The Book of Were-Wolves by Sabine Baring-Gould

The Book of Were-WolvesThis book isn’t an easy read. For one thing, it was written in 1865 which carries with it the usual problems of the writing style and idioms of a different time. For a second, there are lengthy passages in Latin and French that the reader has to translate. And finally, this is one of those free Kindle editions full of scanning errors. I know I shouldn’t complain after someone has given up their time to make a book freely available, so this isn’t a complaint, but an observation.

Having said that, this is fascinating reading for anyone interested in the derivation of the surprisingly-widespread werewolf myth. The author starts with the Ancient Greeks and then moves to the Icelandic Sagas where he finds examples of three different forms of lycanthropy. It appears that the Berserkrs have a lot to answer for. He then traces the spread of the myth through Europe following the spread of the Nordic tribes.

There is no doubting the strength of belief in the existence of werewolves. Baring-Gould quotes at length from various court reports involving cases of people being tried for being a werewolf, including the evidence supplied by witnesses, and even confessions.

We are also taken to Africa and North American for examples of belief in transformation, if not in werewolves.

As a bonus there’s a description of the derivation of dragon mythology.

Unfortunately, the book goes off track in the latter stages when the author covers, in great detail, court cases concerning acts of multiple sadistic murders which, horrifying as they are, seem to be examples of savage blood lust and nothing to do with werewolves.

I downloaded the free Kindle edition from Amazon. The Book of Were-Wolves