Let me just state that despite the current trends, Lon Chaney is and will forever more be my werewolf of choice. He had it all–good looks, tortured soul and a curse he couldn’t avoid.
Definite hero material.
But where did the werewolf myths first start? They’ve been recorded by the ancient Greeks. In many cases, the person was transformed into the creature as punishment for eating/serving the flesh of children.
Eww. Sure, werewolves, or lycanthropes, devour other humans. In fact, a few claim that the fact that some wolves have been known to go nuts and eat members of their own pack may have caused the association with certain deviant human behavior. This also explains their close association with beserkers. Like beserkers (who wore bear skins), werewolves donned wolf skins in battle. They fought so wildly and left a large swath of carnage behind like a rampaging animal.
Interestingly, werewolves were either made by gods/saints or born until the 19th Century when the notion of contagion was born. ie had Lon been bitten in Colonial times he never would have become a werewolf:-) The notion the wolves could only be dispatched by a silver bullet is also of modern origin.
Other differences between modern and historical werewolves:
Modern lycanthropes look like wolves and act just like them; historically, you could tell a were by the fact that he didn’t have a tail, had human eyes and could talk.
Modern werewolves can’t be cures; history provides cures (often fatal like being smacked in the forehead with a knife or the more benign act of stealing the were’s pelt when he takes it off to wash) or limits the time one is sentenced to a were existence.
The full moon trigger is also a by-product of modern lore.
But my favorite twist on lycan-lore is that unlike their other supernatural brethern they are not cowed by religious artifacts. Most of the literature firmly plants them on the side of the Devil, so why is this? Could it be because they are created by gods and saints?
Or is it as one man (a confessed werewolf to boot) claimed in the Middle Ages, that he and his kind were created by God to fight evil both here on Earth and in Hell, and that they had a place in Heaven when they died?
Either way, I enjoy watching my furry friends and reading about them too.