Werewolves are one of my favorite topics. The bigger, the badder, the scarier, the better. The first movie to scare the crap out of me was The Howling, and I was in love ever after. The whole franchise had such an impact on me as a writer.
I used to adore those paranormal anthologies that came out in the late 90’s, but it wasn’t until Howling VI: The Freaks, that made me want to write paranormal romance. (I thought I was a horror writer. Who knew?)
In Freaks, there’s this werewolf who goes to a small town and takes a job as a handyman for this kind preacher only to discover he has a beautiful, innocent daughter who is intrigued by the strange man who has come to her town. (Of course.) The fly in the ointment isn’t the part where he’s a werewolf. It’s the vampire ringmaster of a paranormal circus that comes to town and he wants to add that werewolf to his collection. He captures our intrepid hero and tries to force him to hurt his true love, but our hero is able to fight his nature to protect the woman he loves.
That was the moment when I knew I was going to write those stories, the ones where monsters are redeemed by love. Because they show us that our darknesses aren’t so insurmountable. If they can have love, if they deserve it, maybe the rest of us do, too.
So what does this have to do with fairies and the winter holidays?
Mostly, as I’ve said, I love the darker stories, but there’s an overlooked legend about a werewolf-type of creature, kind of a wolf fae that I also hold dear to my heart. It’s called a wulver. It looks like a werewolf, in that it is humanoid, covered in hair, but it has the head of a wolf. Sounds an awful lot like a Howling-style werewolf to me, although, folklorists disagree as to if the wulver was ever human. Some believe it’s completely fae in nature. Some think it’s simply a benevolent kind of werewolf.
These creatures are found mostly in Celtic tradition, specifically Scotland, and the Shetland Islands. They are helpers. Wulvers are known for leaving freshly caught fish on the windowsills of the poor and hungry.
What makes werewolves so scary isn’t the wolf aspect, it’s the human darkness. The human evil. Natural wolves have a lot of traits that we, as humans, often admire. Like the way the pack works together as a community to take care of each other. It’s nice to see our better traits glorified in legend. It’s hopeful that we can keep doing better, can keep being better to each other and to the small, helpless beings in the world around us.
It’s the very essence of the holiday spirit brought to life in something that’s supposed to haunt our nightmares.
Maybe there’s a lesson there too. Something akin to not judging a book by its cover. Or a monster by its shape.
May the spirit of the wulver be in your heart this winter holiday, and in the hearts of those around you.