Saturday, 16 January 2010

Looking at the Workings- Werewolves

Aww, aren't they so cute and fluffy? Well no, obviously, when they're trying to eat the hero. Now I must admit that werewolves give me some trouble, which is why I used a rather different type of shape shifter for my current urban fantasy series. Even so, I've been thinking about them, and shapeshifters generally, quite a bit. This is what I've come up with:

  • At their most basic, shapeshifters of all kinds are a metaphor for the hidden angers, desires and other emotions within us all. They're the beast within that most people manage to keep tamed.
  • They're also very human, most of the time. The vampires are the main contenders for this in that they can pass for human more easily sometimes, but werewolves actually are human three weeks out of four. They are, therefore, a pretty good way of getting a character who is both 'normal' and 'not normal'.
  • Werewolves tend to have more of a social structure in recent attempts, like real wolves, which lets the author comment on social systems in quite a raw way.
  • The big questions for a writer usually come down to how much of themselves the shifters keep when they change, and how much control over the process they have. I've occupied a position where they have nearly full control of the change aside from the full moon, along with full control of themselves, but still a few instincts that they have to work on. Others have made them more monstrous, but I'm not sure how much the full 'Ravening Beast' bit works in urban fantasy. Even Kelly Armstrong's werewolves, which are among the more brutal and instinct driven, are generally quite self controlled, with only occasional lapses. I guess it's hard to have them be heroes if they're constantly eating people.
  • One intriguing point for me is how much the notion of were-other-things makes a difference. Are they just werewolves in funny clothes? Or are they more of a reflection of different personality types? One of the reasons that I chose a snake for my main character was that I wanted something that reflected the idea of him having a solitary, quite unpleasant strand to his character that would change as things went on. Of course, once you start having other sorts of shape shifters, you end up with quite a complex supernatural world, so that's worth taking into consideration too.

1 comment:

Bavardess said...

I find depictions of werewolves in history and literature fascinating. I think they're much more a projection of our own human darkness than any 'bestial' nature (wolf society being in many ways more 'humane' than human society - as long as everyone stays in their appointed place in the pack).

On your last point - there's definitely a personality difference between were-rabbits and werewolves.