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Werewolf Wednesday: Sabine Baring-Gould Chapters 1 and 2 (1865)

Well, it was only a matter of time before I got round to covering Sabine Baring-Gould’s 1865 Book of Were-Wolves. If Universal’s The Wolf Man did for werewolves what Dracula did for vampires, Sabine Baring-Gould can lay claim to being the Dr. Polidori of lycanthropy, pulling together lore and legend in a text that would become a key influence on later writers.

The first chapter opens on an autobiographical note, the author describing a visit to a small hamlet in France where the locals lived in fear of loups-garoux:

“Picou tells me that he saw the were-wolf only this day se’nnight,” said a peasant; “he was down by the hedge of his buckwheat field, and the sun had set, and he was thinking of coming home, when he heard a rustle on the far side of the hedge. He looked over, and there stood the wolf as big as a calf against the horizon, its tongue out, and its eyes glaring like marsh-fires. Mon Dieu! catch me going over the marais to-night. Why, what could two men do if they were attacked by that wolf-fiend?”

Baring-Gould himself harboured no such fears, as he made clear in his retort: “I will walk back by myself, and if I meet the loup-garou I will crop his ears and tail, and send them to M. le Maire with my compliments.” He spends the remainder of the chapter musing about the widespread nature of werewolf folklore. He compares himself to a paleontologist — a discipline that had seen great strides in recent decades — on the grounds that, while he has no living specimens to examine, he can at least study the traces left by this presumably long-gone species. (A folktale is very different from a fossil, but this hardly damages the poetic appeal of the analogy).

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Werewolf Wednesday: Did a Lycanthrope Kill Louis IV? (1836)

While digging around I found a reference to werewolves in Edward Smedley’s 1836 book The History of France Part 1: From the Final Partition of the Empire of Charlemagne, A. D. 843, to the Peace of Cambray, A. D. 1529. The reference is brief and likely included as a bit of a joke, but it nonetheless caught my eye, largely because the book was published in 1836 — two years before the earliest piece of werewolf fiction I’ve covered in this series, Sutherland Menzies’ “Hugues, the Wer-Wolf”.

The section in question describes the death of the tenth-century monarch Louis IV:

The life and reign of Louis were terminated by a remarkable accident. A wolf crossed his path as he was riding on the banks of the Aisne, and (undeterred by an omen which might have staggered the courage of a Roman†), he clapped spurs to his horse in pursuit. The horse stumbled, and in his fall injured his master beyond the relief of surgical skill*. He expired in his thirty-third year…

The passage has two footnotes. The first simply explains a classical allusion made in the paragraph:

† —-ab agro
Rava decurrens Lupa Lanuvino
is among the evil omens mentioned by Horace, iii. 27.

The second, meanwhile, is the one that concerns werewolves. Possibly with his tongue in his cheek, Smedly wonders if his source for the above account, the chronicler Flodoard of Reims, had lycanthropy on the mind:

* We are by no means sure that Flodoardus does not mean to imply that a weir-wolf was the cause of this disaster. He writes, apparuit ei quasi Lupus præcedens, “there appeared to him, as it were, a Wolf going before him;” and he attributes the King’s death in the end to elephantiasis.

Make of this tidbit what you will…

Abigail by Daemon Manx  (2022 Splatterpunk Awards)

AbigailManx

Adrian Billard is an artist who never quite fitted in, his obsessive-compulsive tendencies and homosexuality marking him as an outsider from his youth. His present social circle comprises an upcoming date and a local bartender; but if his quiet life is lacking in Wildean scandal, it is at least sprinkled with Wildean wit:

There was little that was subtle about Adrian if anything at all. He was flamboyant and overt, with a definite flair for the dramatic, especially when it came to displays of emotion. He had once been told by a former boyfriend that he wore his pain like a chartreuse ascot; loud, proud and in your face. Gabriel, the bartender, had been within earshot of the spectacle, took notice, and felt obliged to enquire. He had known Adrian for years and had been the one to point out the ascot/pain analogy.

Returning home from the bar, Adrian finds a wicker basket on his porch. Inside is a baby, left for him to adopt, the only explanation being a small card that gives her name as Abigail. The baby, it transpires, is a strange one indeed:

A wide pair of violet eyes looked up at him. Silver flecks around the reptilian pupils flashed in the pale glow of the porch light. A hypnotic chimera washed over him as he fixed on the strange gaze. Suddenly, he felt weightless and out of the body; the sense that he was floating several feet above ground was consuming. Adrian found himself face to face with the most peculiar vision.
“Gee-hee-he,” the strange baby looked up at him and laughed.

Continue readingAbigail by Daemon Manx  (2022 Splatterpunk Awards)”

Werewolf Wednesday: Elliott O’Donnell’s Last Chapter (1912)

The final chapter of Elliott O’Donnell’s book Werwolves covers lycanthropy in Russia and Siberia. “Nowhere is the werwolf so much in evidence today as in the land of the Czar,” the author tells us, as this is a land where “the very atmosphere is impregnated with lycanthropy.” He follows these remarks with some picturesque descriptions of werewolves stalking the Russian plains nad haunting the Caucasus mountains, before offering some brief (and uncited) accounts of folktales:

It was here, in these lone Russian mountains, so legend relates, that Peter and Paul turned an impious wife and husband, who refused them shelter, into wolves: but Peter and Paul, apparently, had not the monopoly of this power; for it was here, too, in a Ural village, that the Devil is alleged to have metamorphosed half a dozen men into wolves for not paying him sufficient homage.
There is no restriction as to the sex of werwolves in Russia and Siberia—male and female werwolves are about equal in number, though perhaps there is a slight preponderance in favour of the female. Vargamors are to be encountered in almost all the less frequented woody regions, but more especially in those in the immediate vicinity of the Urals and Caucasus.

Although quite how the Vargamors of Sweden ended up in Russia is left unexplained. Next comes another of O’Donnell’s allegedly authentic incantations, ready to be practiced by any would-be lycanthropes out there:

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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)

BatteredBrokenBodies

“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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