Page 126. " THE WEREWOLF "

The word 'werewolf' comes from the Old English words 'wer', meaning 'human male' and 'wulf' meaning 'wolf'.  Almost all world cultures have folk tales concerning the shapeshifting of animals into humans, and in Europe the concept of the werewolf is the most enduring.  A myriad of tales usually asserted that a person was transformed into one of these creatures in order to serve the Devil, and subsequently there are parallels to the accusations of witchcraft and vampirism which abounded throughout Europe for centuries.  It is interesting to note that there were fewer stories from England, probably due to the fact that the wolf population had been extinguished by the Anglo-Saxons (though the myth of the 'black dog' was, and is, very well known). 

A huge number of novels, TV Series and films have been written or made about werewolves, demonstrating their power as both a symbol of brute masculinity and a source of fear. 

Excellent werewolf resources website.

 

 

Page 126. " a crude icon of the virgin "

 

An icon is a depiction of a religious scene or figure, and is usually painted.  They feature in Eastern Christianty and are used to reinforce faith, provide spiritual comfort and show devotion.  People will often have a small space set aside in their home where they will place a group of icons together as a kind of shrine, choosing images which have personal resonance for them.  Christ is a common figure to be depicted, as are Mary, the Archangels and the Saints.  Their use has been subject to much debate over the centuries, as the Bible forbids the use of 'graven images'; for this reason, icons must be either painted flat or in the form of modest bas-relief

 

Page 126. " At midnight, especially on Walpurgisnacht, the Devil holds picnics in the graveyard "

 

 Walpurgisnacht is a spring festival which takes place every year around the 1st of May in Northern and Central Europe.  It is similar to the Celtic celebration of Beltane, or May Day.  Translated from German, it means 'Walpurgis Night', and is named for St. Walpurga; although traditionally it celebrates the end of winter and the coming of Spring, it has a much darker side too.  In Germany, where this story is set, it was believed that dark forces were able to gather together in order to take advantage of the final day of winter.  In particular, witches were said to assemble on the Brocken - the highest peak of the Harz mountain range - to hold their Sabbat.  Their revelry would conjure up the Devil, and together they would commit terrible acts.  People celebrate the festival with the lighting of bonfires, especially in the smaller, rural towns near the Harz mountains., and often dress up as witches. 

 

Page 126. " When they discover a witch "

One of the most shameful chapters in European history was the execution of up to 60,000 people for witchcraft during the 15th-18th Centuries.  Evolving from 14th Century heresy laws, via Pope Innocent VIII's 'Witch-Bull' of 1484, the belief that people were willingly performing witchcraft in the service of Satan reached peak levels of hysteria from 1580-1630.  A treatise written in 1486 by German Inquisitor Heinrich Kramer called the 'Malleus Maleficarum', (or 'Hammer of Witches') also convinced people that witchcraft existed, and ensured that the vast majority of the accused were women.  Accusations could be made on hearsay, and interrogation methods were brutal.  The 'ducking stool', sleep deprivation, sexual humiliation and implements such as thumbscrews were routinely used, and 'proof' was often established on the most tenuous, ridiculous basis.  A mole or birthmark could be seen as the 'Devil's mark', and allegations of guilt by other 'witches' could secure convictions; this was common as doing do could save the accuser from execution.  Many women who were simply wise in the traditional uses of plants, herbs and flowers for healing purposes were condemned and killed; keeping certain animals meant they could be seen as 'familiars', which was taken as another form of proof.  Although the trials were spread throughout Europe at this time, those which took place in Germany accounted for almost half of the total death toll.  Some of the major trials were:

 

Würzburg (1626-1631)

Fulda (1603-1606)

Trier (1581-1593)

Quedlinburg (1589)  

Victims came from all levels and sectors of society, and included several thousand men and children.

Timeline of events which influenced the witch hunts.

 

Page 127. " But it was no longer a wolf's paw. It was a hand, chopped off at the wrist, "

There were various accounts of a missing hand providing proof of lycanthropyPeter Stumpf, a man tried in Germany in 1589 for being a werewolf, was accused of his crimes on the basis of his missing hand.  It had also been alleged that the 'werewolf' who had been terrorising the area had recently had his paw chopped off.  After torture, Stumpf admitted that the Devil had given him the power to transform himself, and that he was responsible for a spate of recent deaths.  He was executed on the breaking wheel, whilst his daughter and mistress were both sentenced to be raped then burnt at the stake.  Another story, dating back from 1588, emerged from the moutainous Auvergne region of France.  A hunter in the forest was startled by a werewolf but succeeded in chopping off one of its paws.  He took it to show the nobleman who owned the estate, but when they unwrapped it from the piece of cloth, it had transformed into a woman's hand.  The nobleman recognised the gold ring on the fourth finger as his wife's wedding ring; he dismissed the hunter and went to look for her.  He found her in the kitchen, secretly nursing her bleeding wrist.  When presented with the evidence, she admitted to being the werewolf, and was too burnt at the stake a few days later.

A story from 3rd Century France told of a soldier, Raimbaud de Pinetum, who was dismissed and disinherited by his nobleman, Ponce de Chapteuil.  De Pinetum reacted to this dreadful news by assuming the characteristics of a wild animal, eventually turning into a wolf.  His military skills made him a terrifying threat to the local area, until a woodsman was able to chop off one of his paws.  At this, he became a man again, and expressed to the town that "he had decided to sacrifice one leg, because by amputating it he had got rid of his misfortune. For they say that amputation of a limb frees such men from their calamitous condition".

Contemporary account of the life and death of Peter Stumpf.

Page 129. " THE COMPANY OF WOLVES "

'The Company of Wolves' was also the name given to the 1984 film made by Carter and Neil Jordan, based on the tale in this collection and an earlier adaptation Carter had made for radio in 1980.  Starring Angela Lansbury as Granny ("Never stray from the path, never eat a windfall apple and never trust a man whose eyebrows meet in the middle"), the movie was not a commercial success but was nominated for four BAFTAs and has since achieved an appreciable cult following. 

'The Company of Wolves' on IMDB.

 

Page 129. " ONE BEAST AND only one howls in the woods by night. "

Few creatures are more beautiful and more maligned than the wolf.  From the myths of werewolves, and the 'Big Bad Wolf' of fairytales, it seems part of our collective unconscious to fear them.  With what we know of the hardships our ancestors lived through, perhaps this is ingrained in our subconscious memory.  Yet they are fascinating creatures; our domestic dogs, remember, are almost entirely still wolf according to their DNA, and fewer animals than they have such a close bond with man. 

At one time, the Gray Wolf was the most widespread mammal in the world, but is now limited to Eastern Europe, Russia, North America and parts of Asia.  The live in nuclear families with a strict hierarchy, and are usually apex predators.

For anyone wanting to get closer to wolves, the UK Wolf Conservation Trust arrange for groups of visitors to walk with the wolves they keep on their land.  In the meantime, over to them:

 

 

 

Page 132. " Seven years is a werewolf's natural span but if you burn his human clothing you condemn him to wolfishness for the rest of his life "

 

The once widespread belief in werewolves means there are a plethora of fascinating superstitions concerning their existence.  A common perception is that it is only possible to transform into a werewolf during a full moon, but there are many tales of transformation happening at will.  Being bitten by a werewolf - as with vampires - could result in the victim becoming one himself; other sources describe lycanthropes stripping naked and putting on a wolfskin belt in order to become the wolf.  It was also said that the Devil could bestow this power on people who wished to become his accomplices.  Being conceived or born on Christmas Day, or on the night of a full moon, could curse an infant to wolfishness when he grew up.  Wolfsbane was attributed to both causing lycanthropy, and defeating it.  The idea of a silver bullet being the only way to kill a werewolf arose from fiction, not folklore; some old beliefs held that mistletoe, rye and moutain ash were good for protection, but otherwise, it was down to hunting equipment and quick reflexes. 

 

 

 

 

 

Page 132. " the robin, the friend of man "

A Friendly Robin
Creative Commons Attribution Share AlikeA Friendly Robin - Credit: Jimfbleak
"Art thou the bird whom Man loves best/The pious bird with the scarlet breast/Our little English Robin?" - William Wordsworth

The European Robin is found across the continent, as far east as Siberia and south as North Africa.  They are regarded as friendly creatures as they show little fear of humans; in parts of Europe, supersition forbade harming the robin, which accounts for how this trust has developed.  The folklore surrounding the bird is quite extensive; perhaps the best known tale is that of a robin picking thorns out of Christ's forehead when he was on his way to be crucified.  It is generally depicted as being very kind, as demonstrated in the stories about how it got its red breast.  One belief was that the robin singed himself whilst taking water to sinners in hell, and another that he was fanning the fire to keep the baby Jesus warm.  It was also said that if the bird found a dead person, he would cover them up with leaves, moss and flowers.  They are strongly associated with Christmas, porbably because their lovely colour stands out so well, and corresponds to the 'red and green' theme favoured at that time of year.

Listen to the song 'Little Robin Redbreast'.

 

Page 133. " this one, so pretty and the youngest of her family "

The archetype of the 'youngest daughter' is an interesting one to take a glance at.  Overlapping slightly with the 'step-daughter' (Snow White, Cinderella), she is often depicted as more beautiful, gentle, wise, sincere and loving than her other siblings.  Belle in 'Beauty and the Beast' is a well known example, as is the Little Mermaid.  Cordelia in Shakespeare's 'King Lear' is perhaps the ultimate representation of this; the play was based on the pre-Roman, semi-mythical story of King Leir of the Britons.

Page 137. " saucers full of Greek fire "

 Greek Fire is a term used to describe an incendiary weapon used by the Byzantine Empire.  Concocted from a recipe that was very soon lost in the passage of time, it was pumped through large bronze tubes, usually onto enemy ships during sea battles.  Thought to have been invented in the 7th Century, its flames could not be extinguished by water; it would coat surfaces, stick to them, and ignite upon contact.  Evidence suggests that the weapon was used rarely, but caused devastating results when it was.  In 678, for example, the Byzantines destroyed an entire Muslim fleet of 30,000 men; it would appear that Greek Fire was reserved for battles of high importance.  To this day, nobody has been able to recreate the formula.  

Page 139. " It is Christmas day, the werewolves' birthday, the door of the solstice stands wide open "
Winter solstice dawn over Llanrug.
Creative Commons Attribution Share AlikeWinter solstice dawn over Llanrug. - Credit: Eric Jones

In the countries of Eastern Europe, it was believed that a baby born on Christmas Day would grow up to become a werewolf.  Sometimes it was the conception that would cause this, so sexual abstinence was often practised during Advent.  The solstice was said to attract malevolent creatures such as werewolves, witches and even the Devil himself.  We know how important these times were in older eras, when survival depended on being in tune with the seasons and making ample provision for the barren months ahead.  It is as though the sense of awe and fear felt by people was mirrored in an idea of expansiveness; of the world being a portal through which anything could enter.

Page 140. " she is not a wolf herself, although suckled by wolves "

Here, again, we have a benevolent mother figure, in the form of the she-wolf who suckled and nurtured little Wolf-Alice after she was abandoned by her birth mother.  The best known figures to have been similarly nursed by a wolf are the twin founders of Rome, Romulus and Remus.  The sons of Rhea Silvia, they were ordered to be thrown into the River Tiber by their great-uncle, Amulius.  They were rescued and suckled by a she-wolf before being fostered by a farmer.  There is also a Turkic myth about an injured child being discovered and healed by a she-wolf named Asena; he subsequently impregnates her and one of their sons founds the Empire.  Although real reported cases of feral children usually turn out to be either fraudulent or desperately tragic, within mythology and literature they have long been used to explore ideas around nurture and nature.

Page 142. " he is cast in the role of the corpse-eater, the body-snatcher "

Corpse-eaters are a staple of folklore within many different cultures.  They are typically described as looking and behaving like normal people during the day - indeed, they could be anybody in the community - but at night, they visit graveyards to devour freshly buried corpses.  Nice.  By comparison, the term 'body snatcher' is less rooted in superstition and more in science. Until the passing of the Anatomy Act in 1832, there was a huge shortfall in the number of corpses needed for anatomical and medical research, so stealing dead bodies from churchyards could provide a lucrative form of income for those of a humour to do so.  Punishments were not even particularly severe, considering.  

Page 142. " If you stuff a corpse with garlic, why, he only slavers at the treat: cadavre provençale "

 

Oh dear.  Provençal cuisine is - normally - some of the tastiest you could hope to find in the world.  With local produce of such stuff as dreams are made on, the region excels in hearty, healthy food.  Garlic is grown, as we see, and so are the herbs basil, rosemary, thyme, oregano, tarragon and sage - to name only a few.  Lovely plump vegetables, wonderful olives and their oil, honey, goat's cheese, quality meat and fish...no wonder they supply so many ingredients to the rest of the country.  Unfortunate then, to have this rather grotesque image before us.  If the thought of a garlic-stuffed cadaver hasn't put you off dinner for life, below are some recipes and websites with more information on what is - normally, promise! - a foodie's paradise.

A selection of recipes.

Information on 'Beyond France'.

Easy-peasy recipe for Provençal New Potatoes.

 

Page 145. " Wolf-Alice looked at herself in the mirror "
Mirror, mirror...
Creative Commons AttributionMirror, mirror... - Credit: Jurii

Is this meant to remind us of that other Alice and her looking glass?  At the beginning of 'Through the Looking Glass', Lewis Carroll's Alice wonders what it would be like to step through a mirror's reflection and see what lies on the other side.  She then does so.  Our Wolf-Alice has never seen a mirror, and like a kitten, assumes she has a playmate when she first sees her reflection.  She investigates behind the mirror, finds nothing, and it only gradually dawns on her that it is herself she sees looking out of it.  These two Alices are, in a way, reflections of each other - given that what a mirror truly reflects is our opposite.  Carroll's Alice explores life inside the mirror; Carter's Alice by realising that she is outside of it.

Page 147. " Her footprints on damp earth are beautiful and menacing as those Man Friday left "

 Man Friday is one of the main characters in Daniel Defoe's novel 'Robinson Crusoe', published in 1719.  After spending years marooned on a desert island with only a few animals for company, Crusoe spots a footprint in the sand which is not his own.  This terrifies him, but no other man appears.  He continues his solitary life and then some years later spots some cannibals using a remote beach on the island to eat their prisoners.  One of the captives escapes; Crusoe helps him evade the pursuers, and then makes him his servant and calls him 'Friday' - since that is the day of the week upon which he finds him.  It is not confirmed whether the footprint from years before belonged to Man Friday, but the reference here does show how ambiguous such an unexpected sight can be. 

Robinson Crusoe on Book Drum

 

 

Page 148. " now he lies writhing on his black bed in the room like a Mycenaean tomb "

The Tomb of Agamemnon
Creative Commons AttributionThe Tomb of Agamemnon - Credit: Carlos M Prieto
 Mycenaean Greece was a Bronze Age period lasting (approximately) from 1000-1600BC.  Many of the ancient Greek myths and literary adventures (such as Homer’s epics) were later believed to have taken place during this era.  At some stage, the Mycenaean began constructing tombs in which to place their dead, with the grandest reserved for royalty, such as the House of Atreus.  The Tomb of Agamemnon, also known as the Treasury of Atreus, is a ‘tholos’ beehive shaped structure, located at Mycenae itself.  It is judged to be the finest example of the period, with a height of 13.5m and a diameter of 14.5m; the lintel stone above its entrance weighs 120 tons, and remains the heaviest in the world.  Carter seems to be invoking a similar sense of grandiosity by using description in relation to the Duke.