Friday, August 17, 2012

Werewolves Of The Northwestern Isles

In the Northwestern Isles, the younger sons of the nobility can either resign themselves to becoming the clients of powerful nobles or they can range the wilds, protecting the villages and forts from invaders both natural and unnatural. To become such a protector, they must join initiatory warbands. There are several types of these, but the most well-known to the rest of the world are the werewolves.

Joining up with one of these bands, a young man (or even a young woman, if she wishes to leave behind the life of a wife and mother) will spend some time traveling with the others, learning the nomadic way of life of these wilderness warriors. During this time, they will learn to fight, to live off the land (and, frequently, off of those poor unfortunates who cannot protect their property), and the secret lore of the werewolf bands. After a time, perhaps a year, perhaps three, they will undergo initiation as a werewolf. In a secret rite they will be transformed from a mere human being into a wolf-man, bound to the cycles of the moon instead of (or, rather, in addition to) the natural daytime cycles of men.

Though folktales say that a wound from a werewolf will make one into a werewolf, that is not true at all. Only the secret initiations of the werewolf bands can make one into a werewolf.

Once initiated, a werewolf will spend a lifetime protecting civilization from invaders. Though the world is mostly aware of the human invaders, it is the inhuman ones that the werewolves are most interested in. Goblin hordes from across the Mist between the worlds are constantly making incursions and stealing livestock, crops, and even children! The werewolves stand between the world of men and these invading goblins, sometimes passing between the worlds themselves to recover the booty taken by the goblin thieves.

There are similar groups in other parts of the world: werebears, wereboars, and weretigers being the most common, but some lands have werefoxes or even weresharks. Those lands without shapeshifting guardians may have other ways of protecting themselves from goblins, and even in the lands with shapeshifters, there exist other initiatory groups who stand on the border between worlds.


  1. I dig this. I reminds me that I always liked the World of Darkness take on werewolves as protectors instead of bloodthirsty murderers.

    1. When I started studying werewolves seriously, I was surprised at how much the White Wolf game got right. In the most detailed testimony of an accused werewolf, we are told that the werewolves would gather three times a year and travel across the sea to a place they called "Hell-hole Cave" and fight the Devil's sorcerers for the harvest that the sorcerers had stolen. This matches so perfectly with a particular myth type that is common over Europe that I can't help but think that he was describing a real ritual. The whole werewolf complex is extremely interesting and intricate (and develops in sometimes surprising ways in response to cultural forces), and there are indications in early Irish literature and law texts as to why (or at least one of the reasons) werewolves became associated with murder in some areas of Europe.

      Unfortunately, I wrote this really, really quickly (I wanted to get it on the blog before the next Goth of the Week posted), and it kinda shows. I feel like I should rewrite it, more coherently and with more exploration of the idea. I'm going to try not to put myself ever again in that situation of wanting to get something on the blog hastily.