Werewolf Wednesday: Wagner, the Wehr-Wolf by George W. M. Reynolds (1846-7) Part 28, the Grand Finale

Part 1 • Part 2 • Part 3 • Part 4 • Part 5  • Part 6 • Part 7 • Part 8 • Part 9 • Part 10 • Part 11 • Part 12 • Part 13 • Part 14 • Part 15 • Part 16 • Part 17 • Part 18 • Part 19 • Part 20 • Part 21 • Part 22 • Part 23 • Part 24 • Part 25 • Part 26 • Part 27

And here we go: the final chapter of Wagner, the Wehr-Wolf. While the events of the previous chapter were occurring, Grand Vizier Ibrahim has been meeting with the aristocracy of Florence to conduct diplomatic business. To the dismay of the Florentines, Ibrahim demands a hundred thousand pistoles by sunset, or else his troops will destroy the city. He also orders that the Inquisition’s prisoners to be freed, two of the novel’s minor characters — Manuel d’Orsini and Isaachar ben Solomon – are duly led into the room in chains.

Manuel’s experiences turn out to have soured him towards Christianity, so much so that he offers to become a slave to Ibrahim, “a Mussulman who can teach the Christians such a fine lesson of mercy and forgiveness.” Ibrahim declines to enslave Manuel, but concedes to allow both Manuel and Isaachar to become his travelling companions back to Constantinople. Finally, the grand Inquisitor is fined, and the 100,000 pistoles required for Ibrahim’s ransom are obtained.

Back in the palace, Francisco and his new wife Flora look down at the bodies of Wagner and the recently-departed Nisida. They are reassured by none other than Christian Rosencrux, who tells him that the two souls have gone to a better place. The deceased receive funerals, and the forbidden chamber is walled up.

The final stretch of the novel wraps up the characters’ fates. Isachaar passes away as a result of the torture he endured; Ibrahim heads back to Constantinople accompanied by Manuel, who renounces Christianity and joins the Ottoman army under the name of Mustapha Pasha; years later, Ibrahim is finally killed by Demetrius and the four black slaves to avenge Calanthe; Francisco and Flora, meanwhile, each live to a ripe old age before dying in the arms of their children.

So concludes Wagner, the Wehr-Wolf. And I have to admit that, even though it shows many signs of having been made up on the fly, this is a more coherent piece of work than its fellow penny dreadful Varney the Vampire. However, anybody expecting a novel that does for werewolves what Varney did for vampires may well be disappointed, as there is very little lycanthropy in Wagner. The werewolf is but an occasional motif in what is ultimately a riff on the Faust narrative that periodically gets distracted and goes to Constantinople.

One thought on “Werewolf Wednesday: Wagner, the Wehr-Wolf by George W. M. Reynolds (1846-7) Part 28, the Grand Finale”

  1. Reynolds was a big fan of Sir Walter Scot, and Melmoth the Wanderer, and boy does it show. He is probably the best writer of the penny dreadfuls, and that really does feel like damning him with faint praise, because at his best, he really was quite good. Wagner‘s an odd beast, and probably only remembered as a sort of counterpart to Varney. As I noted earlier, Reynolds’ city mysteries are his best work, and actually quite filled with Gothic touches. They are well-worth a look even if they make Wagner seem almost concise.


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