Friday, January 29, 2010

Human Animals

Hamel, Frank. Human Animals. London: William Rider & Son, 1915. (using a Kessinger Publishing reprint, no publishing year noted)

Hamel covers a variety of sources and wide range of shape-shifters from werewolves to tiger-men, lion-men, werefoxes, werevixens, human serpents, and bird women. He also touches on witches, familiars, "fabulous animals and monsters", "cat and cock phantoms", "animal ghosts", and "animal spirits in ceremonial magic" among other things. As with many related works and authors from his era, Hamel draws together diverse sources from around the world to catalog and explore the subject, making his work an excellent starting point for further research, including terminology. On the other hand, he does have a colonial bias fairly common in his day, using such phrases as "savage races" with abandon.

The book does do a good job with a historical perspective on shape-shifting, including references to Frazer (the Golden Bough), Gerald of Wales, the Grimm brothers, and other well known writers on the subject. The third chapter presents a good example of Hamel's wide-ranging sources: the Bhagavad Gita, Ojibwa and Osage folklore, New Guinea folklore, the Masai of Uganda, Australian aborigines, Eskimos, Aztecs, Yakuts of Siberia, Samoyeds, and Melanesian legend are all factored into his discussion. In many ways, Hamel's work reads like Joseph Campbell's The Hero with a Thousand Faces or some of Carl Jung's work with archetypes, which may be a hallmark of Jung and Hamel's era and fields.

Wednesday, October 28, 2009

Reading Harry Potter: Critical Essays

Anatol, Giselle Liza ed. Reading Harry Potter: Critical Essays. Westport, CT: Praeger, 2003.

One important point to keep in mind with this anthology of criticism is that only books one through four of the seven book series existed when it was written. Therefore, the essays are necessarily limited in their scope and available information. The following essays touch on Rowling's shape-shifters to some degree (usually tangentially):

Mills, Alice. "Archetypes and the Unconscious in Harry Potter and Diana Wynne Jones's Fire and Hemlock and Dogbody." 3-13.

A couple brief paragraphs about Sirius Black, Peter Pettigrew, and James Potter as well as minor mention of Remus Lupin. Mills focuses on Black and limits her reading to how shape-shifting fits within Jung's trickster archetype.

Lavoie, Chantel. "Safe as Houses: Sorting and School Houses at Hogwarts." 35-49.

Briefly mentions Remus Lupin, primarily as someone whose courage in living with an illness inspires others and grants him a place in Gryffindor.

Ostry, Elaine. "Accepting Mudbloods: The Ambivalent Social Vision of J. K. Rowling’s Fairy Tales." 89-101.

Briefly notes werewolves as a sign of racial intolerance within wizarding society. Points out Ron as a source of the prejudiced views, and incorrectly claims a lack of self-control on Lupin's part. Ostry also includes an extremely brief mention of the animagi, but makes no effort to interpret their place except to say that "transformation of physical form" is common to fairy tales (90).

Hall, Susan. "Harry Potter and the Rule of Law: The Central Weakness of Legal Concepts in the Wizard World." 147-162.

Very briefly (two sentences) mentions the legal problems inherent in a society that includes animagi and other means of transformation such as the Polyjuice Potion.

Anatol, Giselle Liza. "The Fallen Empire: Exploring Ethnic Otherness in the World of Harry Potter." 163-178.

Briefly mentions Lupin and werewolves in a footnote (fn 56, pg. 178) to introduce the race versus illness dialogue that occurs in interpreting Rowling's werewolves. However, Anatol ultimately rejects the racial reading in favor of the disease reading, even though this ignores 50-60% of the textual evidence.

Tuesday, October 27, 2009

The Literary Werewolf

Otten, Charlotte ed. The Literary Werewolf: An Anthology. Syracuse, NY: Syracuse UP, 2002.

Rather than the method I employed with Harlan Ellison's anthology of werewolf literature previously, in Otten's case I am going to list the pieces she includes and discuss the work as a whole. This change in tactics is the result of the sheer variety of work Otten collects for this anthology. So, included in The Literary Werewolf are:

Banister, Manly. "Eena" (1947).
Biss, Gerald. "The Door of the Unreal" (1920).
Blackwood, Algernon. "Running Wolf" (1949).
De France, Marie. "The Lay of the Were-Wolf" - an alright prose translation (12th c. original, 1911 translation).
De Maupassant, Guy. "The Wolf" (n.d., pre-1893).
Derleth, August W. & Mark Schorer. "The Woman at Loon Point" (1936).
Elliott, Bruce. "Wolves Don't Cry" (1954).
Field, Eugene. "The Werewolf" (1911, posthumous).
Fleming, Peter. "The Kill" (1942).
Housman, Clemence. "The Were-Wolf" (1896).
Jacobs, Joseph. "The Story of Rough Niall of the Speckled Rock" (n.d., pre-1916).
King, Stephen. "February, Cycle of the Werewolf" - excerpt from a larger work (Cycle of the Werewolf (1985).
Kipling, Rudyard. "The Mark of the Beast" (1890).
Leiber, Fritz. "The Hound" (1942).
Ovid. "Lycaeon's Punishment" - excerpt from Metamorphoses (1st c. B.C.E. original, 2002 prose translation).
Quinn, Seabury. "The Thing in the Fog" (1933).
---. "The Phantom Farmhouse" (1923).
Saki. "Gabriel-Ernest" (1930, posthumous).
---. "The She-Wolf" (1914).
Spariosu, Mihai I. & Dezso Benedek. "The Bitang" (1994).
Stableford, Brian. "The Werewolves of London" - excerpt from a book of the same name (1990).
Yolen, Jane. "Green Messiah" (1988).

As can be seen from the list, Otten draws from a wide range of authors and produces a fairly representative sample of late-19th to late-20th century stories. Her representation of earlier periods is a bit sparse, but is made up in her other book (see previous post: A Lycanthropy Reader). Rather than organizing the book chronologically or by author, Otten chooses to sort the stories by what she considers to be the major theme as follows:

Erotic Werewolf (King, Banister, Housman) - Otten defines this as the female seductress, the male predator
Rapacious Werewolf (Maupassant, Saki "Gabriel-Ernest") - werewolves who live to kill
Diabolical Werewolf (Quinn "The Thing", Stableford, Biss) - some sort of diabolic origin for the werewolf (drawing upon medieval Christian views)
Supernatural Werewolf (Kipling, Leiber) - werewolfism involving the intervention of some force beyond the natural (Otten suggests divine intervention)
Victimized Werewolf (Derleth/Schorer, Field) - werewolf as victim of illness
Avenging Werewolf (Fleming, Marie de France, Jacobs) - a werewolf who takes justice into his own hands
Guilty Werewolf (Ovid, Spariosu/Benedek) - the werewolf who hides his nature behind the mask of a human face
Unabsolved Werewolf (Quinn "Phantom", Blackwood) - a werewolf whose spiritual needs have not been met by "proper burial" (229); for some reason Otten equates absolution with a proper Christian burial
Voluntary Werewolf (Saki "She-Wolf", Yolen, Elliott) - those who "find peace in being a werewolf" (269).

Clearly these categories have some fluidity to them - Marie's Bisclavret could just as easily be a Voluntary Werewolf or Victimized Werewolf as an Avenging Werewolf. Some of the definitions (such as the Unabsolved Werewolf) are problematic as well. And one sees some problems with the differentiation between the Diabolical Werewolf and the Supernatural Werewolf, as both involve "supernatural" agency.

However, despite its flaws, Otten's anthology does provide a good starting point for werewolf research. And it provides reprinting of some stories that might otherwise be lost in moldering copies of Weird Tales or The Magazine of Fantasy and Science Fiction from the early-20th century.

Sunday, October 25, 2009


Pratchett, Terry. Feet of Clay. New York: Harper Prism, 1997.
---. The Fifth Elephant. New York: Harper, 2001.
---. Jingo. New York: HarperPrism, 1999.
---. Maskerade. New York: HarperPrism, 1995.
---. Men at Arms. New York: Harper, 1997.
---. The Truth. New York: Harper Torch, 2001.
---. Thud! New York: HarperCollins, 2005.

Terry Pratchett's shape-shifters cover a wide range of books but basically come down to two beings: vampires and werewolves. Technically, the Librarian could be included, but because that was a one-way transformation, I exclude it (even if magic could be used to change him back to human). To some extent the witches' Borrowing may fall under a broad definition of shape-shifting as psychic shape-changing, but because it involves the witch's consciousness riding, but not overtaking, an animal's, I'm excluding it as well.

The above list is unfortunately not completely inclusive, as Pratchett has vampires and werewolves in many of his books. However, the seven in the list are the ones in which such beings play a major role, rather than minor background roles.

Pratchett's vampires fit many of the stock traits: vulnerability to sunlight (can be ignored with full coverage clothes and broad brimmed hats), blood drinking (although this is really a thirst for power and can be beaten with willpower), and shape-shifting (into a group of bats). The last power is different depending on gender--males retain their clothing upon becoming human again, females do not. Sally explains this in Thud!. Pratchett's two most common vampires are Otto von Chriek (The Truth) and Constable Sally (Thud!), although others appear for brief times, especially in The Fifth Elephant.

His werewolves are very aware of their dual nature, with Sergeant Angua being the most introspective of all. Through The Fifth Elephant and Thud!, she describes the werewolf experience in both general terms and in relation to vampires. Werewolf shifting here only includes two forms (human and wolf), does not allow for retention of clothing, does include regeneration and silver vulnerability, and unsettles the domestication of canines. On the last point, Pratchett constantly refers to the thin line between wolf and dog, both in character thoughts and Sgt. Angua's behavior. There are other werewolves in the books, but I have focused on Angua here because she is the only recurring werewolf and the one from whom readers get the most information.

The novel Masquerade does introduce some Elf shape-shifting through glamour, but this is more or less limited to the one novel. This form of shape-shifting appears to be more illusory that real change in that it can be disbelieved and seen through by the strong-willed (such as Granny Weatherwax).

Wednesday, September 16, 2009

Harry Potter

Rowling, J.K. Harry Potter series. New York: Scholastic, 1998-2007.

Dealing with a series in this format is always difficult, but I have decided to treat the entire series as one entity. The series contains a complex interaction of several forms of shape-shifting, each of which has specific rules and limitations. Because of the breadth of styles, I will cover them in order of appearance.

The first method of shape-shifting presented comes from Transfiguration spells. These can presumably turn people temporarily into animals (Sorcerer's Stone, Hagrid attempts to turn Dudley into a pig), change features (throughout the series), and even into inanimate objects (Deathly Hallows, Slughorn turns himself into a chair). Some such transformations require extra spells to remove them, others apparently wear off over time or when the wizard/witch wishes.

Sorcerer's Stone also introduces animagi. This form of shape-changing allows a person to turn into one animal form, based on the animagus' personality. The change can occur at will and can last as long as the animagus wishes. The first introduced animagus is Minerva McGonagall (Sorcerer's) followed by James Potter, Sirius Black, and Peter Pettigrew (Prisoner of Azkaban), and Rita Skeeter (Goblet of Fire). Only McGonagall is the only one of the five who is legally an animagus, as the other four were never registered.

Following these two methods comes alchemical means of shape-shifting, the Polyjuice Potion (Chamber of Secrets). The potion is limited in that is can only be used to assume human shapes and only lasts for an hour at a time. Human-animal transformations effected by the potion require fairly lengthy hospitalization to reverse.

Lycanthropy is introduced in Prisoner of Azkaban as an uncontrolled human-wolf transformation that draws almost equally from traditional and modern sources. In the former case, the transformation is human to wolf only (no hybrid form in the books, although the movies have it as human to semi-hybrid), no regeneration, and several other elements. From the modern, Rowling draws upon moon-based change and lycanthropy as communicable disease.

Goblet of Fire introduces some non-human/non-wizard shape-shifting in the form of the Veela, but this is not really developed at all, nor does it play a major part in the series.

The last form of transformation present is the metamorphmagus. This is the only form of shape-shifting that Rowling presents as a completely natural, genetic, talent. The form is limited in that the individual can only assume human shapes, however (s)he can do so at will as often as (s)he likes. Half-Blood Prince suggests that the ability can be affected by the metamorphmagus' emotional state, as Nymphadora Tonks loses some of her ability during the months of depression following Lupin's initial rejection of her romantic overtures and Sirius Black's death.

Saturday, September 5, 2009

The Ultimate Werewolf

Ellison, Harlan ed. The Ultimate Werewolf: New Stories by Some of the World's Leading Authors. New York: Dell Publishing, 1991.

I've avoided including the anthologies to date because of not being certain how I want to handle them, but I think this format will work.

As an anthology, Ellison's work is filled with numerous interesting stories. For the purposes of this blog, I'll list summaries rather than attempting interpretation at this point. Most are set in the modern world with a few looking back to the 18th or 19th centuries and a couple science fiction pieces.

Ellison, Harlan. "Adrift Just Off the Islets of Langerhans . . .": Follows Lawrence Talbot is his quest to eventually die.

Farmer, Philip Jose. "Wolf, Iron, and Moth.": Follows Doctor Varglik, a man-eating werewolf who uses a Scandinavian wolf-pelt to change shapes. Includes publications of the "Werewolf Association of the World" filled with Cosmo-style surveys as well as personals ads. Also involves the death of a werewolf and creation of another.

Koja, Kathe. "Angels' Moon.": A new werewolf deals with his transformation, believing himself (at first) to be an angel. Makes a connection to leprosy that has ancient and medieval roots.

Hoffman, Nina Kiriki. "Unleashed.": Interesting piece in which a young mother turns into a man on a lunar cycle (three nights a month) and leaves her baby in the care of a werewolf (also on a lunar change cycle).

Antieau, Kim. "The Mark of the Beast.": A first person, 19th century set, story involving gypsy curses and lycanthropy. Includes the tradition of the werewolf bearing the wounds of one form in the other as well as the idea of changing to one's true form in death.

Charyn, Jerome. "At War with the Wolf Man.": A psychotic "Wolf Man" uses the subways to terrorize Manhattan. Takes the psychological approach for the most part, along with the serial killer route.

Gardner, Craig Shaw. "Day of the Wolf.": A sort of "Typhoid Mary" werewolf passes on lycanthropy by touch, but appears to be immune himself (the immunity is apparently passed on via sex).

Gilden, Mel. "Moonlight on the Gazebo.": Story involving a witch and a werewolf (the latter being used by a town for the execution of criminals). Lycanthropy is passed in this story via bites and is subject to moon based transformation.

Collins, Nancy A. "Raymond.": Early-20th century set story with a werewolf showing all the "traditional" physical signs from an elongated ring finger to scaring animals. Includes early-20th century psychiatric methods (surgery) to "cure" lycanthropy. Child werewolf taken in by Colonel Reynard (fox-were).

Niven, Larry. "There's a Wolf in My Time Machine.": Post-apocalyptic tale involving time-travel to recover extinct species from horses/unicorns to dogs. Accidentally transported to a parallel dimension in which werewolves evolved to control the world rather than homo habilis.

Murphy, Pat. "South of Oregon City.": Frontier era tale of a settler (male) marrying a werewolf (female) and their children (near the end).

Anderson, Kevin J. "Special Makeup.": B-movie actor becomes cursed by a Gypsy make-up artist and becomes a werewolf, thus limiting him to character acting parts in other B-movies, such as Werewolf in Casablanca. Interesting take on the idea.

Crispin, A.C. & Kathleen O'Malley. "Pure Silver.": A Jewish werewolf in modern New York City hunts escaped Nazi officers and concentration camp guards. Eventually "caught" by an SPCA officer and passes the gift/curse on to her. In an interesting mix of beliefs, there is a chance that her Navajo partner may be able to "cure" her. Lunar based transformation and silver vulnerability are both featured in this piece.

Linaweaver, Brad. "Close Shave.": Story told from the perspective of a pre-20th century barber/dentist/surgeon to supernatural beings. Very much a parody in form, with sarcasm throughout and none of the traditional lycanthropy remedies working. Also includes an old Gypsy curse and an Abbot & Costello ending.

Randisi, Robert J. "Partners.": Entertaining piece about a werewolf police officer in New York City (a particular favorite of the authors in this anthology). Moon-caused transformation is featured as well as a need for secrecy.

Pronzini, Bill. "Ancient Evil.": Somewhat similar to Williamson's Darker Than You Think, werewolves here represent an . . . "ancient evil" hunted by ranchers. This werewolf leaves behind a book exposing lycanthropes.

Strickland, Brad. "And the Moon Shines Full and Bright.": The world's last werewolf is captured for study in the far future. Moon forced change and silver vulnerability are explained with pseudo-science (or future science) before sending the werewolf to Venus ("because it has no moon" and therefore no transformation).

Kaminsky, Stuart. "Full Moon Over Moscow.": Soviet-era tale of a famous performer/werewolf and an elevator operator who has premonitions. Romania features as the source of the lycanthropy. Moon-based change and excessive longevity are featured here.

Weinberg, Robert E. "Wolf Watch.": A werewolf night watchman foils an attempted robbery in a department store. Presents an internal discussion of the differences between vampires and werewolves as robbers try vampiric weaknesses to defeat the werewolf.

Silverberg, Robert. "The Werewolf Gambit.": Guy uses the "werewolf gambit" to pick up women, only to inadvertently pick up a real werewolf (and gets eaten by her).

Wolf, Leonard. "Selected Filmography.": Good representative list starting in 1935 and ending in 1981.

Saturday, August 29, 2009

Sir Gawain and the Green Knight

Anon. Sir Gawain and the Green Knight / Pearl / Sir Orfeo. Trans. J.R.R. Tolkien. New York: Ballantine, 1980.

Anon. Sir Gawain and the Green Knight. 9th ed. Eds. J.R.R. Tolkien & E.V. Gordon. Oxford: Oxford UP, 1963.

This romance contains a questionable piece of shape-shifting as Morgan/Morgaine changes the Green Knight's appearance, into the green knight. She also uses her magic to change the appearance of the knight's wife and to make him appear to have been beheaded by Gawain (at the beginning). On one hand, this could be actual transformation, on the other it could be illusion. Because the period sources often treated the latter as equal in some ways to the former (see Augustine below), I've decided to include this piece.

(The first citation is for the best modern translation I know of; the second is for the best/only edition I know of in the original Middle English.)