October 25, 2013
Iconic Antagonists: Werewolves
Happy Halloween, my ghoulish gamers!
Today, I thought we would take a look at one of the most iconic horror monsters and role-playing game antagonists that exist in popular culture; the werewolf. What makes werewolves so wonderful, you ask? Many things.
First, werewolves exist as an embodiment of our fears of nature. A werewolf is, traditionally, a man or woman infected with the werewolf’s curse, commonly called lycanthropy,that changes into a raging beast during the full moon. Because it is a beast that stalks its prey, killing with tooth, claw, and inhuman strength and speed, we fear it in the same way that we fear sharks in the ocean or wolves out in the wild. Even when we have nothing to fear of them, the fear still exists.
Secondly, because the werewolf is, in some ways, human, they also represent a fear of the bestial side of ourselves, and of what might happen if we allowed ourselves to give in to our more monstrous desires. Just as vampires represent a fear of sexuality, werewolves represent a fear of savagery. Notice how often the two creatures are seen together in myth and popular culture. Coincidence? I think not.
Thirdly, much in the same way zombies represent a fear of disease and sickness, so do werewolves. Rather than it being focused on the idea of a plague, as is often the case with zombies, werewolves are the lone victim. The singular infected werewolf that risks infecting others. They are the patient zero, in many stories, and you want to stop the one before it can turn others. Unlike other creatures that infect their victims, such as vampires and zombies, being inflected by a werewolf is usually less common because that means you had to be bitten by one and survive. Werewolves do not usually seem to have intent in turning others, as is the case with vampires, and it is usually assumed that it is easier to escape a shambling hoard than it is a super-swift bestial creature that hunts much in the same way a normal wolf might.
Fourth, werewolves serve as a manifestation of the fear of being helpless. In many cases, werewolves are just flat-out invulnerable to most forms of attack. Shoot at them all night and you are likely to do nothing more than anger them. Stab them, burn them, electrocute them; nothing works. Nothing except for pure silver, and how much of that do you just happen to have on your person when a werewolves comes calling? Sometimes, not even that is enough, or it is found to be simply a well-known misconception. Few things are more frightening than thinking you know a creature’s weakness only to find out you were wrong at the worst time possible.
Finally, werewolves represent a fear of killing innocents. A werewolf is often a victim themselves, and so killing them seems unfair, yet this is usually the outcome of any werewolf story. Kill one, save many, but does that really make it right? What makes this worse is how it is easiest to destroy a werewolf when they are not transformed, while they are not more than any other human being. This brings a level of tragedy to the tale of the werewolf, especially if the sufferer of the werewolf’s curse is someone known and loved by the characters forced to deal out its extermination.
And this is what makes werewolves such wonderful antagonists and monsters.
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