« Big Match Fortnight for World Land Trust: buying a corridor to save orangutans | Main | Gain valuable medical experience by volunteering abroad »

The mysterious origins of the werewolf

“If this Wolf Man thing is true, I’ve seen enough movies to know it’s not good (The Vampire Diaries).” Although the characters from the popular TV show, The Vampire Diaries have had their fair share of run-ins with these creatures...Where did these stories come from?

All images courtesy of Wikipedia

Werewolves are mythical creatures rumored to originate from Europe. Most of these myths begin with the story of a man who is cursed from the bite of a wolf and forced to change into a wolf or wolf-like creature under the full moon. Werewolves have been in stories for centuries but where does the story originate? How was the wolf transcribed into such a beacon of destruction?

Although the werewolves have been in folklore for years (usually involving men, women and children admitting to being afflicted), according to some sources the first official werewolf sighting was in France in 1760. The Beast of Gévaudan: The creature sighted was the height of a cow but had the physical attributes of a wolf. Containing 42-teeth, this creature had apparently attacked and eaten several people. Finally in 1770 the wolf was taken out by a silver bullet--most likely contributing to the silver bullet belief as well.

Around the time of the Salem Witch Trials, werewolf trials were also taking place seeing as these two at the time were seemingly related. Any person who was seen as a wolf charmer was seen as a potential werewolf and put under the jurisdiction of citizens during witch trials. During the 1500s there were many accounts of people saying that they possess wolf-like qualities either the cause of black magic, wolf bite or just a feeling. Some people who partook in acts of cannibalism admitted to turning into a wolf and possibly harming fellow townspeople and livestock.

However the belief that werewolves exist among us is still out there as small town rumors. Mostly accounts of people seeing a giant dog that stands like a man. In an episode of MonsterQuest, they investigate rumors circling America's Midwest. Many report seeing wolves and seeing tall beasts ranging anywhere from 6ft-8ft tall.

However according to Wolf Biologist, Peggy Callahan, “America’s Wolfman werewolves in the popular traditional sense don’t exist” (MonsterQuest). Callahan clarifies saying that there has been an increase in Timber Wolves and perhaps people who have not seen wolves before (especially one rearing up on its hind legs) the wolf would probably seem a lot better especially in the moment. She suggests that perhaps due to the adrenaline and the excitement of the moment people may misjudge the size of a wolf to be a lot bigger than it is in reality.

This brings us back to the first official werewolf sighting...maybe it’s just a big wolf like the beast of Gévaudan? Maybe Callahan is right when she says it’s just people’s fear and inexperience with wolves that cause them to believe it is the notorious werewolf?

By Bluebird Taylor

Learn more about wild dog conservation on Frontier’s Namibia Wildlife Conservation & Sanctuary project or discover other opportunities to volunteer around the globe.

Get more from us on social media with FacebookTwitter, and Pinterest.

See more from volunteers on YouTubeFlickr and Instagram #FrontierVolunteer.