Tuesday, 27 November 2012

Literature: The Wolf Gift by Anne Rice (2012)

It’s been quite a while since I last posted anything here due to the hustle and bustle of my daily life. In the blink of an eye, warm autumn weather has given way to the cold days of upcoming winter (at least in this part of the globe), so if the temperature outside your cozy homes is around or below zero degrees Celsius, I hope that you are and will continue to keep warm.

Click here to view Anne Rice's 
Wolf Gift on Amazon.
But enough introduction! Some two weeks ago, as I was going about my own business in a media store, my eyes were caught by a pyramid of books on whose covers I noticed the picture of a wolf and of course the word itself contained in the titles. And as we all know that’s enough to trigger my lycanthropological  curiosity. At first, I thought that it must have been another example of those novels that seem to have surfaced recently on the waves of the popularity of vampires that shall not be named, but still I couldn’t resist coming closer and examining it. And it’s a good thing I did, because when I saw who the author was, I put the book straight into my shopping basket. 

Yes, ladies and gentlemen, Anne Rice, the author of Gothic vampire novels known as the Vampire Chronicles – which, among others, include the famous Interview With the Vampire – has come back with a brand-new novel, this time about werewolves! Will she manage to engage us once again, like she could in her works about vampires? Perhaps we are now witnessing the publication of what will become in the future a basis for the screenplay of a Hollywood movie, like in the case of the mentioned Interview... and The Queen of the Damned?
For me it is a return to Gothic motifs – old, dark houses, mysterious death, the promise of family secrets and a monster of supernatural powers as the protagonist – which I used in the "Vampire Chronicles" and "The Mayfair Witches". – Anne Rice
The back cover blurb of my Polish translation of the novel reads as follows (in my translation):
Cliffs overlooking the Pacific, a beautiful mansion against a sequoia forest backdrop. A young journalist gets an assignment – he is to write an article about the extraordinary mansion. A chance meeting of two people and an idyllic night is interrupted by a brutal attack. The man is bitten by a beast which he cannot even see in the darkness… Soon, he undergoes a terrifying, but also strangely appealing change. He is fascinated by his newly-acquired power, but also anxious. He finds love when he is least expecting it, but above all else, he tries to unravel the mystery which has changed his fate. Why and how was he given the wolf gift? The journalist embarks on a difficult journey full of temptations in order to discover his new, dual nature: of a man and a wolf.
So there you have it. I haven’t been able to read the book as of yet, because I have a lot of other reading at the moment, but when I do, I’ll make sure to drop a few lines about my impressions right here in this post. In the meantime, I hope I’ve managed to whet your appetite for this new piece of writing, so when you have a chance, drop by your nearest book store or order the title through the internet. Also, feel encouraged to visit Anne Rice’s official website at www.annerice.com

Since I am now part of Amazon’s Affiliate program, you can directly support me by purchasing a copy of your own of Wolf Gift from Amazon! Should my article spark your interest in the book – or should you want to read it yourself – please consider buying it using the link provided next to this message. Simply click on the cover of the book on the right-hand side and you will be sent to a page listing all the offers related to it! Thank you and enjoy!

Until next time, werewolf-lovers!

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Monday, 17 September 2012

Cinema & TV: Batman, the Animated Series, Ep. 43: Moon of the Wolf (1992)

2012 is the year of the 20th anniversary of the Batman Animated Series and once again, our culture shows me that no television series can get by without... a werewolf episode! Yes, ladies and gentlemen, there is a full-fledged werewolf episode in the animated Batman TV series - its number is 43 and it comes in the second season of the series, from the year 1993. As it very often happens, I came across this episode by chance, but inevitably, as I had started watching the series from the beginning to relive the awesome from my childhood. After a bit of a break caused by an intense period at university, I thus come back with the intention of describing this episode to all of you who haven't seen it yet or saw it so long ago that you don't remember about it anymore. Of course, as this is not real material for The Lycanthropologist's Werewolf Movie Reviews there won't be any grades or detailed commentary, just a general synopsis of what happens. So if you're interested in what this is all about, read on and enjoy (and perhaps then decide to watch the episode for yourself?) :)
Click here to shop for
Batman: The Animated Series
Volume 2 on Amazon!

Since I am now part of Amazon’s Affiliate program, you can directly support me by purchasing a copy of your own of Batman: The Animated Series Volume 2, containing this episode, from Amazon! Should my analysis and review spark your interest in the series – or should you want to view the episode yourself before reading this article – please consider buying it using the link provided next to this message. Simply click on the cover of the DVD on the right-hand side and you will be sent to a page listing all the offers related to it! Thank you and enjoy!


Synopsis

We start out on a seemingly peaceful night in Gotham city as a man (an employee of the city's zoo judging by the labels on his cap and jacket) is walking his dog down an empty street. Shortly after, the  dog becomes restless and starts to snarl at the night air. A moment later, a large, burly grey werewolf (dressed in some ragged pants) leaps out of the nearby bushes to attack him. The werewolf grabs the dog and throws it away and after a short struggle knocks out the man himself, but as he leaps in for the kill, Batman appears and starts fighting the big creature. As a result of the struggle, the man ends up thrown into the river and Batman jumps in after him to save his skin. By the time he's done, however, the werewolf has already disappeared.

Down at the Police Department Batman informs Commissioner Gordon about the night's incident and asks whether he knows anything about a criminal running around in a werewolf mask (as, at this point, Batman does not take the attacker to be a genuine lycanthrope). While nothing related to werewolf masks comes up, he learns of the theft of two Alaskan timber wolves from the local zoo. Since the man who was attacked was an employee of that same zoo, they agree that it might have something to do with the villain. Leaving, Batman finds a few strands of hair tangled in his uniform and "a disturbing thought" passes through his mind as he considers the possibility that the man wasn't wearing a mask after all.

Meanwhile at the construction site of the Gotham Coliseum a man sits alone at a desk in a small wooden hut when, growling, the werewolf starts banging at the door, eventually breaking it down, and walks inside. This whole scene, though it didn't take place in winter, reminds me of the first chapter and Berni Wrightson's illustration to it of Stephen King's Cycle of the Werewolf. Whether it's an intended allusion to the short novel or whether I simply like the book too much and am seeing things where there isn't anything to see is up to the viewer to judge. If you're curious though, you can see the two scenes I'm talking about here and here. Unamused, the man waits for his pocket watch to strike ten. When that happens, the werewolf begins to howl and writhe in pain as he shapeshifts back into a human. Don't ask me how it works with the time and all since I'm not reviewing, only writing a synopsis! Anyway, the two men then talk about their failure to murder the zoo employee and come to a conclusion that the bump in the road they encountered in the form of Batman must be eliminated.

The next day at the gym, everyone is talking about how the former Olympic champion Anthony Romulus (nice touch indeed, since this is our werewolf guy) has pledged to double his charity donation of 1 million dollars provided that the cheque is received at his apartment by the Batman himself. Of course, this is all part of a scheme to eliminate the vigilante. Incidentally, Bruce Wayne happens to be working out at the same gym and has a talk about it with Anthony... who we see now has a monobrow. Okay, that was kind of low, guys. After that, I was expecting holy water and silver bullets to appear as well. But back to the topic...

Over at the Batcave that same evening, Batman is watching a documentary about Alaskan timber wolves and analyses the leftover hairs from his encounter with the wolf-man, trying to work out a connection between the stolen wolves and the incident of the night before. The hairs turn out to be genuine wolf hairs, but Batman is still reluctant to accept the idea that what he fought that night could have been a real werewolf. Having decided to take his mind off the matter for a while, he sets out to meet Romulus in his mansion.

Once there, instead of receiving a cheque, he falls into the trap set by Romulus and his accomplice and is subsequently captured by them. The two transport the Batman to the empty Coliseum and chain him to the ground outside of the small hut from before. While they wait for the Batman to regain consciousness, Milo (the doctor/scientist accomplice of Romulus) reminds the athlete that the latter is dependent on his will if he ever wants to be cured of werewolfism because he is the only one possessing the antidote which he keeps securely locked away in a safe. We also get the backstory of how Romulus came to be a werewolf in the first place and about what his involvement with Milo really is about.

It turns out that Romulus, already an athlete at the time, wasn't satisfied with only his training as preparation for the upcoming Autumn Olympics, so he asked Milo to come up with something that would be undetectable and would guarantee him a gold medal. As a result, Milo created a concoction made up of a mixture of steroids and timber wolf estrogen, which Romulus drank in spite of being warned that it still requires testing, his greed thus leading him into a trap carefully set by Milo. Indeed, the potion made him stronger and led to his victory during the Olympics, followed by a life of fame that a champion sportsman can expect. It was short-lived, however, as the test tube-brewed werewolfism can never turn out healthy in the long run. On the nearest full moon, Romulus began to change, but was not yet fully transformed. Suspecting it to be some kind of wicked scheme of Milo's, he called on the doctor and demanded an explanation as well as a cure to his condition. Milo informed him that what he was suffering from was an early form of lycanthropy and that as opposed to the "advanced form" of lycanthropy the former cannot be cured. Having learned of this, Romulus agreed to become a full-fledged werewolf and as such follow Milo's orders and take part in his schemes until the latter decided that the athlete had earned his right to the antidote. Now, as they are waiting for the full moon to rise, Milo wants to make use of Romulus in order to kill the Batman.

At the same time at the zoo, the guard that was attacked at the beginning of the episode is apprehended. It turns out that Milo paid him to release the wolves from their cages, probably so that he could further experiment with their hormones and devise an antidote. Later on, he sent Romulus after him to eliminate the only witness. After this subplot is explained, we go back to the Coliseum where Romulus eventually starts to transform. Not all goes according to Milo's plan, however, when the werewolf - instead of rushing out to take on the Batman - focuses his anger on Milo and in the end destroys the small hut altogether. Unfortunately, in the commotion, the flask with the antidote is destroyed and Milo is knocked out after being thrown off a small cliff.

The werewolf then turns to the Batman who has already woken up and is trying to free himself from the chains binding him. The two fight and as a loud and long howl is heard, a couple taking a stroll down the nearby street notices what's going on and decides to call the police. When they arrive, they find the Batman fighting the wolf-man on top of the roof of one of the buildings of the Coliseum. After a more or less even battle, the Batman manages to outsmart the werewolf and leaves him flying on a chain attached to a steel construction crane. Oddly enough, as there is a storm raging, the crane is struck by lightning which also electrocutes the werewolf that's holding onto its chain. Baffled, Romulus falls down into the river and disappears. The police then take in Milo, but their search for the lycanthrope is in vain. They decide to wait until the next full moon to make sure if he is really gone for good.

After all has calmed down, the mansion where Romulus used to live is now for sale. An estate agent is giving a tour of the mansion to a couple interested in purchasing it, explaining that the rumour has it that the champion athlete one day simply left town, but that in truth nobody knows what happened to him. The episode ends with a cliff-hanger ending in which we see the silhouette of a (were)wolf howling against the backdrop of a full moon, suggesting that Romulus survived the fall and is still out there somewhere.

Thus we've come to an end of the synopsis and our lovely meeting with the werewolf episode of the Batman TV series. Hope you enjoyed reading this post and of course I encourage you to watch this episode for yourself if you're interested. That would be all for now from me, so keep warm as the first signs of cold autumn weather have begun to appear over at where I am and see you another time!

P.S.

Now I really feel like watching Who's Afraid of the Big Bad Wolf from the Scooby Doo series. Hmm... Why not indeed? Cya!

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Wednesday, 23 May 2012

Games: World of Warcraft and Werewolves

Hello and welcome again everyone! After a series of werewolf trial accounts and some songs, I present you now with a – slightly changed – article I wrote in September 2009 concerning the motif of werewolfism in the extremely popular MMO franchise, World of Warcraft. 2009 was a good time to talk about lycanthropes in WoW, following the announcement of the game’s third expansion which would feature Worgen – the werewolves of the WoW universe – as one of the two new playable races. I have made some changes to the article, however, to more reflect the current, post-Cataclysm state of things. So without much ado, here we go.

Worgen as NPCs (Non-Player Characters)

Let’s start from the beginning. Surely every player, Alliance or Horde, has sooner or later come across Worgen during their adventures in Azeroth. What are they? There probably isn’t a person in the world who, seeing them for the first time, wouldn’t involuntarily call them werewolves. From appearance they look like your usual crinos werewolves – bipedal wolf-human hybrids with long claws and fangs, a bit hunched stature, with a small demonic spicing in the form of red eyes. By all means, they can be called werewolves, but why my question was ‘what’ and not ‘who’ I will answer in a moment. But for now, let’s focus at the subject at hand. For the first time, we meet the Worgen as hostile creatures divided in a few clans, distinguished by colour and sometimes armour, too.  Like all good fantasy werewolves (and what Blizzard likes to take advantage of in its games) the names of the particular clans are wolf, silver, or moon-related. The same applies to places where they can be found. And so, on our way we encounter the following clans: Nightbane, Moonrage, Terrorwulf, the Wolfcult, and Greymane. Examples of place names are then: Silverpine Forest, Silverbrook, Pyrewood Village (a reference to pyres that the Holy Inquisition burned those accused of werewolfism and witchcraft on?). When fighting against the Worgen, most of the time we learn that they are cruel monsters that delight in torturing and murdering of other creatures, for which reasons they are considered a threat to the inhabitants of the nearby settlements. And so it is from Eastern Kingdoms, through Kalimdor, to the snowy reaches of Northrend that Worgen are regarded as corrupted and wild monsters that are to be wiped from the face of the world.

Pyrewood Village

Before I continue, let’s stop for a moment in Silverpine Forest in the Eastern Kingdoms. It is there that a village by the name of Pyrewood is located. Despite the entirety of Silverpine literally crawling with the Worgen and worgs (large wolves), Pyrewood Village is an interesting place in a different regard – curious things happen here, about which many players don’t even know. The village is home to many seemingly ordinary people found in other villages – we have craftsmen, an apothecary, even a mayor. These villagers, however, are cursed – every day at sunset (which usually happens on the servers between 8pm and 9pm) they transform into Worgen. In this form, even though friendly before, they become hostile to both factions. They remain shapeshifted until dawn, when they return to their human forms. Lycanthropy, however you would look at it.

2012 edit: After the release of Cataclysm, the Pyrewood I speak of in this article no longer exists. It has been taken over by the Forsaken and turned into one of their many camps for the production of the plague.

Silverbrook

Another interesting place where we encounter a story concerning the Worgen and their curse (or at least the Alliance does) is the Grizzly Hills region of Northrend. While doing quests there, we are eventually sent to Silverbrook – a seemingly ordinary human encampment. Initially, we are sent there to help its inhabitants who give us various, increasingly suspicious, tasks – first, we have to get rid of Horde spies who supposedly endanger the settlement, then we are ordered to pluck out wolfsbane from the area surrounding the village under the claim that it is vile to other plants, and finally we are sent to kill a woman captured by the Orc spies, who we in the end rescue. This woman reveals to us the truth about Silverbrook and warns us about the curse, having made sure that we are not members of the Wolfcult by asking us if we had been bitten by anyone or anything (a clear reference to werewolf lore). As we progress through the story, we end up running away from Silverbrook on horseback through the woods, chased by packs of bloodthirsty Worgen in their true forms. Another werewolf motif we can add to our collection in our adventures across Azeroth.

Bloodmoon Isle (2012 entry addition)

As we continue the story from Silverbrook in our quests, we learn that Archmage Arugal (who will be described in more detail later in this article) was raised from the dead by the Lich King, following his defeat in his former stronghold of Shadowfang Keep, with the purpose of spreading the Worgen curse across the lands of Northrend. In his undeath, Arugal is then found by the player and defeated, this time for good, in his keep situated on Bloodmoon Isle, to the eastern coast of Grizzly Hills. We also learn from the questline that many of the trapper communities of the region had willingly joined the Wolfcult and those who refused had either been killed or cursed with undeath.

The Howling Vale (2012 entry addition)

Located in the north-central part of Ashenvale, in Kalimdor, the Howling Vale is another good example of a place where one could find the Worgen before the release of Cataclysm. What used to be the Shrine of Mel’Thandris, became the Howling Vale due to the Worgen of the Terrorwulf clan that had taken up residence there. During the questing in Ashenvale, the player used to be sent there in search of sentinel Velinde Starsong’s legacy, of which a few words are written in the latter part of this article. Unfortunately, now there are no more Worgen in the Howling Vale and the cave entrance to it has collapsed (though there is a way of entering it regardless), the vale itself being overrun now by hostile Ancients.

Blizzcon 2009 and the Revelations of World of Warcraft: Cataclysm

A Worgen Rogue.
Like every year, also in the summer of 2009 in the USA the convent of the WoW creators, Blizzard, was held. As early as a few weeks before the event, there appeared on the Internet supposedly leaked content that was to be part of the upcoming new expansion to the game. The expansion was to not only reshape the appearance of Azeroth, but also introduce two new playable races. The rumoured leak caused a stir among the community (like it usually happens before the official announcement of the next expansion). Having heard about it, some players began jumping up in joy, others frowned upon it, keeping to the mindset that nothing is true until it has officially been announced by Blizzard themselves during Blizzcon. On August 21st 2009 it became official – not only did Blizzard announce Cataclysm as the third expansion to its MMO, but all of the changes that had leaked out the weeks before were confirmed. I will not discuss the details of the expansion here, because what is of most interest to us are the Worgen. Quite a big surprise here that gave wings to the Alliance – the Worgen were one of the new playable races to be added in the new expansion. How is it possible for the Worgen to join the Alliance? Let’s take a look at the story presented to us by the creators of the lore themselves…

Greymane, Gilneas and the Alliance – Allies of Old?

Up until then quite little was known about the relationship between the Alliance of Lordaeron and the Worgen. Till the times of Wrath of the Lich King it was known that during the time when Lordaeron was being overwhelmed by the plague of the undead under the leadership of Arthas Menethil, the future Lich King, the subjects of king Genn Greymane fell victim to a cruse which made them turn into savage beasts, the Worgen.

A Gilnean Worgen as portrayed on the cover of
the Curse of the Worgen comic book.
The cause of this curse was to lay in the person of an Archmage of Dalaran, Arugal, who had summoned the Worgen to Azeroth from a different dimension in order to use them as a weapon against the undead armies. It turned out, however, that the Worgen could not be so easily controlled as Arugal had hoped and they soon spread their curse to the inhabitants of Gilneas. Having realized what he’d done, Arugal lost his mind, proclaimed the Worgen as his children and took to the recess of his keep, Shadowfang, in Silverpine Forest, drowning himself in darkness. Killed later on in his own keep by a band of heroes, Arugal came back in Wrath of the Lich King, along with some of his minions, in the service of the Lich King and, known under the name of the Shade of Arugal, was tasked with spreading the Worgen curse in Northrend.

King Genn Greymane fighting the vicious Worgen.
Cataclysm sheds some more light on the fate of the kingdom of Gilneas during the plague of the undead. The kingdom of Gilneas, though officially being part of the Alliance of Lordaeron, prided itself on great independence and king Greymane himself was viewed as a grim king unfavourable towards king Terenas Menethil’s kingdom. When the undead armies walked into Lordaeron, Gilneas initially resisted their attack hand-in-hand with the people of Lordaeron itself. When, however, it became obvious that the enemy’s force is too strong for the Humans to defeat, Archmage Arugal (called here by Blizzard ‘a patriot’) decided to summon the Worgen, possibly from another dimension, into Azeroth to help with fighting off the attackers. In time, this goal had been achieved and the undead were chased out of Gilneas, but by that time the Worgen had irreversibly become a part of the kingdom. Bloodthirsty and without foes to battle, the Worgen reacted with hostility towards the mages controlling them. After a while, a new plague had begun to spread among king Greymane’s subjects – this time not of undeath, but of lycanthropy, the curse of the Worgen, which turned ordinary men into uncontrollable creatures that were no longer a guarantee of safety, but constituting a danger to those who they were meant to serve. Seeing what was happening, king Genn Greymane decided to confine Gilneas and its people behind the great Greymane Wall, which was to serve as a barrier between the outside world and the cursed kingdom. With the return of the dragon Deathwing, who had been banished from the world thousands of years before, and the destruction he lay to the world, the Greymane Wall was shattered and the link for the Worgen of Gilneas to the rest of the world reopened.

Relationship With the Night Elves (updated)

Watching the official trailer of Cataclysm we see that it is the Night Elves who introduce the Worgen to the Alliance after the fall of the Greymane Wall. The Worgen themselves are called “old allies”. What connection do the inhabitants of Darnassus have with the werewolves? Well, it turns out that roughly at the same time when in Lordaeron Archmage Arugal decided to summon the Worgen to the Eastern Kingdoms, in Kalimdor’s Ashenvale the Night Elves were waging their unending war with the demons of the Burning Legion. One of the Sentinels – Velinde Starsong – was ordered to rid the primordial forests of Ashenvale of the demons’ presence. As an answer to her prayers, the Night Elf moon goddess Elune sent Starsong a gift in the form of the Scythe of Elune, which enabled her to summon the Worgen to Kalimdor. Taking advantage of it, Starsong summoned a great number of the creatures to fight the demons of the Burning Legion, however, after a while it turned out that more Worgen arrived in Kalimdor than the Sentinel had planned. It was almost as if the Scythe of Elune could summon Worgen without Starsong’s consent. Noticing the growing problem, she ordered the Worgen to remain at the Shrine of Mel’Thandris in Ashenvale, while she herself went to search for Archmage Arugal who she had heard had also been summoning Worgen. She then travels to the Eastern Kingdoms, but news of her is lost somewhere in Duskwood and the Scythe’s location becomes unknown. It is said that it then became of interest to the Black Riders of Deadwind Pass (of whom very little is known since there are only mentions of them in the lore), who arrived in Duskwood and began murdering the families of the people living there in order to find out about the Scythe’s location. The Black Riders weren’t the only ones, however, who began to show interest in finding and claiming the power of the Scythe for their own – a sorcerer by the name of Morganth, who after Archmage Arugal’s death stole from his possessions Ur’s Treatise on Shadow Magic which originally helped Arugal summon the worgen.

Worgen Druids in bear form, cat form and humanoid form.
In the third expansion the story of the Scythe of Elune is expanded. During the Worgen starting zone questline, the player learns that the Scythe at one point came into the possession of the Worgen Druids of Blackwald, but had then been stolen by the Forsaken during their assault on Gilneas. The questline then leads the player to recovering the Scythe for the Worgen and since then it remains in the hands of the Druids of the Scythe. Not much of an expansion (and how did the Scythe even get to Gilneas from Duskwood?), but it’s as good as it will get.

Speaking of the Druids of the Scythe, as the Worgen Druids call themselves, druidism is another link between the Worgen and the Night Elves. It turns out that the Night Elves’ connection to the Worgen is even deeper than it would seem.  Cataclysm revealed that the first Worgen were, in fact, a group of Night Elf Druids who, during the War of the Satyr that the Night Elves fought after the War of the Ancients in the past advocated shapeshifting into feral wolf-monsters using the power of the Wolf God, Goldrinn. These original “Druids of the Pack” became, however, consumed by the instincts and rage of their wolf forms and eventually became the first Worgen. Tearing through friend or foe during the war, these Druids made other Night Elves contract a virulent curse that would also change them into Worgen. When the situation began going out of hand, Archdruid Malfurion Stormrage banished the Druids of the Pack to a pocket dimension of the Emerald Dream, where they were to stay in slumber forever. Millenia afterwards, they were summoned back to Azeroth from that dimension by Arugal and Velinde Starsong – and the rest is history.

Who are the Worgen… in the Alliance?

What might the inhabitants of a kingdom whose ruler had long since proclaimed he does not need the help of Humans want from the Alliance? First of all, they are in a dire need of a place to be – during the starting area quests we see that the Forsaken attack and take over Gilneas, the cataclysm’s tidal wave finishing the job for them. Without their old home, they are now searching for a new destiny outside of the Greymane Wall. And secondly, the Worgen, with the help of the Alliance, strive to preserve their humanity. How much of the humans they once were has remained? Or have they completely submitted to the beasts within? Will they ever be able to find a cure for the curse? These are all the questions that the Worgen seek answers to as part of the Alliance.

Worgen are able to become every class apart from Paladins, Shamans and now Monks. The characteristic trait of the race is that, like the usual werewolves, they can swap between their human and wolf forms according to a player’s will, but only out of combat. The playable Worgen went through two model changes in order to be made more customizable. As can be seen, they are significantly different from their originals and, what is worth mentioning, with the coming of Cataclysm nearly all old Worgen models were swapped to the new ones, so there are very few places still where the old model can be seen. Of course, like with every playable race, there also has to be a female character – something that wasn’t needed in the past (yes, the old Worgen didn’t have any gender differences). Comparison images below.

Original Worgen model, early Beta model, and the current model.
The old and the new/current Worgen female model.
And that’s all for now when it comes to Worgen and World of Warcraft. If you’re interested in the topic of Worgen, however, I encourage you to pick up the game itself, or the comic book Curse of the Worgen.
Click here to shop for the
Curse of the Worgen comic
book on Amazon!


Since I am now part of Amazon’s Affiliate program, you can directly support Werewolf Theory by purchasing a copy of your own of DC Comics' Curse of the Worgen comic book from Amazon! Should my article spark your interest in the story of the Worgen, please consider buying the comic using the link provided next to this message. Simply click on the cover of the comic on the right-hand side and you will be sent to a page listing all the offers related to it! Thank you and enjoy!


Like the Worgen say, “let the light of the new moon guide you”!

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Tuesday, 22 May 2012

The Tailor of Chalons, 1598

December 14th 1598

In the same year that the trial of Jacques Roulet was held, on December 14th 1598 the Parliament in Paris sentenced a tailor from Chalons to death for having transformed into a werewolf. He was accused of luring children into his parlour and attacking them when they got lost in the woods, and subsequently devouring their bodies. One of the pieces of evidence in the trial was a chest full of bones. Not much else is known about the trial, as it was abundant in so many atrocities that the judges ordered its files to be burned.

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Trials: The Werewolf of Allariz, 1853

Manuel Blanco Romasanta is most probably Spain's first documented serial killer. At the age of 35, he was charged with the murder of a constable of León who had attempted to collect debt from Romasanta for merchandise he had purchased. Judged guilty by default for failing to appear in front of court, Romasanta fled to Portugal for fear of imprisonment. The small village of Rebordechao was to become the scene of his future murders. While there, Romasanta worked as a cordmaker, a cook, and a weaver (originally, he was a tailor and a travelling salesman). He also moonlighted as a guide leading people who wanted to cross the mountains to Castille, Asturias, and Cantabria. During his stay in town, a number of women and children who had hired him as a guide disappeared. As it later turned out, Romasanta murdered them and tried to sell their clothes to the locals, avoiding immediate suspicion by delivering fake letters to their families, saying that they had successfully arrived at their destinations. A formal complaint was eventually put forward in 1852. The same year, Romasanta was put on trial in Allariz, in the province of Ourense, and accused of murdering thirteen people. Romasanta admitted to committing the murders, but he claimed that he had committed them in the form of a wolf, maintaining that he suffered from the curse of werewolfism. It is worth noting that at the time Spain was suffering from one of the worst periods of famine in the 19th century.

The first time I transformed, was in the mountains of Couso. I came across two ferocious-looking wolves. I suddenly fell to the floor, and began to feel convulsions, I rolled over three times, and a few seconds later I myself was a wolf. I was out marauding with the other two for five days, until I returned to my own body, the one you see before you today, Your Honour. The other two wolves came with me, who I thought were also wolves, changed into human form. They were from Valencia. One was called Antonio and the other Don Genaro. They too were cursed... we attacked and ate a number of people because we were hungry. 

- Manuel Blanco Romasanta, from El hombre-lobo de Allariz (Ourense), 1853: una visión desde la psiquiatria actual by David Lorda Gerardo Menendez

Thinking that this might provide the country with a clinical case of lycanthropy, Queen Isabella II annulled his initial death sentence so that doctors may study him. Not having found anything, the doctors discredited his claim, also concluding that he was not insane, but a cold-blooded murderer. During the trial itself, the prosecution asked Romasanta to demonstrate his ability to transform, but he replied that the curse only lasted for thirteen years and that it had expired the previous week. In the end, Romasanta was acquitted of four of the murders, which were determined to have been caused by real wolf attacks, but he was found guilty of the remaining nine. In April of 1853, Romasanta was sentenced to death by garrotte, but his penalty was subsequently reduced to life imprisonment by the Territorial Court in A Coruna. Due to an appeal of the prosecution, however, the original verdict of death by garrotte was upheld. A few months after arriving in prison, Romasanta died in what were initially considered mysterious circumstances. In 2011, it was determined that he actually died in prison in 1863 from stomach cancer.

Two movies have been made on the basis of Romasanta's case: El bosque del lobo (The Wolf Forest) in 1968, and Romasanta: The Werewolf Hunt in 2004.

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Trials: Werewolf Theiss, 1692

The trial of a Russian man named Theiss, accused of werewolfism, is much different from other such trials and it is probably thanks to this that it has its place among the most famous werewolf cases. The whole difference is contained in the statement that the accused gave. Theiss told the court an interesting tale about himself and his wolf companions. He claimed that werewolves were the defenders of human communities, fighting against demons and evil witches with the aim of protecting all good people. In the end, the court believed Theiss and he was released without consequence.

On the basis of: A. Devine, Magia Księżyca, Wrocław 2002

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Myths & Legends: The Beast of Gévaudan, 1764-67

Though originally this article was part of the Trials section of my old website, I decided to put it into a different category here due to it not being, strictly-speaking, a usual werewolf trial.

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The case of the Beast of Gévaudan is one that to this day baffles many cryptozoologists – it features an animal similar to a wolf, but the size of a cow, which terrorized the French district of Gévaudan (today’s Lozčre) from 1764 till 1767. The small province, situated in the mountains of Margeride in mid-southern France near such towns as Langogne and Mende, was haunted by the beast for the first time in 1764.

That month, a young woman was attacked by a large, wolf-like monster in Forét de Merçoire near Langogne. She was one of a few people who survived the encounter with the beast. In October of the same year, two huntsmen approached the creature and fired at it at a close range. The animal was shot four times, but appeared to have not suffered any physical damage. Captain Duhamel, who lead nearly sixty soldiers, began the hunt for the monster, wounded it a few times, but never managed to kill it.

In 1765, king Louie XV sent an experienced wolf hunter by the name of Denneval to Gévaudan so that he would kill the beast. Before Denneval tracked down the creature, a man named Chaumette had spotted the animal in the vicinity of his home, near St. Chely. He and his two brothers shot the beast twice, but it would still not be killed. In June of 1765 Denneval abandoned his fruitless search. A month earlier, king Louie had sent to Gévaudan his commander of weapons transport – Antoine de Beauterne. On September 21st he had commenced his hunt in Béal Ravine, near Pommier. He had killed something that he had considered to have been the famous beast. It had been an unusually big wolf, six-feet-long (circa 1,8 metres). The animal was on display at the Natural History Museum in Paris till the beginning of the 20th century.

However, something was still killing people. In the summer of 1767, hundreds of villagers made pilgrimages to the Notre-Dame de Beaulieu cathedral in the vicinity of Mount Chauvet to pray to God for the salvation from the monster. They regarded it as divine punishment or a werewolf (loup-garou). One of the pilgrims was Jean Chastel, who was carrying a gun and three baptized bullets.

On June 19th 1767, a local noble organized a great hunt attended by three hundred people. Chastel lay in wait for the monster in Sogne d’Aubert. When the beast appeared, he fired the three bullets at it and the monster was finally slain.

In the end, what was the monster? French villagers believed that it was a kind of demon,  but at the same time English scientists concluded that it was a cross between a tiger and a hyena. Others spoke of a wolverine, bear, even of a baboon. However, in recent times the remains of the animal killed by Chastel were found in the magazine of the Natural History Museum in Paris – even though at the time the beast was classified as a wolf, a zoologist Franz Jullien studied what remained of the creature and concluded it to have been a striped hyena (Hyena hyena) which normally live in Africa.

While there can be observed a specific similarity of the striped hyena to a wolf (especially to 18th-century European folk who had probably never seen a hyena before in their lives), it has a closer relation to a bear than a wolf, like other hyenas. The striped hyena is also the second-smallest subspecies of the family (other being the aardwolf), measuring at most 130 cm length, 80 cm in height, and weighing around 55 kg. The contemporary descriptions of the beast vary, but it was said to have reddish fur with a streak of black on its back - this description, in turn, brings to mind the maned wolf (Chrysocyon brachyurus), which, by the way, is a wolf only in name. Whatever the creature might have been, it is yet another mystery how the animal got to France and how it suddenly started to freely roam its terrain. The claim that it was immune to bullets can as well be attributed to the people’s lack of sharpshooting skills. However, much of this case remains – and will continue to remain – a mystery as to its true nature. That said, nowadays it is presumed that – due to the vast area in which the attacks took place – that the famous beast was not a single animal, but a couple of wolves or even wolf packs that resorted to hunting humans who were increasingly encroaching on their territories. Coupled with the already-existing mass hysteria concerning wolves and wolf attacks during the 18th century, it is possible that such isolated incidents started being perceived as the work of a solitary, demonic monster. This theory is reinforced by the fact that with the drastic reduction of the wolf population in France during that century, the attacks on humans ceased.

A monument was erected in the village of Auvers to honour those who fought against the beast.

The story of the Beast of Gévaudan was the premise of a 2001 French movie, Le Pacte des Loups (a.k.a. The Brotherhood of Wolves).

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Trials: Jean Grenier, 1603

An ordinary judge from Chatellenie and the barons of Roche Chalais […] led an investigation on May 9th 1603. The accusation was based on the statements of only three witnesses, one of whom was the thirteen-year-old Marguerite Poirier. She claimed that she had had the habit of looking after her livestock in the company of the aforementioned lad, Jean Grenier, who swore to her numerous times that whenever he felt like it, he could shapeshift into a wolf, that he had caught and killed some dogs, ate a part of one and drank some blood, but he did not like it as much as that of small children and girls. He had also told her that it had been a while since he attacked a child whose body he had bitten into and had thrown the remains to another wolf that was wandering nearby, and a girl who he had devoured whole except for shoulders and back.

She added that one day, while she was looking after her livestock, some kind of wild beast attacked her, grabbed onto and tore off her skirt near her left hip. She, in turn, struck it on the  back with a stick, noting that the beast was larger, but shorter, than a wolf, had rust-coloured fur and a short tail. After the blow, the beast leaped away from the girl some ten or twelve steps, sat up on its hind legs like dogs often do, and gave her a furious look that made her run for her life. She had also noticed that the animal had a smaller head than that of a wolf.

Another witness was the ten-year-old Jeanne Gaboriout who reported that one day, while she was guarding her livestock along with other girls, Jean Grenier had approached her and had asked which of the shepherdesses was the prettiest. The girl asked him in turn why he wanted to know that.

“Because,” he answered, “I want to marry a shepherdess; and if it is you, then I want to marry you.”

She then asked him about his father.

“He’s a priest,” he replied.

During the conversation the girl told him he was very tan. He answered that he had looked like that since not long before. She then asked if he had become so tan due to heat or cold, to which he replied that it had been caused by the reddish wolf pelt he had been wearing. So the girl asked him where he had gotten such a pelt and he explained that it had been one Pierre Labourutt who had given it to him. The shepherdess wanted to know who that was, so Jean told her he was a man who kept an iron collar that brought suffering to him, that he kept various people in his house on burning chairs, others on burning beds, and others yet who burned – ones stretched out as if on a roast, others in a large oven. The house itself was said to have had rooms that were huge and dark.

Jean Grenier said that when he put on the wolf’s skin he turned into a wolf, or any other kind of animal which he wanted to become, and that while shapeshifted like this into a wolf he had killed a few dogs and had sucked out their blood which, however, did not taste good, and added that small children and girls were much tastier. He said he would run in the form of a wolf during every setting of the moon, on Mondays, Fridays and Saturdays, and only one hour during the day, near evening and in the morning. He would roam the vicinity with the other nine like him, some of whom he had named, always on the same days and at the same hours. This information became the confirmation of his arrest. He was captured, interrogated and during questioning he admitted guilt to more crimes than the ones reported by witnesses.

He said that he had met a young man by the name of Pierre du Tilhaire on the main road leading from Coutras to Monpon, who told him of a man from the forests of Saint Antoine that wished to speak with him. The young man persuaded Jean to go see him, so they went there together and eventually came across a lone, tall man clothed in black on a black horse, standing in the middle of the forest. They bid good morning to him, as it was dawning, and he, having dismounted his horse, kissed them both with unusually cold lips. Then he mounted up again and they soon lost sight of him. Riding off, however, he managed to persuade them to promise him that they would come to him whenever he sent for them.

The boy was then questioned as to how long it had been since he had become a servant of this master, if he had marked them in any special way, how many times they had answered his call and what had later happened to them. Jean replied that it could have been three years from their first meeting – during the time of questioning he was thirteen or fourteen years old, so back then he could have been ten or eleven – and that they had been marked with the use of iron that the man had held in his hand, in the shape of a small, round stamp on their left buttocks. He added that when they wanted to speak with their master, they went into the forest to find him, and it happened three times. One such time when they arrived there, their master allowed them to brush the hide of his horse with a comb, promised them money and gave them a glass of wine which they drank and then went away.

He confirmed that the entirety of Marguerite Poirier’s statement was true. He confessed to all the acts of rape and other crimes he was accused of with the exception of drinking the blood of a white dog he had killed. Asked about the children he had killed and devoured while in the form of a wolf, he answered that one time, while he was walking from Coutras to Saint Anlaye, having passed the villages of Double, he entered one of the abandoned houses and found there a one-year-old baby lying in a cradle. He grabbed it with his fangs by the throat, dragged it out of the house and away from the garden fence and ate as much of it as he needed to sate his hunger, leaving the rest to another wolf roaming nearby.

Jean also said that in the vicinity of the presbytery of Saint Antoine du Fizon he had snuck up to a girl herding sheep, who was dressed in a black robe, killed her and began eating her; after he was full, like the other times, he left the rest for a nearby wolf. What is worth noting is his statement that he had taken off the girl’s clothes and had not torn it off, which is an interesting fact as it points to the fact that contradictory to average wolves which tore their victims to pieces with their claws werewolves bit them to death and, like humans, were able to undress girls and women they would then devour, without tearing up their clothes.

Jean Grenier said that when he wanted to run, he would put on a wolf pelt that he had been given by the Lord of the Forest. In addition to that, he would rub an ointment into his skin, which he kept in a jar and which he had also gotten from the man. Before that, he would take off his clothes, which he hid usually among the bushes. He explained that he would run when the moon would set, one or two hours a day, and a few times during the night.

After a while, a second investigation was carried out to find out if, during the time that the accused had pointed to have been the time when he killed the children, anyone had heard about someone being murdered in the village Jean had mentioned in his statement. Fathers of children killed by werewolves were questioned and their accounts compared with each other. Finally, it was concluded that the statements of the above witnesses and of the accused matched.

Asked if he had ever roamed the vicinity with his father and whether or not they both wore the wolf skins and committed some of the crimes together, Jean answered that his father accompanied him a few times. Once, two years earlier in May, they met a girl dressed in white who was herding geese in the vicinity of the village of Grillaut. They captured her, dragged her among the grain fields and there devoured. Later, however, Jean would go on his escapades alone, without his father. Additionally, he said that the Lord who had gifted the pelt to him, forbid him from murdering with the use of his left hand’s claw because it was thicker than the rest, and that during the time when he would take on the form of the wolf his master would never lose sight of him and followed every event until he would become a human again.

Pierre Grenier, Jean’s father, was arrested, questioned and confronted with his son. Jean changed a lot in his statement and it was visible that the long incarceration and poverty had made him a bit dull. Nevertheless, after he was allowed to rest, they were confronted again and the son confirmed all the incriminating statements against his father.

What remains to be found out is whether this transformation, or transmutation, of a man into an animal can come to pass in reality. In case of it being real, what punishment awaits those who become werewolves, and those who admit having served the mentioned Lord of the Forest (who is none other than the devil himself) and committing, in the form of a wolf and under the disguise of the pelt they had been given, countless acts of infanticide and other crimes?

[…] The court of law, having taken into account the age and the mental limitations of the boy, who was a witless idiot […] reached a decision and passed its sentence: that there would be no appeal to the sentence, and that on the basis of the events shown during the trial it sentences Jean Grenier to life-long confinement and service at the local monastery. When it comes to the above mentioned Pierre Grenier, his father, and Pierre called Tilhaire, the mentioned court of law has decreed that within a month’s time a new, thorough investigation concerning the two will be launched.

After Grenier had been locked up at the monastery, people numerously reported the sightings of a strange  creature that resembled a dog, which bit to death people and animals in the vicinity, but was never caught. Jean Grenier died at the above mentioned monastery in 1610.

On the basis of: P. De Lancre, Tableu de l’Incostance de Mauvais Anges et Demons, Paris 1612, p. 211n

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Sunday, 20 May 2012

Songs: Wolfshade (A Werewolf Masquerade) by Moonspell

Taking a short break from the accounts of werewolf trials, here is a song, one of many more to come, that fans of the Portuguese metal band Moonspell know all too well. Coming from the 1995 album Wolfheart, Wolfshade (A Werewolf Masquerade) over the years has become a cult classic. Not only this song, but the whole album, revolves around the themes of lycanthropy and vampirism and is a very interesting listen. It's also not the only werewolf song in Moonspell's musical history, other such tracks being, for example, Full Moon Madness from their 1996 album Irreligious.

Wolfshade (A Werewolf Masquerade)
Moonspell



She brought the night, hidden in her sad wolf eyes
The perfume of a twilight, her strongest scent
Half-wolf, half-female - what a strange wedding
Mother nature has offered us to see...

Her mask lays lost in the fatal dawn
Closed were the eyes of the sun. He sleeps.
And in the name of her father
She will kill. My child kills.

Your nightly birth. A requiem god can't forget
For your life is just a celebration of his death
Without his thorns in her heart, she wears a shadow as face
A werewolf masquerade. In her eyes the wolfshade.

She brought the night and by the night was brought
We are but children of the powers she had set free
Strange are the ways of the wolfhearted...
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Trials: The Werewolf of Angers, 1598

August 8th, 1589

In 1589 a trial was conducted against Jacques Roulet, a vagabond from Claude in the vicinity of Angers. His behaviour in custody showed that he was mentally ill and was epileptic. The tribunal took lycanthropy for the real reason for these aberrations of mind, thanks to which the accused avoided the death penalty.

Roulet’s confessions during the trial were contradictory and improbable. He claimed that his brother John and cousin Julien were involved in committing the crimes, however, it was then concluded that both of them were many miles away from him at the time. Roulet was accused of having been found in the form of a werewolf (by a soldier and three villagers) among bushes, half-naked, with untidy hair, hands covered in blood and fingernails sunken in the remains of human flesh. The mutilated body of a fifteen-year-old boy by the name of Cornier lay nearby. Roulet admitted to the murder of the lad and described in detail the victim as well as the circumstances of the murder.

On August 8th 1598 judge Pierre Herault was interrogating the prisoner:

Judge: What is your name and your craft?
Roulet: My name is Jacques Roulet, I am thirty-five years old, and am a poor beggar.
Judge: What are you accused of?
Roulet: Of theft; of blasphemy. My parents gave me a certain ointment, I don’t know its contents.
Judge: Did you become a wolf when you rubbed it in your skin?
Roulet: No, but thanks to it I killed and devoured son Cornier. I was a wolf.
Judge: Were you dressed as a wolf?
Roulet: I was dressed as I am now. My hands and face were bloodied, because I ate the boy’s flesh.
Judge: Did your hands and feet become the paws of a wolf?
Roulet: Yes!
Judge: Did you head become similar to that of a wolf, and your jaws become larger?
Roulet: I do not know what my head was like then; I was using my teeth. My head was like it is now. I injured and devoured many children. I also took part in a Sabbath.

Secular court sentenced Roulet to death. What is curious, however, is that he appealed to the Parliament in Paris, which exchanged his death sentence to two years of stay at the St. Germain des Pres asylum, so that he would be re-educated on the subject of religion “which he had forgotten about in his huge poverty”. […]

On the basis of: E. Petoia, Wampiry I wilkołaki. Źródła, historia, legendy od antyku do współczesności, Universitas, Kraków 2003. Own translation into English. Will update with the page details once I get my hands on the book itself, as I have left it in another place.

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