The Symbology of Werewolves: Background information when reading The Last Werewolf

Summary |  Excerpt |  Reading Guide |  Reviews |  Beyond the Book |  Readalikes |  Genres & Themes |  Author Bio

The Last Werewolf

by Glen Duncan

The Last Werewolf by Glen Duncan X
The Last Werewolf by Glen Duncan
  • Critics' Opinion:

    Readers' Opinion:

     Not Yet Rated
  • First Published:
    Jul 2011, 304 pages

    Paperback:
    Apr 2012, 368 pages

    Genres

  • Rate this book


Book Reviewed by:
Elena Spagnolie
Buy This Book

About this Book

The Symbology of Werewolves

This article relates to The Last Werewolf

Print Review

From the 1941 classic film The Wolfman (see video clip below) to Michael Jackson's music video for "Thriller," from Harry Potter's Professor Remus Lupin to Jacob Black in Stephenie Meyer's Twilight series, the ancient symbol of the werewolf continues to play an active role in modern storytelling and carries a great deal of mythological meaning.

The term werewolf is most commonly believed to derive from the Old English wer (also were), meaning "man," and wulf, meaning "wolf" or "beast." The word lycanthrope, another term for werewolf, comes from the ancient Greek lykánthropos, meaning "wolf" (lükos) and "human" (ánthropos).

Though there are many variations on the werewolf story, these folkloric creatures are commonly recognized as humans who (either by curse or by infection) have the ability to transform into wolves or wolf-like creatures at the onset of a full moon. Often ruled by animal instincts, they kill and feast on human flesh.

werewolf engraving Some of the earliest recorded stories of werewolves come from Greek mythology; for example, in The Histories, Herodotus (c.484 B.C. - c.425 B.C.) describes a tribe of people called the Neuri who morph into wolves for a few days every year. According to Ovid's Metamorphoses, Lycaon, the King of Arcadia, tried to trick Zeus into eating raw meat (to see if he really was a god). Zeus, of course, discovered the deception before consuming the meat and, as a punishment, transformed Lycaon into a wolf.

Over time and throughout different cultures, the symbol of the werewolf has taken on many meanings and variations (for example, the loup-garou in France, the oik in Albania, the volkodlak in Slovenia, and the reverential, shamanistic Kurtadam in Turkey) and has informed famous literary characters such as the Big Bad Wolf in Aesop's Fables and Grimm's Fairy Tales.

Often associated with untamed energies, trickery or deceit, and the underbelly of primal human instincts, the werewolf can be interpreted as the struggle between (and the integration of) both "good" and "evil" within a human being - the inescapable and uncontrollable nature of our raw emotional urges, whether sexual, violent, or destructive.

And perhaps the expression of these taboo emotions, and our fascination with that struggle, is what makes the werewolf such an interesting and culturally relevant symbol thousands of years in the making.

For a peek at Michael Jackson's "transformation" in the Thriller video (directed by John Landis, who, incidentally, also directed the 1981 film An American Werewolf in London), click on the video below.

For information on other gothic ghouls, check out our "beyond the book" info on vampires.

Filed under Cultural Curiosities

Article by Elena Spagnolie

This "beyond the book article" relates to The Last Werewolf. It originally ran in July 2011 and has been updated for the April 2012 paperback edition. Go to magazine.

This review is available to non-members for a limited time. For full access become a member today.
Membership Advantages
  • Reviews
  • "Beyond the Book" articles
  • Free books to read and review (US only)
  • Find books by time period, setting & theme
  • Read-alike suggestions by book and author
  • Book club discussions
  • and much more!
  • Just $45 for 12 months or $15 for 3 months.
  • More about membership!

Join and Save 20%!

Become a member and
discover exceptional books.

Find out more


Top Picks

  • Book Jacket: The Life and Crimes of Hoodie Rosen
    The Life and Crimes of Hoodie Rosen
    by Isaac Blum
    That irreplaceable feeling of everyone knowing your name. The yearning to be anonymous. Parents ...
  • Book Jacket: Now Is Not the Time to Panic
    Now Is Not the Time to Panic
    by Kevin Wilson
    The edge is a shantytown filled with gold seekers. We are fugitives, and the law is skinny with ...
  • Book Jacket: Foster
    Foster
    by Claire Keegan
    Irish author Claire Keegan is experiencing a surge in popularity, thanks to the selection of her ...
  • Book Jacket
    Dr. No
    by Percival Everett
    Percival Everett's novel Dr. No follows Wala Kitu, a professor of mathematics at Brown University ...

Book Club Discussion

Book Jacket
Honor
by Thrity Umrigar
Set in India, a tender and evocative novel about love across a cultural divide, familial devotion and betrayal.

Members Recommend

  • Book Jacket

    The Family Izquierdo
    by Rubén Degollado

    A masterful debut that weaves together the lives of three generations of a Mexican American family bound by love, and a curse.

Wordplay

Solve this clue:

W N, W Not

and be entered to win..

Who Said...

The dirtiest book of all is the expurgated book

Click Here to find out who said this, as well as discovering other famous literary quotes!

Your guide toexceptional          books

BookBrowse seeks out and recommends the best in contemporary fiction and nonfiction—books that not only engage and entertain but also deepen our understanding of ourselves and the world around us.