Werewolves have been a part of our legends for a long time. Earliest records include Zeus turning a cannibalistic king into a wolf man and the Roman author Horace writes a humorous account of a man stalked by a werewolf at dusk. If the tales were as popular in ancient times as they are today is hard to say, mostly because written records have been destroyed and otherwise lost.
Who knows, there could have been a whole catalog of ancient werewolf literature in the Library of Alexandria. While that is uncertain, it is safe to assume if it did exist, such literature would have featured Hercules instead of Taylor Lautner.
Werewolf legends really took off in Medieval France in the 16th century and a lot of people (some claim as many as 30,000) were accused of lycanthropy (the practice of turning into an animal) and subsequently tortured and executed. As if things weren’t bad enough in France at that time.
However, that surge of interest in the public eye was a drop in the bucket compared to today’s day and age. Goodreads lists 479 popular fiction books with werewolves as a central theme. A quick scan of the first page reveals at least one fact. The oddball books are ones published in a year that doesn’t begin with a “2”.
Which is not to say that there is not plenty of excellent werewolf fiction from earlier generations. An examination reveals that the entertainment realm of literature, movies, and games is littered with werewolves of various amounts of success. But it is undeniable that now, in what some may term the “twilight” of literature, werewolves are really coming into their own.
Here’s my un-certified armchair psychology:
The idea of having a dark, uber-powerful thing hidden inside us has become very attractive to the population at large. Technology grows more and more effective, placing more demands on our time and more restrictions upon us, forcing us to confront what used to be little irritations on a constant, not regular but constant, basis. This tends to leave people feeling powerless, drained, and angry. So it is only a small stretch of the imagination to create an angry force inside us, that has plenty of power, except that we hold it in check for as long as we can. It feels the same as us and, because it is held in check, it is just as powerless as we are, despite the fact that it is actually uber-powerful.
My second theory is a little less sophisticated. Who wouldn’t want to run through the woods at night in the shape of a wolf and howl at the moon? I mean, come on, you gotta try it! At least once!
All that boils down to, werewolves tend to be a fun read (or watch, or play) every once in a while. Oddly enough I have two werewolf projects I’m working on now, one nearly ready for release. Gee, what coincidental timing!
Seriously though, if you like werewolves in fiction you should stay posted. And you might like the posts below.