Werewolf is a mythological animal and the subject of many stories throughout the world Werewolves are, according to some legends, people who morph into vicious, powerful wolves. Others are a mutant combination of human and wolf. But all are bloodthirsty beasts who cannot control their lust for killing people and animals.
Some legends maintain werewolves shape-shifted at will due to a curse. Others state they transformed with the help of an enchanted sash or a cloak made of wolf pelt. Still others claim people became wolves after being scratched or bit by a werewolf. In many werewolf stories, a person only turns into a wolf when there’s a full moon—and that theory may not be far-fetched. According to a study conducted at Australia’s Calvary Mater Newcastle hospital, a full moon brings out the “beast” in many humans. The study found that of the 91 violent, acute behavior incidents at the hospital between August 2008 and July 2009, 23 percent happened during a full moon.
Werewolves also emerged in early Nordic folklore. The Saga of the Volsungs tells the story of a father and son who discovered wolf pelts that had the power to turn people into wolves for ten days. The father-son duo donned the pelts, transformed into wolves and went on a killing rampage in the forest. Their rampage ended when the father attacked his son, causing a lethal wound. The son only survived because a kind raven gave the father a leaf with healing powers.
Many so-called werewolves from centuries ago were in fact serial killers, and France had its fair share. In 1521, Frenchmen Pierre Burgot and Michel Verdun allegedly swore allegiance to the devil and claimed to have an ointment that turned them into wolves. After confessing to brutally murdering several children, they were both burned to death at the stake. (Burning was thought to be one of the few ways to kill a werewolf.)
Giles Garnier, known as the “Werewolf of Dole,” was another sixteenth-century Frenchman whose claim to fame was also an ointment with wolf-morphing abilities. According to legend, as a wolf he viciously killed children and ate them. He too was burned to death at the stake for
Peter Stubbe, a wealthy, fifteenth-century farmer in Bedburg, Germany, may be the most notorious werewolf of them all. According to folklore, he turned into a wolf-like creature at night and devoured many citizens of Bedburg. Peter was eventually blamed for the gruesome killings after being cornered by hunters who claimed they saw him shape-shift from wolf to human form. He experienced a grisly execution after confessing under torture to savagely killing animals, men, women and children—and eating their remains. He also declared he owned an enchanted belt that gave him the power to transform into a wolf at will. Not surprisingly, the belt was never found.
Werewolves are sometimes known as “Lycanthropes,” which comes from Ancient Greek wording. The origin of this name is said to have come from the 5th Century BC, when Greek historian Herodotus mentioned a trice from Scythia that could transform into a wolf. Werewolves, as an idea, became widespread throughout Europe. Almost every single country on the continent had some tale or myth regarding the monster at some point in their time.
Werewolves are said to have supernatural healing that makes them completely immune to damage from an ordinary weapon. However, thanks to the Beast of Gevaudan, a silver bullet or object is supposed to hurt them.
Werewolves were said to be recognized easily, even in their human form, according to European legends, thanks to several physical traits. Curved fingernails and a unibrow were the two main traits said to mark a wolf. The appearance of a werewolf was said to change drastically by the region where it was located. Typical attributes remained, such as being larger than a regular wolf, a human voice and eyes, the ability to walk on hind legs, and more.
Removing the ability to become a werewolf was achievable, according to medical professionals. Using Aconitum, a rare flowering plant, or piercing a werewolf’s hands with nails were both said to cure them.
Between 1764 and 1767, the Gevaudan province in south-central France was terrorized by a large wolf-like creature. The beast attacked over 200 people, killing and eating around 100 of them. At the time, everyone thought it to be a werewolf.
In Viking Scandinavia, stories of warriors dressed up in wolf skin were said to have the ability to take on the spirit of the wolf in battle. They felt no pain and killed their enemy in frenzied states.