I had planned to continue with my “creatures of the abyss” theme and head beneath the oceans, since one gentle reader pointed out the horrors that lurk in the deep sea, but the exploits of my noisy new neighbours have prompted me to look at werewolves instead.
Leading a nocturnal life, my neighbours, just like werewolves, seem to transform into howling, snarling, jumping, thrashing creatures the moment other people head for bed after a long day’s work.
No, seriously though: a few days ago I watched an online interview the author Anne Rice gave to Google Books. Talking about her new book, which deals with werewolves rather than vampires for a change, she explained how she had become fascinated with the act of transformation from one being into another.
While fiction and script writers have portrayed werewolves or lycanthropes as humans turning into werewolves without being conscious of the fact that a transformation has taken place, Anne Rice wanted her protagonist to remain fully conscious during the change from human to beast and back again. This gave her the opportunity to explore the sensuous aspects of the process as well as looking more closely at the corrupting influence of physical power.
I’ve always believed that deep down in our DNA we have retained that which once made us physically powerful. Take bonobos for example: they may look like wee little chimps, but they are 5 times stronger than a human. Scientists may tell us we gave up such physical strength in favour of growing larger, more efficient brains, but that doesn’t explain the fairly common occurrence of somebody suddenly having super-human strength to save their kids/dog/mum/dad/lover in an emergency.
The strongest woman in the world contest requires their contestants to lift extraordinary weights (like a small car for example, which must remain suspended in mid-air for something like 40 seconds, if I recall rightly, before the woman can claim her world championship title). Where does this strength come from? We must be able to tap into it, when it is absolutely necessary for our own survival or to save the life of sombody important to us.
The classic description of these changelings is that werewolves are a mythical or folklore creature with the ability to change or shape shift into the form of a giant wolf-man. Practically invincible, they can only be killed, according to popular modern legend, by firing a silver bullet at them. They supposedly only haunt our countryside, when there’s a full moon. Blessed with strength, speed and senses that surpass those of both humans and wolves, lycanthropes and similar shape-shifters pop up in many different guises in many different cultures.
Why? Are we secretly envious of werewolves? Are they what we might have been, if our brains hadn’t taken the evolutionary direction they did…one that will lead us ultimately to devouring the planet whole and spitting it out like a huge fur ball, when we’re done?
How amazing would it be to transform into another creature – not necessarily one that bites, maims and kills! Wouldn’t we all love to experience the world as they do…or even more so …just for a little while?
I mentioned T H White’s take on the Arthurian legend before, where Merlin turns Prince Arthur into a variety of animals. Modern popular film and fiction may have made a mockery out of the wild beast and turned it into a teenage-puppy that frolics in the Twilight zone, but the concept of transformation is a powerful subject that needs far greater exploration. T H White did do the subject justice and I cannot wait to read Anne Rice’s new book (The Wolf Gift) to find out what she makes of the genre and the subject of transformation.
I doubt there will ever be werewolves in Willow the Vampire’s adventures, but I’m fairly certain that at one point I shall turn my toothy little heroine into some other creature, so she can explore what it is like to see the world from an entirely different perspective.