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Werewolf Wednesday: Lasse and the Vargamor (1851)

Benjamin Thorpe’s 1851 book Northern Mythology has a chapter on Swedish folklore. Here, we find a one-page section headed “The Werwolf” that includes a single tale of lycanthropy. It deals with a man named Lasse who is turned into a werewolf by a supernatural being called a Vargamor:


In a hamlet within a forest there dwelt a cottager, named Lasse, and his wife. One day he went out in the forest to fell a tree, but had forgotten to cross himself and say his Paternoster, so that some Troll or Witch (Vargamor) got power over him and transformed him into a wolf. His wife mourned for him for several years; but one Christmas eve there came a beggar woman, who appeared very poor and ragged; the good housewife gave her a kind reception, as is customary among Christians at that joyous season. At her departure the beggar woman said that the wife might very probably see her husband again, as he was not dead, but was wandering in the forest as a wolf.

Towards evening the wife went to her pantry, to place in it a piece of meat for the morrow, when on turning to go out, she perceived a wolf standing, which raising itself with its paws on the pantry steps, regarded the woman with sorrowful and hungry looks. Seeing this she said: “If I knew that thou wert my Lasse, I would give thee a bone of meat.” At that instant the wolf-skin fell off, and her husband stood before her in the clothes he had on when he went out on that unlucky morning.


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“Sun Poison” by Stephen Kozeniewski (2022 Splatterpunk Awards)

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“Sun Poison” opens with a colourful description of the effects of sunburn upon the main character’s feet:

I open my eyes. My toes have transformed into ten little cherry tomatoes. I hiss in pain. The heat radiating off my piggies rivals that of an Easter ham, fresh out of the oven.

She buries her toes in the sand to protect them from the heat but merely burns them even more, the lower layer of sand being somehow hotter than the surface. She looks for her parasol, but it has vanished from the beach. So, indeed, have all of the other sunbathers, including her own family. The protagonist is alone beneath a burning sun that continues to cook her.

“Sun Poison” is a short, brisk and surreal story. The narrator describes the familiar beachside sights – hotels, ships, pancake houses – that are inexplicably absent. She comes up with theories to explain her sudden isolation – shark attack? Oil spill? Storm? – but none fit the facts. All of her musings are no more than temporary distractions from the horrible reality that her husband and children have vanished and that she is being slowly roasted to death in a strange landscape where even the water is scalding hot.

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“Next Best Baker” by Jeff Strand (2022 Splatterpunk Awards)

A group of contestants on a TV baking show are each given the task of putting together a cake that contains four specific ingredients: mint, carrots, pistachios and dog feces. This may seem a distinctly unorthodox assignment, but Tiffany, Cyrus, Helga and Mark all take things in their stride – because on Next Best Baker, making a cake from fecal matter is actually one of the less outrageous challenges. Come the final round, the game moves from the merely repugnant to the outright horrific…

“Next Best Baker” is gross-out humour of the driest sort. Its deadpan treatment of the repulsive subject matter is evident from the reactions to the dog-mess assignment. “I do wish that the dog shit was a bit more subdued”, says one judge of Tiffany’s cake; “it doesn’t really blend with the other flavors.” Mark, meanwhile, makes his entire cake from feces, with the other ingredients serving as decorative toppers: a little fence made of carrot sticks, a sprig of mint as a tree, and a pistachio with a face drawn on to represent a dog. “It could just as easily have been a happy pistachio”, remarks an unimpressed judge. “From an appearance standpoint, this is probably your worst effort all season.”

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How I Spent June 2022

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Well, summer’s arrived, and with it comes my annual tradition of trying to finish off a stack of book reviews while also trying to avoid melting into my chair. Still, I managed to squeeze out the first instalment of my Hugo Awards series, and Splatterpunk Awards coverage will be coming soon.

And while it already seems like a year ago, this month also saw the conclusion of Doctor Who: Redacted. I had the honour of scripting the third-to-last episode, which can be heard here.

Article topics for July and beyond:

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June 2022: A Month in Horror

This month saw David Cronenberg’s film Crimes of the Future go on wide release; the reception has been mixed, but then, hasn’t that always been the case with Cronenberg’s work? Another talked-about release was Dashcam, which — if a screenshotted email is to be believed — was banned by Vue for its offensive content; although Vue denies placing this ban.

In awards news, the Ladies of Horror Fiction presented their prizes to a new batch of works. The winners this year were Jessica Lewis’ Bad Witch Burning (Best Young Adult), Lorien Lawrence’s The Collectors (Best Middle Grade), V. Castro’s Goddess of Filth (Best Novella), Gwendolyn Kiste’s “Sister Glitter Blood” (Best Short Fiction), Jessica McHugh’s Strange Nests (Best Poetry), Hailey Piper’s Unfortunate Elements of My Anatomy and Isabel Yap’s Never Have I Ever (tied for Best Collection), Zakiya Dalila Harris’ The Other Black Girl (Best Debut) and Rachel Harrison’s Cackle (Best Novel). 2022 marks the final year of the Ladies of Horror Fiction Awards.

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Werewolf Wednesday: Berserkers, Hags and Landladies (1912)

Elliott O’Donnell’s Werwolves, a compendium of supposedly true cases of lycanthropy, continues its European tour as chapter 16 covers Iceland, Lapland and Finland. O’Donnell starts the chapter on fairly stable historical ground, discussing Icelandic berserkers, but then launches into one of his dubious anecdotes (“told to me on fairly good authority”, he assures us).

The main character here is a berserker named Rerir, who is spurned by a beautiful maiden named Signi. The author gets to indulge his blood-and-thunder tendencies by describing Rerir turning into a bear, breaking into Signi’s family home at night, hugging to death a servent and crushing the skull of Signi’s mother. However, this awakens Signi’s father, who is also a berserker; and the two were-bears proceed to duke it out. Signi herself tries to intervene, but accidentally stabs and kills her father instead of Rerir. The day is saved by the household cook, who happens to have at hand a concoction of sulphur, asafœtida, and castoreum (ingredients mentioned elsewhere in the book as potential wards against lycanthropy). Once the brew is flung in the face of Rerir, he changes back into his true form as a hunchbacked human and is duly executed.

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