or pointers are welcome.
posted by Ambrosia Voyeur to Grab Bag (59 answers total) 14 users marked this as a favorite
Kit Whitfield's book, Benighted, is about werewolves. Buffy has one in seasons 2-4.

The French Canadian versionis the loup-garou, and despite the name, they are not exclusively wolves.
posted by jeather at 4:42 PM on October 28, 2009

Best answer: Try to see the original Universal Wolf Man. I think a lot of "pop" werewolf stuff comes from that.

"Even a man who's pure at heart,
And says his prayers at night,
Can become a wolf when the wolfsbane blooms,
And the autumn moon is bright."
posted by JoanArkham at 4:45 PM on October 28, 2009 [1 favorite]

In Japanese and Korean folk tales you have the nine-tailed fox who often transforms into a beautiful woman to lure unwary male travelers. Although occasionally the fox-women are not completely evil and may actually fall in love with a human male.

I am not aware of any werewolves in Korean folklore. Aside from the nine-tailed fox, offhand I vaguely recall a toad pretending to be human? Note that unlike Western werewolf lore, where humans turn into wolves, in these stories it's the animal briefly taking on human form.
posted by needled at 4:49 PM on October 28, 2009

The video game Altered Beast features various were-creatures.
posted by box at 4:49 PM on October 28, 2009 [1 favorite]

Seth Green plays Oz, a Werewolf, on several seasons of Buffy the Vampire Slayer. If you want to watch some especially werewolf-centric episodes, Phases and Wild at Heart are the most notable.

Though I am quite a nerd, I promise I looked these up and do not know the plots of all Buffy episodes by heart.
posted by AtomicBee at 4:51 PM on October 28, 2009 [1 favorite]

One of the main characters in Buffy:The Vampire Slayer was a werewolf. In that series, Oz was a werewolf for three nights a month, and spent that time locked in a cage. His final episode in the series, "Wild at Heart", emphasized the idea that he had the animal in him all the time, and didn't necessarily want to keep it caged up.

Wallace and Gromit and the Curse of the Were-Rabbit
is the only non-wolf story I've ever seen.
posted by saffry at 4:52 PM on October 28, 2009

You've probably already thought of this, but when I was looking up similar backgrounds about dragons, I went straight to Wikipedia and found a ton of info about how dragons were viewed in different cultures and time periods, so check out the Wiki page on werewolves.

- What are some weird werewolf anomalies from werewolf stories you know of?

An anthology, The Best American Erotica 1995, had an excerpt from Jay Michaelson's "The Spirt That Denies" which went into detail about sex between a male werewolf in half human and full wolf form and the various anatomical issues in such a coupling.

Evidently the base of the male wolf's penis swells to a point that it can't be removed until he's finished orgasmising, which takes about half an hour. So once since with a werewolf begins, the lady is in for the long haul so to speak (and yes the female in the story was fully knowledgeable of the anatomy differences and ok with them).
posted by Brandon Blatcher at 4:52 PM on October 28, 2009

For musical pop culture, there's Werewolves of London.
posted by dilettante at 4:55 PM on October 28, 2009

Best answer: There are plenty of voluntary werewolves. One of the oldest legends involves making a belt from a wolf-pelt, going to the crossroads at a certain time, and, with the correct incantation, you transform into a werewolf. That's European, but there's plenty of enchanted pelt legends throughout history. I recall one from Latin class, so they've been around quite a while.

Somewhere in the Far East they have rat-people, so there's that.

As to the moon, wolves howl at it. That's probably about as complex as it gets. Later menstruation-oriented readings are probably forcing the subtext.

Motivations are primarily mayhem-oriented. It's mostly roaming, hunting, being bitey, etc. From the European end of it, werewolves are represent savagery and the unknown, back when the unknown meant a lot of scary woods and things prowling around in the night, as well as the interior danger of sliding away from civilization.

You absolutely must see The Company of Wolves. Danielle Dax is in it! Wolf Girl (released as Blood Moon in the US) isn't quite werewolfery, but it plays off of the established ideas very well, including the tragic ending requisite for werewolf stories. If you're looking for a feminist subtext, indie flick The Curse is rather solid for that.

If you must have a text to grab, Montague Summers is probably your dude if you are going old school.
posted by adipocere at 5:00 PM on October 28, 2009 [1 favorite]

For a little further info on the Buffyverse werewolves, they change 3 days a month: the full moon, and the days before and after. They aren't strictly involuntary shifters, as Oz came back in the season four episode New Moon Rising having learned to control his phasing in Tibet. He also phases during the day.

His lycanthropy was driven by a need to hunt while phased, but in Wild at Heart , Oz feels a very strong attraction to Veruca, who ends up being another werewolf. So there is a sexual component.

Beyond that, Buffy incorporated the usual, can be killed by a silver bullet, transmitted by bites, etc. They did have an episode where a werewolf hunter comes to town, tracking Oz in an attempt to collect money for his pelt on the black market.
posted by bluloo at 5:00 PM on October 28, 2009

Best answer: What about those Vampire versus Werewolf movies - "Underworld" ?

Then there the RPG games by White Wolf (TSR, Wizards of the Coast)

But - actually the term you are looking for is lycanthropy or lycanthrope.

The other slang in common fiction is "shifter" or "shapeshifter" - (True Blood) - depending on the fictional-universe the change may be controlled or unwilling.
posted by jkaczor at 5:01 PM on October 28, 2009

for twisted genius, there's Michael Hurley's Werewolf.
posted by scruss at 5:07 PM on October 28, 2009

Werewolves are involuntary shape-shifters and seen as tragic figures, often fighting against an urge to kill the person closest to them. In old, classic werewolf movies, the hero would see a shape in the palm of the person he would kill next. Generally, the woman he loved would be threatened and this would drive him to distraction. He would search everywhere for a cure. He was always killed, by means of a silver bullet, before he could get to her. After he was shot, he would transform back into a man, sometimes whispering "thank you" as he died.

See what I mean? Tragic figures.

Old gypsy women know *ALL* about werewolves in the classic films. Old gypsy women from the Carpathian mountains, naturally.

American Werewolf in London is a classic film you could see and reference.

In one of the Howling movies, the werewolf is of a marsupial variety that carries its young in its pouch, but that's a stretch. I've always heard that the bite of a werewolf turned someone into one, and only wolfbane could help. You rarely heard of a female werewolf in the old movies--they were usually the victims but never 'turned'. The Howling changed this.

And, of course, your audience will be familiar with Michael Jackson's Thriller.
posted by misha at 5:08 PM on October 28, 2009 [1 favorite]

Dare I state the most pressing example on every teen girl's mind at the moment: Twilight? There are male and female werewolves there who have telepathic communications when in wolf form. Though [spoiler alert!]: they're actually simply shapeshifters who just happen to shift into wolves (Stephenie Meyer's attempt at ret-con).
posted by pised at 5:09 PM on October 28, 2009

As has been mentioned, over the past few decades there's been an annoying (and played out, one might hope) vampires / werewolves antipathy.

Also, the great thing about Ginger Snaps (a fantastic movie, btw) is the correlation between transformation into a wolf and budding female sexuality. I'm sure the whole female werewolf / monthly cycle thing has been explored previously, but I can't think of examples.

You might also check out Stephen King's non-fiction look at horror movies Danse Macabre. I haven't read it for years, but I seem to remember a segment on I was a Teenage Werewolf. (Speaking of Stephen King, Silver Bullet was a fun movie -- based on his childrens book Cycle of the Werewolf -- even though I don't remember it adding anything to the mythology.)
posted by coolguymichael at 5:25 PM on October 28, 2009

Silver Bullet was a fun movie -- based on his childrens book Cycle of the Werewolf

Not a children's book, for the record.
posted by hermitosis at 5:35 PM on October 28, 2009

In the Night Watch series, werewolves are on the "bad" side (though the books don't really make things quite that binary), but are looked down as the lowest of the low by the fellow baddies ("selfish" is more accurate than "bad" in the books, but that's going beyond the question). There are a few appearances by werewolves who can change at will, and they're not out of control monsters at all.
posted by socratic at 5:36 PM on October 28, 2009

You're just looking for a plausible excuse to go see the new Twilight movie, aren't you?

What's that, you're not, and anyway it doesn't come out until after your lecture? Well, then read the second book (New Moon) , in which the author begins to explore the age-old war between whitey vampires and Native American werewolves, and the war's impact on virginal human teenage girls.

Uh, I heard.
posted by dersins at 5:38 PM on October 28, 2009

PS. The Night Watch books are Russian (printed in English in the US). I don't know how much of the character of werewolves (and the other Others) comes from Russian legends and how much comes from the author's desire to reimagine popular cultural critters, but the books are an interesting take on things.
posted by socratic at 5:41 PM on October 28, 2009

Google loup garou.
posted by tamitang at 5:42 PM on October 28, 2009

Seconding the White Wolf Werewolf game series. They had to keep publishing books, and so they stripmined pretty much every shapeshifter legend (Were-Lions, and Were-Tigers, and Were-Bears, oh my!) and shoehorned it into their game universe. I'm unsure if the books had bibliographies.
posted by benzenedream at 5:44 PM on October 28, 2009

Best answer: an excellent read: A Lycanthropy Reader: Werewolves in Western Culture
posted by jammy at 5:53 PM on October 28, 2009 [1 favorite]

Best answer: Terry Pratchett has werewolves in the Night Watch and Uberwald books of Discworld (For example). A big theme is being able to 'see' scents.

Peter Beagle has a really nice novella with a Werewolf.

This from How Stuff Works is sort of neat.

The Anita Blake series also has the werewolf vs. vampire theme.
posted by eleanna at 5:55 PM on October 28, 2009

The first book in a new YA series, Shiver, is about werewolves. It uses different (completely fabricated?) mythology -- they are still created by being bitten, but transform into wolves in the winter/cold and eventually stop transforming and stay as wolves. It touches a bit on interactions with regular wolves and has a couple scenes involving domestic dogs.
posted by wsquared at 5:58 PM on October 28, 2009

Best answer: There's an essay by Gene Wolfe where he points out that "were" (originally "wer") means "man" and that a werewolf was a "man-wolf", a man who was feared because he was really a wolf. That is, any shape changing that went on was a feature of his intrinsic bloody and violent nature, not a disease that sporadically affected him.
posted by Joe in Australia at 6:02 PM on October 28, 2009

Sorry, I forgot, Pratchett and Beagle both address the pet vs. not pet issue.
posted by eleanna at 6:08 PM on October 28, 2009

Vampires are to tuberculosis what werewolves are to rabies. Throw in a fear of a vicious predator and a bit of hysteria and you've got yourself a superstition.
posted by christhelongtimelurker at 6:12 PM on October 28, 2009

When doing your research try to dig up "Lycanthropy: Battling for the Feral Soul of Man" by Adam Parfrey (from one of the Apocalypse Culture books). I remember it being interesting.
posted by Bookhouse at 6:25 PM on October 28, 2009

The most fascinating information I've learned that delves into the origins of the legend of lycanthropy has been the rye bread/ergot fungus based werewolf hysteria in early modern Europe:

Quick Google Search

This probably covers the academic territory you'll be researching on your own...
posted by cinemafiend at 6:32 PM on October 28, 2009

Marie de France wrote a great story about a werewolf, Bisclaveret, which has the funniest and most unexpected ending of almost any story I know.

"Many women in that family, I tell you truly, lived noselessly!"
posted by IAmBroom at 6:50 PM on October 28, 2009

Although certainly not an academically-accepted mythology, Laurell K. Hamilton has created a universe in her Anita Blake series that has heavy werewolf/shapeshifter involvement. I actually find her descriptions of the shifter mythology to be the most interesting and well-written parts of the book. In the books, the werewolves borrow heavily from Norse mythology. There are also wereleapords, wererats, and a host of other weres.

The wiki page on Shapeshifters in the Anita Blake mythology has a pretty good summary, including attributes, transformation, and terminology.
posted by tryniti at 6:53 PM on October 28, 2009

I have two offhand mentions in fiction.

First, in the "River of the Gods" series by Jack Chalker, one of the characters gets bitten and becomes a "were". Not a werewolf, or a wererabbit or a were-anything, just a were. As described, he had the curse but there wasn't any codex associated with it, and what that meant was that when the time to transform came (three evenings per month) he changed into whatever animal was nearest to him at that moment, whether a wolf or a human, or a horse (once) or a rat (later) or even a fairy. On the other hand, he gained the "can't be wounded by anything except silver" benefit, and that operated all the time even when he wasn't transformed.

Second, in Roger Zelazny's "A Night in the Lonesome October", one of the characters that shows up is named Larry Talbot. ("Lawrence Talbot" is the name of the Chaney character "The Wolfman".) Another character in the book is "The Great Detective" (i.e. Sherlock Holmes), and he eventually figures out how to temporarily transform himself into a wolf, and uses that ability at a critical time.
posted by Chocolate Pickle at 6:54 PM on October 28, 2009

Best answer: From a sociological perspective, I've always assumed that lycanthropy was a folkloric attempt to explain the effects of addiction on communities. (In the same way that vampires terrorize us by making us examine our own destructive feeding behaviors; zombies violate our comfortable sense of finality concerning death (as well as force us to recognize our own physical limitations); and the Frankenstein monster was about dehumanization due to technology/science rather than stitched-together flesh.)

People afflicted with lycanthropy are rarely nasty people, but are portrayed as unfortunate victims - with the true victim being the community, terrorized by this out-of-control member of society. The transformation comes with the evening, a time traditionally reserved for drinking and recreational drug use. But it is even more telling to me that night is the time when crimes against the family (quiet, private crimes - the truly horrific crimes) might be more likely to occur as a result of drinking/drug use.

Aside from a lifetime of fascination with horror, I have no proof of this. But Google tells me that there's some potential recognized crossover with psychopharmacology and the psychological phenomenon of "clinical lycanthropy" (the delusion that one can or has turned into a wolf). See: Psychopharmacology of Lycanthropy. Specifically noted were crossover behaviors of alcoholism present in those suffering from clinical lycanthropy, and the hypothesis that pharmaceutical solutions for one set of patients may prove effective for the other. Hardly conclusive, but certainly interesting.
posted by greekphilosophy at 6:56 PM on October 28, 2009

The Roman legend referred to by adipocere, above, is found in Petronius' Satyricon. The would-be werewolf (versipellis, in Latin, 'skin-changer') takes off his clothes, urinates in a circle around them (yeah, I don't know either), which turns them into stone, and then, hey! It's a wolf! He's later injured during an attack on a farmhouse, and he is afterwards identified because of the location of the wound.
posted by lysimache at 7:15 PM on October 28, 2009

In Olmec culture, there's mysterious were-jaguar babies.
posted by at the crossroads at 7:16 PM on October 28, 2009

Best answer: Our Werewolves Are Different at TV Tropes.
posted by DevilsAdvocate at 7:19 PM on October 28, 2009

It might be interesting to include some ideas about how the legends arose in the first place - shapeshifters seem pretty widespread in folklore, but the specifics of werewolves may have been inspired by some rare genetic conditions. Congenital erythropoietic porphyria sounds like a plausible basis for the legend, since this disease causes skin damage and sensitivity to sunlight, occasionally accompanied by severe hypertrichosis.

So some (hypothetical) poor hairy guy avoids the sun in some benighted medieval village, his neighbors shun and fear this freak, and folklore is born. Werewolves are sometimes depicted sympathetically in modern fiction, but in what I remember of old folk tales they are scary evil monsters. I think it's interesting how often ugly = evil, in folklore (and Hollywood). When it's ugly + weird, evil is pretty much the only possible result. I'd love to see some discussion of that, if I were attending your lecture.
posted by Quietgal at 7:25 PM on October 28, 2009

PESCARA: Pray thee, what's his disease?

DOCTOR: A very pestilent disease, my lord,
they call lycanthropia.

PESCARA: What's that?
I need a dictionary to't.

DOCTOR: I'll tell you.
In those that are possess'd with't there o'erflows
Such melancholy humour,they imagine
themselves to be transformed into wolves;
steal forth to churchyards in the dead of night,
and dig dead bodies up: as two nights since
one met the Duke 'bout midnight in a lane
behind St. Mark's Church, with the leg of a man
upon his shoulder, and he howl'd fearfully;
said he was a wolf, only the difference
was, a wolf's skin was hairy on the outside,
his on the inside...
- John Webster, The Duchess of Malfi, Act V, Scene 2
posted by Iridic at 7:28 PM on October 28, 2009

Blitzen Trapper: "Furr"
Good werewolf song.

When I was only seventeen
I could hear the angels whispering
So I drove into the woods
And wandered aimlessly about
Until I heard my mother shouting through the fog
It turned out to be the howling of a dog
Or a wolf, to be exact
The sound sent shivers down my back
But I was drawn into the pack and before long
They allowed me to join in and sing their song
From the cliffs and highest hills
We would gladly get our fill
Howling endlessly and shrilly at the dawn
And I lost the taste for judging right from wrong
For my flesh had turned to fur
And my thoughts they surely were
Turned to instinct and obedience to God

You can wear your fur
Like a river on fire
But you'd better be sure
If you're making God a liar
I'm a rattlesnake, babe,
I'm like fuel on fire
So if you're gonna get made
Don't be afraid of what you've learned

On the day that I turned 23
I was curled up underneath a dogwood tree
When suddenly a girl
Her skin the color of a pearl
She wandered aimlessly, but she didn't seem to see
She was listening for the angels just like me
So I stood and looked about
I brushed the leaves off of my snout
And then I heard my mother shouting through the trees
You should have seen that girl go shaky at the knees
So I took her by the arm
We settled down upon a farm
And raised our children up as gently as you please

Now my fur has turned to skin
And I've been quickly ushered in
To a world that, I confess, I do not know
I still dream of running careless through the snow
Through the howling winds that blow
Across the ancient distant flow
To fill our bodies up like water till we know

You can wear your fur
Like a river on fire
But you'd better be sure
If you're making God a liar
I'm a rattlesnake, babe,
I'm like fuel on fire
So if you're gonna get made
Don't be afraid of what you've learned
posted by apostrophe at 7:28 PM on October 28, 2009 [1 favorite]

Best answer: First off, C.E.P. would not be a basis for werewolf legends. Also known as Gunthers Disease, it is rare, super-duper rare. Also, according to my research on it, not a huge lifespan on sufferers. One of my dermatology textbooks is in storage, but if I correctly recall, eighteen years is a good, long time to live with that.

Some of the porphyrias do cause excessive hair growth in places where there's normally not a lot of hair, and, yes, in some the gums can recede, generating the appearance of long teeth. And there's the photosensitivity in many of them, as well as the various insults to the central nervous system, but you rarely get all of these in one package, although variegate porphyria or hereditary coproporphyria would do it. A guy named David Dolphin was responsible for popularizing the idea that this could also be behind the vampire legends.

I'd be happy, though, if I never heard that little non-explanation ever trotted out again, even during episodes of X-Files. Skip that one, por favor.
posted by adipocere at 7:50 PM on October 28, 2009 [2 favorites]

Speaking of Spanish, can you squeeze a mention of the chupacabra into your lecture?
posted by at the crossroads at 7:55 PM on October 28, 2009

In the Mercy Thompson series by Patricia Briggs the main character, Mercy, is a Native American shapeshifter (coyote) who was raised by werewolves. She gets into what the differences are between the two. Packs are led by the alpha wolf, with every wolf's place determined by strength, with a lot of exploration about pack dynamics (and even a gay werewolf character!) New wolves shift with the moon, but the stronger a wolf is, the more control he or she has over the shift.

Also, as mentioned, the Anita Blake novels have werewolves, as well as wereleopards.
posted by witchstone at 8:22 PM on October 28, 2009

Best answer: As I type this, the History Channel is showing The Real Wolfman, described by tvguide.com thusly: "Stories of a wolfman who was said to terrorize the French town of Gevaudan in the 18th century are explored by criminologist George Deuchar and cryptozoologist Ken Gerhardt, using modern forensics."
history channel link
posted by spasm at 8:33 PM on October 28, 2009

Best answer: Seconding DevilsAdvocate's TVTropes link -- that site's always an excellent source for pop-cultural shakedowns.

The most interesting pop-psychology explanation of the werewolf myth I've ever heard is that it's a gender-inclusive metaphor for puberty, what with the increased strength/aggression, bottomless appetites, "hair growing where there was no hair before," etc. And of course the connection to the moon recalls the menstrual cycle. I think Ginger Snaps addressed this angle specifically (I haven't seen it, though, so I can't vouch).

As for cryptozoology, the only story I know of is the Beast of Bray Road up in Wisconsin. Cryptids are usually unique monsters instead of your run-of-the-mill zombie, vampire, etc., so there might not be much to find in that area. There's also such a thing as "clinical lycanthropy," but it's actually a mental illness where the patient believes themselves to be an animal.

If you want to go further down the road to crazytown there's modern-day "therians," a subset of the furry subculture made up of people who feel communion with animal spirits or who think themselves to be part-animal. Some pursue body modification, some hold meet-ups in the woods where they act the part, others pursue mental/spiritual/physical transformations. More often than not this leads to very weird places (previously).

You might also want to check out The Werewolf's Guide to Life which was released recently -- if it's anything like The Zombie Survival Guide it should be an entertaining examination of the mythos presented in a faux-real, mockumentary style. You can download an ebook version here.

Also, this page has a listing of werewolf or werewolf-esque legends from a couple dozen countries.
posted by Rhaomi at 8:45 PM on October 28, 2009

As far as pop culture references, there's the opening scene from Michael Jackson's Thriller video, where he turns into a werewolf when the full moon comes out, and then it turns out to be just a movie, except then at the end of the video it seems like he may be a werewolf after all.
posted by chinston at 9:01 PM on October 28, 2009

Emma Holly's Midnight series deals with vampire/werecreatures (mostly wolves, but one woman chooses to be a hawk).
posted by brujita at 9:18 PM on October 28, 2009

In one of the Howling movies, the werewolf is of a marsupial variety that carries its young in its pouch, but that's a stretch.
This is Howling 3: The Marsupials. It's an Australian horror comedy movie that is based on the idea that the (now extinct) Thylacine is evolutionary relation to werewolf people. For some reasons werewolves start attacking people all around the world and the FBI decide to concentrate on Australian cases and they come across a pack in the outback. One of the werewolves is an actress that wins an award from Dame Edna Everage.

Here's the Howling 3 trailer.
posted by holloway at 9:38 PM on October 28, 2009

Best answer: Regarding lycanthropy as a puberty metaphor, you should check out Suzy McKee Charnas' great short story Boobs.
posted by benzenedream at 9:57 PM on October 28, 2009

Response by poster: Some favorite thoughts best-answered. Thanks you all so much for thie hand-up. Awoooooooooooooooo! And please, keep it coming, I'm drinking this all in quite greedily.
posted by Ambrosia Voyeur at 10:04 PM on October 28, 2009

Response by poster: I finally found a reason to go into my three-houses away video store because of this, and got to chat up the owner, a film buff, naturally, about this random need for all his werewolf movies. I've got Monster Squad, The Howling and An American Werewolf in Paris (Girl werewolf! Girlwolf? Werebitch? Eep!).
posted by Ambrosia Voyeur at 10:08 PM on October 28, 2009

There's a sharp werewolf/menstruation story halfway through Alan Moore's classic run on Swamp Thing: "The Curse" (issue #40), collected here.
posted by mediareport at 10:23 PM on October 28, 2009

Victor Pelevin's Sacred Book of the Werewolf - the main character, A Hu-Li, is a werefox striving to find the "superwerewolf" inside herself, she falls in love with a werewolf/weredog. It's really a pretty fantastic book (in both senses!). He also wrote a short story about werewolves years ago, A Werewolf Problem in Central Russia.

My bet is that A Hu-Li and her sisters are based on the Chinese Huli Jing: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Huli_jing, similar to the Japanese Kitsune: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Kitsune (the nine-tailed fox needled describes above).
posted by jenh at 10:45 PM on October 28, 2009

In werewolf folklore there are some voluntary ways of becoming a werewolf, such as wearing a belt made out of the skin of a hanged man, going to a witch and having her cast a spell and bathe you in her cauldron, or drinking water out of the paw print of a wolf. It's been quite a while since I was interested in this topic so I can't remember sources, but you should be able to find some stuff along these lines if you want.

This is a very intriguing account of a French werewolf who was put on trial. It ties it in with the moon phases, is an example of a voluntary werewolf who makes a deal with the devil, and he's vicious in human form as well. The money quote,"she had seen him once vomit the paws of a dog and the fingers of a child."

As far as female werewolf stories go, I'd recommend Blood Moon (A.K.A. Wolf Girl) as an interesting one. The basic plot is that the sweet tempered fuzzy "wolf girl" of a traveling freak show takes an experimental drug to lose the hair but quickly becomes more vicious the more normal she looks. It has some obvious ties with puberty, teenagers, and female sexuality, and I watched it in conjunction with Ginger Snaps and though they complemented each other. One of the high points of the film is Tim Curry as the circus ringleader.

On a related note, you might address the feral children aspect as one of possible tie ins between people and wolves and wildness versus domesticity. Video of Oxana Malaya and her story in particular come to mind as an easy and striking example.
posted by CheshireCat at 2:09 AM on October 29, 2009

I haven't had a chance to read through all these replies, but I must must must recommend Angela Carter's beautiful, erotic and disturbing werewolf-stories in The Bloody Chamber (The Werewolf / The Company of Wolves* / Wolf Alice). Here's an essay on them.

*I can see the movie's already been recommended to you.
posted by Ziggy500 at 3:41 AM on October 29, 2009

The second book of the Dresden Files, titled Fool Moon (wikipedia), contains information on four kinds of wolf-human shapechangers: hexenwolves, werewolves, lycanthropes, and loup-garous.

I had a hard time keeping them straight in my head, but you might find them interesting.
posted by Irontom at 5:46 AM on October 29, 2009

Perhaps this course outline on lycanthropy would help?
posted by plinth at 6:36 AM on October 29, 2009

There are plenty of voluntary werewolves. One of the oldest legends involves making a belt from a wolf-pelt, going to the crossroads at a certain time, and, with the correct incantation, you transform into a werewolf.

Along these lines another purported method of becoming a werewolf was to drink rainwater out of a wolf paw print under a full moon.

For some older references, check out The book of were-wolves : being an account of a terrible superstition / by Sabine Baring-Gould, published in 1865 but republished sometime in the 1970s so you might be able to find a copy at a library.
posted by mikepop at 10:12 AM on October 29, 2009

I always thought The Wolfman was a kind of collective-unconsciousness-mythlore thing about the man who goes nuts, beats a bunch of people up, does terrible things, then feels remose/regret/whatever ...and the people either forgive him (it is just his nature) or ride him out of town with pitchforks and silver bullets.

See what I mean? Tragic figures.

Think raging benders followed by sincere apologies.
posted by The Whelk at 2:10 PM on October 29, 2009 [1 favorite]

Oh and Rabies. Rabies. Rabies.
posted by The Whelk at 2:11 PM on October 29, 2009

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