Wednesday, July 21, 2010
The Literary Werewolf
Whatever happened to werewolves?
It really bugs me that werewolves get short shrift in today's horror scene. These days, everything's vampires, vampires, vampires. I can't begin to tell you how sick and tired I am of vampires. Especially Dracula.
I've tried repeatedly to watch True Blood but I can't make myself care about any of the characters; I think the show jumped the shark pretty much right out of the starting gate, even though they have attempted to introduce werewolves belatedly into the storyline. I am also aware that there's some Twilight vampire thing that's hip with the kids these days, but I honestly don't have a clue what it is or what it's about, nor do I really want to know, having recently officially given up on modern pop culture.
If anyone brings the werewolf back around here, it might have to be me. My theatre company has already been looking into the possibility of staging a series of Grand Guignol stories, and having just this morning discovered a California company's charming rendition of Rudyard Kipling's The Mark of the Beast has put some steam in my stern.
There's certainly no shortage of lycanthropic material to draw from, most of it forgotten or obscure: there's an ancient French epic story-poem called Guillaume de Palerme, for instance, in which a Spanish prince named Alfonso is transformed into a werewolf by his witchy stepmother.
The Phantom Ship, a gothic novel about the Flying Dutchman ghost ship, contains a famous werewolf segment called "The White Wolf of the Hartz Mountains".
The Werewolf of Paris is a 1933 horror novel by Guy Endore, about a man named Bertrand Caillet who has been obsessed with inexplicable sadistic and sexual desires ever since childhood, and has vivid dreams of transforming into a wolf. As he enters adulthood, he gradually begins morphing into an actual wolfman with increasing frequency. His girlfriend Sophie attempts to keep his transformations at bay by cutting herself and allowing him to drink her blood, which is successful - for a while. The story was later adapted by Hammer Studios for the film Curse of the Werewolf.
Algernon Blackwood wrote a novel in 1921 called Running Wolf which I'm curious to locate and read - it's reportedly set deep in the Canadian wilderness and features a werewolf that is actually the ghost of a werewolf, and a Native American one at that. This brings to my mind Stanley Kubrick's The Shining, a tale of a seemingly haunted hotel in a frozen wilderness that was once a Native American burial ground, and features a running "wolf" motif involving Jack Nicholson's character.
And H. Warner Munn penned a marvelous series called Tales of the Werewolf Clan between 1925 and 1931, including The Werewolf of Ponkert.
Let's bark again, like Ozzy did last summer. Daddy is sleeping and mama ain't around.