Wednesday, 21 March 2012

On the Forms of Werewolf Physicality

This is another one of the more interesting posts I wrote on the original website. This one comes from July 2006. Enjoy!

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It could appear that recently the division of werewolves on the basis of their physical appearance after the change into anthropomorphic (i.e. humans with wolf features) or zoomorphic (i.e. wolves with human features, mostly psychological) became rather insufficiently general for the level of complexity that the 21st century has brought. That is why more and more frequently there appear more specific terms which divide the two categories mentioned above into a few minor sub-categories.

My search for the origins of that nomenclature have lead me to the most probable source from which they may have stemmed – the 1992 RPG called Werewolf: The Apocalypse which has since gone through several re-editions, in which one can come across the mentioned terms, as well as a whole history that accompanies the gameplay and which surely also had an influence on how we see werewolves now, which, however, I won’t be describing here at this time.

According to this nomenclature, combining it with the previous terms as well, werewolves can appear in five different forms:

I. Anthropomorphic

1. Homid

Human form. The form in which most of the traditional werewolves exist. Usually, it is not characterised by any particular traits in outer appearance, however some sources do enumerate a few characteristic features which are supposed to enable a keen eye to discern a werewolf in human form from a regular human. Such features may include:
- excessive body hair
- bushy, often connected, brows (the so-called ‘monobrow’ or ‘unibrow’)
- sharp, reddish nails
- dry lips and conjunctiva
- bloodied eyes.
An only slightly changed appearance can be still classified as human form (different colour of eyes, defined ‘vampire’ teeth). The consciousness of a werewolf in human form is maintained and they are able to fully control their behaviour.

2. Glabro

Form known also as “monstrous man” or quasi-human. It can be said that in reference to the subsequent change, this would be the initial form, in which there are visible physical changes to the body. It is characterised by:
- bigger body size and an increase in muscle tissue (stronger and more bulky)
- appearance of considerable hairiness on the skin, which may or may not cover the whole of the body
- complete or partial change of nails into claws
- sharpened and bigger teeth, protruding fangs
- change of eye colour and/or pupils
- deformation of facial features to those resembling a wolf
We can assume that in the glabro form, a werewolf’s consciousness should still be working properly, if not fully then at least partially, as the changes in body-build are usually not as far-reaching as in case of further stages of transformation. The influence of animal instincts, however, is visible in a person’s behaviour.

An example of glabro werewolves as seen in the movie Skinwalkers.

3. Crinos

Human-wolf. The favourite form of movie-makers of the werewolf genre, in the age of pop culture also probably the most popular vision of a werewolf. This form is distinguished by the following:
- upright position
- being bipedal, moving usually using the two legs, like humans; sometimes in order to achieve greater speeds such a werewolf can drop down to all fours and run like an animal
- visible features of human anatomical body build (torso, hands/legs, five fingers with an opposable thumb and five toes, sometimes also human sex organs)
A tail can appear both in the final form and in this one in its not fully developed, residual form, but it is possible that it will not be present at all.

A crinos werewolf as pictured in the movie Van Helsing.
Along with further anatomical changes which relate to the passing from glabro form to crinos form, most probably somewhere on the line separating the two the loss of human consciousness occurs in most shapeshifters, giving way to the animal mind which often makes use of sub-conscious experiences and knowledge of the human form. In some cases in modern werewolf lore, however, this loss of consciousness does not occur – usually when the werewolf has control over the time of his transformations. Voice communication at this stage, unlike glabro, becomes impossible due to the changes to the vocal chords.

II. Zoomorphic

1. Hispo

The so-called “monstrous wolf” or quasi-wolf. It is the transitional form between a human-wolf and a fully developed wolf. It is characterised by:
- quadruped body position
- strong, roughly human-like, limbs, especially the hind ones, which can cause the whole silhouette to be crooked forwards (though rarely an opposite thing can happen)
- a werewolf in this form is usually a lot faster than a bipedal werewolf, and his manner of movement to a bigger degree resembles that of a normal wolf

An example of a hispo werewolf from An American Werewolf in London.
2. Lupus

Wolf form. It is the final stage of werewolf transformation, however not all werewolves reach it, stopping and remaining at different levels of change. The reason for this might be the level of penetration of a host’s body by the virus or stem from the werewolf’s experience. Some werewolves are thus able to jump to each of the above forms without having to go through specific stages. The gradual process is more natural, though. A werewolf in wolf form is usually indistinctive from normal wolves save for the larger body size, human intelligence and cunning, and sometimes the possession of “human eyes”.

A wolf form werewolf as seen in the episode Alpha of the X-Files series.
As with all posts, I will update this one if need be with more content.

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