Wednesday, March 16, 2005

Lycanthropy in Literature

Lycanthropy is the medical term for one of the weirdest forms of delusion: the belief that a human can become a wolf (or other animal). During the Middle Ages, when many folk lived in mortal fear of werewolves, lycanthropes sometimes took to the woods at the rising of a full moon. They howled like wild beasts and, given the opportunity, attacked people, scratching and brutalizing their victims. Of course, they didn’t go unpunished; being a werewolf was a capital crime.

Werewolves and other lycanthropes have made for literary horror and detection plots for centuries, dating at least to the time of Homer. In The Odyssey, the sorcerer Circe turned the hero’s ship crew into hogs. Odysseus himself escaped her shenanigans by finding an herb that made him immune.


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