Monday, August 4, 2008

The Werewolf in Lore and Legend

Summers, Montague. The Werewolf in Lore and Legend. Mineola, NY: Dover, 2003. (Originally published in London, 1933.)

Although dated and filled with late-nineteenth/early twentieth-century colonial bias, Summers' work on werewolves is a classic second only to Sabine Baring-Gould's. He begins by seeking the source of the term werewolf. This search takes Summers through Guillaume dr Palerne, Piers Ploughman, Malory's Morte d'Arthur, and Stubbe Peeter, among others. The survey ranges across Europe from France to Russia, England to Italy. And this sets the tone for the entire book. After the initial chapter, he discusses wolves and lycanthrology via Bodin, the Malleus Maleficarum, Virgil, Ovid, Augustine, and numerous others. In the process, Summers dredges up an impressive quantity of minor texts produced during the Renaissance and earlier.

His later chapters are devoted to specific geographic regions: Greece, Italy, Spain, and Portugal; England, Wales, Scotland, and Ireland; France; "the North," Russia, and Germany. Then Summers includes a brief note regarding literature (17 pages). This note makes mention of a fairly complete collection of late-19th and early-20th century werewolf stories, including those by Saki, Algernon Blackwood, Eugene Field, and Ambrose Bierce, a number of which have been reprinted in late-20th century anthologies. Moreover, Summers' bibliography is very complete up through about 1930.

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