WereWolf Folklore and Modern Legends
An 18th century engraving of a werewolf, also known as a lycanthrope, is a mythological human with the ability to shapeshift into a wolf or an anthropomorphic wolf like creature, either purposely or after being placed under a curse or lycanthropic affliction from a bite or scratch from a wolfman, or some other means. This transformation happens during the cycle of the full moon, noted by the medieval writer Gervase of Tilbury, and perhaps in earlier times among the ancient Greeks through the writings of Petronius.
Werewolves often have superhuman strength, speed, and senses, far beyond those of both wolves and men. The werewolf is generally held as a European creature, although its lore spread through the world in later times. Shape shifters, similar to werewolves, are common in tales from all over the world, most notably amongst the Native Americans, though most of them involve animal forms other than wolves.
Werewolves are a frequent subject of modern fiction, although fictional werewolves have been given traits distinct from those of original folklore. For example, the ideas that werewolves are only vulnerable to silver bullets or that they can cause others to become werewolves by biting or wounding them derive from works of modern fiction. Werewolves continue to endure in modern culture and fiction, with books, films and television shows portraying the werewolves as a dominant figure in horror.
Common Folklore Descriptions of Werewolves
Werewolves were said in European folklore to carry physical traits even in their human form. These included the meeting of both eyebrows at the bridge of the nose, curved fingernails, low-set ears and a swinging stride. One method of identifying a werewolf in its human form was to cut the accused, under the assumtion that fur would be seen in the wound. A Russian superstition claims a werewolf can be recognised by bristles under the tongue. The appearance of a werewolf in its animal form varies from culture to culture, though it is most commonly portrayed as being indistinguishable from ordinary wolves except that it has no tail, is often larger, and retains human eyes and voice. According to some Swedish accounts, the werewolf could be distinguished from a regular wolf by the fact that it would run on three legs, stretching the fourth one backwards to look like a tail. After returning to their human forms, werewolves usually become weak, debilitated and undergoes a painful nervous depression.
Fennoscandian werewolves were usually old women who possessed poison coated claws and had the ability to paralyze cattle and children with their gaze. The Haitian jé-rouges typically try to trick mothers into giving away their children voluntarily by waking them at night and asking their permission to take their child, to which the disoriented mother may either reply yes or no.