Werewolf Legends and the History of These Mysterious Creatures

Updated June 24, 2021
Werewolf moon

Werewolf lore has appeared throughout history. In fact, the earliest legend of a werewolf may have appeared in the Epic of Gilgamesh. The strange creatures also appeared in Greek myths and have continued in folklore across cultures and continents. In recent years, there has been a renewed interest in the legendary creatures. From tales of Skinwalkers to appearances in modern novels and films, it seems werewolves are everywhere. So convincing are some of these legends that the stories of werewolves have endured for thousands of years. What do you believe?

The Georgia Werewolf Legend

In Talbott County, Georgia around the turn of the 20th Century, a farmer lost sheep every night. Night after night, hunting parties attempted to capture or kill the animal that was slaughtering the livestock, but to no avail. A local woman suspected her sister might be involved, so one night she armed herself with a pistol and headed for the sight of the killings. Once there, an animal suddenly lunged at her and she shot at it, but it got away. The next day the woman's sister was missing her left hand. The girl was treated locally, and then her mother sent her to France to be treated for lycanthropy. As legend has it, the attacks on the sheep stopped while she was gone, but they resumed once she came home.

The Royal Werewolf Story

From the mountain region of France comes the legend of a royal werewolf. In an unspecified time long ago, a hunter visited the court of the local Lord and Lady and asked them if he could hunt in their forests. They gladly granted permission, and the hunter then bowed to kiss the special jewel-encrusted ring the Lady wore. While hunting, the huntsman encountered a fierce wolf who leaped at his throat. The hunter drew his bow, but only managed to sever the paw of the wolf before it ran off. He placed the paw into the basket he usually used to carry the game he killed. After the day of hunting was over, he sat next to his campfire and decided to examine the paw more closely. He recalled that the wolf had acted strangely and wanted to learn more. To his horror, he saw a woman's hand in the basket wearing the Lady's unique jewel-encrusted ring. He returned to the court the next day and with great sorrow, presented the hand to the Lord and Lady. The Lady confessed her werewolf affliction and was summarily executed.

The Wolf-Strap

Many werewolf stories refer to a wolf-strap. Legend has it that to receive the strap, you need to sell your soul to the Devil, and anyone who possessed this magical device could wrap it around himself tightly and transform into a werewolf at will. In Russia there was man who lived on the edge of a village. He did not mingle much with the villagers and mostly kept to himself. Many whispered tales circulated throughout the village about the man's strange behavior and his sneaky ways. Some people reported seeing strange tracks in the snow outside his house during the winter.

One night, the villagers hid in the man's barn to see what had made the strange tracks. Around midnight a candle flared inside the house. Soon thereafter they heard the howl of a wolf, and a large black creature leaped from one of the windows of the house into the snow. Sure enough, the tracks led away into the woods.

Wolf print in the snow

Frightened, the villagers hurried back to their homes and locked the doors. They held a quick council. The next day they knocked on the door of the man's house and asked him where he had been the previous night. When he refused to answer, they seized him and searched the house. There, hidden under a thick blanket in a chest of drawers by his bedside was a strange leather strap carved with symbols, and rubbed with herbs and a strange greasy substance. The village elders, recognizing it for what it was, immediately burned the man and his evil wolf strap at the stake.

Separating Werewolf Fact From Legend

While these stories are folklore, others tell tales that are reported to be true werewolf stories. So convincing are some tales that the line between legend and truth becomes blurred. Are there humans who, under the light of the full moon, shapeshift into wolves, or are the stories legends? Only those who may have been involved know for sure.

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Werewolf Legends and the History of These Mysterious Creatures