What is a werewolf? Millions of people have asked this question for centuries and many conclusions have been reached.
For some people, when you say the word werewolf, the first thing that comes to mind is the classic horror movie “The Wolf Man.” But for others it means the mental illness Clinical lycanthropy; for some they think of witches and spells; and for others still it means a rare disease called Hypertrichosis or “werewolf syndrome.”
The word lycanthrope originates from the Greek word “Lukanthropos,” meaning wolf-man. The first known werewolf story (at least that I have found) also has Greek origins, ancient Greek mythology to be precise.
One of the most popular versions of the myth states that the king of Arcadia Lykaon invited Zeus to dinner. To test the great god, he served him a slaughtered child (one of Lykaon’s own sons) and waited for him to eat. Zeus became furious and turned Lykaon in to the form of a wolf — Lukanthropos.
To the Italians a werewolf is only born on Christmas Eve or on a full moon; to the Irish werewolfisim is a curse bestowed by St. Patrick. The English and the Americans believe it can be brought on by spells, by herbs, by possession or by being bitten by one already infected. Some believe a werewolf could be the devil himself.
Once the words werewolf and lycanthrope were synonymous with one another, but now they are considered to be different things. A werewolf is generally thought to be a half human, half wolf being while a lycanthrope is regarded as someone suffering from the mental illness, clinical lycanthropy, which is a rare disorder that causes the affected to believe that he or she can transform into a wolf. There have even been documented cases of those affected by this disease to have a slight change in their appearance when they “become the beast.”
Many books have been written and many movies were made regarding the elusive werewolf, but still we can’t really answer the question, what is a werewolf? Is it someone suffering from a mental illness; is it someone suffering from a rare syndrome that causes an extreme amount of hair to grow all over them. Or can a person really change into the form of a beast? We may never know for sure.
So if you hear howling or snarling late at night, don’t worry it is probably just a neighborhood dog that is upset. Or is it?
Fact or Fiction: Werewolves by Thomas, Gale
Vampires, Werewolves and Zombies by Kallen, Stuart A.
The Werewolf by Pipe, Jim,