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Legend of the Werewolf

Updated on September 16, 2014

Where do the stories of Werewolves come from?

One of the most ancient and wide spread legends is that of the Werewolf.

Right up until the 20th century, wolf attacks on humans were a common feature of life in Europe, and wolves were the most feared predators for the ordinary villager. The image of the fearsome wolf was projected into folklore as an evil shape-shifter.

People believed in shape-shifters, just as they believed in witches. In the old days ignorance was rife and superstition reigned.

The Werewolf has roots in Europe

Later to spread across the world

The werewolf is a European phenomenon, although werewolf lore spread through the world as time went by.

Werewolves in European tradition were mostly evil men who terrorised people in the form of wolves on command of the Devil. This may have been an explanation for serial murderers, combined with superstitious tales of men changing into wolves with the full moon.

Shape-shifters, similar to werewolves, are common in tales from all over the world though most of them involve other animal forms.

The Original Werewolf?

In the ancient mythology of Greece, Lykaon was a King of Arkadia.

One dreadful day, (it is said), he slaughtered a child and served the infant up to Zeus.

Zeus was furious and overturning the table, destroyed the fifty sons of Lykaon with lightning-bolts, and turned the king into a wolf.

Lykaon is turned into a wolf
Lykaon is turned into a wolf

By using a magical wolf belt, anyone could turn into a wolf.

The Wolf Belt

Wear it and morph!

The Hessian farmer knows and fears the ravenous werewolf even today. This is a human whose shape has been transformed by putting on a wolf belt.

Karl Lyncker, Deutsche Sagen und Sitten in hessischen Gauen. 1854

Werewolves are common throughout all of Pomerania. One can transform oneself into a werewolf by girding oneself with a strap that has been cut from the back of a man who has been hanged.

J. D. H. Temme, Die Volkssagen von Pommern und Rugen. 1840

About sixty years ago in Alt-Marrin there lived a man by the name of Gust K. He too possessed a wolf strap, with which he brought about much damage and misery and slaughter of innocents.

F. Asmus and O. Knoop, Sagen und Erzahlungen aus dem Kreise Kolberg-Körlin. 1898

Classic Werewolf Literature

The Book of Were-Wolves
The Book of Were-Wolves

Considered to be one of the greatest classic and historical texts of all time



Because of this belief in shapeshifers, many people denounced as werewolves were burned to death.

We now know that two rare genetic diseases could have given rise to folktales about werewolves. One such disease is Porphyria, the other is Hypertrichosis.

Today, questions about werewolves are answered with medicine, not the stake,


The Werewolf Syndrome

Hypertrichosis is an unusual and very rare genetic condition which causes abnormal hair growth. It's easy to understand why this condition has been called Werewolf Syndrome.

The first recorded case of hypertrichosis was Petrus Gonzales of the Canary Islands, documented in 1648

Once, people with this condition were treated as freaks and placed in sideshows and circuses. Fortunately those days have long gone.

Pruthviraj Patil, a small boy from Bombay, is one of approximately fifty people in the world who suffer from hypertrichosis, The only parts of his body that are not covered with hair are the palms of his hands and soles of his feet.

Are you a Werewolf? - Better check and see

  1. Red hair
  2. Eyebrows which join in the middle
  3. The index and middle fingers are the same length
  4. Curved fingernails
  5. Low set ears
  6. Hairs on the palms of the hands

Petrus Gonzales - Severe Hypertrichosis

Petrus Gonzales
Petrus Gonzales

Play with Werewolves!

A small village is haunted by werewolves. Each player is secretly assigned a role - Werewolf or Villager - in a game which alternates between night and day phases.

At night, the Werewolves secretly choose a Villager to kill! In the day phase, the remaining Villagers deliberate on who may be a Werewolf and the chosen player is lynched.

Werewolves of Millers Hollow
Werewolves of Millers Hollow

Werewolf is a social game requiring no equipment to play, and can accommodate almost any large group of players.


© 2010 Susanna Duffy

Howl away!

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    • profile image

      anonymous 5 years ago

      I never heard of the werewolf belt before. Interesting. I have a copy of Sabine Baring-Gould's book but have only read a small portion of it so far. Fun lens.

    • Sylvestermouse profile image

      Cynthia Sylvestermouse 7 years ago from United States

      Now this is awesome! It took me a few minutes to stop "howling" myself over your bio pic for this one! Everybody knows I love wolves and I guess, you can't love wolves without also having a certain affinity for werewolves, but they are painted as quite the villain. I have to admit, I do think Mr. Gonzales is kinda cute :)