Paperback Perils: Werewolves of Fantasy Literature


Besides dragons, werewolves are a consistent mythical creature in fantasy literature. They are particularly prominent in the subgenre of Urban Fantasy. I particularly enjoy this subgenre because it contrasts the world of magic to that of technology. Urban Fantasy is not all I’m looking at here but it has a definite presence.  

Harry Potter:

Professor Remus Lupin  and Fenrir Greyback are both werewolves in the Harry Potter universe. Fenrir loves that he turns into a wolf each month whereas Lupin does all that he can do to stay human (he takes wolfsbane potion to keep his mind human). The werewolf curse in this world plays with fairly traditional rules. Those bitten by a werewolf and human most of the time but on the night of full moon they sift, against their wills, into wolves. Their bodies turn as do their minds.

Dresden Files:

I’ve discussed the werewolves in Dresden Files a little bit in this post but I want to look into them a bit more. In this series werewolves are people that shift into wolves in either voluntary or involuntary. All the following types are seen in the book Fool Moon.

Loup-garou: these are people that have been cursed by magic to shift into a wolf for the three nights of the full moon. They are super strong, fast and blood thirsty when in the wolf form. Their minds shift also into the wolf form but apart from possible guilt are unaffected when in human form.

Hexenwolf: these werewolves use a spelled item to shift into werewolves and can shift at will. Their shifting is not dictated by the lunar phases. They keep their minds but their thoughts are influenced by instincts and desire to kill and for blood. This form of shifting becomes addictive to the user and the desires of the shifted form can resonate in the human form.

Shapeshifters: these werewolves learn a single spell that allows them to shift into a wolf at any time. No moon phases involved. Their minds are completely human in the wolf form. Their strength in wolf form is approximate to what they have in their human form.

Others: Jim Butcher also looks at a couple of other versions, lycanthropy and wolves that can shift into humans. Lycanthropes are people that never shift physically but their minds become more wolfish at the full moon. They are violent and care a great deal for the established hierarchy. The leader can show no weakness if so they can and will be challenged and possibly other thrown.

Mercy Thompson Series:

The Mercy Thompson Series and the Alpha and Omega Series by Patricia Briggs both deal werewolves as their primary character bases. Mercy is actually a shifter with a native american heritage and not a werewolf at all but I digress. These werewolves are turned when a person has been nearly killed by another werewolf, just one bite won’t turn someone. They can sift voluntarily but also must change at the full moon. In this universe the human and the wolf are almost two different entities that share the same body. The human listens to the wolf but the human mind has to be incharge or they go wild and must be put down by the alpha.

Kate Daniels Series:

This urban fantasy series does have werewolves but it also has werelions, werebears, weretigres, werejaguars and a variety of others from hyenas to rats. These weres are changed by a bite but can also be born if their parents are weres. If someone is bitten by a werewolf they shift into a wolf. If they are bitten by a tiger they shift into a tiger. In this universe they shift have to keep strict control, if not they go loup and go on a killing spree unless they are put down. Not everyone bitten survives the first change and not all those born weres make it through puberty. Also, in this universe there are animalweres that are born an animal and learn to shift into a human form.

Each author has their own unique way of writing the werewolf myth and expanding it to fit the world they have created. I hope that you have enjoyed this little step into the world of the modern werewolf. This is nowhere close to every example of werewolves in current literature but it gives you a good taste. Happy Monday and happy reading!

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