Monday, 29 September 2014

Werewolves, rabies and romance

The act of transformation from human to wolf in werewolf legends, must stem from an actual real event, or a common practice. The debate of whether or not werewolves exist is ongoing. Some believe that werewolves are just part of the Horror entertainment landscape. We see many wolf people on the silver screen, in books and games. The appeal of the Werewolf is quite different to the appeal of the vampire. People love vampires. Some are even in love with vampires.

Dracula is considered a romantic figure amongst women and Dracula has sex appeal. He's a true heart throb as well as a monster. Dracula is a supernatural dream lover. Vampires themselves are linked with sensuality, beautiful nightmares, gothicism and dark fantasies. Yet the thought of Dracula scared a lot of people only 100 years ago even though he's fictional. The character of Dracula is based upon a book by Bram Stoker, who based the character on a real infamous man called Vlad Tepes.

So that is how the love of vampires started. From fear throughout history, and then transformed into a fantasy lover.

What about werewolves then?

Werewolves have gone through a shift. Not just a transforming from human to wolf, but the concept of the werewolf has started off as a frightening creature who is now a charming belief.

In Neolithic times, the werewolf idea is not known. Humans were beginning to form friendships with wolves and made some of those guardians of the home and fellow hunters. Wolves were tamed and became the domesticated dog. The fear of wolves didn't appear until the wave of agriculture became established throughout the lands. Farmers saw wolves as a threat to their own kept livestock animals. As well as the risk of farmed animals being killed by wolves, depriving people of food, there was floods and drought, ruining crops and threatening starvation. People lived on the edge of hunger. The worry of bad harvest and dead livestock meant there would be famine. The fear of famine was greater back in ancient times and it left people blaming the lack of food on wild predators or in some places, angry gods.

To appease the gods, people sacrificed other human beings, sometimes giving up what food they had, or giving a member of the livestock to the gods. The people killed livestock and human sacrifices in different brutal ways. This was because of failed harvest and so sacrificing meant that the people were both sorry for whatever sins they made, and giving up the life and blood of a living being to show that they are duty bound. Modern people view human sacrifices as abhorrent. People only did this because they feared the gods, and most of all they feared starvation.

Wolves around the corner, wolves at the door, meant that there was poverty and hunger. Hungry people stayed indoors mainly, armed by simple weapons. They were most vulnerable to wolf attacks because they were not surrounded by walls and knights. Only the nobility were protected from the elements.  So ordinary citizens were allowed to keep dogs and cats to protect their families from wild animals and supernatural entities (another issue people suffered from). Then there was plague and other known diseases such as rabies.

Rabies is a known viral infection passed from animal to humans. It's often passed by saliva or bites. The word Rabies is Latin and it means "madness". This causes someone to feel violent, hallucinate, have flu-like symptoms, and become hydrophobic. Such symptoms result in death. If humans with rabies bite another person they'll pass on rabies also. Rabies have been known to be given to someone else through organ transplants by an infected donor. It changes the personality and behaviour of the human and animal. The fear of rabies appeared in the Middle Ages until the last Century. People no longer recognised their once loving dogs who became rabid. Wild  and domestic rabid animals caused much spread of the illness. Many believe that the werewolf legend came from the fear of rabies.  
But the idea of werewolfism didn't only form out of people's misery. In ancient history, warriors put on robes from skins and fur of wolves and bears, and took on the souls of the dead animals. These were called Berserkers. Today, during formal military parades, certain officers still garb themselves in the skins of animals that are symbols of their regiments. But modern day combat soldiers don't get trained with the same skills that the Berserkers had. Although warfare is entirely different today than it was in the past, modern soldiers need to be shown some ancient military tactics or the wisdom of the Berserkers would be forgotten.

Werewolf literature of the 19th and 20th centuries are scary, bloody and horrible. Werewolves are nasty. These are cruel, dangerous creatures of the night, who change at the full moon. Werewolves become werewolves because of being bitten by another werewolf. This is like rabies. Werewolves fear silver, and this too is similar to rabies because rabid creatures fear water. Water and silver are linked with the moon.

It's like a curse. It's also weird too because human anatomy is far different to a canines'. Human beings don't have knees bending backwards like dogs and wolves. We don't have long snouts with acute sense of smell. We don't have the same way of seeing and feeling that canines do. We have less hair and no tails. Our canines are much smaller and our tongues are definately not the same. We haven't got the same ears or eyes! Our DNA isn't their DNA so how can werewolves be real... scientifically it's not possible. Or is it?

That's an opening for another post. But today's werewolves in literature and TV are much nicer, good looking and sexy. They've become the friend rather than foe. They are a popular fantasy figure in Paranormal Romance books. Werewolves are now thought of as dream lovers with a wild streak.

Titles with modern werewolves on screen:
Monster High
True Blood
Teen Wolf
Being Human


Werewolf lady picture is "Instinct" by David Gaillet    

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