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Follow the rules!!!

Updated: Mar 22, 2023

There is nothing more annoying to me than an author that breaks the rules of a classic monster. I am fully aware of the need to create original works of literature, but there are some things that need to be explained if they are changed. What makes these monsters great are the vulnerabilities that they have juxtaposed to the uncanny, often supernatural powers that make them fierce. Let's face it, nowadays it is hard to create a story that is genuinely frightening with classic monsters; suspenseful and thrilling, but not necessarily scary. Yet, the moment an author changes a rule without explanation even the most thrilling of characters fall flat. Part of the suspense and thrill involves the character figuring out how to get rid of the monster.

Image by Sarah Pogue

Let’s start with werewolves. Almost every culture has some form of a shapeshifting monster, but the one that has survived the longest and is more well-known in modern times is the werewolf. Werewolves have been a part of myth and legend for centuries. The term ‘wer’ in Anglo-Saxon law referred to the value of a man’s life or more simply referred to an adult male. So when ‘wer’ is combined with ‘wulf’ or ‘wolf’ there is a literal reference to a Man-Wolf.

A werewolf is a perfect hybrid of humankind and a wolf. I say humankind because in modern times werewolves transcend gender, but the rule still applies. I have a strong aversion to a character fully changing from a human into a wolf and then back to a human. This violates the first rule. I don’t mind if the beast walks or runs on all-fours like a true quadruped, but they also need to be able to stand upright like a human.

The bite has been and should remain the only means of becoming a werewolf. Outside of origin stories of this great monster, too many liberties have been taken to explain how a person becomes a werewolf. A virus, genetic engineering, coming of age in a particular culture, witchcraft, or a simple scratch from the beast have all been used as ways of becoming a werewolf. These methods all require an explanation and are often not explained well, whereas the bite of a wolf is very natural and is part of how it hunts.

The full moon is the trigger for the werewolf. When it rises, the cursed person changes into the monster. Wolfs are opportunistic hunters and there is no better time in the night for a pack of wolves to hunt than during the full moon. More creatures are active, thus creating more opportunities to hunt and the wolves howl during this hunt to locate each other and coordinate their efforts. This is, by most accounts, why the full moon is the trigger.

Silver is used to kill a werewolf. It can be silver bullets, silver stakes, a sword, or any kind of silver, but why? Some trace it back to the 30 pieces of silver Judas received to betray Christ, others say that silver was crafted into many religious artifacts. Yet, to change into a werewolf requires energy contained within and silver is the number one conductor of heat and electricity, both of which are found within living creatures.

Changing the rules can make for an interesting story and breathe life into an old tale. However, blatantly ignoring the rules creates questions, and questions need to be answered.

~Brian Hershey~

Image by Sarah Pogue

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