Sabine Baring Gould, Father of Werewolf Lit?

Believes in werewolves.

Believes in werewolves.

Sabine Baring-Gould was an eclectic man. Born in England in 1834, he is best known for the hymns he composed, among them the infamous “Onward, Christian Soldiers.” He was married for nearly 50 years and fathered 15 children. He was a collector of stories and folk songs as well as an accomplished novelist, and was known to write while standing. He spent years collecting folklore of werewolves which eventually resulted in , The Book of Werewolves, which was published in 1865 and is still one of the largest studies of werewolf lore to this day. He died in 1924 and was buried next to his wife.

 

 

What Big Eyes You Have: Werewolves

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It seems that unlike the mindless zombie or the ancient mummy, or event the licentious vampire, we don’t fear the werewolf so much as feel sorry for the werewolf. It is a wild beast caught in a trap. We worry for him, we wish it could be another way. We don’t want to become werewolves the way we want super powers or immortality. We want the werewolf to be free of the curse that binds him. Free to be either beast or man, not tragically stuck being both.

Here are a few interesting facts about werewolves you may not know:

  • Werewolves are not always mean: In medieval romances, such as Guillaume de Palerme, the werewolf is not the terrifying creature of more modern tales, but rather benign, appearing more like a victim and less like the enemy. (True also of Harold in Eugene Field’s story).
  • Werewolves are not always male: The 1588 story from the mountains of Auvergne tells the tale of a she-wolf whose paw was cut off by a hunter. When he opened the bag where he had placed his prized paw he discovered instead a woman’s hand. It didn’t take long to figure out who was missing the hand (a nobleman’s wife) and she was burnt at the stake. That’s one way to end a marriage…
  • Werewolves are not always wolves: Were-creatures can be in the form of many beasts. In variations of lore from around the world we find examples of were-cats, were-sharks, were-bears, and even a were-dolphin.
  • Werewolves are not always fictional: There is a rare but very real disease now called clinical lycanthropy. Those diagnosed believe themselves to able to transform into a non-human animal, specifically a wolf.

For those of you who aren’t such fans of the werewolf you will want to avoid the darkest of woods at night, especially any woods that looks much like the one described above—full of ravens, vampires, and serpents—and you should never, ever go out on a full moon. You may fare well, as the heroine of our story does, but to hedge your bets you might want to keep a little satchel with you full of silver bullets (you’ll need a gun to fire them) on hand, or a silver dagger if you can’t get a gun. If you are a dead-mark a bow and arrow might do, but it is very risky. Oh, and make sure to stock up on wolfsbane. It will ward off wolves but it can also be an antidote to wolf bite, if taken within a few hours of contact.

Check out my book, Banshees, Werewolves, Vampires & Other Creatures of the Night. 

banshees, werewolves, vampires

 

Photo: James Finister via flickr

Book cover by James Warner, copyright Weiser Books