The werewolf, perhaps one of the best known of the supernatural creatures of our world. Categorized by their transformation into a wolf or wolf-like hybrid, they are a dangerous foe for the unprepared.
One of the earliest werewolf stories hails from Greece, in the ancient kingdom of Arcadia. The king at the time, Lycaon, had invited the god of Olympus to a feast in his halls, intending to test whether they were truly omnipotent. To test this, he killed a child (the child’s identity varies depending on the source), and served the body in a stew. The gods, who were in fact omnipotent, and furious at the trick and the taboo, turned Lycaon into a wolf and flooded the area in an event later called the Great Deluge. Other early stories of human/wolf transformations also frequently feature cannibalism as a main point and often the reason for the transformation.
They share some of this with European wolf packs; wolves in this region of the world treat human settlements, and humans themselves, as a viable food source, and are a feared creature in their own right, particularly with shepherds and farmers. It can be noted that wolves in North America will more often avoid human settlements, and view humans themselves as a threat to be avoided, not as a potential meal. Not that a wolf in N. America would hesitate to attack a human for food, but it is not an ingrained habit.
From these origins, there are three distinct branches of werewolf types: the willing, the lunar, and the permanent transformations. The story of Lycaon is an example of the last; he is fully transformed by the gods, and cannot change himself back. Other stories occasionally have werewolves turning back from their wolf form after earning forgiveness. The shared trait in these stories is that the wolf transformation is to a full wolf, not any hybrid creature, and that it was a curse, generally by the gods themselves. These wolves can lose their minds entirely, or retain thought, but can be treated as one would treat an actual wolf in terms of a threat.
The willingly changed werewolf variety came to popularity in the 1500s, approximately, where being a werewolf was a sign of a deal with the Devil, relatable to the witch of the era. ‘Werewolves’ account for approximately 1/10 of the witch trial deaths in some areas, though this was widely a gendered split rather than an actual difference in accused crimes. These werewolves would transform in the evening at will, usually with a magical ointment or fur, and ran through the night with witches to attack the countryside. Cannibalism also features heavily in these stories. In some places, it was believed that a werewolf would shed their human skin during their transformation, and that cutting away the skin of one in human form would reveal the fur of the wolf. Notably, werewolves of this time were also believed to have no tails, and longer toes than a true wolf. The Catholic Church later changed in their beliefs and stated that no human could truly change forms, and werewolves were just imagining their transformations, or dreaming of the things a demon in wolf form was doing instead.
The last of the types is the most well-known today, the lunar werewolf. These wolves can transform into a variety of shapes, ranging from a humanoid hybrid to a full wolf, and will only transform under the light of the full moon. They generally have limited awareness of their human mind, and are dangerous not only for their physical prowess, but the ability to infect others and change them to werewolves themselves.
It is theorized that the full moon causing the transformation is related to the moon’s effects on the tides, and that a similar pull may be caused within the werewolf’s body. Whether this is true, or if the change is a more supernatural event than a scientific one, is unclear. The bite of a werewolf being contagious is equally unclear, though its similarities to rabies are noted. There are some older myths that drinking water from the footprint of a werewolf can also cause one to turn into a werewolf. (This is also similar to rabies, as sweat is also infectious, and could theoretically infect a pawprint if one decided to drink from it).
The lunar werewolf, as previously explored, is most easily categorized by their transformation under the light of the full moon. Transformation will last until the moon sets at dawn. As the full moon technically lasts three nights, with the second being the ‘fullest’, werewolves can spend 1-3 nights a month transformed.
It should be first noted that the light from the moon itself is not the cause of the transformation; staying indoors or under cover will have no effect.
Werewolves of this type will appear human at all times outside the transformation, and may not be aware of their actions while in wolf form. There are a few traits that become more pronounced nearing the full moon, however, that can help identify the werewolf prior to transformation.
The first, heightened senses. Werewolves will have some increase in their senses at all time, but it is never stronger than the days right before the full moon. Be aware of moments where the suspected werewolf smells things from far further than should be possible, or is more sensitive to loud noises than usual. Despite the sensitivity, they are unlikely to have adverse reactions to typical bad smells, so waving putrid items around them is unlikely to have a stronger effect than usual.
Werewolves are generally stronger and faster than the average human; this is largely not changed around the full moon, but there is a frequent loss of control in younger werewolves. Look out for what appears to be increased strength, as well as more clumsy movements, as the increase in other senses can throw off their equilibrium.
They will also be more territorial than usual. This may manifest in being more protective of ‘their spaces,’ such as a bedroom, house, or even a desk at work. They will likely be more protective of loved ones as well, taking any perceived threat more seriously than usual, and may be uncomfortable letting loved ones out of their immediate control for long periods of time. Werewolves are a social species that craves close bonds, so most will have a close circle of family and friends. A werewolf will strive to have everything they care about in one place prior to the start of the full moon, even if they themselves are unaware of the behavior.
Werewolves have a higher caloric intake than humans of similar size and activity, due to the strain the transformation takes and the increased strength and sensory input they naturally have. There will be a large increase in appetite around the full moon, especially on the first day. While foods like grapes and chocolate, dangerous to canines, are harmless to werewolves unless they are transformed, they will likely gravitate away from such foods and favor carbs and protein instead. Any individuals who are usually on a diet or do not eat meat will struggle more at this time of the month; you may see a werewolf declaring a ‘cheat day’ around the full moon. They are also likely to hoard food or be protective of meals, but they may also feel obligated to provide for family and friends, so being overly charitable around this time can also occur.
In the immediate hours before the full moon, a werewolf will retreat somewhere they feel safe. This may be with their loved ones, or to a secure location such as their home. They are still largely aware of their surroundings. If they are unable to get away to this safe place, or if it is somehow compromised, panic or aggression are the more common reactions. The best way to handle this is to either remove the werewolf from the situation to somewhere they can feel secure, or to leave them alone if they are already in a safe place and need solitude.
Despite the need for security and comfort, it would be wise to remove anything precious or breakable in the vicinity. The transformation itself can range from disorienting to painful, and even if the werewolf in question has complete control over themselves, they are likely to lash out during the change.
Lunar werewolves can range in form, but the most common form is a human/wolf hybrid. They are fully covered in fur, larger than their human form, and will typically form a snout and more wolf like ears. Changes in limbs and proportions are the most common physical change, generally moving to a semi-hunched form that can stand on two legs and run on all fours. Some werewolves will have uneven growth in their limbs, resulting in uneven limbs, elongated torsos, or partial tails. Claws are common, as are changes to eye color, generally going more yellow than their usual color (blue to green, brown to amber or gold). They will be stronger in this form than their human one. It is only at this time that their bite will infect others; at any other time this will not be an issue.
If a human is bitten by a werewolf, they will not transform until the next full moon, even if the moon remains full for the next two nights. The body acclimates slowly, with the senses and strength slowly increasing until the next full moon. The first transformation will trigger the remaining traits into developing, and once that transformation has completed there will be few other developments.
Note: if both parents are werewolves, the trait can be passed genetically to their children. The offspring of one human and one werewolf are much rarer due to the strain of the full moon on the fetus, but such children are born on occasion. They may be full werewolves themselves, or display some or all of the traits without the monthly transformation. Born werewolves display a marked increase in control and stable transformations.
Fur color will not necessarily resemble their human hair color, but it is not uncommon for this to occur. Dyed hair does not translate to fur coloration, nor does a haircut change the length of fur. Cutting the fur similarly has no effect on their hair when changed back to human, although fur dye may stain the skin and show through. Piercings will translate to either form, however, so it is wise to remove any jewelry if possible.
It is after the transformation is complete that behavior changes; for a werewolf with moderate to complete control of themselves, they will feel a stronger pull from their instincts. As before, this will likely manifest in wanting to be around loved ones and in a safe place. They may be more drawn to patrolling around their perceived territory, depending on location. There are occasional werewolves that will be drawn to more dog-like activities such as fetch or chasing smaller animals, but it should be noted that these behaviors are not always present, nor are they as common in wolves.
A werewolf with less control is more likely to lash out violently, as they will be less aware of where they are and who is around them. Instincts to run and hide will be harder to control. Werewolves that appear to not be in control of themselves should be treated as one would a cornered animal, rather than a scared human.
The physical traits and range of control varies from werewolf to werewolf. There is some correlation between how controlled a werewolf is to how well controlled anyone they have bitten is; this could be something that can be passed along, or perhaps relates to how the bite itself occurred. A willing bite seems to result in more control and a more stable appearance.
There is a noted relation between the control a werewolf has in wolf form and how they appear. Werewolves that are in control of themselves seem to have some control on their transformed appearance, typically resulting in more stable proportions and occasionally being able to develop proper thumbs and fingers instead of paws. Less controlled werewolves are more likely to face disproportionate limbs, and even changes in form from transformation to transformation. More cosmetic changes, such as fur or eye color, remain the same after the first full moon.
Any physical changes will translate from one form to the other. If one form is injured, the other will display that injury. Tail injuries are generally translated to the tailbone or general soreness. This has been used to identify werewolves in the past; a cut off paw translating to a missing hand the next day is a common story element. If removed, a limb will change at the same time as the main body, though this is only for the first transformation after the removal; a cut off hand will not change back to a wolves paw the next month.
When the moon has set, the transformation back will resemble the first. Afterwards, the werewolf will be tired and sore, though how long this lasts will vary. If the werewolf in question transforms all three nights of the full moon, they are likely to be extremely fatigued. Werewolves that do not transform all three days will always transform on the second day of the full moon, and will display the same behavior they normally would right before the full moon throughout the three day window.
After the full moon has fully ended, behavior will settle back to normal, and as stated previously there will be few differences between the average human and the werewolf until the next full moon.
The werewolf is not immortal or invulnerable to harm, but they are hardier than the average human and are harder to take down in a fight. They also tend to heal faster than the average human, regardless of form. They do, however, have a handful of weaknesses should you be forced to fight one.
The best time to fight a werewolf, if you are inclined to do so, is the new moon, as that is the time when they display the smallest amount of additional strength and sensory skill. They will still be stronger than average, but it will be most manageable at this time. Outside of the full moon transformation, a werewolf cannot infect others, and have no additional traits. There are rumors of werewolves capable of partial transformations during this time, which if encountered should be treated the same as a werewolf during the full moon. It is unknown if said werewolves would be capable of infecting another at a time not during the full moon, but it should not be risked.
Werewolves, as with many supernatural creatures, are susceptible to silver. Skin contact will cause immediate burning and blisters, and an internal injury will usually cause death. Bullets are the most common choice, as they can be used at a range, but a silver blade or other item can also cause damage. The more purified the silver, the stronger the effect.
Traditionally, poison made from the plant wolfsbane is also particularly effective against a werewolf. The plant is a small blue or purple flower that grows throughout the northern hemisphere, and can be cultivated in gardens. While particularly effective against werewolves, it is also poisonous to humans (and all other mammals), and should be treated with caution. They are a nerve poison, that can cause pain, paralysis and death if ingested.
Werewolf hearing is very sensitive; they can be temporarily incapacitated by a suitably high pitched or loud noise. As previously mentioned, their sense of smell will be harder to use for harm, but can make a suitable distraction.
The moment of transformation, either at moonrise or moonset, is the moment a werewolf is the most vulnerable; even the most controlled werewolf will be disoriented by the change and still acclimating to their limbs and senses. Should any kind of surprise attack be needed, this will be the best time. Unlike other nocturnal creatures, the werewolf is still perfectly functional during daylight.