What is a Werewolf?
Dr. Matthew T. Caulfield
As I have already remarked in several previous publications, “werewolves,” as they are colloquially known (to my continued dismay), are actually the composite of several subspecies of lycanthropes. For lack of a better phrase at the moment, I will continue to use this term werewolf casually, as this particular entry is simply to allow for the quick and easy identification of any of the several aforementioned subspecies. The question being answered here is simply: “What is a werewolf?”
Before I begin the explanation proper, I feel it only right to emphasize that this is by no means a complete description of the nature of these creatures, merely an attempt to create a foundation of knowledge for those entirely unfamiliar with them.
The term “werewolf,” of course, comes from the original Old English, “werwulf,” which translates directly to “man-wolf.” Alternatively, and in my opinion, more accurately, these creatures are referred to as lycanthropes from the Greek “λυκάνθρωπος” or lukánthrōpos, meaning “wolf-person.” Now, what does this term truly designate? In painfully elementary terms, a werewolf is a person who has been afflicted with one of a number of bacterial, viral, hereditary, or other agent capable of modifying an individual’s genome.
While the specific symptoms vary between individuals, the main and most common feature of lycanthropy is the vicious transformation from human, to a form more beast than Man. Naturally, these “werewolfs,” are not to be confused with skin-walkers or shape-shifters. As I have already discussed the exact details regarding the conditions for this transformation elsewhere, I will not reiterate that matter any further.
Other notable physiological changes that can be observed in the lycanthropic condition include elongation of all long bones, a contortion of the skull resembling that of the local species of lupus, and a thickening and darkening of the extradermal pili.
There is also the matter of the drastic shift in behavior. While the specific changes in the cerebrum have not yet been measured in a laboratory setting, a lack that I have been aiming to alleviate, I strongly believe that we will find that only the lowest regions of the brain (e.g. cerebellum, amygdala, etc.) remain active in the throes of the lycanthropic condition.
Suffice it to say that those inflicted with lycanthropy are dangerous. Those without professional experience should avoid werewolves at all costs. If by some miracle, you are able to successfully restrain an individual amid a lycanthropic attack, please contact me immediately. I have some tests that I am hoping to perform, in hopes of rehabilitating those suffering with the affliction as a whole.
Origin: Global. Legends and verified cases of lycanthropy exist in most cultures throughout the world.
Identifying Traits: Dependent on origins. Always involves a transformation from a human figure into a more wolf-like creature (most notably in the face, hands, and lower legs). As mentioned in Dr. Caulfield’s introduction, most werewolves lose their humanity during the transition; however some (most notably Bisclavret, the loup-garou of Bretagne recorded in the “Lais de Marie de France,”) are capable of retaining a sense of loyalty and justice. Alternatively, the Rougarou (Rugaru) of French-Canada and French Louisiana (or Laurentian France) is a sort of hybrid that drinks the blood of its victims, thereby turning them. While it does retain some sense of duty (lore mentions its execution of religious dissenters) it is generally considered to be without discretion in the selection of its victims.
Weaknesses: Though resistant to many elements, most werewolves have a weakness for silver, and in some cases ash (from the tree, not the fireplace). Generally speaking, a kill-shot with a silver bullet, stake, or other weapon is enough to put down a werewolf; however, it should be noted that there is a human inside the creature. Therefore, disabling the beast (consider silver chains or a silver cage) is more beneficial–from a rehabilitation standpoint–than executing the individual.
Strengths: Werewolves are extremely quick to heal in their wolf-form. However, if an injury sustained as a wolf does not heal by the time a wolf transitions back to human, it can result in death and/or serious injury in the human form. Werewolves are capable of extreme feats of strength, and can easily lift up to (and over) ten times their own bodyweight.
A second warning: If you do not have experience, or are not with an experienced hunter, do not attempt to interact with a werewolf in any way!
Please note: As we continue compiling research for this blog, we will add to this article. If you have any relevant information to contribute, please feel free to comment!