Legends With Silver and Magic Bullets
Note of Explanation
There are no sales of weapons intended on this hub, however, the content automatically generated a warning about "sale of weapons" for this hub. This likely comes from my having used the terms "ammunition" and "bullet" within the hub. As well, there are pendants via eBay and Amazon available via this hub - however - these are jewelry, not anything to do with sales of anything violent or dangerous.
If you arrived here looking for something more than some ideas on how silver and magic bullets came into our legends, you will be disappointed...
Get Ready For: Werewolves, Vampires (revenants), Witches
Most likely the link between silver bullets and werewolves goes back to around the mid 1700's in south-central France and is connected by the Beast of Gevaudan lore from around that time. Really, if this is the case, then this silver bullet-and-werewolf connection isn't very old at all. Actually, I'm going to end up taking you on a frustrating time-loop here to show you how fantastic WE ARE with stories...to force the silver bullet into a timeline it never even developed in but was pushed into very recently. To do so, first we'll have to look at a bunch of interesting creatures and a couple of neat historians...
Very early on (much earlier than 1700's), western world view and history is marked by ancient peoples' beliefs in magical obects...enter - THE SILVER BULLET, among all the other talismans, amulets, rings, pendants - objects people wore on their person both for protection against evil and for special weapons at-the-ready for combat against evil people, things, entities and places...
Or maybe the silver bullet doesn't belong in here yet... let's see here... (just a hint here... the silver was special in ancient times - even as a weapon for both the church and witches...it just didn't become a silver bullet early on or as early as most people THINK it did). In my opinion, the "silver protection object" concept has survived as a meme for hundreds and hundreds of years. More modern people... mainly US - in the past few hundred recent years - have actually transformed the concept from an object which passively surrounds the holder or wearer with protection - to a projectile where the object extends away from ourselves and is aggressive - a killing projectile...interesting, huh? I don't even have time to connect this with warfare, with changing worldviews on modern warfare - but these ARE connected...
I have enough "asides" to pull you through, so let's just stick with stories, myths and legends, shall we?
Let Us Also Understand A Bit About "Revenants," Too
REVENANTS: The time in history would be the Middle Ages and place the idea of revenants in a very interesting era where superstition was widespread and when religion and politics were much different than we can usually understand, according to our modern ways of thinking now. Even if we have trouble understanding the politics, religion and science/religion debates of that era, it seems we are still fascinated with the lore of those times.
These revenants were a sort of undead figure, sort of like what we now call zombies, or some forms of them might be like what we perceive of as vampires. William of Newbury wrote descriptions more in line with the vampire idea than anything else. This 12th Century English historian, William Parvus (also known as William of Newburgh/Newbury) is a major source many current historians use to study ideas of the Middle Ages thinking on the topic of revenants. In some of his writings, Parvus clearly expresses the belief or explanation that there are some corpses that come back out of the graves and are animated by some type of evil spirit and these revenants wander around and terrorize the living.
What is interesting about William Parvus/William of Newburgh/Newbury during his lifetime was that he was (still is, by some) considered a reputable and dedicated historian - yet he spent quite a bit of time refuting arguments regarding the King Arthur and Merlin connections and legends while, at the same time (as already mentioned above) writing down actual cases involving the vampire-like creatures he called "revenants." More pointedly, Parvus argued against what Geoffrey of Monmouth (another historian who penned Historia Regum Britaniae, another oft-cited piece of historical literature) wrote about Arthur and Merlin - and Parvus wasn't shy about calling Monmouth and out-and-out LIAR.
Understand, when I say "respected and reputable," this doesn't mean all historians BELIEVE all the things either of these men wrote, however, it does mean that their works are respected and kept as historical evidence and - since we're mostly interested in Parvus here - that William Parvus' works are - in certain parts - very well done. Even where portions detail Parvus' perceived "facts" about "revenants," these works and sections of data do give a very in-depth evidence of the Middle Ages world view - evidence of belief in the soul possibly surviving beyond death and things of that nature.
Okay - the aside is overwith - segue into WITCHES...stick with me here, okay?
Let's Understand Werewolves a Bit First...
Werewolves in the way we understand them through modern (since about Victorian times and to our present day) literature and through current films of today represent fairly new ways to think about shape-shifters, monsters and unexplained beasts. These models for a powerful, bloodthirsty creature which shape-shifts (for whatever reason) from human to wolf form seem to trace back quite logically to events from the era and region where the Beast of Gevaudan tale comes from.
In my opinion, the werewolf is one of the newer forms of monster shape-shifter, and both special metal weaponry and projectiles with special features or magic effects seem to pre-date the werewolf. Well, except for the silver bullet...it's sort of the "not like the others" outsider here - but don't worry - you'll love how this all fits together.
Also, in my estimation, vampire lore also is much older and more widespread than the werewolf lore. I say this because there is evidence that in earlier times, around 1190, the idea of "revenants" existed. And here's where I take an aside...(I warned you, "frustrating" time loop, remember?)
(Shameless plug - for more info on werewolves, my article: 8 Ways To Get To Werewolf Heaven )
Let Us Not Forget Something I Love To Call "CHURCH-CRAFT" :)
Now here comes a strange pairing: witchcraft versus what I like to call "churchcraft." The development of perception about symbolic religious (church side) weapons against witches and witchcraft. Objects touted by the church as defenses (or deadly offenses) against the evil of witches and witchcraft. Special talismans, amulets and other objects (particularly "pure" metals like - oh yes - silver!)
...but wait - isn't this like witchcraft itself? Using objects perceived to be magically inundated somehow with special powers (from or of God), used to oppress, or else defend against those witches who use magically enhanced objects themselves?
Let's Just Briefly Consider - Witches and WitchCraft - Before Turning Attention Back To Silver Bullets!
Witches and witchcraft are believed to go back to extremely ancient times and most people or historians do not dispute witchcraft as being an ancient pagan religion - well established before Christianity and also, of course, before what we call the Middle Ages. People are mostly aware, too, of the many oppressive actions of the church once Christianity took hold in Europe and people understand this oppression as the church attempting to "cleanse" the area of what it perceived as the evil of witchcraft and its participants and followers.
Looping Back To "BULLETS" - Of the Silver Variety
And so very early on western world view and history is marked by ancient peoples' beliefs in magical obects...
...enter - THE SILVER BULLET...
...among all the other talismans, amulets, rings, pendants - objects people wore on their person both for protection against evil and for special weapons at-the-ready for combat against evil people, things, entities and places...
Or maybe the silver bullet doesn't belong in here yet... let's see here... (just a hint here... the silver was special in ancient times - even as a weapon for both the church and witches...it just didn't become a silver bullet yet).
There are silver bullets in Grimm's Fairy Tales #60, "The Two Brothers"
The Beast in France - VOILA - Silver Bullet Hits a Mark!
Now don't get upset here when I speed forward to a future time again, as far forward as the lore of The Beast of Gevaudan once more. This isn't the upsetting part - the dates or lore, or the creatures (werewolves, witches or vampires). What might be upsetting is that it is known already that the SILVER BULLET part in the Beast of Gevaudan legend is bunk...cool bunk, but a novelist's invention nonetheless.
Invention of Silver Bullet - A Most Recent Invention
The Invention - silver bullet born very late:
The detail of the silver bullet, "fashioned by the man, himself, who shot the Beast of Gevaudan" was likely an insert of novelist Abel CHEVALLEY ("La bête du Gévaudan" 1936) who invented the silver bullet as a storyline feature. Note the date... 1936. Hey, for a change, THAT'S OUR TIME PERIOD. How cool is this? Our silver bullet is a newbie!
Yes, there was a place in south-central France where people in the region experienced a short, intense span of years (from around 1764-1767) whereby attacks from a very large, wolf-like beast(s) occurred. Actually, it turned out to possibly be more than one beast. There were hunter's groups and armed locals sent after the beast after it killed people on several occasions and more than one large wolf was exterminated throughout these years. Each time a beast was killed, the people in the region thought the attacks would stop but within a few months, attacks from a wild, wolf-like creature would start up again. The man credited with kililng the right wolf-beast was Jean Chastel...this is all backed up by records and historical evidence.
After Chastel killed an extremely large wolf beast, because the people still felt paranoid that, perhaps, their terror was still not ended, this last animal was examined very carefully. It was cut open and examined...sure enough, human remains were found inside the stomach of this beast...
Finally, the terrorizing Beast of Gevaudan had been eliminated!
A long time later, the novelist Chevalley would write a novel about the events involving the Beast of Gevaudan. In his novel, he wrote that Chapel killed the beast (totally true) and liberated the region and its people from the terror of this beast (totally true). Apparently, the story went off better when Chevalley inserted not only the idea of a special projectile - the silver bullet (not likely true - it was probably not silver) - but also that Chapel had actually painstakingly manufactured the special silver bullet himself (a ridiculous notion, for the type of position Chapel held in society and in his work role...he probably neither had the skills nor the equipment to make a silver bullet).
Don't worry - Chevalley's story is better than all that, too! He created a large measure of religious connotation between Chapel as a Christian hero and the evil beast while he was at it during the storytelling. In the account contained in the novel, Chapel prayed (this is true but then likely waaaaay overstated) and then, as if summoned via Chapel's intense prayers - or as caused by God Himself, (conjecture, moving into standard, good quality storytelling) the Beast appeared within shooting range of Chapel. As the story goes, Chapel readied his weapon while the Beast (some more good, traditional storytelling starting to emerge here) somehow seemed mezmerized, frozen in its tracks - almost as if it knew it's end time had come...it just stood watching Chapel raise his weapon...
And then Chapel shot the beast! (true).
If You Haven't Guessed By Now...
I hope you're starting to see what's going on here between lore, monsters, storytelling and silver bullets! Ohyeah - keep this in mind, definitely, "The Silver Bullet Is The Only Thing That Can Kill A Werewolf." This much is true...bear with me here.
To me, it doesn't matter if a story is debunked or not...to me "truth" or "fail/false" is NEVER a huge consideration of whether or not a story has value... "true" and "false" judgments belong in debates, not necessarily in everything about lore and mythology...
I just hope you're seeing a little a bit about how AWESOME our minds work to disregard facts, blend fictions, storytelling, lore, beliefs, superstitions, fears and all the rest...until we end up with something SO IMPOSSIBLE that we believe in it!
Like believing in the silver bullet - and that it's the essential weapon against WEREWOLVES.
Can you see how our brains have disregarded timelines altogether to come up with COHERENT EXPLANATIONS about the connections between the Silver Bullet and Werewolves? For several decades and in the beginning of the rise of Hollywood moviedom, this connection between silver bullets and werewolves was set. We cut our teeth on this belief - and it's a good one!! (it can still be traced back to the silver objects of the ancients and their beliefs that precious metals were magical - this just had to be fit, like a puzzle piece, into the picture - which was done for us by Chevalley).
I mean, if you do your own checking, you'll find out origins of witch superstitions, times way back in history where even Ancient Greek philosophers talked about witches and magical objects, vampires, etc. But regardless of how you find the timeline is (it's messed up - rather - our psyches have twisted it together to let it all make sense to us) you'll never get the idea out of your head that silver bullets are the weapons to use against werewolves, right?
Here we have a NOTED INVENTION from OUR ERA...mixed with those fantastic old (a little far back in time), Middle Ages (pretty far back in time) and ancient (waaaaaay far back in time) stories, historical documents, what we know of superstitions from different time periods...and these fit wonderfully with our friend, Chevalley's SILVER BULLET!
The funniest thing here is:
Now that we know that the silver bullet came last in the historical timeline, it still FITS as the best weapon to use against a werewolf! Why?
Because (in keeping with beliefs about all the more ancient monsters and protection against these) it's not the bullet that is special - it's the ancient connotation with the metal and magic that is still in perfect alignment with theories surrounding protection from or elimination of monsters. This deep and underlying concept is in all the ages...it just came to us, finally, in the shape of the silver bullet.