“In the Forest of Villefére” was published in the August 1925 issue of Weird Tales. Its author, Robert E. Howard, was nineteen when he wrote both this story and its sequel “Wolfshead”, which was published in 1926. He would remark in a 1933 letter to H. P. Lovecraft that “it was two solid years before I sold another line of fiction”. His most famous creation, Conan, would come later; during this brief period of his young career, it was werewolves rather than Cimmerians that loomed large in Howard’s writing.
The story’s rapier-wielding protagonist – de Montour of Normandy – takes a twilight trip through a forest purportedly home to a werewolf. Here, he encounters a masked man; this stranger, who gives his name as Carlous le Loup, offers a peculiar explanation for his disguise:
“A mask!” I exclaimed. “Why do you wear a mask, m’sieu?”
“It is a vow,” he exclaimed. “In fleeing a pack of hounds I vowed that if I escaped I would wear a mask for a certain time.”
“Wolves,” he answered quickly; “I said wolves.”
The two men travel together, and de Montour grows increasingly perplexed with his new companion. For one, he is unable to identify Carlous le Loup’s nationality: “he had a very strange accent, that was neither French nor Spanish nor English, not like any language I have ever heard.” The conversation between the two men soon turns to the local werewolf. “The old women say,” remarks Carlous, “that if a werewolf is slain while a wolf, then he is slain, but if he is slain as a man, then his half-soul will haunt his slayer forever.” At the same time, the masked man appears to be in a hurry, encouraging de Montour to move on “before the moon reaches her zenith.”